I see a lot of post on social media encouraging individuals to “reach out”. Now, I don’t want to criticize this because I do think it is amazing that individuals are offering support. It is a step in the right direction. Some movement is better than no movement.
However, when you are talking about an individual who suffers from anxiety, depression, PTSD, or any other mental illness- reaching out can be near impossible!
Granted, it is a two way street. Individuals suffering from mental illness need to learn the skills to reach out, but until that happens why don’t we reach in? There are many different ways to reach in. You could offer a hand or offer resources.
Some days when symptoms are high, it can be complete paralysis. Getting out of bed alone may feel totally impossible and when it’s finally achieved it might be a huge accomplishment. Leaving us completely drained and any social interaction feeling like pure torture, especially if we have to initiate it. When self criticism and self doubt are that high, feeling like a burden and reaching out seems absolutely ridiculous and completely rude and totally out of the question. It may feel like standing in front of a class naked giving a presentation. Imagine your head rapidly swirling with every negative and toxic thing anyone has ever said to you, while having bricks around your feet. Imagine waking up everyday feeling like you’re about to be in a terrible car accident. Imagine vividly reliving the worst moment of your life every night and every day. Imagine you just got the call that someone close to you has passed, and how you would feel in that moment. Now imagine experiencing this roller coaster day in and day out, even while you are sleeping, and not knowing how to find your way out, or even up from down.
This is mental illness without resources. If our friends and family were silently struggling with cancer and were not receiving support or treatment we would not just leave them to suffer in silence. We need to reach in! We are obligated as humans to reach in.
Offer times you can come over and make a meal, do a chore, offer resources, encourage them to link up with a therapist or psychiatrist. Offer to baby sit, encourage them to take a shower and take them out for coffee. Validate them, tell them they are not a burden, sit in the darkness with them and share your light. Lend an ear. Individuals suffering from mental illness often experience a great deal of shame and social isolation due to the social stigma that surrounds mental illness. The more we remain silent and do not reach in the more our loved ones will suffer in silence.