Finding Your Squad

Finding your squad: the importance of a support system

A huge part of my battle with depression and anxiety was withdrawing from people, and feeling cut off and isolated. The feeling of being misunderstood exacerbated the feelings of loneliness and fed the spiral of dejectedness. What's so great about our society is all this new technology to connect with others. The driving force behind social media is the human need to connect with others. However, I see that it has been used as a tool of building of the ego or outward personality, which can ultimately alienate us from each other. We lose the opportunity to truly connect with each other. Our greatest strength as human beings is connecting with others, and a large factor in what has helped us survive evolutionarily. However, in the current of today's societal pressures and the technological advances, we lose often lose the community aspect of relationships and stick to a much smaller, family and friend circle. Before large cities, we lived in small communities, which could collectively hold trauma, illness and conflict. We even see now, some of the lingering remnants of that lifestyle, which prevail in places in Italy, Central America and Japan, boast the longest lifespans and the happiest people. With the WHO predicting that by 2030, the most prevalent disease in the world will be depression. We have a dire situation at hand. With the stigma of mental illness still lingering, how can we support and help those who feel they cannot talk about it without being branded “crazy”. How do we prevent diseases such as this? How do we use the resources we have now, to change the way we look at it/ remedy it? Now I'm not saying lets all move into the suburbs and live in communes, I'm a city girl myself, I'm just sharing my own experience with building a support system and community. 

Building intimacy with people is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. Raised in a family, with no physical touch or emotional intimacy, I had no idea how important being open and vulnerable is to a healthy mental state. I never thought about my friendships or relationships with others and moved through life, reenacting my own personal dramas onto friendships, relationships and myself. One of my personal relationship narratives, is that I would be unable to maintain closeness as I would always come to a point where I would let all my resentments build up, explode and unable to continue the relationship. I also often engaged in petty gossip and complaining, unable to have an authentic conversation with the person in question. When I was introduced to therapy, I was given the realization of how starving I was for real connection with others as well as how much more conscious I needed to be of my relationships. I was modeling unhealthy behavior from my childhood, and I would continue to do so, until I brought awareness and growth to who I was. Struggling with PTSD and a laundry list of symptoms, being able to be open and honest with people, and watching others support and be supported, became key to healing the most broken parts of me. Some of the main tenants of healing in 12 step groups or support groups is through the support and understanding of others struggling with the same issues. Hearing another relate to your story, or someone struggling with the same issue, or even just compassionate listening, can ease the pain. Issues like depression or ptsd are too big to carry ourselves. Just having one person to hold space for you lessens the pain, and having many can help you get through the most difficult of situations. As the Swedish proverb says, “shared joy is a double joy, shared sorrow is half a sorrow”. Also a tenant of the twelve steps is service, which can be as small as holding space for another, or big enough to get you out of your own mental anguish for if even just a moment.

Heres some science-y stuff about the importance of socializing. Socializing has been known to increase life span, build stronger immune systems, increases feelings of well being and decreases feelings of depression, and improves memory and cognitive skills. Building intimacy feels like a tricky mine field with someone struggling with social anxieties, but for me, I have found that it was well worth the effort. Finding people you trust is the key component to this, or building relationships based on trust. Now, one of the first people to build trust with is a therapist, I want to make clear, in no way am I saying that if you have a great squad around you, can you forgo professional help to treat serious issues. Professionals are there for a reason, even if you have twenty friends who know how to sew, you're going to want a professional to tailor your wedding dress, if you get what I'm saying. There is a part to it, that is very important, is that you know that you can trust the people you start sharing to. It's always best to test the waters, and build a strong connection before sharing deep intimate parts of yourself. It is also okay, if some people just cannot have that kind of relationship. Some people are not yet willing or able to handle other's introspection for fear of their own. That doesn't make them a bad person, nor you, it just means that you should continue seeking the relationship you want, and still be able to treasure the people you meet along the way. TIP: Enacting play with others, or doing something fun and light, that makes you laugh or compete produces oxytocin, and reduces stress and social anxiety. Human beings are actually naturally stressed out being around people they don't know (so hey, a little social anxiety happens to all of us), but in a study done recently, playing 15 minutes of rock band with a stranger, reduces a persons stress response to near nothing.

For me at the moment, I am still working on balancing out my introverted tendencies. What has worked for me so far and brings me joy, is taking classes about things I am interested and passionate about, joining groups and making sure to make time to see friends, no matter emotional state. I thrive best with one on one connection, but am still working on feeling comfortable in large groups of people. Sobriety has really brought a lot of the the initial social anxiety to the surface. I heard somewhere (check out the Dharma Punx podcast) that one of the reasons people become attached or dependent on alcohol, is to deal with uncomfortable interaction. Today I am working on sharing the uncomfortable feelings and the truth of my experience(negative and positive) with others in an appropriate and compassionate way as well as pushing out my comfort zone.

If what I say resonates with you, or looks like something you're interested in knowing more about, please please do your own research, check what I say (check what anyone says), try it out for a while or don't. I want to remind you that this is a personal opinion or experience. Some information might not be completely accurate/paraphrased, or might not be right for you! We also want to know what has worked for you and your opinions, email or comment below.

Sources:

NPR

WHO

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