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  • H.M. Jackson

Building a Strong Support System

One thing I have learned is how crucial having a support system is. Trust me, I tried to do it alone, for so many years. The only thing trying to do it alone I achieved was sinking into a deeper abyss. Surrounding yourself with caring, loving, trustworthy, and open support system is a key part in healing.

Having strong support can be one of the most difficult things and one of the most beautiful. I found it extremely difficult to build my network of support. Not difficult in having individuals, but difficult for my own mind. I was terrified of being a burden. It’s not that those people would even see me as a burden, but it was the feeling I had. I did not want to worry others or make my problems someone else's problems. After all, these were my crosses to bear. It was not anyone’s responsibility to be “there” for me. My feelings around letting people be there for you have changed, especially over the last year. I know now - how important my support is. It’s okay to let people in and ask for help. It took me a long time to actually trust that statement.

The people in your life that love you, they love you for you. When someone loves you, they care for you deeply and want to be in your corner. To them, you are not a burden or responsibility. You are just someone they love and want to see succeed. A true supportive relationship is not transactional. It is not tit for tat, you don’t tally up the favors you’ve done and what you expect in return. A true relationship you stand in their corner just because.

Now, you may build a support system and it may change as time goes. New people will enter. There might even be a chance a few of the people you surround yourself with, aren’t in it 100% for you. Some may walk away. I won’t lie, it will hurt if that happens, a lot. It will make you second guess yourself as a burden again, and even make you doubt opening up. You can’t focus on the ones who leave, instead focus on the ones that stay. That simple concept (which was extremely hard to grasp for me) has helped shift my view on allowing people in. The people that stay, the ones that show up day in and day out for you are the people that want to be there. The key word is want - they are not doing it because they “need to,” or because they expect something in return. It’s out of love, they want to do it, and at the end of the day, they know you would be there for them in a heartbeat. It’s not fair to the ones who are always there, for you to shut down and push people out based on others’ actions.

My support system has evolved overtime. I went through the very hard adjustment of losing a few who I thought would always be there. It did make me start to second guess opening up, but it was this same situation that taught me so much. I still struggle with opening up at times, especially when I start to slide downhill. These are the tips I have started to adapt for building my support group, and being open with them:

  1. Be honest. For someone to truly be a support person in your journey, you need to be honest with them. First, you have to be honest about the situation you are experiencing, and why you would like them to be a part of your team. It is impossible for a person to be there for you, if they don’t know the truth behind it. For me, I found opening up in the beginning about my battle with mental health/suicide and discussing how they can help when I am in a time of crisis was crucial.

  2. Follow Through. Yes, this one will be the hardest part for those of us that get scared to ask for help, have a fear of abandonment, or worry about being too much, but it is so important. You have to follow through and reach out when you need it. One way I have found this to work for me is if I start to experience a downhill battle and I am alone. I know I am my own worst enemy, especially when I am by myself. If my mind is spiraling and I have used different coping techniques, and haven’t been successful, usually I continue downward. Now, I call the couple people who are a safe space for me, let them know what is going on, and ask if I come over. Sometimes just the distraction, and your body feeling comfortable and safe will make a huge difference.

  3. Don’t shut down, and don’t stress about being a burden. If you have had the conversation with your support person, and they have expressed they want to be there, and agreed to be that person, then that is that. You cannot let your mind start to stress about becoming a burden or worrying someone. It is hard. I know how difficult it can be, but you do have to trust.

  4. Know your triggers, and warning signs. It is important to understand certain triggers you have, but also how you start to act when you are struggling. This was something I spent time working on in therapy, and then I shared my warning signs with my best friend/roommate. This is just an extra way I can check myself. It helps to have someone who knows exactly how I start shifting when I am going through a rough time and knowing the different coping mechanisms I need.

Of course, building a safe support system will be different for everyone. These are just a few items I have found that help me. The most important piece is having people you can go to. I promise you; it is not worth it to try and do it alone.

⎻ H.M. Jackson

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