Mental illness is often times a hard thing to help someone with. You can’t see it, there are no tubes attached, no hair loss, often times the person looks perfectly fine. That’s the trick of an invisible illness, and it makes it difficult to see when the cracks appear, or to remember that there are cracks at all. If you’re reading this post with someone in mind, I’m glad that you’re the kind of friend that cares enough to research. If you’re not, then consider yourself a friend and read on anyway. The following five tips are going to sound generic. Everyone says it, it’s everywhere. But I want you to read them differently this time. See them as action words, imagine yourself doing them. Because I can promise you, that as a mentally ill person myself, these are the exact things that I wish people would do for me.
I don’t mean “hear what the person is saying”. And I also don’t mean “figure out some advice by the time they’re finished”. Just listen. Listen to the words they say. Examine whether they’re overflowing with sentences, just tumbling out over and over and bumping into each other. Or whether they can hardly reply at all. One word sentences. Listen to their tone. Are they expressing suicidal thoughts, but they sound happy? Listen to their cries. And listen for as long as it takes. Two hours of tears later, listen as the sobbing becomes a meek whimper. Listen for sighs of relief. Do you see what I mean? There are so many things to listen to. Give your friend (or yourself) that gift.
- Help out
I had a depressive episode once that made me stare continuously. No sound, just tears silently dripping. If left up to myself I would have starved to death. I had no motivation to do anything. It was my mother that fed me, physically took to me to shower and reminded me to drink water. Sometimes mental illness robs the person of the ability to care for themselves. It is at these times that you can show up and help out. Sometimes however, it won’t be so drastic. It might come as a wave of sorrow that lasts for an afternoon only. These are times when you can stop by with your friend’s favorite food. Or volunteer to watch her toddler who won’t be able to understand why his mother can’t make dinner.
- Encourage them to get professional help
Many people fear this stage. Maybe you do too. You don’t want to be too intrusive. You fear how your friend might react. The truth is that mental illness is an illness of the brain. Some disorders are milder, and you may find that trained therapists might be just what your friend needs. Someone who can help them work through the crowded attics of their minds, dealing with trauma etc. Other illnesses however will require medication. There are substances in the brain that are necessary to regulate mood. Without the right balance your friend will find it difficult to cope. The right medication can give your friend a second chance at life. A life that they might have previously considered quitting.
- Stick it out
It’s fun to be the best friend. There’s a sense of satisfaction that you get from knowing that someone needs you, and that your presence is a source of comfort. Six months later you might find yourself with patience wearing thin. Why can’t your friend just get over it? Why won’t they just leave the house? Why is everything about their illness? One year later you might find that thin patience has become irritation. You avoid their calls, and you stop inviting them over. I won’t lie, it is one of the most difficult friendships that you might ever have. I often find myself yelling at my friends for offenses I can’t remember. Sometimes I ignore my friend’s advice because I feel like everyone is trying to control me. It is not easy. But if you truly care for your friend, please stay. Show them that you are willing to be there through every phase. Through therapy, and medication, and side effects, and new doctors, and telling their parents about their illness, and being misdiagnosed, then re-diagnosed, and hospitalized, and failing a semester, and getting a 4.0, and getting married, and simply everything.
- Remember to take care of yourself too
The above four steps will drain you. (This is guaranteed) In order to complete step four, and find the strength to stay you will need to take care of yourself. If you are crying, this might not be the best time to give advice. Remember that you are their friend, you are not their savior. Learn to know when it is time you’re to call their doctor instead of stepping in. Please know that it is okay to say that you are not available right now. You are in this for the long haul, but this friendship should not this destroy you. In fact, (and it really pains me to say this), but sometimes you may need to take a break from the friendship altogether. Please don’t just ditch them. Explain that you need to focus on your own mental health. They may not understand, but it is much better to do this than to do leave abruptly.
Here’s the truth, some days you’re going to be so fed up of all this that you’re going to want to quit. It is times that like this that I want you to remember this fact: Mental illness is a real illness. It’s not a joke, they’re not pretending. This isn’t just a mood swing. I want you to enter into this friendship knowing fully well what you are agreeing too. A lot of these illness don’t go away; they will chronically plague your friend. That being said, the days won’t all bad. In fact, I’ve found that the mentally ill people that I’ve met are the most genuine, the kindest and the nicest people that I’ve ever met. (I should know, I’m one of them!). I hope that in trying to help your friend, you will find that you are able to explore your own mental health, and expand your capabilities for love.
Note From Elizabeth::
Hello my loves, I hope you enjoyed this guest post written by Sadie Isidore. She is the creator and blogger on www.thementaltruth.com!!! Please go over and check out her amazing site!!!
As Always, Stay Gorgeous!!!