I’m hesitant to write an update on my struggles this year with depression and anxiety because my family reads it and then they all flip out. My husband and kids get it, they’re here with me day in and day out but for my family that doesn’t live here with us, it makes them worry because they love me.
So let me start this by saying: Don’t worry about me. That goes for my family and my favorite readers (that’s you). I’m writing this and being above and beyond honest because somebody has to. I wish now that someone years ago would have been honest with me when it comes to their struggles. I have a friend who started therapy last month and I did not flinch when I told her that it might be the hardest thing she ever does in her life. There are things about this journey that are gut-wrenchingly hard but it doesn’t mean that you need to worry. If I’m bold enough and brave enough to make it this far, 8 months of weekly heartbreaking, gut rearranging therapy in, I need continued encouragement, not worry… and Starbucks gift cards, if we’re being honest, because that cold brew with pumpkin cream is magical.
So How Can You Support Someone Going Through Depression / Anxiety / Trauma?
As I say everytime I write about this topic, this is from my own personal viewpoint as someone walking through this. I am not a trained professional.
One of the biggest reasons that I’m writing about this frequently is because it makes people uncomfortable. Now, I’m not writing to make people feel uncomfortable, but I am writing because the more we talk about it and open up the topic, it will bring awareness. Awareness empowers people to feel more comfortable in hard situations and gives them the tools to support others.
Ask them what they need.
If you truly want to support someone struggling with mental health/depression/anxiety / PTSD, ask them what they need.
It’s ingrained in us when someone’s having a hard time for us to go to them and state, “hey, let me know if you need anything”. Then we pat ourselves on the back and walk away because we’ve done our good deed and honestly, we really would do whatever they ask of us. But few people, when their world is spinning, are in the shape to recall that offer days later and reach out and ask for help.
The thing that I’ve learned helps me the most is when people give me immediate choices.
For instance, my husband will ask me, “What do you need? Do you need some hot tea or can I run get something from the store for you?”. The hot tea for me is a comfort item that usually helps me a lot and I usually always take him up on that.
On a harder level, I have friends that will text me, “What do you need? Do you need me to get a kid from practice from you or do you need to meet for coffee today and talk?”.
I have a hard time telling people what I need. I don’t always know or I don’t always think I know when in actuality, I do. When I’m given options that I might actually choose, it gives me the power to speak up and tell someone if I need something different.
Ask what someone needs and then give them immediate options. Sometimes I say no to both options but when I’m presented with two options that are personal and something I would usually choose, it’s easier to say, “no but I do need this…”.
Once you’ve asked them what they need, listen.
At the root of it, we all want to help each other. But sometimes we don’t like what someone else’s choices may be.
If you want to know what I need, don’t make me afraid to ask.
Twice last week I had open conversations with someone that made me nervous and made me question whether or not it was the right decision to trust them because rather than listening, they jumped to conclusions.
If someone says to you, “no, I don’t want to leave my house today,” don’t show up at their house to fix the issue yourself.
If someone asks you to be quiet because they’re overloaded, don’t turn on music that you think is soothing.
If someone is struggling with big groups of people, don’t pull them into a crowd and tell them that they have to face it to get over their fears.
I remember the day I told my mother-in-law that I was struggling with depression and in a very quick and simple conversation I told her, “to me, it means that sometimes I get overloaded and just need to be by myself, especially at night”. We’ve never talked about it again but at night whenever we’re together, she’s always given me space and helps get the kids ready for bed. She listened and has made it easy for me.
When people tell you what they need, listen. If you’re not sure or you’re not comfortable, ask them to clarify. If what they ask worries you, get the advice of a professional.
Life is hard. We’re not meant to do it alone. If you’re struggling with depression/anxiety/trauma, you’re not alone but others that love you are probably lost as to how they can help you.
One thing that I’ve learned, and am still learning, is that you need to be open with what you need and in return, we all need to start listening to the needs of others.
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