The Importance of a Positive Support Network

The Importance of a Positive Support Network

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.

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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.

6 comments

  1. Steve says:

    Unfortunately, some of us are not so lucky as to have any support network. My wife left me due to this dreaded disease even though I just limp. My parents retired overseas, my brother is out of state, and friends can’t be bothered . I’ve lost my career, family, everything… Even with all this, I work full time to support my son, but alas, I’ve reached breaking point —I either take my life, as I have lost everything, or move overseas and be forced to leave my son . To be forced to make this dreaded choice will give you an idea of the stare of mind I’m in.

    • Carol says:

      Hi Steve
      I know they are just words but hang on in there!
      Your son will always need you, however old he get, believe me, I know. Would you consider talking to a health professional about your losses?
      I know I’m furtunate with my friends and family. I live in the moment. Try not to think about what the future might hold.

    • Debby Bianchi says:

      Steve, I am very sorry to hear things have been so difficult for you. It definitely does not help to feel overwhelmed and/or abandoned. It sounds as if you’re still determined to make a decent life for yourself & son to which I applaud you. I know it’s not easy to ask for help of any kind, but if you could step out of your comfort zone & talk to a pastor, someone in a support group or if you have any time to start with a step toward volunteering. (This could possibly be something you & your son could do together.) If any of these suggestions sound of interest to you, I hope you can make that initial step. I wish you all the best from a fellow ‘MSer’ of 25yrs.

    • RCG says:

      Dear Steve, I too am alone in my fight. You have your son and your coworkers. Reach out to someone! Get a therapist! Find someone like you to support each other. I came close to taking my life a couple of weeks ago. I “found” some solace by going back to my garden to nurture nature. Yes, I still feel incredibly fragile. But, suicide can always be for tomorrow. Today I smile on, my hands covered with dirt.

  2. Carol says:

    Hi Teresa

    I totally agree with you. A support system is so important when you have a chronic illness!
    I’m too blessed with very suprtive friends and family. I have surrounded myself with positivity, even though I have PPMS. My husband of 37 years left me a few years, just three weeks after my diagnosis.
    I believe in Karma, don’t you.
    Thank you for your post Teresa. We are very lucky

  3. Brenda says:

    My husband was my support system, when he was killed in a traffic accident my life fell apart. After a few weeks everyone disappeared I’m so alone. There is no one to ask. Everyone is involved in their own lives. Some care, but it’s not enough. I’m not going to beg because that’s what it feels like. Now I wouldn’t take my life, but things change. Everyone says do this do that,it’s not so easy. Especially when my symptoms get worse.

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