Think for a moment how you feel during a depressive episode. Do "helplessness", "hopelessness", and "loneliness" come to mind? If so, that also seems to be the consensus of many people in the depression forums where I spend some of my time.
Depression has a way of creating a psychological "catch-22." Your negative feelings cause you to isolate yourself, yet the more you avoid others, the more depressed you feel and the more you withdraw. So what do you do?
Consider for a moment that as humans we are social animals. Our brains are hardwired for social interaction. Therefore, no matter how difficult it might be for you, having a personal connection to those who understand what you are going through and who will help or support you through depressive episodes can be extremely therapeutic. That dynamic is found in a strong or solid support system.
A solid support system consists of a mix of people whose common objective is to offer positive support to the person battling depressive episodes. Your support system can include family, friends, co-workers, spiritual workers, people in the mental health field such as therapists, support groups, and even your doctor. Every person within your support system should be trustworthy, loyal, understand your depression and offer unconditional positive regard relative to your situation.
The support that they can offer includes but is not limited to encouraging you to take your medication, exercise, maintain a healthy diet, keep your therapy appointments, and maintain a daily schedule.
The benefits of a strong support system include:
1. Significantly reduces stress - Your stress will begin to subside when you find that you can confide in people who care about you as they listen to what you have to say and offer suggestions or ideas about dealing with your depression. So go ahead and vent without fear of being judged.
2. Increases self confidence and self esteem - If you are part of a support group, you will be given the opportunity to listen to the issues that other people face with their depression. You will also be given the chance to offer any ideas you may have on how they can overcome their issues. As you progress, you'll feel more valued, important, and loved.
3. Reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness - One of the most important benefits of a support system is that you will always have someone to talk to and participate with in social activities.
Keep in mind that establishing a support system will take some time. So in order for you not to feel so overwhelmed, which could intensify your depression, you may want to start building your support system one person at a time. Make sure to ask your doctor or therapist for help to get you started. Also remember that while you need support, you do not need to be enabled. Never expect anyone within your support system to do something for you that you need to do for yourself otherwise your recovery will be hindered, perhaps significantly.