Your Support Network
Having a support network during your recovery is very valuable. But it is important for you to be clear who you want to include in that network. Not all friends and family are naturally supportive people. Some may define “support” as criticizing or giving you unsolicited advice that you do not need. Others may have nothing more to say than, “Get over it.” In most cases, it is not because they do not want to help. It is because they simply do not know how. These people may mean a lot to you in many ways, but they may not be good candidates for a support network.
The first step is to choose one or two people with whom you feel safe. Consider individuals you can trust and who will keep your confidence.
Be straightforward when you approach them about joining your support network. You have been diagnosed with depression and are beginning a treatment plan. Part of that plan is to develop a support network and you are hoping that they will be part of it.
One of the symptoms of depression can be irritability.1 Getting angry and snapping at members of your support network may have consequences that you will later regret. If irritability accompanies your depression, you may want to explain this to your support network. Let them know that you are doing your best to manage this part of your illness, but you may become irritable from time to time. Friends and family who are forewarned find it easier to be patient.
When you are ill your judgment will be off, so your support network can also help you by looking for signals of relapse and other danger signs. Your support network can also offer feedback that will let you know that things are improving even if you cannot see it for yourself.
Busy health care professionals often make patients feel rushed – and shy about asking questions. However, good communication is a two-way street. You have a role to play in this relationship and a highly active one. After all, this is your journey to recovery.
Here are some tips for having quality ongoing dialogue with your professional recovery team members:
- Let each team member know about who else is on your team and their role. You may have received a number of referrals from different professionals so it is not safe to assume that they are all aware of one another.
- When making appointments, ask how much time your professional team member will allot to you; in some circumstances, you can ask for additional time. With this in mind, you will know in advance how much time you have to work with.
- Ask if the professional accepts non-emergency phone calls in between visits and what their policy is when responding to messages left by patients. For instance, some may say that they try to return calls within 24 hours. Others may not accept non-emergency phone calls and will confine their interactions with you to scheduled appointments.
- Prepare for your visit so that you can make good use of it. Write your questions down. Ensure that the changes you have experienced (good and not so good) since the last visit are on the list. Include any side effects from medication that you may be experiencing and any lingering symptoms. Put your most important points first as there may not be time to get through everything on your list.
- Develop a plan with all of your team members of exactly what you need to do should you experience a crisis. It is likely that none of your team members are available 24/7. Even during standard working hours, most will not be able to rearrange their schedule for you. Planning in advance for the unforeseen will offer at least some comfort that you will know what to do.
Recovery is a process and it will not happen overnight. An ongoing dialogue with your professional team will help you (and them) continually adjust and improve your treatment to suit your needs and in response to the changing stages of your recovery.