Finding Your Tribe
Hey there, mama! We need to chat about our support circles. They’re not a given for everyone at every time. Especially as a mom, especially as someone dealing with mental illness, we can become isolated. The fact is, one of the best things you can do for your mental health is work on building and maintaining a rock-solid support circle. Every mama needs one to survive and thrive. I hope you already have one, but if not, let’s work on getting you where you need to be.
So what is a support circle?
A support circle is a group of people you can lean on when you need to. They’re the first few people you call when you have exciting or miserable news. They’re the people who will hold space for your emotions, listen attentively, and give solid advice (when asked.) They’re the ones you can trust with sensitive information. Your support circle is just that, supportive. They are able to be there for you when you need it without judgment.
Everyone’s different, but my support circle consists of my husband, parents, a couple of close girlfriends, my psychiatrist, counselor, and doctor. Having a professional support team has been extremely important for my mental health. Family members and close friends in my support circle are equally important. They work together to keep me healthy, safe, and living my life to the fullest.
Okay, but why do we need one?
As people, we were made to be social and depend on each other. Loneliness is extremely harmful to our mental and physical health. If we don’t have a “good enough” support circle, we could be in a room with 100 other people and still feel isolated. We were never meant to live without a support circle. We need it.
When dealing with a mental illness, your support circle becomes even more important. Our mental health struggles can lead to increased loneliness, isolation, and even push certain people away. Keeping up with a support system can be more difficult when living with a mental illness, but it’s even more important to have one in this case. Mental illness creates a lot of work on its own. Multiple appointments to meet with professionals, needing to take frequent breaks, and just feeling extreme emotions are all exhausting. Add in being a mother, wife, daughter, friend, professional, etc. and your cup becomes very full very fast. We can’t do it alone, and we need people we can trust to be there when we need help. Everyone needs help sometimes.
Your support circle isn’t just there to help you with the tasks of having a mental illness and living your life. They’re also there– and this is super important– to recognize when something isn’t right and you may need more help. When we’re experiencing mental health symptoms, sometimes we aren’t able to see clearly that something is wrong. We may lose the ability to judge our behaviors as appropriate or inappropriate to the situation. We need outside observers to tell us when that happens. If we have a good support circle, they will see it. They will protect you. They will look out for you.
Finding Your Own Support Circle
Now that I’ve adequately convinced you to seriously work on this, (do it!) let’s chat about how to find your own support circle. Sometimes the best place to start is with professional support, like a counselor. A counselor can not only be a part of your support system, but they can also help you find other people to add in as well. They can refer you to medication management, support groups, and they can guide you through personal relationships.
Here are some resources out there that may be helpful when looking for a counselor: Websites like Psychology Today or Therapy Den have listings of therapists. Another way to find one is to talk to your primary doctor about giving you a referral. You can also call your insurance company and they can give you names of counselors who take your insurance.
The next step is to think about the people already in your life. Who might be able to fit into my support circle? Who would I call if I received amazing or difficult news? Who do I trust with my biggest insecurities? Who really listens to me? Who do I trust to keep me safe? Who do I trust to intervene if I start to behave in ways that aren’t like myself? Write any names down that meet at least some of these criteria. These are the people who may be important to include in your support circle.
You may be feeling like there aren’t many names on the list you’ve made. Firstly, support circles are usually quite small. They should be. You wouldn’t want to share your deepest darkest secrets to too many people. However, if you feel like your support circle is lacking, you have a couple of options. One is to have serious conversations with the people in your life who are close to being there. Sometimes people need to hear what you need from them directly. Sometimes they will step up to the plate, sometimes they won’t. Having honest conversations about people’s capacity to support you can deepen a relationship or tell you they don’t fit the bill.
Another option is to meet new people. There are many ways to do this. Join a support group, start hobbies, start actively looking for new friends. Online friends also count! This can feel like a lot, especially when you’re struggling. However, if you’re able, meeting new people is a great way to expand your circle. New friends likely won’t be in your support circle right away, but eventually some will get there.
Finding your support circle is difficult, kinda messy, but also fun. Remember, asking for help is not weakness, it shows the strength of your circle.