Support Systems: Having a Safety Net when Your Brain Lets You Down

When dealing with any sort of mental illness, there are several things that have to happen before you get better. One, you have to want to get better. Two, you must seek out help. And three, you must have people around you who you trust and can hold you up when you trip up and fall. No one person can safely cope with mental illness without someone there to help you and show you unconditional love and care.

Your support system, whether it be one person or several, must have certain key components to be effective. A conversation must be had with them to hash out expectations and the types of aid they can offer you. You must be vulnerable and ask them for the help you need. They need to have the resources and time to supply that help. They must be willing to put aside some of their desires to help you. You must never betray their trust. There is a fine line between utilizing your support system and abusing them. If your support system feels like you’re taking advantage of them, they will leave. That is a bridge that will most likely never be repaired.

The biggest hurdle when seeking a stable support system is finding people you can actually rely on. You may have friends who will give you a ride when you need it or give you some cash for groceries or toiletries. You might have friends who will listen to you when you need to talk. But the hardest part is finding someone who will make themselves available when you need them, not when they find it convenient to help you out. This kind of friend is extremely hard to find and if you do, hang onto them with all your might.

Another source of people for a support system is your family. However, family can be an even bigger mixed bag than your friends. Find someone who you are super close to and have known you the longest. Siblings and cousins are a good place to start. Whoever you find, make sure there is a true bond of trust there. Some family members might not be as reliable as you need them because they will think you’ll forgive them if they can’t follow through. You must make it very clear that when you need help, you need to know that they will do what is necessary to help you out.

A lot of responsibility will be shouldered by your support system, but the accountability is on you. If you ask for a certain kind of help and then squander it, you are straining that trust. It won’t take much to break it, either. You as the person requiring help must maintain honesty, integrity, and truly work towards getting better. This is the reward your support system is looking for. They want to see that their effort and investment in you is paying off. Work as hard as you can to solve your own problems and only call on your support system when things are about to get out of hand. Never wait until your world is on fire to ask for help. When things are feeling overwhelming, it’s time to make that call.

I am extremely lucky to have a very stable and highly willing support system. My older brother and sister-in-law have made it a mission of theirs to prevent me from collapsing under the immense weight of my depression. They are the greatest people I know and letting them down is the most frightening thing I could ever imagine. My little sister and brother-in-law have also lent a hand in getting me through things. My sister has similar issues and we can relate to each other’s problems. I also have a group of friends, both near and far away, who have come through for me when I needed it most and I am eternally grateful for them. Each day I’m alive is a testament to their love and support.

No one can get through the struggle of dealing with mental illness on a daily basis without some sort of help. Someone you can trust and rely on is a huge step in managing your life despite what your brain might say. But support is a two-way street, needing both parties to be accountable and responsible for their end of the bargain. A trustworthy, able support system is hard to find, but it is a vital part in dealing with mental illness.