From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand. From the inside looking out, it’s hard to explain
I hear it all the time from my mental health care professionals, that I should talk to my family and friends about how I am feeling and ask them for help, it’s a lovely theory and it would be so helpful if they knew what was happening inside of this head of mine, but exactly how do you explain what’s happening on the inside?
From the outside looking in I look just fine
When you look at me you do not see the frazzled mind working overtime, you do not see the angry and intrusive thoughts and you can not see the exhausting and soul destroying feelings that surround me.
How can you make someone understand?
How do you explain bipolar or any mental illness?
I have lost friends because they were afraid of me and my second marriage ended 8 months ago, of course, bipolar played a part in those.
I blog about my own battle with bipolar so my friends and family can keep up to date with what’s happening in my life, but, of course, I don’t share everything, there are some areas of my life that I keep private. I only share what I am comfortable sharing.
If I tell anyone how I really feeI know I would worry them. I already feel like a burden. Yet I know its the best thing to do and so I try. From the outside looking in I appear to look fine so I must be fine. But I am not always fine, far from it.
It’s about being honest, to yourself and to others, it’s about being able to trust someone enough to be able to speak with them about the very personal thoughts and feelings that you have and that’s not always easy.
I fear being judged, that I am a waste of space and I don’t deserve to be happy, but that’s the illness talking, that’s how it makes you feel, but if your loved ones and those who care about do not know that your struggling and you need their help, how can they help you?
You have to learn to talk openly about your mental illness.
You need to tell them what needs you have and how they can help you.
- Start with the most supportive person in your life. The one who you think will most love and accept you no matter what. This person can help you through telling everyone else.
- Slowly tell one person at a time. This information is big for you and it’s big for them. Take it slowly.
- Understand that people are going to have their own feelings around your diagnosis. They might be angry, sad, upset or feel nothing at all. Be prepared for their reactions.
- Understand that not everyone is going to support you. Sorry, but they just won’t.
- Put a “safety plan” place so that if people don’t react as expected you have someone to turn to about it, like a friend or therapist.
- Be prepared: Think about the different reactions, positive and negative, that the person might have so you’re prepared. The person will be thinking about their perception of mental illness, you as a person and how the two fit together.
- Choose a good time: Choose a time and place when you feel comfortable and ready to talk.
- Be ready for lots of questions…or none: The person you are talking might have lots of questions or need further formation to help them understand. Or they might feel uncomfortable and try to move the conversation on – if this happens it’s still helpful that the first step has been taken.
- An initial reaction might not last: The person might initially react in a way that’s not helpful – maybe changing the subject, or responding with unhelpful advice or clichés rather than listening. But give them time – it might be the first time they’ve ever had a conversation about mental health.
- Have some information ready: Sometimes people find it easier to find out more in their own time – why not have one of our leaflets to hand?
- Keep it light: We know that sometimes people are afraid to talk about mental health because they feel they don’t know what to say or how to help. So keeping the conversation light will help make you both feel relaxed.
- Courage is contagious: Often once mental health is out in the open people to want to talk. Don’t be surprised if your honesty encourages other people to talk about their own experiences.
From the outside looking in you may be able to keep that fake smile upon your face, but you don’t have too, your friends and family want to help you and it’s totally possible to live a fulfilled life with a mental illness when you have the right people by your side.
What are you waiting for? Have that conversation about how your feeling with a loved one today.