One of the most common challenges young women living with mood disorders (like depression or bipolar disorder) face is trying to develop authentic and meaningful connections in unfamiliar environments.
Navigating some of life’s challenges, such as starting college or a new job, is difficult enough, and adding the stress of a mood disorder only exacerbates the difficulty. However, with the right approach, you can successfully manage your personal wellness while fostering a supportive social network.
A system of support
There are a few things to keep in mind as you develop your own personal support system. It’s essential to develop relationships based on transparency and honest, open communication. As part of your support system, you’ll want to develop connections with open-minded, supportive, and non-judgmental people.
Find your comfort zone and establish your boundaries. Be clear from the beginning of new relationships how you would like others to interact with you, and communicate to them what space you may need.
You have no obligation to share your entire life story with your peers — be selective in the information you share. You also don’t have to explain yourself to your employers, professors, or other professionals beyond what is necessary.
Identify professional resources available to you in managing your mood disorder. Most organizations offer free Employee Assistance Programs that are confidential and available 24-7. Additionally, most college campuses have professional counselors available to you for no cost. You can visit websites like the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance to find additional resources, such as local peer-led support groups.
Crafting a toolkit
Once you’re comfortable with your personal situation, you can prepare a mental wellness “toolkit” of practices that promote positive mental health. This can be as simple as taking a walk, or practicing deep breathing or meditation. For more examples and resources, check out the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance’s mental wellness toolkit at www.DBSAlliance.org/Wellness, and find out what works best for you.
While developing your own personal wellness toolbox, it’s important to surround yourself with people who are patient and understanding, and who are familiar with your background. Nurture existing relationships with people who love and support you, and welcome new, supportive friendships into your life by engaging in shared-interest groups or classes.
Lastly, never forget that you are not alone! Millions of Americans with mood disorders are living fulfilling and productive lives, and so can you!
Kevin Einbinder, Communications and Programs Vice President, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, [email protected]