Over the years throughout my mental health journey, I have heard so many comments being made about my mental health; both helpful and unhelpful. While these are my experiences and don’t reflect the same for everyone, I thought I would share my thoughts about some of these.
Unhelpful things people have said to me on my mental health journey
“I know exactly how you feel” – Even if two people had the exact same experience, the way we perceive and interpret situations can greatly impact on how it affects us. We may be able to empathise, but this isn’t the same as knowing exactly how someone is feeling.
“At least you don’t have it as bad as other people” – This caused me to feel minimized, but also negatively impacted on how I perceived what I was going through.
“Cheer Up!” – A comment like this would just result in a sarcastic response like “Gee, I hadn’t considered that, thanks for the advice!”
“I don’t know why you can’t just be happy” – Being in a state of happiness, or having happiness in ones life is different to feeling anxious about social interactions, or struggling with self esteem. We can still experience happiness even when we are struggling.
“But you don’t look depressed or anxious” – Anyone can experience depression or anxiety (or any other feeling or illness) at any point. And some people can still function and show a positive presentation in society. This should not and does not minimize the experiences of anyone.
“It’s all in your head” – This again caused me to feel minimised about what I was experiencing, and also somewhat defensive, as I knew what I was experiencing was not all in my head, that some aspects had reasons. For example, grieving the loss of a friend, feeling isolated because of covid-19 restrictions or struggling with lack of structure and routine are not all in my head and have causal effect on my wellbeing.
Helpful things people have said to me on my mental health journey
“I hear you, and I see you” – In my experience, there is a difference when people listen to you, and when people hear you. For me, when I feel heard is when I have felt understood, and not just someone absentmindedly listening to me.
“Do you want / need some space?” – Sometimes I need space, sometimes I just need someone with me. Having people check with me is super beneficial rather than making assumptions about what I need and what is best for me.
“Do you want to talk? I’m here when you are ready” – Many people ask if I want to talk, but the key bit for me in this example is the acknowledgement and space to do it on my own terms, that this person is there for me when I am ready for their support, not when they are ready and willing to give it.
“Things are sh*t sometimes” – Things are shit sometimes, its true. And having someone who can acknowledge that without personalising everything back to what I am dealing with was super helpful for me. Not every negative emotion or experience I have is related to my past or what I am dealing with. Sometimes its just life in general that can be a bit shit.
“I know I can’t fix anything, but what can I do to help you right now” – When I am struggling, I may not want to talk or process stuff, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need help. I might need to do a food shop, or ring about my phone bill, make a doctors appointment or even change my bed linen. Depending on where I am at mentally and emotionally, these types of every day tasks could be super draining, but having someone who understands and will help me with these tasks has been super helpful.
I have had so many other comments and points made to me, but these are some examples. Whatever you do, being mindful of your boundaries and what you need, as well as the boundaries and needs of others can greatly help in being or receiving support.
If you need a space to talk, the café team are here and willing to chat.
Until next time,