These days, I’ll always be the first one to preach about positivity, inspiration and living your most beautiful life. These should apply to everyone, including those with mental health problems. So if you are part of someone’s support system, the following tips that I mention are great for helping out your loves. And if you aren’t in a support system, the tips can be used to base most of your everyday, regular socialization on.
I know personally how much it hurts when someone doesn’t trust you solely because of your mental health. It’s just a general consideration that shouldn’t be asking for any more than what a “normal” person receives. We are all okay, you can still talk to us, and please do talk to us! Communication is a huge skill in any mental health journey. Learning to talk to our family and friends comfortably, describing to our doctors/therapists how we are feeling and even how to speak to ourselves kindly, all require skills of communication.
• As a mental health community, we especially don’t want you to think that you have to walk on eggshells around us all of the time.
• I am always consciously aware of why support systems have such important roles in our lives. It’s such an essential and amazingly difficult job and we realize it, appreciate it and love you so much for being here for us!
If you are a fortunate enough person to have never experienced a mental health issue, you won’t understand that to become motivated during a bad state of mental health can almost be an impossibility. Whether the mental illness is depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, eating disorders, etc, just moving your body can literally become your world’s largest task.
So because of this, we can’t tell someone that is in the midst of a hard battle with mental health to “Get out, & hustle!”. Or to, “Just think positive and don’t worry!”. Or, yep even, “Girl Wash Your Face!”. (Yes, yes, I loved the book too, but at the moment I’m not talking about me. And yet I think I’ll still be crucified for that comment!). We just can’t tell them these things, they’re completely torturous to hear! It can make people feel very isolated as well. If they don’t go out socially, friends and family may stop inviting them out places and they begin to feel very unwanted. Loneliness can be debilitating in certain illnesses.
I’m going to let y’all know about some of the things I’ve learned through my journey with bipolar disorder that we just shouldn’t say to people that are struggling with certain mental illnesses. Then I’m also going to let you know some alternatives that you could use to show love to & inspire your closest loves!
AS A REMINDER, I am not a professional, all of my written pieces are based on my personal experience and opinion only, unless otherwise stated.
If someone is lying in bed and literally feels like they have the weight of a mountain on their chest due to severe depression, and we say to them, “If you just get up and come for a hike with me, you’ll feel so much better!”, it can make them feel guilty for not going outside. As well as awful physically because they know they’re not moving around enough. That’s one of the harder things to understand, they already know! So instead, something we can use as physical motivation could be as simple as, “Do you want to go outside & sit on the step? We don’t have to walk anywhere.” And depending on the answer, we could follow up with, “It’s okay. Whenever you are ready to meet up, I am just a text away!”
If someone is an extremely high state of mania that comes along with bipolar disorder and we say “Let’s do some self care, go shopping and get facials!”, it could be very detrimental to them because excessive spending is a symptom of mania. Rather, as a good distraction, we could go back in time and find some good memories. There is nothing better for the soul than hearing, “Remember when…?” along with a little giggle. And if they aren’t satisfied until they can go out shopping or find some way to spend money, then let them go. Just don’t go with them, it’s too encouraging. Shoot them a message afterward saying “Take all the time you need, when you want to have a visit, I can come over to your place!” Then that way you are at their home, spending no money.
A person that is suffering with OCD never wants to hear a comment like “I wish I had OCD, my house would be so clean!”. Excessive cleaning might be a symptom of someone with OCD, but the next person may care very little about their home’s cleanliness. OCD is such a massive umbrella of an illness because people can have so many different tendencies. Sometimes it is cleaning, sometimes it is something physical, it can be something repetitive, and on and on. Whatever state they are in, and whatever symptoms they have, we can say something like, “You can be honest with me if you’d like”, or “How is treatment going?”. These put more of the focus on the OCD itself. Reminding your loves that this is the illness and not a personal failure can be so reassuring.
PTSD, like OCD, is a huge umbrella of an illness. Usually based upon trauma of a certain type, the symptoms can vary as much as the original trauma. Rather than approaching people fighting this illness with, “Can’t you just forget it and move on?”, or “It’s probably just all in your head.”, let’s be more sensitive! There are alternate ways to connect with survivors of trauma. Some symptoms that come with PTSD can be quick and unexpected, and people may become more secluded and start to feel very lonely. So let’s say, “It’s okay if you can’t make it today, I will keep inviting you nonetheless!” or ask for permission for something like, “Would you like me to give you a hug?”. A little bit of love can go a really long way.
This disorder is the one that I admittedly know the least about. Eating disorders can be mentally and physically painful, and I do know some of the worst phrases these battlers can hear are things such as, “You’re so skinny, why are you worried about your weight?”, or “It’s no big deal to have the little bit of fat that you do!”. Our words can create such massive thoughts in the mind of someone with a body disorder. And their thoughts are already consumed with numbers all day. There’s calories, their weight, food preparation numbers and basically their all around intake and outake. Some gentle reassurance could be, “You are not a weirdo, there are so many people with the same illness.”, or “Take the time you need, I am not going anywhere.”
I truly know that some of this seems very heavy, and that some of it may seem a little simple. You might think that being part of a support group would be like watching your every word around the person fighting. But remember the eggshell disclaimer earlier on? You also might think you’d become so overwhelmed with what to say, that you might say nothing at all. And that’s just a place that we do not want to go with our close loves. One of the biggest inner workings of a support system, and just mental health survival in general, is communication!
We just need to talk. They just need to talk. Where we meet in the middle is where we can all be getting help, trying to recover, and eventually healing.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, the first, last, and most valuable gift of communication that you can give to someone with any mental health illnesses is, “You deserve to be happy.”