We all know I have anxiety and depression, because I think it’s important to talk about it, to keep the conversation going. It’s estimated that 9.7 in every 100 people in the UK have a mental illness, or have experienced one as of 2009, and it wouldn’t be untrue to say that a fair few of those people feel quite alone, so I like to think that sharing how I feel might help somebody somewhere. That being said, I also think support should be given to those who live with somebody who has a mental illness. Poor health in a physical sense is, to an extent, understood, but we’re incredibly unsure about how we deal with poor mental health.
I sat down with Dan and asked him what he found the most difficult to deal with when we first got together.
(Small disclaimer: I 100% recognise that there are more mental illnesses than just anxiety and depression, but this blog post is mine and my partner’s personal experiences.)
The first, and in my eyes most important thing, to remember is that how this person is feeling is real. They are not looking for attention, using it as an excuse not to do something or being lazy. The emotions, the exhaustion, the physical feelings are there, and it can be torture. The worst thing your could do is disregard how they are inside because you can’t see it. Being depressed or anxious or experiencing a panic attack is unrelenting, and having somebody you love brush it off because they ‘don’t believe in depression’ honestly hurts a lot.
Spending an evening in a bar with 15 acquaintances, loud music and a lot of alcohol can be terrifying. Almost just as scary is getting out of bed, getting dressed and facing the housework. We know it seems stupid, lazy, anti-social, and often that’s the most frustrating part. Rather than telling us to get a grip, suck it up, get on with it, help us. Be gentle and ease us into things and try to understand when somebody just needs a little push, or needs to be left alone.
Don’t take it personally
Anxiety and depressing can bring on feelings of hopelessness and despair, but it can also cause anger and frustration. Occasionally, we may feel like we’re not good enough for you, and that you should leave and find somebody else who will do all the things with you that we can’t. We might get angry about how we are, and scream and shout and cry because we’re so exasperated with how we are and what our brain is doing to us. Please try not to take this as an attack on you, because it almost never is. Whenever I have one of my totally irrational mood swings, Dan just waits it out and gently tries to find exactly what it is that has me so het up. It helps when somebody is there to rationalise your thinking without shouting or making you feel stupid.
A lot of people always say that they don’t know what to say to somebody suffering. In the words of Ronan Keating ‘you say it best, when you say nothing at all’! Don’t feel like you need to constantly spout uplifting words of encouragement and positivity, because sometimes that’s the worst thing you can do. Occasionally we need somebody who will listen to us without fear of judgement, and somebody who will just accept that that’s how we feel. We don’t need you to try to fix us, because it’ll take more than a DMC.
Don’t ask them why
Depression and anxiety can develop due to a traumatic past, a difficult, life altering occurrence like the death of a loved one, or because of a biological chemical imbalance. We can’t always tell you exactly what it is that started it, or why we’re crying in the bathroom, or why we’ve had a panic attack in the middle of a tube station. When you say ‘calm down’, ‘try not to worry’, or ‘there’s nothing to be anxious about’, you are making the situation ten times worse. As somebody who deals with anxiety every single day, I can assure you that we are well aware that what we are literally losing sleep over may seem incredibly insignificant, and in a perfect world it wouldn’t even cross our minds, but it does. Telling us you’re here for us, that we can get through it is more than enough. Just please, don’t tell us to calm down – that ain’t okay. Telling somebody they’re too young to be depressed, or too pretty to be sad, or just that they have nothing to be miserable about isn’t fair. Nobody chooses depression, nobody literally wills themselves into suicide, and it’s unfair to assume that just because they don’t have as many years on this earth, or really pretty eyes or a privileged upbringing, they shouldn’t be able to experience something so hideous. If we could change it, TRUST ME, we would.
I’m not an expert, I don’t have a degree or whatever, but from my own personal experience, this advice is exactly what I’d give to those who asked. Thank you to everyone who had some input on this.