Category Archives: Supporting Others

Time To Talk Day 2019

It’s that time of year again. Yes, today, 7th February 2019, is Time to Talk day. I must admit that I have struggled to think of what to write about for this year’s Time to Talk day so where this blog post is going I have no idea. And that is OK.

Sometimes we have difficult conversations and we don’t know how the other person is going to react to what we say. This makes us hesitant to talk about the difficult things. That’s why Time to Talk day is important. It’s an ice breaker. It helps us discuss what isn’t always an easy topic; mental health.

I still struggle to talk about my mental health. I’m hesitant to say I’m struggling to those important people in my life. In fact they are sometimes the last to know what I’ve been going through. Yet I can blog about it to lots of people I barely know.

So why is it so difficult to talk to the ones we love the most? I think it has to do with how they will react. This is something out of our control and we don’t know if they will be upset, angry or any other emotion. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health still we are on edge as to whether we will face it from those we love the most. And we know that we could end up feeling worse if they don’t react how we hope they will.

So this year I think I might just share a few pointers for those who are listening to someone share about their mental illness. I don’t know if it will be helpful but I’ll give it a go.

1. Just listen: Sometimes it is simply having someone to listen without judging or making suggestions that means the most to us. If we ask for help then yes by all means try and help but we don’t always want that.

2. Be calm: It can be hard to do but staying calm will allow us to open up more as we see you are not reacting. Going straight into panic mode can make us feel guilty for talking and stop us opening up when we really need to.

3. Find an outlet: You are as important as the person with the mental illness who is talking to you. Therefore make sure you have support too. It will make you stronger for the person who is confiding in you.

4. Don’t guilt trip us: Telling us that we are making you feel bad or causing you stress will just make us stop talking. It will play into the negative thoughts we have and make us regret opening up and may even stop us from opening up to others.

5. Don’t shut the conversation down: If you say you don’t want to hear this then you can make us feel like we shouldn’t talk. If you’re finding it difficult suggest alternatives. Make sure that they know it’s OK to talk.

So those are a few tips to help you support someone who may start a conversation about mental health. Hopefully they might be useful. If you have any more ideas feel free to share in the comments or via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Advertisements

What Not To Say: Self Harm

Please be aware this post discusses self harm and therfore some of the content may be triggering.

Self harm is still a taboo subject and is often met with stigma,even from health professionals, who don’t understand what it’s like to deal with. Therefore I thought I’d put together a quick guide to things not to say to someone who self harms.

1. “You’re attention seeking”

Most people who self harm don’t want the attention. We often hide what we are doing much to the detriment of our mental and physical health. In fact there are easier ways to get attention than to self harm. Self harm is often a very secretive act and this can cause us trouble when we hurt ourselves to much. If this happens we’re often scared to get the health care that we need due to the stigma surrounding this subject. Also if someone is self harming for attention they still deserve your help and care. They obviously need that attention for some reason so it should not be dismissed.

2. “You know you’ll have scars for life”

Yes we know this. But at the moment our emotional pain is too much to deal with and we don’t care about the future at this moment in time. We also don’t need the judgements that you are placing on us. We often feel bad enough already without this comment.

3. “If you want to die why don’t you just do it?”

Self harm is often not a suicide attempt. Yes some people who self harm do want to die but often self harm is a way of coping with life and trying hard to stay alive. Also telling someone to just die is plain wrong. Why would you encourage someone to die?

4. “Don’t you feel pain?”

This is one that I’ve heard recently. And for me I don’t feel the pain at the time of harming myself. Everyone is different though. And even if a person doesn’t feel pain, pointing it out is not necessary and can be potentially triggering. This is why you shouldn’t say it to a person who self harms. It’s just unhelpful.

5. “Ugh, your scars are horrible”

My scars may look horrible to you but to me they are a symbol of what I’ve been through. Also its really unhelpful to say this as showing our scars is difficult enough. People should not be ashamed to show their scars. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

6. “Why don’t you just stop?”

If it was as easy as just stopping it wouldn’t be the problem it is. Self harm is like an addiction. You come to rely on it even though you know its not particularly helpful and in the long times makes things harder. Self harm becomes like your best friend as its always there for you but you know it’s actually toxic. It is a hard relationship to break down. So saying “why don’t you just stop?” is unhelpful. What we need is support to learn healthier coping strategies.

So that’s a few things not to say to someone who self harms. If you want more information on self harm you can check out the Mind website. If you want to share things not to say to someone then feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Family

Family is complicated at the best of times but when you have a mental illness it can feel like a complex puzzle you have to solve. It seems family can go one of two ways; supporting you unconditionally or being more of a hindrance.

My family is the same. Some have been amazing and supportive but others look down their nose at me and act like I’m less of a person because I have a mental illness that makes it hard for me to work, have a relationship and live on my own. I feel like a second class citizen, the black sheep of the family.

I have had snide remarks made to my parents by other family members because I am not capable of doing things most 29 year olds are doing. I’m not getting married, having babies or buying a house. I’m an only child and so my parents are the only ones out of their siblings that are not grandparents. This has resulted in comments to them that they “don’t understand what it’s like to have grandchildren”. These comments hit me hard. I feel I’m depriving my parents of this experience.

When I see family I always feel embarrassed that I’m not working. It makes me feel less of a person when I hear of my cousins working in jobs that I just can’t do. I hate myself for not being good enough and an embarrassment to my parents.

Family is complicated like I’ve already said. If you have a family member who has a mental illness there are some things you can do to help them feel supported and less of an embarrassment.

1. Don’t ask awkward questions

Asking someone when they think they are going to have a baby or when they are going to get married is really not helpful. It can make people with a mental illness feel more of a failure than they already do if they are struggling with these aspects of their life.

2. Ask how they are feeling

It’s quite simple. Just an interest in how they are feeling can make all the difference. They will probably feel less alone and less of an outsider.

3. Don’t force them into things

If they don’t want to engage in a conversation or an activity try not to force them. They may just need some quiet time or to just listen. It may be that they are anxious about the situation.

That’s just a few tips for how you can help a family member in a social situation. If you have any other ideas feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Lonely This Christmas

Christmas is a great time of year for most people but for some it is really lonely. If you have a mental illness it’s quite easy to find yourself feeling lonely and this time of the year can heighten those feelings. Also if you are feeling lonely it is likely to have a negative impact on your mental health. Loneliness is a silent killer with people who are lonely dying years earlier than the average life expectancy.

Feeling lonely doesn’t necessarily mean that you are alone. You can feel lonely among a group of people. It is about how connected you feel to the people around you. You can feel isolated from people when you feel they don’t understand you. At this time of year with parties and get togethers, if you have a mental illness, it can feel difficult to connect with others and enjoy their company.

I often feel lonely at this time of the year as with my anxiety I struggle to deal with large groups of people. I also see a lot of family that can be stressful as I don’t always feel connected to the people and worry I’m being judged for having a mental illness.

So how can we tackle loneliness at Christmas?

If we’re going out with friends at Christmas it may help to trust a friend with our difficulties. They may be able to support us and help us feel connected to the group. It may also be useful to think of topics to help with making conversations. People like to know our interests and we won’t be boring anyone no matter what our brain is telling us.

If you are alone this Christmas there is a great push on social media to connect with others. Sarah Millican runs something called #joinin on Christmas day and other days of the Christmas break. This is a way to connect people on twitter who are alone at this time of the year. Even if you’re spending time with family you can still join in if you feel isolated.

If you need someone to talk to the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For othe crisis numbers check out the menu and click on crisis numbers. For other useful websites check out the menu and click on useful websites.

For more information on loneliness check out the Mind website. You can also find a link on their page to a blog post I wrote for them on loneliness.

If you have any tips or want to try and connect with others feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Fear Of Abandonment

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), or Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), is diagnosed by seeing if a person matches at least give of nine different criteria. One of these nine criteria is fear of abandonment. This means you worry about people leaving you. This fear can be real or imagined. This is one of the criteria I identify with and have found very difficult of late to cope with. Therefore I thought I would write about how it effects me personally. Of course everyone is different and others will experience it differently.

When have I felt fear of abandonment?

I have felt fear of abandonment in a few different situations and for different reasons. The first event I am going to mention was a perceived abandonment. I was meeting a group of friends and became convinced they weren’t going to show up. I had no evidence for this at all but my mind became convinced this would be the case. It was totally unfounded and of course they showed up as planned.

The second event was when I found out my therapy was being halved from a year to six months. This led to me feeling fearful that I was being abandoned by the therapists involved in my care. This also happened when my care coordinator talked about reducing the support I received. I suddenly felt terrified I was being abandoned.

How do I feel about, and react, to fear of abandonment?

When I feel the fear of abandonment, the terror that takes over me can be all encompassing. It is like a blanket of fear and can make me feel sick with anxiety. I start to become very defensive and try my best to protect myself from the perceived threat of someone leaving, real or not. This can start in my brain where I begin to tell myself I’m not important and it doesn’t matter if they leave me. I then start to detach from the person as much as possible. I might withdraw or stop talking to them as regularly. I make myself much less reliant on them. I do all I can to make the abandonment feel less painful, even though in the long run it hurts me more.

How should I deal with the fear of abandonment?

With fear of abandonment it can be the little gestures that make us feel we are going to be left. To deal with this there is the skill of non-judgementalness. This where we try bit to judge a person’s actions but look at all the possibilities of why they may be acting that way. It is a hard skill to engage but an important one.

When the abandonment is more real, in that a person is actually leaving, it is more difficult to deal with. Here it can be a case of using skills to ensure our safety and not getting to crisis point.

How can you help with fear of abandonment?

There are a couple of ways to help us not fear abandonment and they include not breaking promises to us as well as reassuring us. These things can make all the difference. Sometimes we just need to hear that you’re still there and care about us.

If you have any tips on dealing with fear of abandonment feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Tough To Hear

This is a personal piece. Please be aware that content may be triggering.

The phrase “I think you’re doing well” can actually be one of the most difficult phrases to hear. Especially when in your head everything feels like it is falling apart. It can be meant as a well meaning phrase to buoy you up and compliment you but it can in actual fact make things seem tougher.

This week someone said this phrase to me because on the surface things are going well. I am attending therapy, volunteering my time and keeping up with my blog. All positives. Yet underneath it all I feel I am falling apart. Where am I really at? Yes, I am attending therapy, but each week is followed by a melt down to a friend and me feeling the need to punish myself. Yes, I’m offering my time, but I’m aware I am saying yes to a lot when actually I feel low and need to say no. And while I am keeping up with my blog, I am finding it hard to keep creating content, which makes me feel useless. On top of all this the voice is telling me to die and I am self harming and hair pulling. Not such a happy picture. 

I realise I sound negative, and I promise I am trying to be positive, but it is really difficult to do when so much seems against you. It is hard to put on a smile every day and make people think you are doing ok. It takes a supreme amount of energy to carry on with every day tasks. Being positive is hard.

Then someone says the phrase “you are doing well” and it brings up a lot of different thoughts and emotions. Yes, some are good, like “I’m glad I’m showing I can cope” or “maybe I’m doing better than I think”. But there are many negatives.

One thing you may think is “if everyone thinks I am doing well am I going to let them down?” You feel that because things aren’t going well under the exterior view that if any cracks start to show you will be a let down. Of course this isn’t true but you feel the pressure to appear ok. This can make all that you are feeling with seem more difficult as you’re masking your true emotions, scared to show the ‘real’ you. 

Another way this phrase can be invalidating is that you it makes you feel that you must be ok as that is what others think of you. You feel like maybe your problems aren’t as big as you feel they are and that you’re making a fuss over nothing. This is not true. What you feel is valid. If you’re struggling still that is ok and it is ok to express this to other people. 

So while I understand that people are trying to be helpful by saying I am doing well, when I am struggling still it is actually one of the worst things for me to hear as it invalidates me. If you know someone is struggling please don’t add pressure by using this phrase. Please just accept they are struggling and validate their feelings by saying “I understand why you feel this way and it’s ok to feel like you do.”

 Are there any phrases you wish people wouldn’t say to you when you’re struggling? Feel free to share in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Supporting Someone Who Is Self Harming

As someone who has used self harm as a coping strategy for over half my life, I have experienced a range of reactions to telling people I self harm. Some things have been helpful, others not so much. I know it can be hugely difficult to support someone who is using self harm to cope, so I thought I would put together some do’s and dont’s for helping someone who is self harming.

1. Don’t get angry – Your reaction to hearing about self harm can make a huge impact on the person telling you. It is understandably hard to hear that someone you care about is hurting themselves but I promise getting angry with them will not help. Instead it will lead to them feeling isolated and unable to come to you when they need help the most. It will drive the secretiveness of the behaviour and possibly prevent them seeking professional help. If, instead, you are calm and supportive, it will show that it is OK for them to talk and ask for help, which is what they really need.

2. Do encourage them to seek help – Self harm is not something you can solve alone. It requires professional help. Encouraging someone who is self harming to get help is important in helping them deal with whatever is going on for them. There are many different reasons people self harm and it is incredibly complex so professional help is necessary.

3. Don’t mimmick self harm – This is something I have come across in a few situations, where people have felt unable to say the words “self harm” so have instead imitated the actions of self harm behaviour. This is just unacceptable. It can be highly triggering to see someone acting out self harm behaviour and therefore is extremely unhelpful.

4. Do look after yourself – It is highly important to remember to care for yourself when you are supporting someone else. You can not pour from an empty cup. In order to help the person who is self harming, you need to make sure your own welfare comes first as if you aren’t well you will be of little use. This might mean talking to your own GP to get some support in place for you.

5. Don’t diminish the severity of what they’re feeling – When someone self harms they are showing that they are going through deep psychological pain, no matter what the severity of their self harm. Please don’t try to dismiss it ass “not that bad” or compare it to others who might be “hurting worse”. The physical severity is not proportionate to the pain. Anyone who is self harming needs to be taken seriously or the problem could escalate.

6. Do encourage them to use alternatives – It might take some time for the person who is self harming to get help but in the mean time you can encourage them to find alternative ways to express their pain. This could be by writing or art. Also there are other things they can do when they get the urge to self harm which can be found  here.

So those are just a few ways to support someone who is self harming. For more information on self harm check out the Mind website. If you have any tips feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter.