Dispelling the mysteries of growing support networks

Of all the things that I was told at being diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder the one that mystified me most was “get yourself a good support network”. I had no idea what a support network was or how to go about getting one let alone a good one.

At that time in my life I had a partner who wasn’t a great deal of help. He could hug (a plus) and say “never mind” but had no real understanding of mental health problems even though he claimed to suffer depression.  I was living in an area that I didn’t fit in to and had wildly anti social neighbours.  I didn’t have a regular psychiatrist and my GP of the time, like many others, was well meaning but little experience of mental health problems as serious as mine were becoming.

Everything came to a head when it was realised that I was a serious suicide risk if I stayed living where I was. I was working really long hours for a company that didn’t care and subsequently got rid of me. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that it happened a week after they found out about my diagnosis.

I moved to where I live now which was a liberating experience.  My first GP in the area was supportive & caring and we now remain really good mutually SUPPORTIVE friends.  When we talked he recognized the need to talk “off topic” at times and to treat me as though I had a mind that worked.  When he left to pursue his career in another area he recommended one of the partners in the practice who I still see. A good GP who sees me at a moments notice if necessary, who writes letters for me, who SUPPORTS me.

After a year in the new place it was obvious that I was in no state to work, possibly never again.  I was given a permanent psychiatrist for the first time, a consultant no less.  You know you’re sick when you get the boss.  When I met him for the first time he asked me what I wanted out of the sessions and I just wanted to understand myself better.  It’s a big task but today I understand myself better.  He has guided me towards a more spiritual path  by encouraging me to change my style of meditation to mindfulness which has really helped enormously.  He too sees me at a moments notice, lets me ring him or email him.  Encourages me to talk to students, has recorded me talking of self-harm for his students, encourages feedback about junior doctors.  He SUPPORTS me as I empower myself particularly in my interest in psychology.

My partner & I split up and I began to do some voluntary work with the local police.  The ones I’ve known the longest have been there with hugs (and sometimes kisses) when I’ve needed it.  They taken away sharp objects and disposed of them when I wasn’t sure I could stop myself from using them.  They’ve SUPPORTED my aspirations for the local community and allowed me to lead on jobs.  I can’t do this work anymore but my self-esteem has risen enormously because of this.

One of my dearest friends is also my IFA, he has Power of Attorney over my finances but encourages me to make my own decisions.  He also acts as my motivational coach.  He doesn’t shape the changes I make he SUPPORTS me as I make the changes, encouragingly and lovingly.

I’ve used the same pharmacy since I moved here. The staff have pretty much remained the same.  The pharmacist has become a good friend who is not afraid to hug in sorrow or joy.  The girls who work there tell me if I’m looking good and ask if things are okay if I’m not.  They SUPPORT me as only women can SUPPORT other women.

The list goes on. The Twitter people, the Facebook people, the Flickr people who all SUPPORT in different ways.

I still have no idea how to form a support network, I have never asked anyone to be part of my support network but somehow I have a fantastic support network.

Magic?  I think so!

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