For people who have no history or experiences with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, understanding how to approach individuals with these ways of thinking can be difficult. For some who grew up in a family where depression and anxiety have been passed down for a few generations, it can be easier. Having people around you, whether they be family or friends, who know and can relate to how your mind works can be a great support. However, not everyone has this luxury.
What about people who have no idea how depression affects the mind? People who don’t understand why people suffering from anxiety worry about seemingly the most miniscule things? Although it may not seem like a big deal, interacting with sufferers of these mental illnesses in a way that doesn’t escalate their feelings of depression or anxiety can make the receiver’s life a whole lot easier.
So how can those of us who have mental health issues help those who don’t? The logical first step would be to simply say that our minds don’t work the same way yours do on a daily basis. With no desire on our part, our minds can turn the tiniest molehill into a mountain, without any “logical” explanation. Whether that be beating ourselves up mentally for something that happened three years ago or worrying about something that, frankly, probably doesn’t need to really be worried about, our minds will make it so we do. I cannot stress enough that this is from no choice of our own. 9/10ths of it is simply brain chemistry. If you’re interested, it’s incredibly easy to find articles and pictures online of the differences between a “normal” brain and a brain with mental illnesses affecting it. So, from the science-y side of things, the chemicals in our brains are all out of whack. Whoops.
On a more personal level, we know we’re this way. We know we shouldn’t worry about Thing A. or beat ourselves up for Thing B. But we do it anyway. I’m certain I speak for nearly all of us suffering from these mental illnesses when I say: if we could snap our fingers and make this affliction evaporate into thin air, we’d do it. But alas, is life ever that simple? (Spoiler alert: no). We’re aware that all logic tells us not to dwell on these inane things, but we do anyway.
I could give you a list of advice for dealing with sufferers of these illnesses, but I won’t do that. There are some fantastic bloggers on here that have created comprehensive, thought-out lists on that subject, and I’ve no wish to usurp them. I’d just like to add my two cents to the conversation.
The best, and I mean best thing anyone can do for someone like me is make an effort to understand where they’re coming from. I know you aren’t going to get all of the anatomy and psyiology behind it – nobody should expect you to. Just remember that sometimes, even when it’s the most inconvienient time, our minds will take everything out of proportion. Whether it’s worrying, panicking, crying, reclusiveness…it’s all fair game.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: understand that you’ll never be able to fully understand us. Hell, sometimes we don’t fully understand us. But we begin to recover when we understand that not everything can be whittled down to logic and brain chemistry, and we only ask that you do the same. If we somehow get on your last nerve with our actions or words, I apologize for all of us. Trying to attribute everything a depression/anxiety-riddled mind does to logic is a lost cause. We’re imperfect, we know that. But so is everyone. Accept us for our odd tendencies, and we’ll accept you for yours.