Let’s say you saw someone laying in a bed and they were in a coma. Would you say to them, “hey get up and snap out of it, you’re just having a bad day”? Or get over it…
That had to be 1 of the most monumental things I gravitated to when going through all that I went through. I attended this mental health meet up at this church in New Jersey. There were therapist and mental health actors on hand. They did a phenomenal job. When they ended their scenes, the director of the actors asked that same question and I finally had a platform to stand on regarding how to tell people how to deal with those going through mental conditions.
1st and foremost if somebody comes to you and has the gumption to relay to you that he or she is going through something monumental like a mental condition you should take it very seriously. That’s for any mental condition. But, in particular depression, suicidal thoughts, OCD, depersonalization, derealization, or extreme anxiety. Obviously there are numerous others. I just listed those because those conditions are what I’m most familiar with. Probably 1 of the worst things you can do is try to fix it. These conditions are not instant fixes. Every individual copes with these conditions uniquely. For some it can last many months and for others many years. I won’t go into detail as to what all is going on. But, what I will say is please don’t be so critical or judgmental. These conditions are very serious and are very painful. The mental anguish is unbelievable and it really does take being around those who exude empathy. If you don’t have that type of bone in your body, then be willing to help and find someone who is able to show empathy. Most people who are going through these things feel ashamed. The feel weak, broken inside, and empty. They lack identity, purpose, and often times even emotions. It’ very unusual. Especially, if it happened much later in life. Think of your life as being “normal” and then all of a sudden you can’t feel life or recognize and connect to what’s around you. It’s a very dark place to be.
When I was in my darkest moment there was only 1 person I decided to turn to. The reason why was because that individual was the one person I felt wouldn’t judge me. I felt this individual would say all the right things I needed to hear and be comforting. I told my parents about the the 1st couple of panic attacks and that seemed to be enough for me. I felt they did the best they could in relaying to me how they felt. But as things would continue to get worse I just didn’t feel comfortable in letting them in on what else was going on. I was fearful of what they might think or say. I remember my mother just saying “you gotta get it together”. She didn’t say it in a rude way. But, it was very matter of fact. What I was going through wasn’t a “just get it together” type of situation. I knew they couldn’t understand from where they sat. They were long distance and couldn’t wrap their minds around why I was going to the ER. They knew me only as a strong and very confident being. Little did they know that I would travel an entire year and a half without them knowing anything that was going on with me. I would hide it whenever I was in front of them the best way I could. When we all met up around December of 2013, I know they thought it seemed as though I was in a coma. It actually did happen to be that. I was numb. I was disconnected from them and life. As time would go on it would hurt because not only was I going through the thickest battle I’ve ever gone through in life. I also had nobody physically by my side when going through this journey. Ironically, I was living with my mother at 1 point and my brother was about 45 minutes away. My family were in the same city I was in but yet I was alone. I was alone every day for many months and it hurt extremely bad. I had to rely on God for everything.
Tips on how to deal with those going through mental conditions(If not a danger to anyone)
1. Don’t understand – (1 of the worse things you can do is act like you understand when you don’t. It’s not just a sad day or week, or month. It is an uncontrolled process that goes on 24-7, every day until it either leaves by itself, the individual learns to cope with it, or you die. If you’ve never experienced any of these conditions, stay far away from the “I know how you feel” statement. It actually can make things worse. Dealing with a mental condition is already difficult and strenuous as it is. Commenting on depression, depersonalization, derealization, and chronic anxiety in particular. Although there are therapist, meds, and cognitive behavior therapy for these conditions, they are still very mysterious to the mind and most of us that are going through the ravaging mental onslaught of uncontrolled thoughts and emotions.)
2. Hug – (This is probably the best thing to do. A hug means something so special to the heart, body, mind, and soul. Just hug that individual and hold them. That’s all they truly need from you. That’s more important than anything. “Anything”!)
3. “I love you” – (This actually may be even more important than a hug. Or you could just do both(smile). Saying I love you speaks high volume to the heart, body, mind, and soul also. The person that going through whatever the mental condition is just needs to hear that and that only most of the time.
4. Listen – (You don’t have to say anything. Nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Many times the individual coping with the mental condition just wants you to listen to them expressing themselves. Your insertion of thoughts and feelings are irrelevant and most times not useful. Just listen to what the individual is saying and hold them and express that you love them no matter what.
5. Feel free to ask if they need your help – (They may say no or they may not. Be willing to honor the privacy and wishes of the individual who’s going through whatever condition and battle. Many people going through things like depression, anxiety, depersonalization, or suicidal thoughts are frightened of meds and doctors for very valid reasons. These conditions can actually be fought without those things depending on the individual. You being there to listen and just say “I love you” and hold them may get them through most of what they are going through.)
6. Be willing to attend appointments with them – (That’s explanatory within itself. You being right by that person’s side holding their hand and saying it’s going to be ok is just enough. The simplest things mean the world to people who are coping with mental conditions.)
7. No pushiness – Don’t force the individual to get up and go do things. Nothing wrong with expressing your there for support and to be a heart to lean on. Nothing wrong with saying, “hey I can go outside and walk with you if you’d like”. Just keep it short and simple. The individual will let you know what they need and want you to do.