9 Priceless Gifts to Give Someone With a Mental Illness

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Looking for that perfect holiday, birthday or any day gift?

If someone you care about is facing challenges related to mental health issues, you can give them many wonderful gifts throughout the year that won’t cost you a dime. Consider these:

1. Give the gift of assistance.

“Helping others isn’t a chore; it is one of the greatest gifts there is.” – Liya Kebede

Lending a helping hand is a wonderful (and practical) gift. Offer to give someone a ride, run an errand for them or pick up their groceries. Walk their dog, babysit their kids, take out the trash or prepare a meal. You get the idea.

2. Give the gift of knowledge.

“Sharing will enrich everyone with more knowledge.” – Ana Monnar

Share helpful resources, such as books, websites or other tips on improving mental health and overall wellness. But also educate yourself about what your loved one is going through. If you’re better informed, you’ll have greater understanding, patience and empathy for them.

3. Give the gift of time.

“Help one another; there’s no time like the present and no present like the time.” – James Durst

Sometimes just taking a break from everything is what’s needed most. So give your loved a book of coupons redeemable for future blocks of time when you’ll step in and do whatever they need. This will give them time to unplug, relax and renew.

4. Give the gift of encouragement.

“The tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body; use yours to lift someone up today.” – Terri Ann Armstrong

Often your friend or loved one just needs to know things can get better. When they’re discouraged, remind them of the progress they’ve made and how they’re moving forward toward their goals. Tell them what a great job they’re doing and how you’re so proud of them.

5. Give the gift of laughter.

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” – Victor Hugo

Deliver something funny to the people you care about. Watch a comedy show or movie with them, tell a corny joke or remind them of that hilarious time when you both laughed so hard you cried. Laughter really sometimes is the best medicine.

6. Give the gift of tolerance.

“Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.” – Robert Green Ingersoll

Unfortunately, the stigma and discrimination about mental illness is still widespread. Be a beacon of tolerance by not using offensive terms or labels about mental illnesses. Also, be a positive role model by quietly but persistently educating others about the right way to treat those who are dealing with mental health issues.

7.  Give the gift of advocacy.

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.” – Maya Angelou

Show your support for one or more of the many good causes that advocate for mental health by volunteering, attending a meeting or promoting legislation to improve mental health services. Also, help your friend or loved one connect with the great supports and services they offer.

8. Give the gift of self-care.

“Taking care of yourself is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others.” – Bryant McGill

You can’t take care of others if you don’t first take care of yourself. Don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Not only will you feel better, you’ll end up being a better helper to others.

9. Give the gift of love.

“The greatest gifts are not the material things you receive but the love you give, the friendship you share and the hope you inspire.” – Nishan Panwar

Sometimes the greatest gift is to just let someone know they are loved. Tell them you love them through a card, email, text or best of all, in person. Hugs go a long way, too. Leave no doubt in their minds that you’ll always have their back and you’ll be there for them with your unwavering love and support.

A version of this post originally appeared on David Susman’s blog

The Mighty is asking the following: As someone who lives with — or has a loved one with — a mental illness, what’s one thing that’s particularly challenging around the holidays? Why? What advice would give someone going through similar challenges? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to mentalhealth@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Dear Parents of Children With a Mental Illness

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Dear parents of children with mental illness,

First and foremost, you did not cause your child’s mental illness. Stop analyzing every minute of their existence. It has absolutely nothing to do with taking their binky away too soon or letting them cry in their crib so you could take a shower. There is nothing you could have done — or not done — that would have prevented this. Your child’s mental illness is not a reflection of you as a parent. As a matter of fact, you have my vote for parent of the year!

Seriously, you’re the one who puts your entire life on hold to support your child who has a mental illness. You hug, rock and reassure your child even when inside you’re beaten down. You parent when parenting ain’t easy, and that makes you strong.

Second, it’s OK to hurt. It’s OK to be sad. That’s your baby. It’s OK to feel exhausted and cry and wonder how you’re going to get through this. It’s OK to feel like giving up — but knowing damn well you never will.

Make sure you find some support for you. I know, between therapy appointments, medication management and IEP meetings who has time for self-care? Make the time. Do not feel guilty for needing a break. Take the time to explain to them why you might not be able to attend the next family function. Let them know you can’t always make or stick with plans because, quite simply, some days are good, some days aren’t. If they judge you, and some will, so be it. (I will refrain from saying exactly what I think of those that judge what they don’t understand.)

Disregard the ever so unhelpful remarks about little Johnny “just needing a whooping” or my all time favorite: “My child would never act that way.” But you will find some support.  You may even find someone close to you is going through something similar. You never know until you talk about it. Don’t be ashamed — you did not cause your child’s mental illness.

My name is Lisa and my 18-year-old daughter was first diagnosed at age 12. She has bipolar disorder with severe anxiety disorder. She hurts herself. Nothing will destroy your parental soul more than seeing your child hurt herself. It breaks you in ways you never knew were possible. For a long time I hid this from everyone. I just knew I was the worst mother in the world. I was ashamed, but not of her. I was ashamed of me. I had broken my child. Carrying around all that guilt and self-blame was destroying me, and it made it harder to help her.

So I talked to a therapist. I began to open up to my friends and family. I met other parents who were going through the same thing. I became an advocate for mental health awareness. I became stronger, I became healthier and, first and foremost, I learned that I did not cause my child’s mental illness.

And I want the same for you.

The Mighty is asking the following: Parents of children with mental illnesses – tell us a story about working within the mental health system. What barriers of treatment have you experienced? What’s a change in the system that could help your child? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Paul Ryan Calls for Better ‘Mental Illness Laws’ After San Bernardino Shooting

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Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made a statement Thursday morning about Wednesday’s tragic events in San Bernardino, California, at the Inland Disability Center that left 14 dead and at least 17 wounded.

This is just a horrible event. My stomach turns like any American when they see this kind of violence,” Ryan said on “CBS This Morning.” “You can’t help but watch this on TV and yell at the TV, ‘How can we prevent this from happening?'”

Ryan acknowledged that too many unknowns still exist to speculate about the origins of Wednesday’s events, and then said a common theme in “any of these mass shootings” has been mental illness.

“We need to fix our mental illness laws, our policies. They’re outdated,” he said. “And that is something we are working on right now.”

Ryan is a supporter of the “Murphy bill,” or the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” a mental health reform bill introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy. The bill recently advanced after going through the The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.

“One of the common themes here, this is why we’re really serious about our mental health legislation, is that people are getting guns who are mentally unstable, who shouldn’t be getting guns, and this is a gap in our law that we feel needs to be filled,” Ryan said.

 

What’s your take on Ryan’s statements? 

More on the San Bernardino shooting:
– Live updates
– The Shooting at Inland Regional Center: A Parent’s Thoughts
– How to Help Anxious Kids When Bad Things Happen
– Politicians Tweet Responses to San Bernardino Shooting
– Video From Inside Building at San Bernardino Shooting

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To the One Who Loves Me With My Mental Illness

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I want to say thank you for loving me.

I know there are days when it can’t be easy. It must be hard to watch the one you love suffer from a faceless pain. It must be lonely at times because so often I’m not present.

Thank you for never yelling at my irrational rants. Thank you for understanding that when I get upset after forgetting to take out meat for supper, it’s not just about dinner. Thank you for seeing that in my mind it’s confirmation I’m a failure at everything I do. Thank you for not accepting that. Thank you for telling me for the 1000th time how great you think I am.

I’m sorry for all the times I asked not to be touched. Thank you for seeing I was just overwhelmed by thoughts beyond my control — and that it’s not that I don’t love you.

Thank you for teaching me unconditional love. Thank you for hearing me when I scream and learning to speak “my language.” Thank you for sacrificing things that are important to you when I don’t want to be alone. Thank you for coming in and washing the dishes without saying a word. Thank you for seeing the panic in my eyes as we enter a crowded event and walking behind me so it’s you brushing against me — not a stranger. Thank you for taking my phone away and making me rest when it’s obvious I’m not going to do it on my own. Thank you for reminding me to eat and sleep and enjoy the moment. Thank you for never making me explain my thoughts. Thank you for just accepting when I say, “I just can’t.” Thank you for making mistakes and letting me know everyone makes them.

Thank you for being you and most of all, thank you for letting me be me.

Thank you for the warm, safe place in which to be broken.

Thank you for loving the scars and showing me what it means to be grateful for every one of them.

The Mighty is for the following: Write a thank you note to someone who helped you through your mental illness. What about that person makes him or her a good ally? What do you want them to know? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to mentalhealth@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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The Most Insightful Things Patients Have Told Their Psychologists

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While psychologists are hired to help people dealing with mental health challenges, the relationship can get deeper than just patient and provider. It’s often a partnership, and although people with mental illness expect to learn from their psychologists, mental health professionals can learn from their patients, too.

To highlight this, a Reddit user asked psychologists and psychiatrists to share the most insightful and profound thing they’ve heard from their patients who live with mental illness.

Their answers ranged from heartbreaking to profound — here are just a few:

1. Had a client with general anxiety disorder. She explained that it felt like tripping — that the moment you don’t know if you’re going to catch yourself or not is how she felt all day long.”

2.It’s OK if I don’t have any friends. Having friends makes you happy but it doesn’t make you a good person.”

3. “A patient recovering from body image issues told me, ‘We spend our whole lives trying to get to a certain place or acquire certain things so that we may be happy. But true happiness is when you realise you’re never going to get to that place…happiness has to start now, with what we have.’”

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4.I feel like a ghost, walking around unseen in the backdrops of these other happy lives.”

5. “I’m a recovery specialist, and one time my client said, ‘I guess I missed the transition from when the ground was lava and imaginary friends became schizophrenia.’”

6. “‘Imagine if every small decision felt like it had life or death consequences.’ That’s how one of my patients described living with an anxiety disorder.”

7.I dont wanna kill myself. I wanna kill the part of me that wants to kill myself.”

8. “I worked with a child (11 years old) who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and we were having a conversation about how it affects interpersonal communication. I was fumbling through explaining non-verbal cues, misunderstandings, etc. when he said to me, ‘It’s like trying to explain color to someone who’s colorblind.’”

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9. “From someone who has gone through abuse: ‘Every day I get up and do what I need to do is one less day they [the abuser] has a grip on me. I’ve decided what they did to me won’t define me. What I choose to do is what defines me.’”

10.You don’t get a get well card for depression, people don’t see it as an illness.”

11.Have you ever had a dream where you were about to fight someone? You know that feeling you get when you want to punch them but just can’t? Your arms kinda feel like wet noodles? That’s depression for me.”

12.It isn’t sadness. Sometimes… a lot of the time… I just feel like there is a blanket covering me. From head to toe I’m wrapped up in it. I can’t move, I can’t breath, I can’t be me. I feel like someone is just wrapping me up and I can’t do anything about it. I pretend everything is fine. I act like I’m happy and having a good time but really… I’m stuck and can’t escape.’”

13.I feel like I’m a supporting character in my own life.”

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14.Pain is only information.”

15. “‘I wish I could just stop caring what people thought about me and rid myself of my anxiety, but lying to myself is what got me here in the first place.’”

16. “From an 11-year old client: ‘Nothing is a mistake if you’ve learned something from it.’”

17. “I was working at an outpatient facility over the summer and we were setting up for an outdoor event. It looked it was going to rain. I asked, “What are we gonna do if it starts raining?” A patient who has schizophrenia and rarely spoke said, ‘If’ is the most important word in L.I.F.E. Can’t spell life without if.”‘

18.I know of recovery, but I do not know recovery.”

19.The real me has been asleep for a few years. I hope he’ll wake up some day to rescue me.”

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20.What screws us up most is the picture in our head of how things should be.”

21.My 10-year-old client described his depression as being stuck in a trench, and that he needs helicopter support to throw down the rope (which he metaphorically described as his medication for depression). He then followed this by illustrating himself climbing up a mountain, slipping, struggling to reach the top, but seeing the other side as ‘hope.’ His message that he wrote at the top of his picture was ‘There is always hope.’”

*Some responses have been edited and shortened.

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10 Things That Happen on Thanksgiving When You Live With a Mental Illness

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Hello Thanksgiving, we meet again. It’s been awhile since we’ve loaded up on mashed potatoes and forgotten once again the process of cooking a turkey. But we always look forward to counting our blessings and realizing how truly #blessed we are.

Many of us are especially grateful to celebrate another year of living with a mental illness! The fight may not be over yet for those of us living with our various diseases, but we keep pushing through. If you’ve been living with a mental illness, you’ll probably experience one or more of these various situations over the Thanksgiving week.

1. When you realize you’re going to have to socially interact with people for several hours.

And Grandma’s place doesn’t have wifi

2. And on top of that, your mom’s blabbed to everyone about your recent diagnosis. 

Gee, thanks Sharon.

3. Your relatives who are less comfortable with mental illness try (poorly) to avoid any conversation that could make you feel bad.

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4. But you’re ready to share your story and educate everyone!

Give them time. Not everyone has the same experiences.

5. So then you try to explain your experiences…

6. …and your cousin Sophie tries to tell you she too was “totally depressed” after Zayn left One Direction.

Tell me more about how aromatherapy just changed your life…

7. But they’re still family so you have to hope they’ll get the picture eventually.

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8. Then you have to take a break to meditate in your “happy place” when the stress piles up.

Give me like five minutes, OK?

9. Preparing yourself to put your recovery to the ultimate test during the Thanksgiving feast.

You’ve got this.

10. And in the end you realize you’re actually getting healthier!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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