Love the Ones Your With: Support Systems & Mental Illness

Today “Miss You When Your Gone” by The Cranberries is playing through my speakers as I sit down to tackle the day’s workload, but I sit and look at Dolores O’Riordan, sweet Dolores, who we lost earlier this year from suicide.

As someone living with a mental illness diagnosis, and someone who has struggled with mental illness their whole life, it’s time I say something.

Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Dolores, and countless others that have so recently claimed their lives were all revered in some way; we all imagined they had it all. We all acted so surprised and only to have their mental illnesses revealed later, with a desire to understand what drove them to such despair and a coming-and-going campaign for mental health support. A wave of support and understanding that comes all too late.

Some think tossing up quotes of support, numbers for suicide prevention hotlines or dedications to our lost suicide celebrities on their social media is enough. For some, it may be, but my bet is that for many, it’s further more isolating. I know this because I’ve felt it.

You see, when the “mentally healthy” community passively puts up quotes and reminders to “get help” it doesn’t usually resonate with those who are struggling. It puts an unintentional divide that doesn’t always have a motivating effect during dark times.

Pride, shame, vulnerability, defeat, fatigue, broken health systems, inability to see the future ahead, and most importantly fear stands in the way of seeking help. It’s not that easy for people to see something online to take action, and the quotes and memes aren’t usually enough.

I’ve recently had a breakthrough in my mental health journey, that began with a dark day and started me towards a bright future. I look at Dolores, Kate, and Anthony, and all the actors we have lost to suicide because of their mental health diagnosis. I had no idea why these people weren’t able to overcome their demons, but I know how I’ll overcome mine.

I’ve learned that mental health support is difficult to find — getting into “the system”, the cost of private care, and the often daunting process of finding the right fit can take months, even years.

What do we do until we find the right path to health and healing? Love the ones your with.

Having a strong support system is everything. My family has stepped up in ways I have never imagined they could, or never imagined they’ve needed to. My friends have displayed unconditional love and support, giving me offers of their shoulders and their precious time, while also honoring my need for space at times. I’ve felt loved, supported, and encouraged.

This day and age we are so separated from actual physical interaction. A phone call is something you need to schedule, a text is an obligation, and the prospect of making plans (for introverts especially) is  more tedious than actually making them. We need to break this cycle and come back to each other again. As Brene Brown says in Braving the Wilderness we need to tell people we’re willing to walk in their pain with them.

I know that my recovery is all about opening myself up to people again. I’ve been so closely into myself that my mental illness has been able to develop and get out of hand at times. It’s the people around me that keep me literally sane.

I feel for those who don’t have the support system I do. It’s tragic that I know that what I have is actually quite rare.

But if you’re reading this, think of someone in your life that you may know is struggling. Don’t just send them a message with close-ended remarks. Invite them out for coffee, give them plans to look forward to, or do a nice gesture for them. Don’t allow dark thoughts, and actions, to be an option.

Passivity leads people down dark roads; taking a more active role in someone’s healing makes advancements that far outweigh the time and energy to make that effort.

It’s a tough world out there, friends, and we all need to hold on to each other a little harder sometimes, even if it takes us out of our comfort zones.

Stay loving, and be loved.

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