In July 2017, I participated in a Facebook chat for MS News Today entitled “The Importance of Support And Positive Influences.” The chat was created to prompt a discussion on the necessity of support and resources for a person living with MS or other chronic illnesses. And now in light of the recent suicides of well-known public figures, I believe it is crucial to revisit this topic.
This column intends to reiterate the importance of having a positive support system and to urge you to pay attention to the people in your circle and community.
Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Junior Seau, Robin Williams, and many other deaths like theirs show us that wealth and happiness are not synonymous. Adversity is universal. Depression is real. Race, creed, gender, and status does not protect one from the realities of life. I have been in deep introspection for the past few weeks thinking about the pain that many of us are in. I am constantly wondering what is going on behind the smile. I think of all of the other unnamed people who are struggling at this moment, and all of the lives lost, though we may never hear of them because they are not public figures.
I believe that I have survived and thrived despite chronic illness because I have an amazing support system. From the genesis of my existence, my parents loved, safeguarded, supported and poured love into my spirit. They taught me the value of self-worth, and even when I doubted mine, they were there to validate me. I was given a strong, spiritual foundation which helped prepare me for life’s tumultuous events. I find myself wondering what are a person’s last thoughts before their life ends. I can only imagine.
There are times when I want it all to stop. I want my pain to end. I want to get “out of my own head.” I want freedom from my somber thoughts. However, even in my darkest moments, I have never thought about ending my life. This does not make me a stronger person; it merely reminds me never to judge another person and to remain steadfast in prayer, faith, and hope. It also reminds me that we are fragile and flawed. I am further encouraged that in addition to taking care of myself and maintaining my support system, it is my responsibility to reach out and embrace those I love who may be in distress.
Levels and types of support vary for individuals. If I am going through a difficult time, I have several people I can reach out to. I have a loving spouse, supportive family, great friends, an online community, prayer and spiritual warriors who stand with me and for me. My medical care team is supportive. But this is not the case for everyone. Many struggle silently and alone. Others are surrounded by people, yet still feel alone. For some who are struggling mentally, soliciting help can be arduous and overwhelming. Cultural and gender biases may further complicate the situation.
There are lessons to learn in the wake of the lives lost. Bank accounts, zip codes, material items, likes, and followers will never shield us from the loneliness within. We must learn to recognize when we need help, and we must ask for it. We must also remember that we have an obligation to the people in our lives. Just as we want others to offer themselves to us, we too have to extend the olive branch. Others must know they are not alone in their struggle. Be attentive and listen closely.
Please don’t dismiss this column as just another “mental health write-up” or reduce it to current media sensationalism. Until we recognize that mental health matters must be a continuous conversation, we will remain one step behind. Maintain your support system and connect others. We create bonds every day. Family isn’t the only tie that binds. A positive support network can change the trajectory of someone’s life. Find your people. I am your keeper, and you are mine.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.