It’s Okay to Ask for Help
May is Mental Health Awareness month, a month where we place extra focus on mental health, but in reality, mental health should always be in the forefront of our mind.
Mental illness is complicated and often difficult to speak about. I constantly try to write about it and place my own experience into words for others to understand. Mental illness will always be complicated, but we need to get to a point where talking about it becomes easier.
For much of our history, mental illness has been considered taboo. Until recently, you would have never seen a show like, 13 Reasons Why become mainstream or a musical like, Dear Evan Hansen become popular with those outside of musical theater. Seeing a therapist or counselor can still make us feel weak (even though it makes you stronger), and sometimes we may feel expressing our emotions too openly could receive odd looks or cause others to shut down because they aren’t sure how to respond.
What makes it difficult to speak about is that people don’t always understand mental illness, especially those who have never suffered. But even if you have, mental illness affects everyone who suffers differently. Not only are there a variety of mental illnesses, but there are also different situations that trigger diverse reactions. No two people are the same, even when in the same family. I will never be able to live the life you live as you could never live the life I live.
But that does not keep anyone from being able to understand the life one lives.
The one thing most people lack is communication. As a society, we fail at speaking and with the rise of technology, human interaction is far less than it should be.
I could go on about how I deal with my depression and anxiety, and I have written about it in the past. But I’m not trying to claim that what works for me, will work for everyone. And I cannot assume that my friends or those who come to me about mental illness will be able to heal the exact same way I did. But I can lend an ear, offer my advice, and help them carve a path to their own happiness.
It’s something we all need to learn how to do better. We all need to be more in touch with our emotions whether or not we’ve experienced mental illness. Society as a whole is emotionally challenged, but we can work on it, become more compassionate, empathetic, and helpful.
Often times when we need help, we don’t want to ask. We live in a world that is always in a rush. We live in a world where social media can upstage real, human contact. We don’t want to burden others and we don’t want to waste people’s time, even if they are our closest friends. And when phones are out, we fear we won’t have that attention we need. We don’t want to feel helpless or “attention seeking.” We hear words like “depression” and “anxiety” thrown around in everyday situations that belittles the meaning. So when we find the courage to speak up, we fear we may not be taken seriously.
But there’s the other side to it all as well. We don’t know how to react when someone comes to us for help. We get nervous. We are afraid of saying the wrong thing. But what we need to worry about is just listening. It’s okay if you don’t say a thing. Just giving someone your full attention is enough to create a safe space. A reason for this person to come back to you and open up. And maybe next time you’ll be more prepared. And maybe you won’t be, but that’s okay too–you’re learning. If you’re afraid of how to approach the topic, ask the person what they need. And if they can’t tell you at the time, offer comfort in an appropriate way. Just be with them. Ride it out. Don’t belittle the way they feel because I guarantee you have no idea the full extent of it. Even if you’re a sufferer too, we cannot compare our illnesses. If someone tells you what you’re doing isn’t helping, then listen. Do not take it personal. Listen to what they need. And if you do this, it’s more likely they’ll listen to what you need too.
Sometimes we don’t help people in time. Sometimes we cannot pick up on the warning signs. Sometimes we think little phrases here and there don’t mean anything severe. And maybe they don’t. Maybe someone is just having a bad day and it will pass, but sometimes it isn’t just a bad day.
I’m not saying we have to be hyperaware all the time. We don’t need to analyze every little thing a person does—unless it seems warranted. But we do need to ask genuine questions and we do need to answer genuinely, even when the conversation becomes hard. Even if it stops the laughter. Even if that means someone shuts off their phone.
It’s okay to not be okay.
It’s okay to say you’re having a bad day.
It’s okay to say things are rough.
It’s okay to say you don’t know what’s wrong, but you feel off.
Sometimes there are no answers and the feeling needs to be felt and you’ll wake up the next day okay.
And it’s okay to be happy, because sometimes happiness is the scariest feeling of all.
But most importantly, it’s okay to ask for help.