Having a mental illness or mental health struggles can be isolating and can be hard to talk about.
There’s a quote from a TV show that sticks out to me even after all these years: When you don’t tell people what’s inside your head it only gets worse.
It’s a quote that I am reminded of when people tell me they are struggling and unsure where to turn to or they are afraid of judgement.
Even if you have a mental illness and you’re open about it, when you’re struggling it can be hard to open up to people and let them in. I don’t like confiding in people, I have a psychologist and a GP who I can be honest with, why should I burden people with my struggles? I don’t want to lean on people especially when they’re going through their own stuff. But we’re all struggling at the moment and sometimes the most beneficial thing is to lean on each other and share the load.
It can be tough to share about something so intimate and that makes us vulnerable. It's human nature to hide your weaknesses and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it can also be destroying.
So how can we take the steps to share our struggles with someone?
- Find someone you trust, maybe it’s a family member or a friend or even a trusted workmate. If you know of someone who has gone through something similar maybe reach out to them?
- Ideally the conversation should happen in person, however during these Covid times over the phone or video call can also work. While it might be tempting to write things down and say it in a letter it’s easy for things to be misinterpreted.
- Let them know what you expect of them, maybe you just want a listening ear? Or you want support? Or you want advice?
- Do it in a space you feel safe. Maybe that’s in the comfort of your own home or in a café or a park? Just somewhere where you can let your guard down and be yourself.
- Give yourself time, maybe it takes a couple of goes before you’re able to bring it up. There’s no right or wrong way how to bring it up. Let the conversation happen organically and don’t feel pressured to bring it up.
But, what happens when you’re the person that someone tells when they are struggling and how should you go about handling it?
- Acknowledge that what the person told took a lot of courage. It would’ve taken a long time for them to be able to confide in you.
- Just listen, only offer advice if they ask. Maybe they just need someone to listen? Also practice active listening, nod your head, and say things like yes/I understand/I agree. If you’re unsure of what they said rephrase it back to them for confirmation this shows that you have been listening but also allows them to confirm things.
- Check in on them afterwards, send them a text saying you appreciated that they confided in you and asking if there’s anything you can do.
It’s ok if you’re not mentally prepared to handle it. Maybe you have something going in your life or you feel like someone else would provide better support. Let them know that you’re sorry but you can’t provide the support, however you are there for them just not the way they may need.
It takes courage to tell people that you’re struggling and even if you don’t get the outcome you need/want, take comfort in knowing that you have opened up and taken a step in the right direction. Who knows maybe by confiding in someone you have given them the courage to do the same? Life’s less lonely when we do it together, struggles and all.
Feel free to drop by, just say, ‘Hey Erin’ in strict confidence and you can be anonymous if you wish. Or, do not hesitate to leave a question in the comments below any time.