Last week, as part of many of my mental health services, I had to undergo my assessment as part of re-establishing goals for the services I receive. In one assessment, one of the questions that frequently appeared was what was identified as ‘natural supports’. Until some years ago, I lacked this in many ways. In fact, it takes courage sometimes as an autistic person to seek out someone to be a natural support and be able to maintain that contact.
According to a Google search, “Natural supports are the relationships that occur in everyday life. Natural supports usually involve family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances.” Being autistic can put you at quite a disadvantage, but only if you let it be. I remember when I was coming of age almost two decades ago and even some years later where I would shy myself from others and even the thought of connecting with them would seem impossible.
I will not doubt you, it for sure has had its flaws, especially when I was at my worst mentally, but they are the same people who can do what is right in order to save me from my symptoms worsening if they are not attended to. It can be quite the benefit to have someone who knows where you are mentally, it can be an accountability measure so that you know when something needs to be addressed so it does not get out of hand. While some supports were not natural during my relapse, they knew frankly I was not myself and took the necessary steps in order to have the issues addressed. While I recognized that they know when I am not taking care of myself, it took me a long time to accept what I need to do in order to maintain my mental health so I do not react adversely.
Additionally, supports do not have to be a tangible thing that you can literally touch. It can be an online connection that is just as valid as those in person. They can be what you need to know that what your experiencing is part of the motions and that you’re going to be OK. Their knowledge can help you navigate a world that you may not best know how to get around if you are new to it. They can also be someone to offer guidance on a subject on a matter that you may not have been privileged to learn at the standard age that neurotypical peers have.
It is always imperative to keep your guard up when the support can be detrimental to your mental health. The support, while wanted by them for support, if it is not properly supporting and understanding your needs and concerns, then it is not a healthy support. Additionally, it is cognizant to become aware of your safety and know when it is important to reach out to those who can help you remedy a situation that you may fall victim to. It is imperative to maintain common sense and if something seems odd, bring it to the attention of a trusted ally.
Regardless, natural supports, when they benefit you, can be a great source for support, particularly if you do not have others you can communicate with directly when you need to do so. Having a plan in place when you need to reach out for support is imperative when you need to rely on others to do so. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help, should you need it, just be sure that it is sound advice and what you share can be trusted and safe, and you’re all set.