A Light Upon Allies: The Importance of Safe Spaces

Author: Lexie Manion


In my late twenties, I have grown to be very fond of carving out safe spaces of community; safe spaces are an important part of my identity. The people who support me mirror my brave heart and vast authenticity. Feeling wholly supported today, I feel confident in my ability to continue choosing recovery from my mental health struggles and creating my bold life worth living.

During this Pride month, I wanted to focus our hearts on our support systems. I’ve personally found a lot of good in bringing my whole heart to properly thanking others for contributing to the good in this world so I can continue showing up to my own life. 

When I was a teenager facing newly surfacing mental health struggles, such as an eating disorder and bipolar disorder, my struggles isolated me. Friends tried their best to make me feel welcome, but I felt too exhausted and depressed much of the time. I also felt like a burden because I didn’t know how to properly ask for help or get my needs met. I adapted to frequently reaching out to adults with my problems because I felt it was the only way I could talk to them. I had a few teachers who felt very safe and were nurturing. I didn’t learn until later that I could go to them with mundane things or good news, too. 

I once felt such heart wrenching shame around who I am and what I struggle with. I once blamed myself for my lapses in wellness and chalked it up to being unworthy and a bad person. I would self-destruct through self-harm. It was a lonely place of despair. 

Today I enjoy building wholehearted connections with allies where I primarily talk about the healing things going on in my life, while simultaneously remaining open and honest to phone it in when I do need support. Achieving this balance is possible. In some moments we may be “needful” (as my former therapist reframes it in a more humane way, instead of the shame-ridden word “needy”). It is perfectly okay to be needful.

One of my biggest allies from that time is one of my high school English teachers. She has consistently supported me in my recovery and was the first person I came out to as an anxious, quiet teenager who was grappling with how I felt attracted to both girls and boys. I think sometimes the right people fall into our lives, as she’s always had a sixth sense to know what I need, even when I couldn’t verbalize it. She provided a safe space of normalcy and support around my heart’s curiosity. In addition to this unconditional support, she chose to continue to support me through my manic episodes even though she was told by others not to. Her presence in my life has been grounding and cathartic. The Trevor Project affirms how life-saving support is: “LGBTQ+ young people who report the presence of trusted adults in their school have higher levels of self-esteem (Dessel et al., 2017) and access to supportive peers is protective against anxiety and depression, including among those who lack support from their family (Parra et al., 2018)”

Through my inner child healing and self-compassion practices, I’ve been looking at myself through the eyes of my sweet younger self. I wasn’t a “problem child” or a “bad kid;” I simply had a lot of trauma that I was working through. Research suggests that there is comorbidity of bipolar disorder and PTSD upwards of 6%-55%, so it is imperative to meet people where they are and believe them. How I forgive myself today is how people like my former teacher have forgiven me. I say it’s about forgiveness as that’s what it feels like, but she holds so much compassion for me that it never feels like I have to apologize for being unwell in the past. She takes it in stride and sees me worthy as I am. 

These are the types of friendships worth cultivating — where it just feels easy to be loved. I don’t think people are ever hard to love and that’s it. I simply think the wrong people are not showing the right kind of love — or they’re afraid to show that vulnerability and open their hearts to something they may not fully understand. There are compassionate people out there who are the missing puzzle pieces to our life’s puzzle. 

It’s been empowering for me to find more solid ground as my former teacher has been in my corner all these years. She had a dear friend growing up who had similar struggles to me, so she knows what red flags to look out for and to be forgiving of my past unwellness. While I credit my team and my own hard work for my continued recovery, there were times growing up I only stayed alive due to my allies. It is perfectly okay to stay alive for simple things like a pet or a friend — to at least get you back on your feet again. The hope is that one day you can stay alive for yourself, too.

Living with bipolar disorder today, I am cautious when I see red flags of mania or depression and address them immediately. Every now and then I may have a paranoid thought. I work to put the thought in its place — reminding myself that thoughts are not facts and that I am more than them. I have created an entire life worth living, so when I experience a trigger, I remind myself of all the good I have created and all the good I know. When I notice my mood is low, I am skillful in my self-care practices and reach out for support right away. I find that whenever I am tempted to hide my voice, that is when I need to speak up the most. Being equipped with the proper medications, community support, the help of my team, and my own self-compassion, I am able to be my healthiest self. Not every person’s recovery from bipolar will look exactly the same, so it’s important to find what helps you best. 

It is worth it to carve out our communities as youth so the transition to adulthood feels smoother. I have made allies in nearly every facet of life, but I also deeply understand feeling misunderstood and like no one cares. Not every friendship has lasted sadly, but I’m also honing in on that “reason or a season” saying. My friends and allies mirror my own perspectives on the world and believe in the good in others like I do. What’s meant to be is meant to be. 

If you’re like me or have a loved one who is facing mental health struggles or is learning to accept themselves, know that life’s circumstances do not always magically get better; however, we can get better in time. And so, it is true that it gets better. It is now up to you to reach the healing waters of tomorrow — with your map unfurled, your best supporters by your side, and your heart ablaze with the undeniable passion and openness of authenticity. Now that you feel better, you can do better. 


Lexie Manion (she/her) is a published writer, health care worker, and mental health advocate from New Jersey. She graduated with Magna Cum Laude with her BA in Psychology and minor in Art in May of 2024. Studying to become an art therapist, she strongly believes art and writing are pillars of healing. You can find more of her work at lexiemanion.com or follow her on Instagram.


The content of the International Bipolar Foundation blogs is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician and never disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read in any IBPF content.
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