Sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do to help. Despite the many different types of mental illnesses, they all have at least one thing in common: they are all severe afflictions and sometimes require professional help. With this in mind, there are some problems that you just won’t be able to fix, as bad as you may want to. If there’s anything we think you can do to help, then we will probably let you know. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking if you can do anything, and it is greatly appreciated, just keep in mind that sometimes you just can’t do anything, and that’s okay. Your love and support are helping enough.
Everybody’s illness manifests differently. Two people suffering from the same illness may have drastically different symptoms. Not all people with depression will resign to their rooms all day every day, just as some people with PTSD will have different triggers. Everyone is different, and so just because you’re familiar with one person’s diagnosis, doesn’t necessarily blanket over all individuals suffering from the same diagnosis as well. That being said, these suggestions won’t necessarily apply to everyone; they’re just things that I’ve found to be true to myself and those around me suffering from mental illness.
While you may be familiar with stereotypical symptoms, they may not all be accurate or complete. Many mental disorders come with unique symptoms that you may not initially recognize as a symptom. For example, many people suffering from depression can feel extreme fatigue, something that can be mistaken for laziness or even physical sickness. Not all people suffering from bipolar disorder have incredibly extreme and quick highs and lows. Sometimes the lows are more frequent than the highs, and vice versa and the phases can last for months and months. If you want to learn about your friend’s diagnosis truly, then consider asking them yourself what symptoms they find most prevalent, and that trouble them the most.
While some people are incredibly open about their illness, others may not be. Some people have come to embrace their mental illness and the person it has made them become, and they may be more willing to discuss their diagnosis openly. Other people may still be coming to terms with their disorder and even still learning about it themselves, and they may not want to discuss it. Furthermore, they may be entirely comfortable with their illness, but just don’t want to discuss it. Respect boundaries and learn how involved your friend wants you to be in their recovery and coping.
Mental illness is just as serious as physical illness. Physical illnesses are sometimes handled with a different level of significance than mental illness, and that can be incredibly frustrating. You would not suggest to someone suffering from a broken leg that they try just to get up and start walking. Likewise, even though the illness may not be physically evident, it is still very much there, and just as debilitating at times. Just bear in mind that we truly do want to “just be happy,” but that just isn’t possible at times.
Don’t get frustrated if it seems like we don’t want to hang out as much. Some mental disorders can make just getting out of bed in the mornings an incredible feat, so only making it through the day exerts our energy enough. Sometimes we just truly can’t make it out. Just be patient with us, and give us the space we need. However, don’t be afraid to check in on us; your support is appreciated.
Sometimes we have a hard time comprehending what we’re feeling. Mental disorders are a result of chemical imbalances in the brain, and sometimes the symptoms can come later on in life. This means that sometimes mental disorders come up and we have to readjust to an entirely new way of life and thinking. We are working through our feelings and symptoms ourselves, and sometimes these results can be confusing and difficult to process. Because of this, don’t be frustrated if we can’t necessarily express what we’re feeling. Sometimes we truly just don’t understand what it is exactly that we are feeling.
It can take a long time to regulate medication and treatment. Since everyone is so incredibly different, it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what kind of treatment works for each person. Just because we have begun treatment, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re cured. Medication for mental illness doesn’t work like antibiotics, more like medication for blood sugar. It doesn’t make the problem go away; it just regulates it. Sometimes it also needs to be used in conjunction with therapy or other treatment, and sometimes medication isn’t needed at all. Everyone’s road to recovery and coping skill is unique.
We don’t expect special treatment. Yes, sometimes doing everyday tasks that you can do easily is a bit more difficult for us. However, that hasn’t stopped us yet, and we aren’t going to let it stop us. We are incredibly strong and resilient, and we have learned how to take care of ourselves. While we love and appreciate every bit of support and help you can give us, we don’t expect you to cater to our every need and go drastically out of your way to help us. The biggest things you can provide us with is patience, reaffirmation, and understanding. Just be there when you can, and we will do the same in return.