In The First Step I explained how important it is to get to the bottom of the causation of your anxiety problem. Where does it all stem? Is it biological in nature, rooted in a traumatic experience, or a little bit of both? The Second Step is all about becoming more familiar with your anxiety triggers and discovering healthier ways to handle them. Now we have come to the third step! (Who knows how many there will end up being, but I feel like we are making some nice progress here).
The Third Step is all about building a support system. And I can not stress enough how important this part is. All of these Steps are designed to build on one another, and if you never create a support system for yourself you may as well declare “I’m tired of making progress with my mental health, I think I’m going to stop here.” But I don’t think you are the kind that is going to do something rash like that, otherwise what are you doing on my site?
Sarcasm aside, I do stress the fact that creating a support system can be a scary or uncomfortable experience for many individuals. As people with anxiety disorders, we tend not to be the best at putting our trust in others. It feels unnatural, scary, or feels as if it places power over yourself in the hands of someone else. Well, it can be uncomfortable, especially if you don’t particularly make it commonly known that you suffer from an anxiety condition, but overall, it is the best thing ever to have a group that knows what you are going through and is available to talk with you about how you are feeling if you ever want to; even if it is just one person.
Personally, my support group pretty much just consists of two people; my significant other and a close friend. I might at any time choose to add someone else into my support group, but for now these two wonderful people provide everything that I could ever need from them. My friend also suffers from an anxiety disorder, and while it is fairly different from my own, she is still someone who can genuinely say she knows how I am feeling and where I am coming from on a lot of the things we discuss. THAT is a pretty amazing thing. If you are a fairly private person, I whole heartedly push you to open up about what you are going through enough to find someone else who you share a common ground with. There have been countless times when I have called my friend when I have felt an anxiety attack coming on and she literally stops what she is doing to talk me through it because she herself knows how it feels to go through one. And there have been numerous times when I have been there to support her through anxiety, and that has created an extremely powerful bond between us. And while my significant other does not have any sort of anxiety condition he is extremely patient with me and he even researches on his own how to better help me when I am feeling particularly anxious. What more could I ever ask for?
In short, there is no right “amount” of people that should make up your support group. Even if you only have one person to go to, that is wonderful. And there is nothing “specific” that they need to offer you, as long as you get something positive and healthy out of it. My friend offers me someone to go to who actually understands what I am feeling and my significant other is someone who pours effort into better understanding me, learning about my condition, and pushing me to make more and more lifestyle changes to help my anxiety; my “motivator” in a way. And for now, that is all I need.
Reach out to friends, reach out to your family, reach out to people you never even thought of reaching out to before until you finally have found your support group. Tackling anxiety isn’t easy, but it sure isn’t any easier trying to face it alone. Again, it might be somewhat uncomfortable to open up about something so private and something that unfortunately in our society is kind of taboo, but had I never told my friend that the pills she saw me take during a night out were my daily anxiety medication, (I could have just as easily said they were painkillers for a headache), then she never would have given me a huge hug and confided in me that she too had a diagnosed anxiety condition.
Start with just one person and go from there. And as always, as you are building your support group, give me feedback on how your progress is going through Twitter or my email.
Hugs and Positive Vibes,