Really? Oh thank you!! I would have never thought of that on my own. I will now proceed to so easily take your advice and get my happy on. Seriously, brilliant idea.
Okay, let’s be fair. One cannot be expected to know exactly what to say, how to react, in what ways they can help. One cannot be expected to understand a thought process and physical symptoms they have never experienced. They are simply peering in from the outside – either trying to stay hidden and far away or desperately trying to get in and see everything.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I feel that bringing awareness and education will help lift the demonizing stigma these disorders bring. With less stigma there is more room for acceptance, trust and healing. But this is not only to benefit the person struggling, but also those surrounding that person.
Anxiety disorders are said to effect over 18% of the population. Depression – over 19 million people. And clearly, there are many more who love someone with one of these diseases. Fact is, the people affected are not alone in the need for assistance.
A wife who lies in bed crying day in and day out can put a lot of pressure on a husband. A father who finds it terrifying to leave the house can add a sense of embarrassment for his children. A sister who cannot hold down a job and seems to always need a leg up can often put a sibling in a defensive stance. Living with or loving someone who is struggling with anxiety or depression can be draining, frustrating and lead to resentment.
Sometimes there are ways to alleviate a person’s symptoms, duration and severity of their disorder and doing so will create a smoother life for everyone involved.
First of all, it needs to be recognized that anxiety and depression are not controllable. A person cannot simply stop feeling the way they are feeling. They cannot merely stop the physical symptoms like a racing heart, numbing of arms, sweating, breathlessness, crying and extreme exhaustion. They are not doing this on purpose and if they could stop it, they would.
Secondly, they need to know that there is trust and respect. If during an argument their disorder is thrown into their face like an insult out of anger, it will be difficult for them to feel trust the next time they are needing support. Being called psycho or crazy can be extra hurtful to someone with a mental illness, regardless if the words were not really meant or believed by the person saying it.
Third, educating oneself can do a great deal for both people in any given relationship. The more a person gains knowledge of the disorder, its symptoms, treatments and triggers – the more they can help during the worst moments and help prevent during the best. And even the most modest attempt to learn will allow the person struggling to realize someone cares enough to do so. They will then know that they actually DO have someone in their corner.
Another thing that is important is seeking treatment. Many people suffering refuse to find professional help either out of fear, shame or fatigue. Knowing that a caring loved one is encouraging their healing can be a great motivator. Knowing that seeing a “shrink” will not cause a loss of respect might be all they need to get the intervention required to quell the pain.
And lastly, get support! Talking to others dealing with these issues, seeking counsel and sharing feelings can do a lot to make mole hills out of mountains. Bottling up is no good for anyone. Friends and family are working through this disorder with their loved one. They experience the downfalls and the chaos too. Their feelings are just as relevant without a diagnosis as those with one.
Living with anxiety and/or depression can feel like constantly trying to climb out of a deep, muddy hole with an armful of sandbags. Everything seems so much more difficult – even getting out of bed in the morning can be a monumental feat. The simplest tasks can be a dreaded challenge. Nobody wants to feel this way. And they are not doing this TO anyone. It is happening TO them and sadly, others are caught in the crossfire. But eventually the bullets will stop flying, the smoke will clear and blissful, fulfilling lives and relationships could appear just beyond the horizon. Together, it can be reached.
I wrote this with the intention of submitting to Patch…that is why it is written differently from my typical blogs (ie. no vulgarities…goddamnit)