I can’t count the number of times my psych doctor of over a year has asked me if I am relying on my support system. He asks who they are. H reminds me how important they are in managing my mental illnesses. He is right. The people I can now support on works for me.
So, how do you create an affective support system? I believe first and foremost you need to rely on the professionals. Get a psych doc that you trust. Someone who really listens and doesn’t just dole out prescriptions. Sometimes you don’t want to talk but he or she knows better. He or she know that they need to listen to your symptoms so that he or she knows the best medication to prescribe, because things change. You may have been fine for a long time then hit a rock bottom depression and, perhaps, with a medication tweak you could feel better.
The other professional you need is a therapist you can truly trust. You need to be able to tell this person your secrets and know that you will not be judged. I recently found such a therapist. I can tell her things I had never told people before. I can talk about self-esteem, what I want in my future and what I don’t want. I’ll be honest, I usually cry during our sessions because we are talking about really deep-rooted issues, but when I leave I feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
Next, if you are close enough to a member of your family, choose them. They know your history better than anyone. I mean, we are talking a lifetime history. They will be able to notice when you are a litte “off.” They will also be the ones that visit you in the hospital. I know this for a fact. For me, this person is my mom or dad. I can call them anytime (they don’t always answer right away) went I am having a panic attack or if I am hallucinating or maybe I am just too depressed to want to be around people but force myself to visit them so that I get out of the house.
Then there are friends. There are categories of friends you need.
- An old friend. This person, like your family, will be one of the first people to notice when you aren’t acting like yourself. This person will also be there to share the memories you have forgotten because if you are anything like me, I have forgotten a lot of my past and I need a friend to help me remember our crazy, fun, exciting, memorable times. Because with my poor memory, I’ve forgotten a lot of that and I want so badly to remember that part of my life.
- A friend who deals with mental illness. This person will help you feel less alone in your mental illness struggle. I know my mentally ill friends are great. We don’t have to share the same illness. And there is no need to compare, “Oh you have it worse.” Who cares, if you are mentally ill it affects you and that’s that. It isn’t a competition.
- A newer friend that doesn’t deal with mental illness but is empathetic. This person can be an example of how to live your life. They are free minded, mentally healthy and don’t we all want that.
I know, I know, it sounds like an overwhelming task to acquire such a group of people. But you don’t have to do it all today! Take your time, choose people that fit into your world and then when you are having hard times, there they are – to support you and hold you up.