Growing up, I would often notice lone trees by themselves while on roadtrips. I remember asking my parents how the tree survived on its own with no other trees around. And I remember feeling sorry for the tree! Kind of strange, I know, however kids come up with the strangest things sometimes. To this day it still amazes me to see a solitary tree in a field, and I see two sides. The first is admiration for the strength of the tree to survive the elements totally in isolation. The other side will be covered in my next blog post.
During the first eleven years of my bipolar journey I often felt like a lone tree. I didn’t have a solid support network of people around me who knew my deep dark secrets...that I had a mental illness and had been in the psychiatric hospital at various times because of it. Besides my direct family, nobody had any idea and at the time I liked it that way. I was too ashamed and embarrassed to let anybody know that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and took daily medication for it. There also was a part of me that felt I could do it all on my own, that I didn’t need anybody to help me besides doctors giving me medication. I felt that asking for and receiving support meant that I was weak, the total opposite of the lone tree.
In the past two years I have become increasingly comfortable with myself and forgiven myself for my past. I have realized how important support (http://www.ddssafety.net/content/social-support-systems-and-maintaining-mental-health) is for myself and I believe everyone alive...especially those of you reading this. Fortunately I have built a solid support network of a small circle of friends who truly know the real me. I see the network as being mutually beneficial and a net gain. What do I mean by that? We help each other and get energized from our interactions. We focus on moving through challenging times, not stewing in them. While we all go through life’s up and downs, the support is not one-way...it is not focused on me. In my experience mutually beneficial support relationships are far stronger and more impactful than those of a one-way nature. It’s for the simple reason that each person is helping the other.
Building and maintaining a solid support network (http://www.coachcarew.com/the-top-ten-ways-to-build-a-strong-support-network/) takes time and effort, and is not always easy as people have busy lives. However, the benefits of it are immense and I am grateful to have such a network of people in my life.
Do you have a solid support network? If so that’s great! If not, what step(s) are you taking to build and maintain one?