In my experience when I have shared my dark times of depression and anxiety with those I trust I get 3 different kinds of responses.
Hurtful and Insensitive
Well meaning, but not helpful
Compassionate, Calming and Understanding
It’s no wonder so many people suffer in silence due to the fear of how people will respond. However the fact that you are reading this gives me great hope that I do not have to worry about you saying anything hurtful……but lets have a look at my list anyway.
- Telling someone that they were much easier to work with before they got depression.
- Explaining to someone that their husband told them if they ever pulled the ‘depression’ act he wouldn’t put up with it.
- Making it clear that you don’t believe in depression, anxiety or mental health issues at all. Toughen up.
Well meaning, but not helpful
- Pity. Yes, we are going through a tough time but having someone pity us is insulting.
- Trying to be practically helpful but talking in a way that makes us feel incompetent.
- Whispering about how we are going to someone else in front of us.
- Not visiting or keeping in touch because you don’t want to be intrusive. Just a text message is great, otherwise it becomes very lonely.
- Never mentioning the mental health issue. When you make an effort to chat and see us and tell us everything going on with you but don’t want to talk about how we are going it is very confusing. It is hard to know if you care or not. I suspect it is usually out of fear of not knowing what to say, but just try and ask how we are going.
- Hugs from those close to you. Sometimes people don’t know what to say, a hug is great at these times.
- Text messages. Often we don’t want to see people and can’t bring ourselves to talk on the phone. A text is great, we know you care and can read over your well wishes and get back to you in our own time.
- Offering to help, but asking you what you would like help with, not coming in and taking over.
- Taking the kids for a bit. Especially to a park or a dance lesson or sports training. One of the hardest things I have found to deal with is the amount my kids have missed out on because I couldn’t get out of bed or out of the house.
- A quick text when you are at the shops or the post office to see if there is anything you can pick up.
As you go out and enjoy life this weekend please have a little thought about how your words come across. The truth is that for many of us dealing with a mental illness we experience at times a heightened sensitivity. We are not weak or less capable, however we do get hurt from judgment and comments others make. There is no doubting many people’s great intentions, however sometimes the message from their heart to their mouth doesn’t end up sounding as caring as it could.
This is just a quick little list, there are many more points that could be added here. If you would like to comment below with what you have found helpful or not that would be awesome. Oh and by the way, if this has left you feeling overwhelmed that you don’t know how to help someone, keep doing what your doing. It is clear when someone really cares, even when they do something completely insulting 😊.
Much Love and Peace