Talking about mental illness is tough. Tough for those who are mentally ill, and tough for friends and family. There’s still a social stigma around discussing mental illness. And that stigma is killing people.
I don’t often discuss my personal mental illness story; but in May 2019, I attempted suicide.
I had been battling depression and anxiety most of my life, and was being treated, but I had been misdiagnosed and I actually had Bipolar and GAD. The treatment is different, and so is the severity of the highs (mania) and lows (depression).
My suicide attempt was traumatizing for my entire family. My teen daughters found me and as you can imagine, it shook them. All my family came to the hospital and I spent 4 days in the ICU, and then 3 days in an in-patient behavioral unit.
My family knew I was struggling, but they did not know how to help me.
I didn’t know how to help me.
I did learn that medications need to be changed. You don’t get on one dose and combo of meds, and just stay there. Overtime, changes are needed to keep things balanced. I didn’t realize this.
Also, I was not being completely honest to myself, nor my psychiatrist in how I was really doing. I tend to minimize things. I also block a lot of feelings and emotions out, in order to just keep going. That doesn’t work well.
Ignoring mental illness doesn’t make it go away.
I didn’t want to talk to my family and friends about what I was really going through, because I didn’t want to feel judged, and I knew they would want to help, but I didn’t have answers to give them on how they could help me. I felt if I did discuss it, I would be putting a burden on them to do something… and none of us knew what that something should be.
I won’t lie, I still struggle. I think I’m needing another med change. 2020 has not been a good year for anyone – and if you have mental illness – the stress of this year is definitely not good.
The reason I didn’t start this post yesterday (the actual start of National Suicide Prevention Week), is that I was in my room crying most of the day. I’m in a low right now… and even as I type, the tears are forming. It’s tough.
I’m talking with my family. They know what my current mental state is.
I have no thoughts of suicide. I’m okay.
However, I need to get the message out there for others to talk about their mental illness. We need to be listened to by our family and friends, without judgment. We need to vent, cry, scream, and just know we are unconditionally loved. YOU can’t fix us, but we need to know we have support so we can get the professional help we need.
Some Quick Tips for Having a #RealConvo About Mental Health:
- When someone is struggling, just listen
- Let the other person share at their own speed
- Don’t pass judgment or offer advice — just be there
- We all experience mental health differently, and that’s okay
- Check back in, and offer to connect them to help if they need it
If someone has mentioned suicide, please read this PDF file. Download it, read it, and keep it handy. It gives helpful information for family and loved ones on how to have conversations with those struggling and what to say (and not say) to help them.
If they are ready to seek professional help… then these tips will help:
Sometimes making that first moment of contact to professional help can be the hardest. Offer to help them connect in whatever way you’re comfortable with.
“I could call your insurance with you, or go online to find a mental health professional or substance use program. Or I could sit with you while you do it. We can figure it out together.”
“I could drive or walk you to your appointment. Then we could have coffee afterward.”
I hope this information was helpful. We need to have ongoing dialogue and education on mental illness.
What to do next…
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts – please reach out to me personally. You may also comment below if you are comfortable doing so.
If you know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please read this PDF, along with the above post, to get tips and advice on how you can help them.