Concentric Circles of Family
I have a strong sense of family. People do not need to be related to me genetically to be in my family, I include close friends as much as siblings in that definition. I belong to them and they belong to me. I am not sure if everyone else in my family feels it, and I am not sure if everyone else needs it, but for me that feeling of being surrounded by people and by support is very important.
I like to imagine the entire clan as my concentric circles of support. I rely heavily on the circles closest to me, but as these circles get further away from me they contain more people, each one I rely on a little less than the previous ring.
In the first circle there is me. I look after me. I make sure I am fed, warm, safe and happy. If I am not one of these things I seek to change it.
Surrounding that is my nuclear family; my husband, son and pets. Together we are a tight little unit of support. There is nothing that one of us could do that would ever stop us loving and caring for each other.
Surrounding that is my original family – my parents and siblings. Around that my in-laws: John’s folks and siblings. Surrounding those is my circle of friends. Around those is our extended families: Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents. And encompassing all of those are acquaintances. That is where the limits of the circles become vague, the population massive and my reliance on each individual minor.
This sense of family is not to say that my family is perfect. They most certainly are not. We all have our foibles; our relationships have positive and negative qualities. We have our grumps, nags, moans and crazy folk, just like every other family. We know how to push each other’s buttons and frequently do. Nobody can wind up a person quicker than a close family member. We have bust-ups and blow-outs, but everything eventually blows over, because at the end of the day, we will always be family and there is nothing that can be done to change that. We will always be there, because we always are there.
However that is not to say that families don’t take work. In order for me to stay protected in my little cocoon of family I actively have to maintain the relationships with the people that inhabit each circle. The circles only provide me a buffer if there are people there to prop them up. If I squeeze the people out of those circles and out of my life then my padded concentric circles become just empty walls. Impenetrable. I can’t get out passed them and nobody can get in. So if for some reason I can’t feed me, keep me warm and safe, keep me happy, then nobody else can get in to help me.
So I make an effort. I lift the phone. I drop a mail. I rarely remember birthdays, so I would be lying to say that I send a card, but I go to the parties I am invited to. I get out of the house, I put myself out there, and I make a conscious effort to stay involved and stay connected. Because I know how much I might need my family.
Sometimes a chat about mental health doesn’t have to mention mental health to be about mental health. On the 10th September 2014 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide Or Survive (SOS) is an Irish organisation focused on breaking down the stigma associated with mental health issues and are working to build a society where people embrace their mental health wellness. To mark World Suicide Prevention Day, for the whole month of September, SOS are running a national campaign called “High Tea & Talk” where they encourage everyone to take time to talk, open up and also listen to those who may need to share a few thoughts. Please do your bit to support them where you can.