As a mentally ill person it is really hard to deal with crisis alone. We are put into situations where we can’t make healthy decisions by ourselves. A simple example of this is when I’m manic and I’m ready to make a purchase online. I usually run this by a friend of mine who is part of my support team. What I’m trying to avoid is something that is common in mania which is called manic spending. When I’m manic I tend to be a little reckless when it comes to things like spending money. I’ve had friends who have run up a crazy credit card bill, or even maxed out their credit cards, on reckless manic spending. This is the same thing as asking a friend to drive when you are drunk. In this case I was looking at some first edition signed books that I found particularly alluring! My friend reminded me that I have too many books that I haven’t read, and that those same books could be purchased on amazon in regular form for a fraction of the price. Of course, this is a brutally simple example, but the trust I have in my friend in helping me make healthy decisions is the important part.
When depressed it is important to reach out because depression can become unmanageable very quickly. I rather call someone on my team than end up hurting myself. Also, it is good to have people around you on your team to help monitor you for unusual behavior. This can be insightful in how you are being, and what you are thinking, when you are caught up not noticing a symptom of your illness. When I’m delusional, meaning thinking things that aren’t based on reality, my father usually notices right away. Once I was visiting a monk that came to town to teach. I told my family that I was, “Harboring monks.” This is absurd, but very much a delusion. Now being aware of it I could run it with my psychiatrist and therapist for appropriate action. Sometimes I’m not aware when I’m depressed or slightly manic. For example, I can be cranky or outright angry for no reason, and I won’t notice. Being made aware of that lets me apply techniques taught to me by my psychologist to normalize my mood. I keep a mood journal, and these insights are very helpful when I’m recording my mood.
So, what exactly is a support team? A support team is group of people which have been designated by you through many years of trust in order to “catch” you when you fall or are falling. My team includes my psychiatrist, my therapist, my dad, and my best friend. I have avoided tons of horrors by trusting and going to my team when in trouble, and also consulting them when I’m lost, confused, or feel alone. A team should include professionals that are trained in what to do in case of crisis and loving family members and friends that are educated about mental illness that know you well and are good sounding boards. A person who is a good sounding board is someone that listens to you and makes you aware of what you are saying in an impartial way. It is very important that the members of your team don’t judge you or criticize you. They should treat you with respect and be there for you whenever you need them. Also, if something is a bit much for one team member to handle, they should guide you to the appropriate help either from someone else in the team or someone that can help outside of the team.
I learned about the support team in treatment and is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. These team members can also hold you accountable for your goals and actions you want to take. They can also help you in whatever you need. A support team is a part of a support structure, which is like a spider’s web. A support structure also includes things like information and education about you illness and treatments, but I will write about that in the future.