What I Want You to Know When You Ask If You Can Help
The following was written in the middle of a panic attack I experienced. Although I was alone at the time, these are the words I wish I could verbalize to someone when they ask me, “What can I do to help?”
I did not intend on sharing these words with the public, but after too many conversations with friends who tell me their experience of a shut down — where someone responds with stigma, shame or silence rather than love, respect and understanding — I decided these words are necessary. We need to have these conversations and step out in discomfort because we are not alone in these experiences. We should not feel that the only people in our life whom we can reach out to are our therapists or other people experiencing mental illness. We need allies to fight with us because many days we don’t have the energy to fight by ourselves.
Note: Everyone’s experience with mental illness is different, so although these are some things that could help me and many others, this is not an exhaustive list, and do not apply to all people, illnesses or experiences.
“I Want You to Know” (Or “When I Come to You”)
When I come to you and say I need to tell you something important.
When I tell you I am thinking of starting a medication,
Or going to counseling,
Or believe I might have anxiety.
When I tell you nothing, but ask you to sit with me.
Please, just listen.
When you are with me, I want you to know.
That this is human.
And I am not a deficit for being this way.
That just because you cannot see my sickness doesn’t make it less real.
I am not overdramatic or making things up.
The way my mind is understanding things is not how life really is,
But right now that is what feels real to me.
Don’t offer me possible solutions (at least until after you listen).
And don’t ask me why I am this way.
But if it seems that I need something said:
Help me believe that it is OK for me to do life in my own time.
That I am not a disappointment or making things difficult for you.
Don’t tell me to rush.
Don’t tell me there is a reason for me feeling this way.
Tell me that deadlines aren’t death
And that missing them or extending them is human.
Remind me that I am not stuck here forever.
That this feeling is not permanent.
And that there is life beyond here, this moment.
Say you are with me.
And that if today feels impossible; you will help me get through today
If that is what I need.
Because when I come to you, it took bravery, vulnerability and trust to do so. Even if it appears that you were unable to help, sometimes simply allowing someone else to be with me in this was the step I needed today.
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Thinkstock photo via spukkato