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Fellowship and guidance: Meet the Christchurch support group 

Throughout the year, Glaucoma New Zealand support groups are busy giving those with glaucoma to an opportunity to come together, learn from one another, and guide each other – as well as have a good chat. One of our South Island groups meets in Christchurch, and the tight-knit group find comfort and advice from one another in their regular meetings. 

Michaele, one of the groups coordinators, is also one of our amazing volunteers. She joined Glaucoma NZ not long after her own glaucoma diagnosis, after seeing some information in her ophthalmologist’s office. Since then, she’s been a frequent attendee of the support group and eventually put her hand up to be a coordinator.

For Michaele, the support group helps her feel less alone in her glaucoma journey. “Most people don’t know anyone with glaucoma, and it’s isolating to not know about other people going through a similar situation,” she says.

Often, the group will find comfort in just being heard by one another. Michaele recalls a particularly good session dedicated to ‘de-stressing’, in which each member shared how they cope with stress. “Having glaucoma might lead to other stressful life events, so it was therapeutic to discuss how we cope with stress,” she says. “One member mentioned meditation, which then led us us to having a mindfulness coach visit the following month.”

While the support group is a chance to be listened to and comforted, it’s also an opportunity to learn about new ways of managing glaucoma and maintaining vision. The group share advice and pieces of wisdom with one another, like how to travel and manage glaucoma treatment or how to go about driving with glaucoma. The little bits of advice tend to make all the difference, and many members mention how much they’d never have known if they hadn’t attended the support group.

Members often find the group gives them a bit of a confidence boost. Being newly diagnosed with glaucoma can be an immensely intimidating and confusing experience, but one that’s easier to manage with the support of those in a similar situation. “I’ve seen some members appear like new people as they leave their first session,” says Michaele. 

Most of all, the support group is a source of joy for all those involved. “The group is always wonderful, and so warm and friendly,” says Michaele. “The coordinators really feel like we’ve accomplished something when we see members so happy.” 

The Christchurch group meet every month of the year (besides the often-hectic December and January months!). Every second month, they listen to a guest speaker – in the past, they’ve heard from the Blind Foundation, local librarians, optometrists, and a mindfulness coach. In the alternate months, the group normally meet at a local cafe, Cafe Edge in St Albans, for an informal chat over a coffee. 

A little over 20 members attend each time, and the group always welcomes new members. To find out more about the Christchurch support group or other local groups across the country, register with Glaucoma New Zealand.

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