Tips For Support
It has taken me years to get to a point where I feel my mental health is levelling out. It's been a long old road, but being diagnosed with depression and social anxiety nearer the beginning of last year did me the world of good. Going back to therapy for a series of CBT sessions allowed for me to gain an understanding of these illnesses, and encouraged me to continue researching into them further.
CBT, reading books and searching online has led to me talking more openly about my mental health, as well as taking the time to thoroughly think about what actually helps me. Mental illnesses can be greatly difficult to fully understand when you haven't experienced them yourself. Everyone is different, and everyone's experience with mental illness is different, but these are five tips I would ask friends, family members or partners to consider when I feel like I'm struggling.
ask my preferences
I've found that I'm better off on my own when it all gets a bit too much. This allows me to avoid questions or being suggested a million and one ways to calm down. I like taking myself off to a quiet space, having a breather, and returning to whatever I was doing when I feel ready. This lets me get a handle on it and regain control. I've also learnt that I don't like being touched or caught up in enclosed spaces when I am panicking, as this makes me feel trapped.
Whilst I fully appreciate that any attempts to console me are always from a place of care, I've found that I don't like being hugged when experiencing feelings of intense panic. I may ask for you to hold my hand, but in most cases it's likely I'll just want some space and a big cuddle afterwards - so prepare yourself for that. Something else to remember is how hard it can be to explain these things when you are in the midst of distress and everything has shifted into flight mode. If your loved one hasn't told you what they would prefer you to do in these situations, just ask.
I may be struggling, but I am still human. I still require honesty even if the truth isn't pretty. I can't do anything, about anything, I don't know anything about; and therefore can't be expected to do anything either. Depression and anxiety work together to constantly feed the mind. At my worst, I would cycle through erratic overthinking and being so worn out that I felt completely empty. I won't see signals and signs that something is wrong when I'm so wrapped up in what is going on in my head. So please just sit down and talk to me, no matter the topic of conversation. Even if I get upset, I promise you that I will appreciate this more than you will ever know.
This one is pretty self explanatory, but I feel like I have to mention it. I know that if I find these illnesses draining, it's likely you will be feeling the pressure too. It's natural to not always understand why I have acted in certain ways, to feel as though you don't know how to help, or to wonder when I'll be feeling more like myself. I ask myself these questions too, but please don't be angry at me because of this. Whilst I am doing my best to be in control of my mental health,
I am not my mental illnesses
Instead, if you find yourself in a state of frustration or confusion, start a conversation about it. I may not have noticed patterns or behaviours you have, and by asking thoughtful questions I am able to use this information to get better; by using it for research or by passing it onto therapists. Talking about mental illness is vital. Creating non-judgemental dialogue allows for a greater understanding to be shared, for mental illnesses to be normalised and stigmas broken. With this in mind, please be patient when I'm going through the motions of these illnesses. It may not seem as though an end is in sight at times, but that doesn't mean better days aren't just around the corner. Everything is temporary, and this too shall pass.
remind me that you're there
Depression and anxiety, particularly social anxiety, made me feel lonely as heck. Battling between feeling isolated and not being able to get myself out of the house, or even up out of bed, unsurprisingly led to a halt in human contact. Of course I don't expect anyone to be there twenty-four hours of the day - that would be a completely unreasonable expectation. I would say though, rather than simply telling someone that you are there if they need you, I encourage checking in on your significant other every so often. Whether this is via message or by arranging to meet for a catch up, showing them that you're there to help them fight, is incredibly comforting. Equally, if they ask for space, give them that too.
take time for yourself
Whilst I greatly appreciate your company, help and support, I don't want my illnesses to take over your life too. This one particularly gets me. Knowing how awful depression and anxiety can be, I wouldn't wish for anyone to go through it - especially those who are trying their hardest to be there for me. Do whatever you need to do to continue living your life and being you. Go do that thing you've always wanted to do on your bucket list, spend time with your friends, or even have a relaxing bath and snuggle up with a book. Always remember to look after yourself and take as much time as you need. I'd love to hear all about your adventures afterwards!
As mentioned previously; everyone is different and therefore the manifestation of mental illness is varied from person to person. These tips for support most definitely aren't a one-size-fits-all, but you may find aspects here and there that you may relate to, agree with or establish your own ideas from. Knowing what helps, in order to help other people help you, can be life changing. Mental illness is a battle best fought together, so by recognising coping strategies and means of support that help, we can all work together to show these illnesses who's boss.