Hi! I’m Alia, and I run my mental health and wellbeing blog, Living In The Rain (@livingintherainblog). I started it in May/June time last year, whilst on furlough, after continuously delaying it and giving myself reasons as to why I couldn’t do it (thanks anxiety). I share my experiences of my own demons in the hope to connect with likeminded people and help those who are experiencing similar things to feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that they’re most certainly not alone.
I want to talk about things that you should try to avoid saying to people struggling with their mental health, because a lot of the time we hear about what we should be saying. You may not realise that your seemingly innocent terms of phrases could just be more damaging than you think.
“Don’t worry, things will be alright tomorrow.”
Imagine telling your friend who is having a problem with her boyfriend that there is actually no problem between them. She’s told you about said problem, explained exactly what’s happening, and it’s not a great situation, but then you say, “oh don’t worry, things will be alright tomorrow.” That wouldn’t go down so well. Not only would your friend feel that you’ve completely dismissed their problem, but it’d make them feel like their feelings about it aren’t valid. As a friend to a person with anxiety or depression, or any other mental illness in fact, despite possibly being someone who doesn’t suffer from any themselves, it is hard for said person to completely empathise with the sufferer. You won’t really understand or ‘get’ them, but that doesn’t mean that what they’re feeling is any less valid than what you are feeling.
“You’ve got nothing to be sad/anxious about.”
Saying things like “you’ve got nothing to be sad about” or “you’ve got nothing to be anxious about” is all well and good because in your eyes they don’t, but it doesn’t help the situation. They will still feel how they feel, and they will likely feel worse in thinking that you don’t feel it’s worth feeling how they do over it and give them the feeling of being dramatic, or crazy. When someone suffers from anxiety or depression their feelings overwhelm them. They get consumed by them, so that sadness or anxiety that they’re feeling, to them, is completely valid and at a very large scale – in their eyes they have every reason to feel that way. Their reasoning might sound dramatic or illogical to you, but in their mind they’re being told that this is a serious threat; something to run away from or something to really feel negatively about.
“At least you’re not like X, they’ve got it way worse.”
In a different scenario, if you feel like you can relate to the person, you may like to share a story or an experience of when you have felt that way before too, experienced something similar, or know of someone who has. You could well deem it as worse that what your friend is going through, but again, it’s not particularly helpful to say “at least you’re not like so-and-so, they’ve got it way worse.” You may be saying it with the best intentions in the sense that they should be grateful they’ve got it easier than some, but in the same way it could feel like you’re putting down their feelings of their experience and making them feel less worthy of having those feelings. Whatever the size of the problem or issues they’re experiencing, it doesn’t make it any less valid then someone else’s that seems larger in scale. Everyone has their own demons, however big or small, and some people get affected by theirs more than others, even at what seems like a smaller level.
So, instead of putting that person down for what they’re feeling (whether it be unintentional or not), just try and be more mindful about the words you’re putting across to people who are suffering with their mental health. Make them feel like you’re there for them. Say to them that no matter what they’re feeling, you’re there for them, you’ll help them get through it, and they will come out the other side. The sun will rise again, and it won’t last forever. It’s all temporary despite feeling how they are now. Be the person you would want them to be if you felt bad for any reason.
As The Divine Comedy sang, “Sticks and stones may break my body, But words can tear me apart”.