I ended my post last week by asking, “What difference can we make today by opening our mouths and sharing?” Some people may not be ready to share stories of personal struggle, mentally related or not, so opening one’s mouth to share can be daunting, if not anxiety provoking! (And Lord knows we do not need any more provocation of anxiety!) So, I propose a few baby steps to reach out and help your local sufferer of mental illness…be a part of their support system!
Having suffered from a growing mental illness for the past 16 years (Yep! 16…count ‘em and weep! No, really…weep for me!), I have had some time to build a pretty good support system of friends and family. However, diversity in a support system is extremely beneficial, and that is why there is always room for another support system buddy! I can almost guarantee that if you reach out to someone in one of the following ways, not only will you help them, you will find that you feel a little better too!
The Redhead’s Top 5 Way to Reach Out
5.) The easiest way to support someone these days is through cyber space. It doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t commit you to any sort of responsibility, and you can be as informal as to comment on “the Noah’s Ark worthy rain”. Yeah…you can use that.
4.) Can you say “Hallmark” boys and girls? Sending a card is probably one of my favorite ways to hear from a friend. A beautiful card with a nice note (check the net for a nice note to plagiarize if needed…but I didn’t suggest that) is such a nice surprise in the mail. Also, as someone who also suffers from Social Anxiety, I can attest that a card lets a person know you care without stepping on their anxiety triggers. BTW…Hallmark has a customer card you can sign up for to receive reward points for free merchandise. At Christmas, I often get rewards points worth over $10.
3.) Verizon, AT&T, Sprint…it doesn’t matter the network…use one to “reach out and touch someone”! (Keep it clean people!) Phone calls are fantastic for catching up, being supportive, and simply lending an ear. The simple act of sharing your voice with someone who is often confined to their home or limited circle of support buddies can be a great spirit lifter! And the great thing is you do not have to talk about anything uncomfortable. Books, movies, sports, music…the subject matter is endless and so is the good you are doing for your friend!
4.) My anxiety is SPIKING with this suggestion…make plans for a face-to-face visit. Yes…I am setting myself up for major trouble here because I do not often care to take the advice I so freely give (No…you cannot quote this against me later!). People who are mentally ill, or chronically ill for that matter, often endure great difficulty getting out on their own, let alone initiating plans for a social meeting. I would actually bet that this obstacle is one of the most difficult for the mentally ill to triumph over. I personally find it tremendously difficult to leave my home in route for a gathering that I did not initiate. It isn’t that I want to be distant and disconnected; it is just that the nature of my illness is one of solitude and unhappiness, so IT wants me to be distance and disconnected. (Confusing? Who are you telling!) So, with great trepidation, I suggest suggestions for a visit. But I also propose allowing the friend to choose the place to meet, inviting their main person of support to come along for the adventure, or even suggesting that you meet at their house. Remember…if you go to their house…take some food! Food always eases visits!
5.) Last but not least…pray. Okay, okay. Not everyone believes in God like I do, but even having “good energy” sent my way means someone is thinking about me and is caring. So…do what you do and let someone know you are doing the thing that you do so well! I dare you to read that three times fast! Bahahaha!!!
I know, I know …“What do you mean “disclaimer”? Haven’t you already asked enough of me?”
Nope. I need to share two (kinda) brief things.
1.) If you are trying to be supportive and give advice to someone who is mentally ill, PLEASE!!!…for the love of God and all that is Holy!!!…do not say, “If you’d just think more positively…” While you may mean it nicely enough, it isn’t very nice or supportive. Honestly…do you think I would CHOOSE to think negatively? Would you tell someone with cancer, “If you’d just think more positively, you could melt that tumor away with your super-duper positive thoughts!” Yes, it is the same thing when you say it to someone who is depressed and yes, it is actually quite rude. Leave the instruction up to the doctors. (Can you tell this is a hot button for me?!)
2.) If you FaceBook, send a card, call, try to visit, and pray, but we still have trouble taking the bait, please do not be offended. Once again, it is the nature of many mental illnesses to make socializing challenging, even with our best friend, even on our best day. Some of my friends can attest that they have tried numerous times to communicate with me only to get little in return. Keep trying! The day you get through might be the day you help change your loved one’s life!
Okay…I am done for now. But look for that “If you’d just…” thing to pop up in a future post. Oooo!!! That makes my blood boil! Ooops. I said I was done.