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How I Built My Support System

“Get a support system.” That seems to be the number one thing I have heard since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I would look at doctors and therapists and tell them I didn’t have anyone. What about family? No. Spouse? No. Friends? They wouldn’t understand. 

I found my support system through classes my medical insurance provided, through the 72-hour hospital stay, and even my pets. To much of my surprise, I found some of my greatest support through my friends. I know pets might seem like a stretch, but on days when I’m feeling lonely my loyal Shar-Pei laying by my side on a gloomy day reminds me that I am not alone. 

Truth is, my friends might not understand bipolar disorder or how my brain works, BUT they do try. It was not a fair judgement of mine to make by assuming they wouldn’t understand or give me the time of day to understand. I had completely isolated myself and hid the fact that I had bipolar disorder. Once I came full circle and accepted my diagnosis I began telling the truth to my friends. Some stayed and some left. There are a few that have really tried and together they all balance out. One might ask questions, one might listen, and the other might just let me feel my emotions and be my shoulder. 

Don’t shut down the friend that sends you funny pictures – or the one that sends you pictures of their cats because you have a mutual love for cats. I have become very close to a friend through our love of cats/animals and our insane back and forth pictures of our four legged friends. I can always count on her to send me pictures of her animals with funny memes. I can always count on her to make me smile and laugh, often times when I need it the most. She might not even realize how much I appreciate her or how much of an impact she has had on me. I appreciate her asking me questions about bipolar disorder to better understand me. She has even called me out on a recent mood swing. I was so surprised, but happy that someone noticed it besides me. 

Don’t shut down the friend you lost touch with over the years who reaches out to you again. I found my best friend this way. She has helped me with so many challenges and has been my shoulder to cry on. She has even helped me with advice when I’m having my bad days with my daughters. She reminds me of my strength and courage, and that I am loved. I can always count on her to drop everything if I ever needed her, no matter the situation.

Don’t shut down the unexpected friendship. Someone might come into your life who you could never imagine being friends with for whatever reason. I have someone like this in my life and this person has let me just be me, and has embraced my emotions. This person has also taught me to love myself by allowing me to see myself through their eyes.

Honestly, all of my friends have taught me to love myself by accepting me for who I am. Two years ago I sat down and couldn’t list a single person to be in my circle of support. I don’t have any family that is close to me and that is the first thing that comes to mind when someone says support system. If you don’t have a support system, do not give up. You will find someone and it could be extremely unexpected. It could be a friend, it could be a therapist, it could be a nurse from the hospital that helped you through a hard time, or it could even be someone you have yet to meet. Some people might be your support system in the now, but could choose to not stick around later down the road. That’s okay! I’ve had it happen and at the time it hurts, but I was still able to learn from that person who came into my life.

To those who haven’t heard it yet or just need to be reminded:

You are special. You are an amazing person. You are loved. You are not alone.

Read more of Laura's posts here.

Comments

Hi Laura,
You speak both eloquently and right-up-front about the need for a support system. I have done pretty well in that regard--I was lucky enough to have a fantastic family and great friends when I was diagnosed. I've only recently begun to realize how important that was, as I see a friend of mine struggle with his illness and I realize he has nearly no support system at all. Can you make any suggestions about how he could find such a system?

I look forward to future posts of yours.

Rachel,

Thank you for your kind words.

I would suggest looking into local support groups as a start. Since you understand what he is going through stay by his side and help him as much as he will let you and you are able to. Introduce him to some of your friends that were your support system. It takes time to build up a support system when you don't start with one. I wasn't just handed it. Good luck!

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