What not to say.
Recently I had an experience the day I was discharged from hospital. Someone said something quite harmful and hurtful to me that without my mother being there probably would have resulted with me being admitted again. I felt humiliated for being sick, degraded and like a massive inconvenience to everyone around me. It made me feel like the way I was feeling was all my fault and that I was in trouble. These suggestions I have of course researched but have included my own personal experiences as well. I just don't want anyone else to be put in a similar position. What was said was not out of cruelty but misunderstanding and a serious lack of insight. This is just a few things which I think are important not to say.
1. Don't make this about you. If someone is really struggling it can often feel very invalidating - you might have a little idea about how they are feeling but when they are in the depths of despair and their world is falling apart it's often not the best idea to give them a long personal story about yourself. Instead empathise with the person.
2. Don't point out others have it worse. It's most likely they already know this. Saying this only makes people feel guilty for feeling the way that they do. I know I already struggle with getting help from doctors and psychologists and the people around me because I know that there are people all around the world in terrible situations, reminding me of this will only make me feel worse.
3. Don't tell them to 'snap out of it' or to 'pull yourself together'. I would really like to do that, trust me, more than anyone else but it's not that simple. Saying this sounds like saying 'you just aren't trying' when you really are. It only adds to the guilt that you feel for opening up, it is just not possible and potentially one of the most dismissive things that can be said.
4. Don't say "you're just attention seeking". This is the WORST. I hate it so much. First of all it's ok to need some attention, every human being needs it especially if you're struggling as it's a very lonely place to be. Secondly, I, like many people it takes so much courage and such a long time to be able to open up. Dismissing these efforts as attention seeking further stigmatises mental illness, help seeking and reinforces feelings of loneliness.
5. Don't say "you're such an inconvenience or a bother to me". This one hits me the hardest of them all. It took me so long to get help because I didn't want to bother anyone, I didn't think I deserved help because other people had bigger problems and I would just be wasting everyones time. If you're struggling you often feel like you are a burden to someone, which you most certainly aren't and it's wrong of anyone to make you feel this way. When this has been said to me it feels so degrading and humiliating. The last thing I would want to do is to bother my friends and family and I haven't - I know that for certain. If you're sick, you cannot be blamed for reaching out in a time of need.
What are some of the unhelpful things people have said to you and what do you wish people knew? Let me know in the comments.
Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000. If you live outside Australia, link to worldwide crisis numbers can be found in the sidebar.