I know a lot of people. Like my father before me, I’m involved in a lot of things, particularly advocacy and volunteering, and my network is pretty large as a result. I enjoy meeting new people, getting to know them, and learning about the world from different perspectives. My circle is different. My circle truly knows who I am. They are the ones I share everything with and know I can count on. There are few I allow to enter in to this sacred space. It is a safety net and one that I won’t hesitate to throw anyone out of should they violate my trust. This circle is one I protect with an intensity that is hard to describe. It guides me on my journey and provides a protection I never knew I needed.
I honestly can’t recall how or when I created the circle….one day it was just there. And I knew it was there because I looked around and felt safe; a feeling I had never had before. There are so many therapies, treatments, medications and other ways out there of recovering from mental illness, but for me this has been the most important piece of the puzzle. It is a tool in my toolbox that I learned to use because I learned to trust. It also gave me a method for putting up boundaries. For so long I didn’t trust my inner instincts and tried to believe that everyone - family and friends, schoolmates and teachers, managers and coworkers - were all good people who had my best interests at heart. I always cared how others felt and invested energy in making sure I said and did things to make them happy. Too many times I ended up feeling the burning end of the stick in those relationships. Was I just naïve? Maybe. Or maybe I was searching for in others what I was searching for in myself; love and acceptance. Regardless of the reasons, as I explored the darkest parts of my soul I came to realize that I needed a circle of support in order to help in my healing journey.
The process hasn’t always been an easy one. I’ve had to dismiss some who were part of my circle but ended up not respecting the boundaries I had surrounded it with. Those moments hurt to be sure, but they also provided clarity, growth, and new opportunities. Everyone’s circle changes over time and people will move in and out of our lives. This is a natural part of life to be sure. But building a circle is strategic…..a goal that many of us want but don’t put the time in to try and achieve. There is a kinship that you feel when someone is meant to be part of that sacred bond. Maybe you meet them the first time and feel that spark. Or perhaps over time you get to know someone and it forms naturally. And maybe there are times when its forged out of some type of crisis or emergency that only those who have experienced it can understand.
I’ve tried to go at it alone so many times. I thought it was better to fly solo then let anyone see the parts of me that felt vulnerable, ugly, disgusting. Please don’t make that same mistake in your life. Being mentally unwell feels like a one person show and we tend to shy away from others when the going gets tough. But if you build a circle around you of people who care, who will call you out when they see you heading down the wrong round, and who will walk beside you to bring you back to the land of the living, that is a precious gift. My circle is made up of those I choose to be there – those who have accepted the invitation with no strings attached. They are the lifeline I have built for myself and maybe I don’t always say it enough, but I am truly grateful for their presence in my life. The circle might be the hardest and most challenging thing you ever work on, but believe me when I say this……it is totally worth it.