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Support Systems

Build a healthy support system that fits best for your needs.

Photo by Sidharth Bhatia 

Once you are hospitalized in a psych ward, the main topics mentioned are coping mechanisms, triggers, and having a strong support system. It’s beyond me why they wait until after a crisis has occurred to offer these resources. I personally believe these subjects should be addressed to anyone who is struggling. Tips and tricks for getting better and help should not be locked away until after a tragic event occurs.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that it’s important to have a healthy support system. Today, I’d like to dig a little deeper and offer as much information as I can.

When you’re in a dark part of your life, trying to figure out who you can trust and who you can turn to might pose as quite a difficult challenge. One thing they didn’t mention in the psych ward is that it’s okay to adjust your list of supporters accordingly. I will tell you this, almost every single person I wrote down for my support system back in 2015 is no longer someone I can turn to when times get rough. Only two people remain on that list.

This then makes people wonder, well aren’t I supposed to be able to trust these people for a lifetime? Sure that would be helpful, but we have to understand that things do change. People can change. Sometimes we have to adjust our boundaries, and that’s completely okay. I’m just appreciative I had people to turn to at the time even if our relationships aren’t in the best condition now. Just because someone is no longer in my life, doesn’t mean that they used me or they didn’t really care about me back then. Times have changed and I just learn to cope while still appreciating the good others have gone out of their way to do for me.

When I made my list of people to support me, I had someone there to help, someone to ask the right questions when I got stuck. “Who do you trust the most?” “Who can be readily available?” “Who can I rely on in a time of need?” “You’ve made it so far, someone has been by your side through some of this, who is that person?” “Can you list the qualities of your good friend?”

Who are at least three people you can turn to? Write down their contact information so you have easy access to it. Could you please include one professional or a trusted adult in that list? Maybe it’s a teacher, therapist, or social worker.

Now, let’s go over the steps individually.

Know what your needs are

One major need for me was someone who didn’t pass judgment when I needed to vent or get something off my chest. I also really needed someone to offer suggestions/advice and not someone who said, “If you don’t do exactly what I say, I never want to hear you complain again.” The best way I’ve learned to relay the message was, “Hey, this really helped me and a few others I know. Maybe it can help you as well.” It would also be really beneficial to have someone who understands your situation. Someone may mean well by saying, “I’m sorry.” But when I’m in need, I really appreciate when a conversation is held and doesn’t end after one comment.

Explain and communicate how others can help you

This also plays along with communicating what you are looking for. Is it advice? Is it just someone to listen? Is it to have someone offer ways to solve your current situation? Do you need a shoulder to cry on? Do you just need to vent? Do you want to hear how someone else made it through? Are you looking for coping mechanisms, blog posts, self-help books, or positive YouTube videos? How can I help you?

Be patient with yourself and others

Please remember if someone is not able to reply right away, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. Be patient. Give yourself time to communicate, for the other person to respond appropriately, and give it time for things to turn around once you apply yourself. Try your best to remain as calm as possible so it is easier for you to communicate and be understood.

Reach out (Both parties should reach out to each other. It should not be one-sided.)

No one will know you need help unless you speak up. Yes, there are times when we can present clear warning signs, and some people will reach out to us that way. I’ve learned not everyone is educated enough to recognize all the warning signs, and this might pose a challenge. The people on your list should be able to reach out if they notice any changes, especially with your behavior. But remember no one is perfect, and it’s important you are able to communicate as well. After all, you should be able to trust these people, so you should be able to reach out when needed. Just like people should be checking in on you too.

Be willing to accept help, love, and support.

Try not to automatically push people away (Let’s replace that defense mechanism with a healthy coping skill). This is kind of hard when you’ve known nothing but hurt most of your life. This is something that will take practice and that’s completely okay.

Make sure you trust the people in your support system and that they are respectful towards your needs.

Trust is very important. It is also needed to have healthy relationships. Of course, learning to trust again isn’t something that happens over night. It takes practice and those in your support system will help you.

Here is my support system as an example. For privacy reasons, I will obviously be leaving out last names and contact information.

My boyfriend

Eric always listens to me. He is usually available during my times of need. And he does his best to take care of and comfort me. He also reassures me of my worth.

Savannah

My best friend for about 15 years or more. She is completely honest with me. She isn’t afraid to hold back, and she never leaves me alone in a time of need. She also has some great advice, especially when it comes to relationships and dating.

Emma

A best friend of mine who has a kind and gentle soul. She prays for me and sends me hope. Back in 2015, I probably would’ve told you that you’re wasting your time praying for me. Now, it means the world to me. It shows how much she cares and she always listens to me without passing judgment.

Sydney

As I’m still learning so much through our friendship, she really understands a lot of what I have been through. She’s extremely patient with me and respects every decision I make. We rant to each other, but in healthy ways. We make each other feel better. 

My therapist

Probably the most understanding person I know. She’s been by my side for years and offers great suggestions in my time of need. She’s helped me grow and change into a better person over time.