Why Your Kind Words and Hotline Numbers Don’t Really Help the People Who Are Suffering
I’ll start this post by saying that there are varying degrees of mental illness and that help and treatment are not one size fits all. I’ve spoken about my personal journey quite a few times on the blog and I can give insight on this topic through my personal journey, as well as insight based off of how some of my closest friends have dealt with their own issues. With the news of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain completely taking over my news feeds, I, as well as my friends, have found themselves really triggered by the “help” being offered from people who really don’t understand the beast of the illness. We know your hearts are in a good place, but the cheerleader quotes and hotline numbers actually make the majority of us feel worse. Let me explain…
One of the biggest symptoms/signs of depression is becoming withdrawn to the point of social isolation. So, you’re telling me that someone who has hidden themselves away in a dark cave is supposed to reach out for help? I want you to imagine for a moment that this person is standing in a cave… looking out to the light… to all the people they know are there. Behind them, stands an army of monsters (guilt, shame, thoughts of suicide, etc.) The monsters hold on to them. The monsters covers their mouth. They are unable to do the thing you think they should do, so their symptoms of guilt and shame become worse. This monster of a illness holds us in place and sometimes drags us deeper and deeper into the cave… even when we do fight back. When your brain is making you feel absolutely worthless and life not worth living, hearing “you’re here for a reason” “you’re going to push through” “you are loved” doesn’t matter. Again, most of the time, hearing those things exhasterbates your warped emotions and thoughts.
What we need for people to understand is that it’s an illness. Some deal with it every hour of every day, for some it comes in waves. Some people are high functioning, and some are bed ridden. But, what we all have in common is that it is persistent. It’s not a temporary problem. Even after months of feeling good, it boomerangs back when you least expect it. We know it’s going to. The monster inside lurks. So, when we see things like “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” it triggers us because it is anything but a temporary problem. Personally, I don’t want to hear of anyone killing themselves, but I get it. I also see if from this perspective — they’ve lost a battle with their illness. The illness killed them.
For those of you that find the death by suicide selfish… would you tell your friend dying of cancer that he/she is selfish– To think about what they’re going to do to their family and friends? Listen, it hurts to lose people… but how selfish are you to think that someone should continue to endure pain because you’ll be sad when they’re gone? That attitude is why people who suffer, do so silently. Most people, your family and closest friends, are actually not safe harbors free of judgement. Most people take the vulnerability of others and make it about themselves. The “I can’t believe you can’t talk to me” crew… I know when someone is not capable of the level of understanding and compassion I need, as do your friends and family that suffer. Don’t hold it against us…
It takes time to build community. Truthfully, I have about 4 people I can be completely open with and guess what? I still can’t explicitly ask for help, but what I have become comfortable with is saying “I’m not okay”, which allows them to swoop into action. This has taken me YEARS to establish. To the “reach out and talk to somebody” crew… 1. it’s not easy and mostly impossible to reach out 2. we’re not comfortable talking to just anyone. Understand that at our lowest, we are naked, raw, beaten, exhausted, tired… we need the hand reached out to us and more importantly, we need you to listen and not talk at us. How you react and respond to us, and it will vary from mental illness to mental illness, is delicate. You are walking into landmines.
Here are some symptoms and signs to look out for: