Welcome to Kaleidoscope

The funny thing about having a mental illness is that you get to know who your real friends are. After I was hospitalized in September, my boss brought me flowers. My coworkers came to visit with Get Well Soon Cards, and my friends bought me cheese sandwiches and a stuffed animal.

But I think that the most touching moment happened the Thursday after my crisis when I walked into Kaleidoscope. My peers looked at me and said, “Hey Daphnée, we missed you on Monday,” and my heart stopped for a second. I felt myself tearing up because that’s how I knew that they truly cared about me.

***

Back in the fall, Kaleidoscope met twice a week, but because I was in the hospital, I couldn’t attend one of the meetings.

Hey Daphnée, we missed you on Monday.

Months later, the words still echo in my head.

They noticed?! Did they notice my absence?

I am so touched. These people, they noticed I was gone. These people, they truly care.

These people, they make me feel at ease, at home.

***

I don’t have the words to capture what happens in this group, and even the loveliest sentences wouldn’t do it justice. That’s the truth.

It’s organic. It’s like magic.

It’s tender, vulnerable and pure.

Even writing these adjectives down, something feels off.

I don’t know how to describe what happens because you have to be there to feel it, really. But I do know this: these people, they make me feel less alone. They are flawed and honest and real. They are kind and wise, and they support me the whole way. They don’t have all the answers, but I guess we’re all facing the unknown together.

So when my therapist says that people reach out to each other and that I don’t have to be alone in my suffering, I can say that I finally believe her.

***

At the beginning of each meeting, we sit on blue and red plastic chairs around two tables pushed together. In the middle, a tray of sushi or a box of pizza.

We do a round of names. We name the group guidelines.

Peer support group. No unsolicited advice. What happens here, stays here. Shared experiences. Be mindful of time. No graphic descriptions or details related to self-harm, drugs or alcohol. Respect others’ triggers. Listen, listen, listen. Active listening. No quick fix, no telling what to do. Don’t feel pressured to make connections or share personal contact information. Don’t talk openly about Kaleidoscope with another person without discussing it with that person first. If you are feeling suicidal, talk about it. We do not give medical advice. We are not doctors. But we are all here to help one another.

We are experts in our own recovery, not in anyone else’s.

What works for us may not work for you.

We are welcoming, open and caring.

Welcome to Kaleidoscope.