We all need our own ‘people’. People in our life that get our back, tell us the truth, forgive us for being awful and love us no matter what. If you are suffering from depression you definitely need ‘people’ or what is often referred to as a support system.
As I mentioned in my last post, if you love someone who has depression it is important to reach out to them REGULARLY. Now it’s time to turn the tables. If YOU are the one who is crying a lot, having a hard time getting out of bed, feeling gloomy nearly every day and find it is a struggle to just exist—you may need to talk about it with someone. You need a core of individuals (your people) who are empathetic, can ease your burden by listening, give you a hug or maybe even encourage you to get professional help. The question then is how do you build this support system?
If you are starting from scratch, it can feel really overwhelming. I KNOW. I’m right there with you. First and foremost, you need to know this is a trial and error process. Sometimes the people we WANT to be our ‘people’ are simply not able to be there for us in that way. It can feel really discouraging, but rest assured there are many people out there who are struggling just like you or have struggled in the past and they can be there for you when you need it the most. You may even be surprised to find out who those ‘people’ are.
DETERMINE QUALITIES FOR YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
First, you want to decide ahead of time what qualities you are looking for in your ‘people’. Everyone’s list is going to be different and yours may even change over time. Just to give you an idea, these are the qualities I look for in my ‘people’:
- Be Discreet. This is paramount for me. I’m not interested in having my personal issues broadcast around my work or my neighborhood (despite the fact that I have now started a blog and am currently broadcasting it myself. lol!). I don’t want to feel like people are looking at me with pity or concern.
- Be Empathetic. I need my core group of people to ‘get it’. They need to be understanding in a very real way. My personal experience is that the people who are most understanding are the people who have been through something similar.
- Christian. This is really important for me because I draw on my faith A LOT when I am feeling down. Having someone to reinforce and remind me of that is crucial.
- Forgiving. I need someone who is going to allow me to be less than perfect. Depression is ugly and to be honest, it can make you say and do ugly things. I need to know that my ‘person’ is going to forgive me for being a less-than-fabulous-friend and that it won’t effect our friendship in the long run.
- Comfy. I want to feel comfortable and relaxed around this person.
WHERE TO LOOK FOR YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
Now that you know what qualities you are looking for it’s time to start going through the people in your life group by group and coming up with names. Here are a few places to start:
- Family. This is the most logical place to begin. I PRAY you are able to find at least one person within your family or extended family who ‘gets it’. Keep an open mind because unfortunately, this can often be a place where you WANT to have support, but you don’t. If you don’t have a person in your biological family who can be a member of your support system remember that family can also be non-biological. Merriam-webster defines family “as a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation”. Start looking at the people with whom you spend the most time.
- Co-workers. The benefit of working with people day in and day out is you get a feel for who can be discreet, trustworthy and supportive.
- Church. Part of a pastor’s job is to counsel. Even if you aren’t religious per say, it is a great place to start.
- Therapist/Psychologist/Psychiatrist. If you are not ready to share your struggles with family, friends or coworkers, a professional is the best place to start. Check out local hospitals and clinics, ask your pastor or a friend.
- Local Support Group. Check your local newspaper and hospitals for support groups.
- Online Support Group. My absolute favorite online community is Project Hope & Beyond. Therese Borchard is a mental health blogger that struggles with severe chronic depression and has an incredible gift of putting her feelings into words.
TESTING YOUR POTENTIAL SUPPORT SYSTEM
You have your list of possible candidates. Now what? It’s time to put some feelers out there and find out how individuals will respond. Are they a strong candidate for the qualities you listed? This is the trial and error that I alluded to earlier. You may find people that don’t have all the qualities you desire, but they have a few. Decide which ones you can live without or to which degree you can accept and which are a deal breaker. For tips on how to start the dialogue see here.
Building a support system can feel like a daunting task, however it is paramount for beating depression. Decide what qualities you need from your support system during your darkest days. After compiling that list, start matching up those characteristics with people who are close to you and who are in your community. Building a support system can take time and patience. You can do it! Hang in there and I’ll be praying for you.