Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How to Help Your Friend Suffering from [fill in the blank]

Want to know a big secret?  I don't know how you can help your friends with anything they are suffering from.  Why not?  Because I don't know who your friends are, what they are suffering with, and most importantly, I don't know what it feels like to suffer for them.

This is the most difficult thing about mental health and illness awareness.  Just because I have a dissociative disorder does not mean I completely understand every other person with the same disorder.  Mental disorders are always experienced on a spectrum, often with secondary diagnosis that changes the symptoms of the primary tremendously.

So what can any one person do, to break down the walls of misunderstanding, when every person they try to help has a new story and a new way of coping with life?  What is beneficial for one friend may be totally detrimental to the next.  While I believe the viral posts that we often see that describe depression or anxiety in a very raw and vulnerable way are powerful, inspirational, and even world-changing, I sometimes shy away from sharing the post when I see some aspect of depression that doesn't at all describe how I feel when I am depressed.  How else do people with mental disorders communicate to their friends and family what to do when they are in their deepest, darkest moments?  But that post isn't about me....it is about the author, and we all have to be authors, and you all have to be readers.

You must read and come to know your friends first-hand.  Know that if they share a post about mental illness, it doesn't mean that is exactly how they feel.  It just means something to them.  Maybe ask them what they identify with.  Ask for honest feedback in how you approach them during hard times.  But basically, be there for them in all times, and you will already know how to help your friend when they struggle.

So...  I guess this is where I need to take my own advice...be the author, tell my story, and allow people to know how to help ME!  Next post, I'll be sure to give my raw and vulnerable account of what it is to be me.  Til' then...

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