As you know, a great support system is key in the recovery process. This support system can be made of anyone special to you: family, friends, support group members, work-out buddies, anyone you share common interests with… You don’t have to divulge your deepest, darkest secrets in order for them to be an effective support system (sometimes saying too much can be counter- productive). They just have to be sympathetic, understanding (as best they can), willing to listen and just plain be there for you. However, it is vitally important that your support system consists of more than one person. You don’t want to overwhelm anyone.
For some, finding this system of caring people is a daunting task as trust may be an issue. It can be difficult to trust someone with your feelings, experiences, and thoughts. For me, that’s what a therapist is for. One of my support systems is a group of friends I’ve known for a few years. We met through suicide prevention work (common interest). With them, I don’t have to say a thing. They just seem to know. One friend in particular (and I’m sure she already knows who I’m talking about) always seems to know when I’m having a bad episode. She simply sends me a text that says “I love you. Let’s talk when you’re ready.” When I’m ready… That is so important. No one is forcing me into a conversation I’m not ready to have. This is another key component of a good support system. They do a “check-in” just to let me know that I’m not alone and they are there for me. Obviously there will be times when exceptions to this will need to be made, like times of crisis.
It’s good to rely on your friends, but be sure you’re not overdoing it. Sometimes we tend to overshare and friends or loved ones just are not always equipped to handle this. Maybe for a short time they can, but after awhile it can and will take its toll on a person. Make sure your conversations are not always centered around your mental illness. Also, be sure to ask about them. Don’t always make it about you.
I may not be saying anything you don’t already know, but I feel it’s important. I think it comes with the territory of having a mental illness that we may lose friends. So when we have friends that are willing to step up and be a part of our valuable support system, we should tread lightly and slowly. Ease them in to it so to speak. Just remember that as excruciating as some of our battles can be, their understanding of these things will be difficult and frustrating for them at times.
So, when the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends”, they had no idea how right they were.