Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Talk About It Tuesday ~ 5 Things People With Depression and Anxiety Want You To Understand

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, this week is Suicide Prevention Week. It astounds me in this day and age of having access to various resources, articles, websites, blogs and other sources available on Online (or on cell phones), that there are still people who misunderstand and incorrectly judge those living with conditions like depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder and similar disorders.

For most of us, we can go through a tough time, overcome the hurdle as best as we can, then move on. For others, however, it isn't that clear cut. For these people, being able to 'grin and bear it' is a lot more difficult. What may seem like a minute situation that's not a huge deal to one person may seem over-the-top overwhelming to another whose coping skills are very different. And it doesn't help to just hand bottles of pills to these people expecting them to conform to what society says is a proper way to feel, act, behave and respond when they're struggling to understand themselves enough to help others understand them.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are people very close to me who are on specific kinds of medication in order to help ease symptoms of these conditions, which is fantastic. But I am a firm believer that when medication and certain forms of therapy that works best for an individual are combined, it provides a more complete way to lead a person to overall healthiness. And it really starts with those of us on the outside looking in. What can we do to help those dealing with these disorders? How can we make a difference?

I'm not saying we all have to be 'We Are the World' here. I'm merely saying that if it's close friend, a person in your family, your partner, your child or someone else that means a lot to you, the best thing you can do is be there, listen and understand things from his/her point of view.

Here are the top five things they'd most likely want you to know:

1) I'm not lazy, I just don't always have enough energy. Admittedly, there are people who are simply just lazy and expect others to do everything they can't, or don't want to, do. Yes, there may be people who live with these issues who use their illness as an excuse not to get up and try. But, generally, especially with depression, laziness is a common stereotype. They are often tired, lethargic, low-energy and feeling pain. What we need to ask ourselves questions like: Is she getting enough sleep at night to have energy during the day? When he has that burst of energy, is someone encouraging him to do something active? Is she eating good, nutritious food (eating well doesn't just give energy, it also feeds the brain with protein, vitamins and minerals it needs to function most productively)? Does he have some sort of hobby to turn to to re-direct negative thoughts and feelings? These are all things we can inspire in others.

2) It's not that I don't like people or activities, I'm just not always able to cope with it. This is actually a big deal and it's all in understanding the individual's capabilities and what they can and can't handle on a certain day. I mean, taking a person who has severe social anxiety to the mall for an outing is a complete sensory meltdown waiting to happen. Then it could days to get over something like that. It's very important that social interaction is practiced as often as possible so being inside, hiding from the world, isn't the only solution. Give opportunities to get out there at their comfort level and work up from there. Go to a small coffee shop or to a little deli/restaurant. Take the dog to the dog park (or just go there to meet other doggies). It's all about listening and taking the time to understand what can and can't be tolerated on a certain day, then go with the flow.

3) Please don't tell me to 'get over it', when I don't always understand myself what I have to get over. This is crucial and something that really irritates me when I see or hear about it. It's really easy to say, 'get over it, already' or 'I think you've been dwelling long enough' when there's been no effort to see that particular situation through their eyes. They don't need to hear things like that. In fact, words like that often intensify and increase what they are working so hard to reduce. Listen, learn, encourage and say things more like, "Okay. What can we do together that would help?"

4) Please acknowledge my worries and concerns, even if you can't relate to them. Many people with depression and anxiety have tremendous trust issues because they are often shut off when they do make an effort to share. What can happen is these unaddressed worries and concerns become internalized and keep building up until an explosion occurs. Acknowledge their feelings. Listen to their words, even if you feel you've heard it thousands of times. You have no idea how much this small action means to a person who already feels isolated, alone and misunderstood.

5) Be there, just don't smother me because it can make me feel worse. With everything said above, this is an important thing to keep in mind. Sometimes in our efforts to help, it can be perceived as invasive and intrusive when the assistance goes overboard. She may not want company every day, but calling in to see if she needs something is great. He may be very grateful for the occasional task being taken care of for him, but taking care of everything can intensify his negative feelings that he can't do things (properly) himself. Always listen to her, but with ears open and mouth shut. Opinions aren't always welcomed unless they're asked for and, even then, a good, strong filter is always good to have.

What we're trying to inspire here is the gradual move from 'I can't' to 'I can try' to 'I can!'. There will be more 'I can't' days initially,  and a lot of going back and forth among these thoughts, but that's okay. Keep checking in, use those ears and wait for an 'I can try' day to pop up. Then encourage each and every baby step, celebrating the 'I can!' days together.

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