To the ones who’ve held us while we’ve broken down into rivers of tears. To the ones who’ve come over to clean/cook/complete a daunting project in our time of need. To the ones who have brought their presence when nothing else is needed. And to the ones who have held our hand in crisis and have nurtured our hearts, souls, and minds when we have had not an ounce to give in return. This one is for you.
As hard as it is to live with a debilitating mental health diagnosis, I am sure those who love us can also attest to the difficulty of loving us (the right way) and supporting us. This is not to say we are difficult to love or hard to please, but sometimes we don’t know what exactly it is we need to get out of crisis. This is because it is often very difficult to communicate to them what our required needs are.
I won’t blog about how you can generically love us all because what we need looks different in all of us. Just as our diagnoses differ in how they present themselves, we all need love and help catered uniquely to us. This is not a one stop shop to figure out your friend, partner, and/or family member. Always ask them what they feel they need and if they can’t name it, then simply ask if your presence would comfort them instead of an “act.” Sometimes being there is just enough. We don’t always need or want advice. But your presence will never hurt us. It let’s us know we’re not alone.
Here’s what we have to say about helping us deal with our anxiety:
I asked, What can people around you do in crisis mode to assist you best? What’s something you need the most during that time?
I have anxiety and panic attacks so my comfort usually looks like hugs, talking with me, listening, sitting or laying with me, and reminding me how loved I am.
The thing I need most during a crisis is a reassuring presence and the reminder that everything is ok. It’s hard for me to look at the bigger picture and put things in perspective when I’m messed up, because I’m usually focused on a small problem and blowing it wildly out of proportion. It’s really helpful for someone to tell me that things are alright now as nonspecifically as possible (i.e. “you’re okay/you’re safe” rather than “failing this class isn’t the end of the world”).
Just love me. Encourage me to talk to my therapist. Make sure I’m on my medication. Most of all love me. That’s what I need.
Without asking for help, what are signs that people notice when you begin to spiral?
I’ll go into overdrive, analyzing what I can improve, whereas [my partner will] be fulfilled. I’ll place the pressure on myself because depression kinda convinces you that whatever you’re doing is inadequate, which translates to an unhealthy sort of “room for improvement”. The kind that tells you someone isn’t satisfied with what may very well be you ‘going above and beyond’, despite their response to it.
When it comes to my friends, I tend to hide like staying home…stuff like that. But that can be hard too because I’m an introvert and would rather stay home anyway. (haha!) When it comes to my family, I cry a lot or [start] taking constant deep breaths [and] that’s when my mom asks me what’s up.
Not being my goofy self, very quiet, shut down, I turn red due to anxiety and [have] panic attacks when asked to talk about the [slightest] issue.
As you can see, our responses, triggers, and needs can vary. While this is true, our capacity to love is nearly always the same. We love hard, we love deeply, and we love unconditionally. Our diagnoses may try to make us believe otherwise, but we love your support even when we don’t (or can’t!) act like it at times. We need you and we’re so glad you’re in our corner.
If you’re looking for ways to love your friends, partners, or family members better, then the answer is to simply just ask them. Seek to do what’s best for them and not what may make you most comfortable. Mental health can be draining for the those who are entrenched in it and those who are merely spectators; however, always be patient. Always be kind. Always forgive. And when nothing else helps, just be present. We can and will weather any storm to come.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a