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It goes without say that living with a mental illness presents many challenges, some of which can be overwhelming.  These can be a wide range of challenges from struggling with shifting moods, perceptions, medication side effects, challenges with daily living, emerging symptoms, motivation, etc, etc, etc.  It is a wide range of therapies working in conjunction with one another that I have found to be the key to managing a balanced and successful life with a mental illness.  These therapies are typically prescribed by a Psychiatrist.  In my case, these therapies include medication, talk therapy, supplements and good nutrition, exercise, sleeping and waking at the same times every day, maintaining a stable routine and calm environment.  As important as these therapies are to my stability, nothing compares to the support, love and encouragement I receive from my close friends and family.

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I am fortunate in that my family, friends and I live in a major centre so we have access to a wide-range of services, however long the waiting lists may be.  One of the most important services we have ever accessed in the Family Support Groups available at the Centre for Addition and Mental Health (CAMH).  My “support team” made up of both of my Mothers, my Father and Best Friend all attended that course and it was a game changer for our relationship.

CAMH Resource:  http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/care_program_and_services/support_for_families_and_friends/Pages/support_groups_families_friends.aspx

It was in that course my family began to truly understand my illness (Bipolar Disorder), what that would mean for me, coping skills for themselves as well as for me, what treatment would involve and how they could best support me.  It goes without say that I am loved unconditionally, even if I am in a really low mood.  My family is now well equipped with tools to encourage me and steer me towards appropriate treatments for whatever I may be struggling with.  Most important, they learned not to take it personally.

It’s really unfortunate that when I am unwell, I become suspicious of the people that matter to me most.  These wonderful, loving, patient, kind, compassionate, understanding people stand firm at my side.  They know how to care for themselves so they don’t burden themselves with my load, they encourage me and remind me this will pass, remind me that I have coping skills, encourage me to visit the Doctors and to take the meds I can rely on.

I can’t thank CAMH enough for providing this type of valuable resource, and I encourage my readers to seek these supports in their own communities.  Whether you have a friend, a spouse or family members you may need to lean on, educating these “Support Networks” on the nature of your Mental Illness and ensuring you and your “Support Network” gets the help they need can only make your journey easier.  Wishing you healthy support and good mental health.

Follow me on Twitter @amelia_mims

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