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The Importance of a Support System in the Bipolar Community

If you didn't tune in last week, my name is Rachel Stevens, and I'm taking over the SO Creative blog for these two weeks, in large part because of my struggle with mental illness. I live with bipolar disorder type 1. Last week, I talked about what that's like for me (if you haven't read it, now's the time). This week, I want to talk about something else; I want to talk about what you can do to help people like me.

Nan approached me for a few reasons; in part to elucidate what living with bipolar disorder is like for me, as well as to promote #JANUSforGood, an upcoming event being held to raise funds for the Open Arms Clinic on Thursday May 2nd, at Oakfire in Lake Geneva. This event doubles as the release party for the new single of Chicago-based band JANUS. All of the proceeds from the event itself will go to benefit the Open Arms Clinic. To read more about this event, click here.

So why am I telling you this? Because bipolar disorder is often misunderstood, it can be strange and even scary to some, but one surefire way to combat symptoms and support those who struggle with it is COMMUNITY. Something I talk about often, both in my own care, and in the support of my friends who deal with similar mental health concerns, is the importance of a support system. A support system is a network of close friends, family members, and healthcare professionals who are involved in a person's care.

Bipolar disorder and other mental health disorders, from the inside, can be isolating and frightening for some, they can be infuriating and challenging for others. The experience really depends on the individual, but one thing every person dealing with a mental illness has in common, is that they cannot do it alone. Isolation often escalates symptoms and mood swings, and can cause others such as paranoia or depression.

In order to combat these and other symptoms, a support system is crucial. I, myself, am lucky to have an extensive support system of family and friends, and am proud to say that having such a strong network of caring individuals has positively affected my care in ways I didn't think possible. Of course, this didn't come without its struggles and hardships. The biggest learning curve has always been swallowing my pride and asking for help; but it's something I'm getting stronger at every day, and is helping me to, in turn, help others.

So what exactly does a support system do? This is different for everyone, but I can tell you that for me, my support system does a lot of listening. I try to be as transparent as possible about what I'm dealing with, and most of the time, all I need is a sounding board. Sometimes, I need a reality check to keep my psychotic symptoms in order. Sometimes, I need a shoulder to cry on. But mostly, I just need to know they're there.

#JANUSforGood is a massive step for the regional community in ending the stigma specifically surrounding bipolar disorder, and by coming out in support of the band and the organization they are benefiting, you yourself are becoming a part of something bigger - a support system for the bipolar community.


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