Depression and Support Systems

Deborah Gray Health Guide
  • Shortly after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I lost my job. Since we live in a very rural area (more cows and chickens than people), with no family or friends nearby, my therapist was concerned about how isolated I would be with no one to talk to during the day. She urged me to get involved in some kind of group or activity. Since I’m a somewhat introverted person, I thanked her for the suggestion but never acted on it.

    Since then I’ve realized that she, like any good therapist, knew what she was talking about. Everyone needs a robust support system, people who are there for you when you need them, be they family, friends or a mix of both. Mine in the past few years has been fairly thin. Although my lovely husband is an essential part of my support system, he can’t be one all on his own.

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    Although people without depression need family and friends, for people with depression, they’re essential. However, we depressives are very good at isolating ourselves. The urge to withdraw into our shells and shut ourselves away from the rest of humanity seems to be part and parcel of the disease. Developing and maintaining a support system almost seems to be unnatural to us in that state, but that’s when we need it the most.

    We need people whose normal conversation will neutralize the voices in our head that tell us things are hopeless, life is nothing but pain and we’re never going to feel better. We need people who will make sure that we see our doctors and take our medicine. We need normalcy around us to remind us that such a thing exists.

    Sometimes we need our support system to save us from following through on suicidal thoughts and impulses. In a recent blog I talked about how Abraham Lincoln’s support system literally saved his life when he was suicidal. Friends and neighbors kept watch over him to prevent him from harming himself.

    So please, don’t let your support system wither away if you’re depressed or even if you’re not depressed. If you don’t have one, start working on it. If you’re in a very rural or isolated area, meet some people online. Although there are many depression groups both online and offline, combining that type of interaction with non-depressed interaction is a good idea. Take some classes, join a book club, volunteer for a favorite cause. Just get out there. Really. Even if you don’t think you need to.

    My husband, my son and I are taking a large step (3,000 miles) to build up our support system. At the end of the month we’re moving across the country to California, where my mother, father, other father (don’t ask - too complicated), stepmother, brother and two sisters (with their families) live. Not only will we be able to see my family all the time, but we will also be in a much more populated area, which will allow us to meet new people and enjoy more social activities. My son can make new friends (besides the alpacas and cows). My husband is an extrovert, so with the extra hundreds of thousands of potential friends and acquaintances in his immediate geographic area, he’ll be in heaven. I’m looking forward with a lot of anticipation to my first Stitch ‘N ***** knitting group. I think I’m making my therapist very happy.

  • What sort of groups and activities do you look to for support? Leave a comment to share.

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    Find more information about support groups.

Published On: January 22, 2006