Three words can help a lot more than you realize.
“Are you okay?”
This question can start a potentially life-saving conversation or start a complete shut-down- but it’s worth trying.
If you’re asking someone this question, there’s likely a good reason, maybe more than one. Think carefully- has he/she been quieter than usual, or have you seen changes in their personality? Other changes?
If so, good move.
You may be on the right track.
The Infinite Struggle
Some people, however, are not good with expressing that they need help, or even talking about their feelings when they really should. These are the people you may want to be gentle with after asking if they’re okay.
I am one of these people. It’s a struggle. I worked on this in therapy and still, it’s a struggle. Let me explain- I know that I get stuck in my own brain, which is not a good thing. My thoughts can get pretty bad. I also know that I need to talk to someone about those thoughts. Don’t freak out, because I don’t have suicidal thoughts or anything like that, but stay with me.
I just freeze up when it’s probably time to reach out.
If we remember that horrible time in which I cried constantly and drank my pain away, I probably got on everyone’s nerves. That’s how I saw it. My former therapist explained (very patiently) that people were there for me because they wanted to be.
She went on to say that if they were truly tired of all my crying and sadness, they would have left me alone at that point.
Once I felt a lot better about my life, I began to feel as if I didn’t really have a right to burden people with my problems anymore, because I’d run out of people’s patience. I have friends who will listen to me anytime I need them to, but I don’t always talk.
I really need to work on this.
The Next Steps
So what do you do if someone says, “No, I’m not okay?”
- Listen. This might be the best thing you can do for them.
- If they say they need some extra help, do what you can to help them get it. If they need emergency assistance, call 911 or take them to the nearest ER.
- Ask “What can I do?” This might sound super simple, but you may be surprised at what might help someone during a rough time.
- Don’t tell them that this will pass very soon, etc. Time can feel like it is slowing down during a depressive/manic/other episode, or even speeding up. Saying things like that can make the person feel trivialized or otherwise like a burden.
What if the person says “I’m good, thanks,” but you feel like they are not quite okay?
This is a hard one. As someone who falls into this area, all you can really do is wait it out. Give the person some space. We have our own reasons for not talking, and we may do so on our own time. Unless the person is an immediate danger to themselves and/or others, there’s not a lot you can do. Just watch out for the person as much as you can and give gentle reminders that you are there for them if needed. My best friends do this quite often.
If the person says “No, I’m fine” and becomes angry and/or aggressive:
Absolutely back up. I don’t advise taking this any further because someone can get hurt trying to push the conversation. Stop what you’re doing immediately and get to a safe location.
The Conversation Continues
Talking about our mental health isn’t a bad thing. We need to check in with ourselves and each other. Every day. Every week. Every month.
The stigma is still present while many of us fight the battle daily. We go to therapy, take meds, and do other things to make sure that we remain stable.
If you know someone is struggling, reach out to them. You may be helping them through the darkest hour of their lives. If you’re the one that’s struggling, you’re worth it. Take a minute and text someone you trust.
*picks up cell and texts bestie*
Do you struggle with talking about your feelings?
If so, BetterHelp can be a good place to start. This will help Georgia residents find a therapist, but can also lead others to what they need.
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