I know I haven’t written in quite a while, so I am going to share reasons as to why I haven’t written. I have recently dealt with bouts of depression that have been different than any other depression spell I have been in. The added ingredient to my depression has been suicidal thoughts. The article I read two days ago really made me feel as though I am not the only one who has felt this way. I wanted to spot light this article and talk through some of these items which are considered “reaching out” when someone is struggling with a mental illness. I am doing this because I believe that no one should feel like they are alone in life. I would never wish this feeling on you and I don’t want you to feel like no one can help. The hardest step is reaching out and this can be difficult, but it can also be simple. It doesn’t mean you have to talk about it, but it means you can reach out and have support when you are ready to discuss how you feel.
First, let’s define mental illness. According to the American Psychiatric Association, a mental illness is a health condition that involves changes in emotions, thinking, or behaviors- or a combination of all of these things. The American Psychiatric Association also states that mental illnesses are associated with problems in functioning in your everyday life- with social life, work, or family, as well as associated with distress.
Mental illness is not uncommon. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association finds that one in five adults in the United States experience a mental illness of some form. Of these, one in 24 have a serious mental illness and one in 12 have a substance use disorder.
The article that I read is titled “10 Ways to ‘Reach out’ When You’re Struggling with Your Mental Health.” The author, Sam Dylan Finch, is a mental health advocate and writer, and talks about his friend who has recently committed suicide. However, he states that he may not have understood what reaching out means when he told people to do so. It is easy to tell people to reach out if they are feeling a suicidal, however, not everyone knows that it doesn’t have to involve discussing all of their feelings or the stressors in their lives. No one really explains how to reach out during the dark times in life. The author wants to help, so he wrote about 10 ways one could reach out for help.
While reaching out generally works, unfortunately, not many people use this to get help. Most people seclude themselves and deal with it alone. The author of this article states that people need to be more specific when saying they need to “reach out.” Here are the 10 ways the author said you can reach out if you are dealing with a mental health disorder.
The first way to “reach out” is to say “I’m (depressed/anxious/suicidal). I’m not sure what to ask for, but I don’t want to be alone right now.”
I think this is hard for some of us to do. How can we ask for help if we can’t give a concrete way the person can help? I don’t know about you, but I have been taught to ask for exactly what you want. I teach this to my kiddos at the daycare. However, the author makes a brilliant point- you don’t have to know what you need. I don’t understand my feelings on a daily basis. Sometimes I will come home from my 10 hour shift and get upset that I haven’t’ gotten a hug from Kevon. Instead of telling him, I just get mad and I don’t understand that is what I need. I might realize this hours later and feel horrible.
I feel like this statement is more important than people realize. Being alone isn’t just physically being alone in a room, it can be feeling emotionally alone after a long day taking care of others while you are surrounded by people who care about you. Sometimes a hug works miracles and sometimes I push those people away who hug me. Mental illness doesn’t make sense sometimes. You get caught up in the fact you want to understand what is wrong with you and you don’t make sure that you reach out and let others that care about you know that you don’t know what you need.
Even if you don’t know what you need- tell someone that. Tell someone you don’t know. It’s okay not to know what you need at that moment.
“I’m struggling with my mental health and what I’ve been trying isn’t working. Can we (meet up/skype/etc.) on (date) and come up with a better plan?”
I cannot say I practice asking for help very well. In fact, I have had to realize that it is okay to ask for help if you need something. Asking for help isn’t limited to anything. Help can be help with anything- needing a ride somewhere, needing help with cleaning, needing help with understanding. Needing help is misunderstood.
This phrase makes me realize just how bad I am at reaching out and how bad I am at asking for help. I feel guilty for asking my friends for things, scared that I am being a burden. However, everyone is going through something. If you need help, maybe you can also be help to someone else. Reaching out is hard because you don’t want to burden others with your issues-especially if you don’t fully understand what your mental illness is doing to you- but, it is okay to ask. It is okay to feel like you don’t want to do anything. But, you should try to not seclude yourself from those people who can help you in ways you might not realize.
The biggest point the author makes here is to set a time. The author points out that this helps the person you are reaching out to understand your urgency in your need. Secondly, it can be helpful to yourself in knowing you will have help in the near future. Sometimes, this is all you can look forward to when we need help. You will get up and fulfill that need if you set a time.
“I don’t feel safe by myself right now. Can you stay on the phone with me/come over until I calm down?”
As the author points out, this is hard to ask someone. If you are struggling so much that you don’t feel safe, it is a big deal. We worry others will push us to get help in the system of health care that is already messed up. However vulnerable you feel, you should let that be exposed. Once you do, you will realize just how much you have been needing that support. You will feel better.
“I’m in a bad place, but I’m not ready to talk about it. Can you help me distract myself?”
Eventually, you will be ready to talk about what is bugging you. However, if you don’t fully understand what you are going through, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so. It is okay not to know and it is okay not to talk about it right away. Distracting yourself is an okay and normal reaction to feeling as though you are in a bad place.
I realized this on Monday night. I received news that a friend was in the hospital in the ICU on life support. As soon as I got the news, I was a disaster. I cried. And I cried. I knew time was of the essence since she had been in the ICU for almost 2 weeks, so I wasted no time going to say my final goodbye. That night, I asked for someone to go with me. Oddly, I felt like my mother, father, or my boyfriend wasn’t the right person. I asked my old boss to go with me and she did. The reason I did this was because CJ was a client of mine when I worked for an agency who supports individuals with disabilities.
Of course, if you have ever seen someone in the ICU, you go through all of the feelings. They need to be pain free. They shouldn’t have been sick. They are better off in a place where they are not suffering. You feel angry at those people who are keeping them on life support. You feel as though life support doesn’t support their livelihood.
I went through each of these feelings- really fast. I was sad. I was defeated. I was questioning why this happened. However, when I got back to the house after crying in the car, I walked through the door and burst into tears. Kevon didn’t ask me questions. He held me and waited until I was somewhat calmer. I didn’t ask him to distract me because he already knew I had to process this horrific event. However, when I was ready, I told him how much I appreciated him for not bombarding me with questions and told him I was ready to discuss my experience. Being verbal with your needs is important. I didn’t do a good job verbalizing how I needed a distraction because Kevon already knew. However, you should understand it is not bad to ask for a distraction. Surround yourself with people who will support you in this way. You don’t have to be ready, and you don’t have to give an explanation for why you need a distraction.
“Can you check in with me (on date/every day), just to make sure I’m alright?”
Again, I suck at asking for help. I care for children each day and I have cared for adults before this job. I care for people and that is something I will never stop doing. I always ask myself why I need to have people check on me. However, when you care for others non-stop, you have to realize that you need someone to look after you.
The author of the article points out the many ways one can ask for this help:
-“I haven’t been doing well. Can you text me every morning to make sure I’m okay? It would really help me.”
-“Hey friend. I’ve been kind of sad lately — do you maybe want to Snapchat/send selfies to each other before bed every night, just to check in? It’d be nice to see your face.”
-“I’m in a funk right now. Do you want to be self-care buddies? Like text each other once a day something that we did to care for ourselves?”
-“I’ve been isolating myself a little lately. Can you check in with me every so often, just to make sure I didn’t fall off the face of the earth?”
Technology has come such a long way. Use it to make sure you are supported. Reach out for help in the simplest way- give someone the opportunity to check in on you and help you through the rough days.
“I’m having a hard time taking care of myself. I need extra support right now around (task). Can you help?”
Asking for help is not a bad thing. It doesn’t show weakness, it shows the strength you have. Asking for help is hard, especially if you are independent in nature and care for everyone else. However, you should remember that asking for a little support from someone else to get you through whatever you are going through will help you. Don’t be afraid.
“I’ve been feeling so low. Can you remind me about what I mean to you or share a favorite memory? It would really help me.”
This is hard. Especially because we feel as though we are asking for compliments. In the article, the author talks about how important reminders are. A lot of times, bad moments/qualities are so ingrained in our brains that we can’t recall the good moments/qualities. That is why it is so important to ask for reminders. Ask someone to remind you of what you forgot about yourself. Ask for what you need so that you can hear them encourage you in the right direction.
“I’m struggling right now and I’m afraid I’m reaching my limit. Can I give you a call tonight?”
This is important for so many reasons. The first is that it says you are telling those around you just how your mental health is affecting you. You want people there for you when you get to the point where you don’t know how much longer you can take it. Most of the time we shut people out at this point, but you should know that it is okay to tell others you are feeling this way. Do not feel you are burdening anyone with your problems.
“I know we don’t talk much, but I’m going through a tough time and I feel like you’re someone I can trust. Are you free to talk (Day/time)?”
I found that this is definitely hard when you don’t have many close people in your life. When you feel as though you have pushed everyone away or that you have drifted apart, you don’t know where you stand with some people. If you have a certain few people you talk to, you may feel you are burdening them with your problems too much. It is okay to feel this way, especially because this shows the empathy you have for other’s feelings. Everyone is going through something and everyone can use a person to talk to. Maybe you can help someone else while you help yourself.
And even more, not everyone has someone they trust that they can talk to. This has been hard for me to realize, especially because I have people in my life who I know are always there for me when I need them, my mother is one of these people. What if you don’t have your mother to talk to? What if you have secluded yourself for so long, you don’t think you are going to be able to make the relationship work again? All I know is that if you are struggling with this, you should know that you are not a burden to anyone. The person you reach out to may not be able to help you like you need, but at least you have stepped in the right direction and that person may be able to point you to someone who can help better. Not everyone has dealt with the things you are going through, the worst that could happen is that they show empathy and tell you that they don’t understand but they are there for you. And why is that a bad thing?
“I’m suicidal. I need help right now.”
THIS IS IMPORTANT.
My recent experience with this was four nights ago. I was emotionally devastated. In fact, I was told I was crazy that night. I apologized to these two people several times for overreacting and they called me crazy. I have to suck it up and apologize for my mistakes a lot. I am human for heaven’s sake. But that night, I could not handle the fact that someone thought I was “crazy”- and knowing that they thought I was supposed to be in a mental institution for this “crazy.”
I called my mom and cried and cried. I told her I didn’t understand who I was and I didn’t understand why others hated me. I looked over at the medication I had sitting next to my bed and thought for the first time ever that I could overdose and not deal with the pain anymore. In that moment, I told my mother I needed help. I told her I was suicidal and I didn’t want to be in the house anymore with those people who thought I was crazy. I got a ride to my mother’s house.
If you take anything from this article, I want you to understand that you should reach out when you need it. Everyone’s ways of reaching out are different. It is okay to not talk about how you feel, it is okay to not understand how you feel, it is okay to reach out to someone.
What to do if you feel suicidal:
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.
or text the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
Go to the emergency room. (Read Sam Dylan Finch’s blog on this subject.)