What have we learned as a group suffering from mental health problems?
This is the question I asked friends via social media and I got some great answers that I thought I would share with all of you.
The answers are just in the order that I received them so no one answer is more important than the other.
- Never take anything for granted.
Good mental health days are there but they’re not always there. Don’t take your health and current circumstances for granted. Equally don’t assume that your bad days are all that there is. Things change all the time.
- People are less scary than you think
For those of us with anxiety often people are a terrifying concept. It may be that people scare you on mass or it could be a specific person that gets your anxiety going. Fact is that they aren’t as bad as they seem or your mind makes you think. Everyone is after-all only human. People are less scary than you think.
- Don’t be afraid to cry
Another great thing to learn. Crying isn’t so bad. Sometimes we need to cry. Sometimes crying is the first glorious step back to feeling something, anything. Don’t be afraid to cry. Personally whenever I have to confront my mental health with a professional the tears come whether I like it or not. I find it frustrating and it gets my annoyed but really I should just embrace the tears. It’s part of healing I guess.
- Have good friends around you
A must have. Have friends that understand mental health problems. Have friends that will pick up the slack when you can’t handle things anymore. Without good friends life becomes a lot harder. Family are also invaluable if they understand you. A good support system is an essential for those of us suffering from poor mental health.
- Learn to be kind to yourself.
I have said this point myself before. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to others, with kindness. Even when your brain shouts mean things at you, realise it will pass. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend. Stop judging yourself so harshly and of course never be afraid to ask for help from a professional. The Samaritans are there, your doctors are there.
- That my Anxiety was a super power I needed to learn to control.
One of my responders said that her anxiety made her “an empathetic, thoughtful and kind person.” It made her see that everyone makes mistakes and taught her to forgive and forget. She went on to say, “ Yes, my Anxiety is awful and debilitating sometimes, but to quote Emilie Autumn ‘If I had a chance to change my mind, I wouldn’t for the world’.”
- People are much more confident in offering help when you are physically ill than when you are mentally ill.
It’s so true. It’s easy to see how someone with a broken leg or the flu needs to be looked after. We understand these illnesses. Even health professionals don’t fully understand mental health so how are we meant to understand how to help other people? It is a super hard task. I think there is a lot of variation from person to person and no one way to help. I also think that the hardest and most important thing for both the ill person and the person who wants to help is to talk. Asking for help is hard. Offering help is also hard. It might be something simple like just making a cup of tea and having a chat. It could make all the difference. The most useful thing you can give is your time and patience.
- This next one I find controversial but I’m going to include it anyway: “That when someone who’s suffering tells you to back off and leave them be, even if it seems counter-intuitive to you and even if it appears that their behaviour is actually a cry for help, no matter how much you want to wrap them up in love– back away: they know what’s good for them in that moment (even if the moment turns into days, weeks or months). You just have to trust them. If you show them that you trust their judgement, they’ll eventually come to you on their own. It will never happen if you impose help on them though”
Because sometimes people don’t know what they need. Sometimes you have to help beyond what someone requests. Sometimes I ask to be left alone when really I don’t want to be. I can’t be the only one. However I know other people who need their own space to regroup and refocus themselves.
So again this comes down to how well you know the person. How their personality interacts with their illness and what you should do. I’m afraid there are no easy answers.
- That you can’t let you mental health issues stop you from doing anything you want to do.
This bit of advice comes from a friend who is currently traveling around the world and living a life that a lot of us dream of. She says she would never let her anxiety and depression be an excuse for anything.