One of the biggest questions I’ve got from people when they find out about my depression and conversion disorder is “How can I help?” It’s probably one of the best and worst questions to ask and here’s why: it shows concern, which is great, because anyone in that situation is craving some help, but at the same time, some people aren’t actually able to offer the help and support someone needs. Helping isn’t saying “I’m here for you anytime.” Real help for me, was the person who wasn’t afraid to hold me tightly and make me feel okay when I cried for no reason. Help came from the person who refused to let me be alone when I wasn’t okay, despite my protests. I’ve always believed that just a little bit of love can go a really long way. If someone confides in you, show them your love, don’t just tell them they have it.
It’s also incredibly hard coping with a mental illness when you feel completely misunderstood. One of the most annoying questions I get asked is “what’s wrong?” It comes from a good place, but in my head I’m usually thinking “Well, if I knew what was wrong, I’d know why I was depressed, and then I wouldn’t be depressed!” It’s difficult supporting people with mental illness – you have to be there for someone without knowing why you’re actually there.
I’ve found my two biggest struggles come from a deep feeling of loneliness when I’m surrounded by tons of people, and a fear of being inadequate because I face these demons inside me, which I fear will lead to abandonment. Why do I think this? Beats me. Maybe it’s because our society is such that it is still grossly unacceptable to talk about the gritty part of depression. We are all becoming more aware of the prevalence of mental illness – 1 in 5 Canadians struggles with it, yet saying “yeah I get sad or anxious sometimes so I take some pills” is quite different from actually telling someone about the time you attempted to take your life. This stigma is the reason why before starting this blog, I considered using an alias and not sharing it with my friends, but if I don’t do it, I can’t help anyone. So when it comes down to it, if you tell someone you are there through their mental illness struggles, you damn well better be there, because as hard as it is for you to cope with what they’re going through, take a sliver of a moment to consider what they’re going through.
In a nutshell, the best way to help a person in a hopeless place, where they feel they have no solution because they can’t articulate a particular problem, is to just be there. Sit with them, hug them, soothe them, because it works a hell of a lot better than offering solutions to trivial problems that don’t even begin to dig into the depths of their mental state.
Note: If you believe someone is in danger of harming themselves or someone else, contact 911 immediately and help them get the professional help they need. Call 1-800-SUICIDE or your local crisis centre.
Keep Surviving by Living.