Support can be one of the best tools when struggling with a mental health diagnosis! It’s so important to know that others are there for and care about you. But what happens when your loved ones just don’t understand what you are going through? This is a common occurrence and can certainly add to the distress that one is already feeling, increase isolation, and even make the symptoms of the mental health issue worse. The truth is that it is impossible for someone who doesn’t suffer from a mental health issue to fully understand what someone with anxiety, depression, etc is going through. While at first, this can seem disheartening, it does not mean all hope is lost! There are ways to meet this need of camaraderie and reciprocity even when those closest to you are not able to do so.
First, know that you are not damaged goods just because you have a mental health diagnosis. There is nothing you have done wrong. We would not say that to someone battling diabetes or heart disease or cancer and just because it happens to be your brain that is affected does not make it a character defect.
Next, be willing to open up and share with others your struggle and experience. If loved ones don’t understand or have misconceptions, set the record straight but be honest about your particular experience and diagnosis. This may take time and you don’t have to share everything all at once (or all the time) but little by little, expose yourself to opportunities to explain what you are going through or struggling with and you will get more comfortable with this.
For me, speaking up about my struggle with OCD was key to health and healing. Sharing with others what I was going through made this disorder not as overwhelming or scary. I certainly made sure that what I shared was appropriate to the audience and within my comfort level at any given time. Still, being open with others gave me a sense of control over this insurmountable battle and left me believing that this wasn’t something wrong with me or for which I should be condemning myself. After all, if I can’t control this, what do I have to be ashamed of?
Lastly, find the help where available. If your loved ones are struggling to understand your anxiety, depression, or other diagnoses, seek out professional counseling to not only have someone to talk to but get the necessary tools to aid in battling this diagnosis. There are also myriad support groups to find others with whom to talk with that are more likely to have first-hand knowledge and/or experience with mental health issues. And if your family is interested, support groups exist for family members of those with mental health disorders. This can be very beneficial as they navigate the hills and valleys of being on the outside looking in when it comes to having a loved one with mental health disorders.
While we have come a long way in our understanding of and compassion toward mental health issues, there can still be a huge stigma associated with these issues. This can lead others to assume most won’t accept them or understand what they are struggling with, so they remain quiet, perpetuating their pain. As becomes abundantly and quickly clear, this only makes things worse and in no way solves the issues you may be facing. Know that it is natural and common to feel alone and misunderstood when battling a mental health disorder. Your feelings and thoughts are valid and they are yours. However, you don’t have to stay there if it is an unhelpful place. The above suggestions are a great starting place and we welcome you to contact us at Agape to continue the process of hope and healing!