By Brandy Browne
Everyone has their breaking point. Mine was actually preCOVID…in 2019. Depression had slowly been sneaking up on me, and in early 2019, it hit with crippling force. Everything caved in at once…my family was in a period of transition, and had been for quite a while. Work was not going well, and I felt unsuccessful at best, unworthy at worst. I felt like I was slowly suffocating, and I had no purpose. For so long, I had been so focused on helping others that I no longer knew how to reach out for help for myself, only how to offer a hand to someone else. And now, I felt incompetent at that as well.
Thankfully, I had some great friends who refused to give up on me, as well as a loving family. Kapil (2020), writer for Mental Health First Aid magazine, discusses the importance of having a good support system stating, “Having a few people you trust and can turn to can help you manage everyday challenges, make difficult decisions, or even during a crisis situation. It can also combat social isolation and loneliness, both of which can put you at higher risk for physical and mental health issues including high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression and more” (retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2020/08/the-importance-of-having-a-support-system/). Leaning on my family and friends quite literally saved my life. I began running with someone I have developed a dear friendship with, and we trained for three half marathons and a full marathon together while chatting through many life crisis moments. I reached out to my work family, many of whom have cheered me on through several personal and professional victories since then, including earning my masters degree. I also relied on dear friends that I had offered help to many times before. Simply put, I widened my circle and let others in.
This may sound overwhelming right now, and that is okay…there are several ways you can grow your support system as well. I am a somewhat reserved person…there is a reason why writing comes easily to me. It is so much easier to type out my thoughts than to speak them into existence, BUT honing my communication skills was important in building my tribe and overcoming my severe depression.
4 Ways to Build a Support System
- Reach out to your family and friends. If relationships are slightly stressed, start off small. You don’t have to jump into a big heart to heart immediately. Make small talk or offer to help with a task. Go do an activity that allows togetherness, but doesn’t require huge amounts of conversation, like catching a movie together.
- Use technology…thanks to COVID, online support groups and just groups that meet online in general are booming! Find a group that shares interests with you, and forge new relationships.
- Find a local class or club to join that shares your interests. Love to ride your bike? Find a local riding club. Start a group at work. If several of you enjoy running, baking, etc., do it together!
- Ask for help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Visit a local church or library…these places are often very knowledgeable about groups that meet in the area that might serve your purpose.
Letting others in may be scary, but we really do need others to heal. Humans are built with an innate need for relationship. Finding your tribe will be a healing experience and enable you to find your purpose again, which is critical in battling depression.
Kapil, R. (2020). The importance of having a support system. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2020/08/the-importance-of-having-a-support-system/