5 Things NOT to Say to a Person with a Mental Illness
Dont pity me. When I post about my depression, I do not do it for sympathy. It is not a cry for help or a ploy for attention. I do it to free myself from myself. I literally let go of all of my feelings, for my own breath of air. I get tired of holding it all in. I usually log off after I post something really raw, to avoid the anxiety that comes with being so vulnerable in public. When I get back online, I don't re-open the post or read the comments but today, I saw a few comments on a friend's page that really disturbed me. It made me realize that people really don't know what to say and what not to say to a person with a mental illness.
Please, understand: there are two types of people that will view your comments: people who are able to relate to the post and people who will just want to help and can relate to you. Speaking for the people that may be dealing with the same exact issues as I am, seeing your comments may mistakingly cause them to be more afraid to open up and seek the help they may need because of a fear of being misunderstood, victimized, or shamed. Trust me, I know you don't mean any harm. I just want to help you, help us.
Here's a quick list of what not to say and what you should say, no matter how many times you might have to say it.
5. "I am praying for you..."
Please dont say that. Not saying you can't privately send up a prayer to whomever you pray to but please don't say it to me... Just feels like something is wrong me... "I'll keep you in my prayers..." Or just flat out writing a prayer on someone's post, draws attention to your perspective: something needs to be fixed or healed in this person's life. No one needs that reminder if they already feel broken.
4. "Jesus loves you."
Again. Really inappropriate. Sorry but despite your personal beliefs, it's really not encouraging at all. Just another reminder that you are viewing my everyday experiences with depression as an ailment that needs to be healed. It's my normal. Let me be. Tell me you love my strength. Tell me you see my will not to give up. Tell me you don't think of me as anything less than a woman who is loved.
3. "Are you okay?"
Obviously not to your standards if you feel the need to ask... So don't ask because you asking makes me feel like I really don't "look okay" when truly, all I want to do is "be okay" in that moment. But it's hard. And me posting about it is part of my healing process. Or maybe I don't want to be okay. Remember: I have a mood disorder. Which means, it really depends on how I feel. But you don't have to ask. Please, don't.
2. "It's going to be okay..."
Again, your choice of words points out that something is presently not okay. I don't need your reassurance about the future. I'm trying to heal myself now.
1. "I understand..."
No you don't.
What should you say?
Keep it simple:
"I love you."
"You are enough."
"You are not alone."