Bridgette Ramirez

If you're struggling with mental health, you don’t have to face your pain alone.  You might be smiling on the outside and having a panic attack on the inside.  You might be struggling to get out of bed every morning.  You might be experiencing a bad week or even a bad year.  One of the worst parts about mental health issues is feeling like you have to deal with them by yourself, but you don’t.  You don’t need to hide your so-called weaknesses from your loved ones.  Keeping up an illusion of strength will only take strength from you.  If you share what you’re going through with your friends, you can create a support network that allows you to voice your fears, and even let a few of them be lifted.

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I know, easier said than done.  But I’ve been there; I used to hide my struggles with mental health from people, which was fairly easy because I had a high-functioning form of anxiety.  Then, I discovered how liberating it felt to share my fears and insecurities, and my relationships grew stronger as a result.  I want you to have the same experience.  If you decide you want to have a conversation about mental health but don’t know how to go about it, here are four tips to keep in mind:

1) Start small 

You don’t have to tell everyone in your life at once with a bullhorn.  You can start with just one person, a person you trust more than anyone else and who knows how to have a serious conversation.  When I began talking about my anxiety, I first told someone who had already professed to having mental health problems as well.  Having a conversation with someone who knew where I was coming from made it easier.  I felt safe, validated, and appreciated.  Some of my deepest friendships have come from honest talks about mental health.  If you want to connect with people with similar struggles and don’t know someone in your personal life, there are plenty of resources and communities out there.  This Is My Brave is a wonderful organization that I would recommend if you want to see other people openly talk about mental illness.

2) Be open and honest

I tried to protect my friends from being overwhelmed by my problems, but the more I concealed my pain, the more it hurt.  Ask if your friend has time for a long (and possibly intense) conversation.  If they don’t, that’s okay.  We all experience difficult or busy times.  I used to schedule a weekly chat with a friend to talk about our current mental health.  I appreciated having time already set aside for this kind of conversation, and perhaps you will find that useful as well.  Don’t downplay how you’re feeling when you do start talking.  If you feel silly or weird or awkward, that’s typical and not a sign that the conversation is going badly.  Keep trying.

3) Remember that some friends might not totally get it

While people sometimes have misconceptions or just plain ignorance about mental health, don’t feel it is your obligation to educate your friends if you don’t have the capacity to do so.  If they want to know more, direct them to online resources to do their own research.  I wrote an open letter about my experience that you might find helpful to send to friends who might be going about the wrong way to help you.  But that letter is only my experience.  There are tons more out there!  MentalHealth.gov has resources, phone numbers, and information that you and your friends can look into as well.

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The more you talk about your mental health, the more you reduce the stigma—for yourself and for others.

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4) Seek professional help if you need it

Friends and family can provide a lot of emotional support, but sometimes you need more help, and that’s okay.  Group therapy, mental health centers, and individual therapists can guide you through some of the deeper issues, mindsets and/or trauma that you may be dealing with.  I hesitate to make any particular recommendations because every person has different needs, and I acknowledge that not everyone can afford therapy.  Do research.  Look for free or paid counseling services in your area (or at your college if you’re a student).  Ask for recommendations.  Try something online or something in person.  This is your life and your recovery, so you know what is best for you. 

The more you talk about your mental health, the more you reduce the stigma—for yourself and for others.  You might be surprised to discover people in your life who have the same experiences you do.  Even if you’re afraid,  the best thing you can do for your mental health is to talk about it.  So speak—speak out loud and become free. 

 

Bridgette is a hardcore nerd who hopes to find a wardrobe to Narnia, tap into the Force, and join the Avengers, but since she hasn’t yet, she writes to compensate. Originally from West Covina, California, she is a Creative Writing student at Scripps College.  She reviews books and movies on her blog at goldengatebridgette.blogspot.com.

Comments (1)

  1. Meagan Hooper

Sooo important and such great advice. Thanks, Bridgette!

 

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