27 Ways to Help Someone Who's Struggling With Their Mental Illness Today


When you’re struggling with any type of mental illness, some days may seem easier than others. Although we hope that our good days outweigh the bad, when we do experience those difficult days, it can make all the difference when others are there to lift us up.

That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to tell us one thing someone can do for them if they’re struggling with mental health today. So if you’re having a difficult day today, or you know someone who may be struggling, this is for you.

Here is what they had to say:

1. “Tag me in memes. It might sound silly to some people, but it helps cheer me up and makes me happy to know someone is thinking of me.” — Katie L.

2. “Remind me of the value I have as a human. Listen more than you talk. Let me talk even if it makes no sense. Please don’t tell me I should not feel this way. Be tough, but with love and kindness. Be honest, cry with me. Be my friend not just an acquaintance.” — Gregg A.

3. “Come see me. On a bad day I will avoid the one thing I need most: human contact. It doesn’t matter what they do when they get here — chat, watch movies, clean — anything. It’s just nice to have someone there.” — Jenny B.

4. “The friends I get the most from on bad days are not human — they’re my pets! They just hang out with me, snuggle, no judgment of my messy hair and tear-soaked face. Usually, no words can comfort, so simply their company is the best thing.” — Morticia M.

5. “Acknowledge me and what I might be going through that day. Simple acknowledgment means the world to me. Just seeing me.” — Ronnie K.

6. “I helped talk a friend down from her attack this morning just by being someone that understood and didn’t judge. I gave her tips on how to breathe and talk to herself. Simply being there at the time you’re needed is sometimes the best thing!” — Jenna Z.

7. “Let me vent to them when I need to even if they have absolutely nothing to say because they don’t know much about what I’m going through.” — Aryana S.

8. “Open a bottle of aromatherapy and bring it to me so that I begin smelling it before I see what is going on. Frankincense and lavender both help me get grounded when I am dissociating.” — Stephanie K.

9. “Talk to me, laugh and be our weird selves together. Just talk to me about anything, I mean literally anything that will divert my attention. Distract me with happy memories, humor me with corny jokes and laugh as loud as we can. Just being there and talking to me will help me a lot.” — Lucille M.

10. “Research depression. And post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because [you] don’t struggle from it, but want to understand me and my mental illness.” — Ariel L.

11. “Don’t treat me any differently. I’m always worried that if I say I’m having an off day, my friends will be more careful about what they say or feel like they’re walking on eggshells around me. Unless I specifically say otherwise, I just want us to talk and interact like we always do. Our natural friendship is one of the things I find helpful and I don’t want anything to change that.” — Jamie L.

12. “Take the initiative to check on me. When I’m struggling, I can’t bring myself to tell anyone I’m not OK, I’m afraid I’ll burn out or scare away every friend I have. If you ask me first, I’m more likely to be able to answer that I’m not OK.” — Jennifer K.

13. “Just do the tiniest nice thing. A post-it on my desk at work with a smiley face drawn on it. A piece of chocolate. Just any reminder that there’s still good things left in this world.” — Anne L.

14. “The only thing — and person — who can help ease a bad mental health day is ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and being able to binge watch with my best friend in Kentucky (I live in Illinois). And same goes for her. We may be states apart but we know that watching our favorite show together can be the only thing to boost our mood, even if only for a few hours.” — Erin P.

15. “To be hugged or held by a friend. Physical contact helps one thing to feel slightly less vague and intangible.” — Michael J.

16. “Make me get off the couch, even if it’s to go on an errand, out for coffee or to walk around the block. Like, not make me in a mean way, but they need to be a little pushy at least or I’ll stay in the dark and spiral deeper.” — Jen L.

17. “Bringing me treats without the expectation of being social. Just a little pick-me-up and reminder that I’m not alone with the option to spend time together if I’m up for it without feeling anxious or obligated to do so.” — Amanda R.

18. “To say it’s OK. It’ll be better tomorrow. Or maybe it’ll take a little longer than that, but it will be better. Take a deep breath and take care of yourself. When I’m deep in my depression, I just really need someone to remind me of these things and to spend a little time with me.” — Emily S.

19. “Send me YouTube clips of Impractical Jokers. Those guys are so funny, and although such an action doesn’t take away my mental health issues, I sure appreciate the distraction during a moment where I wasn’t able to get out of my head on my own.“ — Jolene K.

20. “Help me come up with a constructive outlet for the excess energy instead of my mind coming up with harmful ones. A ‘Hey why don’t we… go for a walk/play a game/do a puzzle/watch a movie together’ could possibly go a long way in getting me to come back to the present and assess what is really going on.” — Rachel C.

21. “Bring me some coffee. Coffee is how I cope when I don’t have the mental and emotional energy to get through the day. I had a coworker who would randomly do that; she would bring me coffee when she went to lunch and it really helped me. It made me realize that small things in life, simple pleasures such as coffee help me make it through the day. That coworker is now my best friend.” — Jessica H.

22. “Ring me and tell me they miss me and that they can’t wait to see me again and suggest a date to meet up. When I feel that no one cares and can’t possibly want to waste spending their time with me, that means the world. Just having people that understand I isolate because of fear that they will reject me, not because I am lazy or I don’t bother making an effort, to see them is everything.” — Vanessa B.

23. “Leave me alone until I feel comfortable enough to open up to them. When I’m feeling down I need a good few days to myself to figure out what I’m feeling and why (if there’s even a reason why).” — Kyle C.

24. “I sometimes tend to need validation. Someone to say that it’s OK to have anxiety and that I can stay in bed for the whole day without feeling like a total failure.” — Mirka O.

25. “Help restock my refrigerator or cook me a warm meal. I probably haven’t been eating or I’ve only been snacking at best. Watch a funny movie with me.” — Meghan K.

26. “Send me pictures of their pets. I absolutely love seeing their fur babies and makes me feel more connected to my friends. Huge for when I am struggling.” — Christine L.

27. “Just say: I love you and I’m holding space for you. You aren’t alone and thank you for allowing me to be here with you to remind you.” — Alanna B.

What would you add?

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How My Mother Supported Me Through Mental Illness Growing Up


When I first got my official mental health diagnosis, I wasn’t shocked, upset or sad. I felt strong, and as close to at peace as I had been in years. I was able to name my enemy and construct a battle plan with my doctor to overcome it. That sense of peace was short-lived. I was only 16 at the time and immediately following that appointment, my mom took me to lunch at a popular fast food joint. She asked how the appointment went and I began to tell her what my doctor said in the way an optimistic and hopeful teenager would: fast and loud: My mother said “Shush, lower your voice.” That was when I first noticed the tears in her eyes and the ones she quickly tried to wipe from her cheek, the tear-streaked rouge betraying her attempt to smile.

Instead of excitedly discussing treatment options, I found myself whispering to her that everything was going to be OK. I kept asking what was wrong and she just shook her head. My mom being at a loss for words was new to me, so I filled the silence with comforting chatter. I explained I would be getting new medications and a new type of therapy, all of which should help me feel better. Somewhere during the conversation, I stopped saying “feel” and replaced it with “be.” I was going to be better, I was going to be fine, I was going to be the daughter she had imagined when she fist held me in the hospital 16 years earlier. As I continued to whisper these words, I realized it was the first time I ever blatantly lied to my mother’s face. I knew because the fear had set in, I no longer felt strong and peace was the furthest thing from my mind.

Cancer took my mom away from us six years ago this June, so the lens I use to replay these memories may be different now than it would have been if she were still here.

My mom loved me in a way that could define unconditional mother’s love. I know this, but the image of that tear-streaked rouged up cheek will never leave me. I know she was mourning the loss of the life she had planned for me. Back then, I thought it was all about the life she had planned for her. Having a teenage daughter isn’t easy on any mom, but add in a severe mental health disorder that required several medications, monthly blood tests to monitor the medications, weekly therapy appointments and self-harming behavior along with everything else that came with my diagnosis… it must have been almost impossible. Other than that single tear stain, my mom never did anything that would make me feel like a burden. She held me tight on the nights I didn’t think I’d make it through another breath. She literally picked me up off the floor when I was a sobbing mess, she never grounded me for the glasses I broke while throwing them in the sink, she did the dishes when my OCD wouldn’t let me pick up the plates that someone had stacked thinking they were making my life easier.

When I was a teenager, I thought, wow, how selfish of her, to sit there and have the nerve to cry when this is my life that is “ruined” by this diagnosis… but as an adult on Mother’s Day weekend, without her here to pick me up, hold me or pick up the broken pieces of glass, I realize the tear was very likely for me after all.

Thank you to all of the mothers out there who do their best day in and day out to take care of their children who have a chronic physical or mental illness. We may not always say it, but we are very grateful.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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How My Fear of Abandonment Affects My Marriage


My husband and I are nearing our second wedding anniversary. We are just as happy as when we first started dating, maybe even more so. Yet, I can’t help but fear in the deep recesses of my mind that one day he may leave me. I have no reason to feel this way. He has never given me any indication other than that he is here to stay, for the long haul. He is a constant support and an enduring encouragement. Yet…

I have a major fear of abandonment. It rivals my phobia of roaches. I couldn’t tell you where this fear originated. As a child I was always focused on people-pleasing, making the good grades, participating in all the activities, exceeding all expectations. Was my fear a part of all that? It may have been, or it may just have been my personality. There’s no point debating it. What is not up for debate is when this fear truly solidified. In my early 20s, I was abandoned by my then-fiancé. That is definitely when that fear sunk its hooks in.

But this is not that story. This doesn’t have anything to do with that story, except that I know what it feels like to be left behind and it is earth-shattering. When Carlos and I started dating, I struggled with really opening myself up. I pursued him (What? He’s really cute!), but when it came down to emotional intimacy, I held back. But he stuck with me. He knew we could be something special, and I am so thankful every day that he did take the risks he did to be with me.

Now, we are sickeningly happy. We go together everywhere, and we love talking for hours, arguing or just sitting together in silence. But in our relationship I am still the one who takes more. I give as much as I can, but sometimes for different reasons one partner has to lean on a little heavier than the other. If you ask him (and I have) Carlos will tell you I give him what he needs, and more than I realize. Sometimes I have a hard time believing that though.

I have assorted mental illnesses, and I also have physical chronic illnesses and pain. This means there are a lot of things I either can’t do, or are very difficult for me to do. Carlos does most of the cooking in our house, while I save my culinary magic for special occasions. He does the laundry, he checks the cats’ litter. While I’m in school to become a social worker so I can have a low-impact job, he is the only one working. I try to take care of him, but he succeeds in always taking care of me.

In lesser men, this weight would breed resentment. Resentment can easily kill a marriage. But how long would it take for this amazing man to start to hate a life where he bears so much burden? If it starts to happen, will I see it? Will I have time to prepare? And the scariest question, would I be able to pick myself back up again? It was impossible the first. It would be so much worse with him… words fail me at how broken that would leave me.

Let me be clear: there is no indication that Carlos would ever break my heart in this way. I know how much he loves me. I can see it in his eyes when he laughs with me, when he admires me, when he holds me after a panic attack, even when he rolls his eyes in frustration because my anxiety jumps because my food is prepared wrong. But my anxiety, my depression, my uncontrollable mood swings all try to tell me I do not deserve his treatment. I don’t deserve his patience, and I don’t deserve his devotion. In the quiet of the night, my imagination runs wild and my inner voice attacks every part of my relationship, every part of me.

What do I do? How do I get through those moments of intense solitude, fear and degradation? I don’t tell him. Not that I keep it from him, I let him know from time to time that I have doubts and fears. That’s what a husband and best friend is for, to tell my doubts and fears! I write. I pray. I escape.

No, I am not writing this in the dead of night, fueled by my erratic thoughts and restless mind. When I am filled with fear, I bust out my trusted journal. I scrawl in a harried fashion in the small spiral bound notebook my fears that don’t need to be legible or make any sense. I get the thoughts out of my head, and onto my page.

Next, I take what is left of my worry and speak it in faith to my Creator. For anyone else this could look as close to my prayer to silently meditating to listening to a favorite song and letting the melody wash over them. Whatever higher power brings you strength and fortitude, that is what you use to get you from one moment to the next.

Finally, I have to get out of my head. This can be really difficult to do. I used to like to read to do this, but as I’ve gotten older and my problems have become more significant, I find my thoughts are too intrusive to let me concentrate enough to get past the first sentence. I read the same one over and over without ever comprehending what it is trying to say. Now, I watch a TV show. I love TV shows and movies. I have favorites I follow every season, and since I don’t get cable I invest in season passes on my computer, so I watch “Speechless” (shameless plug. As a former CP aide, I love the show!) or another funny, lighthearted show. By the time my eyes have grown heavy again, the show is over and my mind is clear.

Maybe the next day when Carlos and I share a meal and a conversation, I’ll tell him I had a difficult night, and I’ll reiterate how lucky I feel that he’s stuck with me. Maybe I won’t say anything, except to tell him how much I love him and how glad I am that we’re together now. That I can’t wait for us to grow old together, and that I’m sure he’ll be the grumpy one and I’ll be the… more grumpy one.

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Photo via contributor

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When You Still Have an Undiagnosed Mental Illness


We live in a world of labels. Labels like: friend, daughter, colleague, writer, artist. Putting things into boxes makes it easy for us to navigate our world and in a way, it helps us define a sense of self.

But when it comes to mental health, it’s not that simple. Things aren’t always black and white. And unlike a lot of physical health, like broken bones or a runny nose, mental health is usually invisible, despite physical manifestations.

We hear a lot of stories about mental health diagnoses and how people learn to manage it. But there’s also another side of the story. The time before a diagnosis — a road before the recovery.

It’s not that I don’t fit into any boxes, it’s almost like I fit into too many. Despite not having a formal diagnosis, even going to multiple health professionals, I know something is wrong. I struggle with food because my body dysmorphia tells me my inability to only eat the bare minimum makes me useless. My depressive episodes stop me from leaving bed, showering, meeting friends — but they never last the two week cycle for me to be considered manic depressive. I don’t have manic episodes that would make me bipolar. I experience over half a dozen anxiety attacks a day. I see hallucinations from time to time. Yet I still don’t have an official diagnosis. Does that make me any less sick?

I struggle with mental health and I’ve been seeking health for almost seven years now, and I still don’t have a diagnosis.

And I struggle with having no diagnosis. Why? Because it makes me feel like a fraud. Despite the fact that my therapist tells me I’m not well, she won’t tell me what’s wrong. She won’t tell me what kind of sick I am. I don’t feel validated in my own mental health, just because I can’t put a name to my monster.

It’s something that I struggle with every day, because I know that I am not well, but I don’t know what is making me ill, so I don’t know how to fix it — how to feel better. The strategy of “just waiting it out” only works so many times, only works so well, before you get tired and frustrated of being tired and frustrated.

I just wanted to write this and share with whoever is reading, that, if you are living without a diagnosis, you are not alone. And you are valid. I understand the frustrations you may be going through. The trial and error with medication. The switching of therapists, starting over. Wait list upon wait list to see doctors, to do tests, only to come up with the same answer: they don’t know what’s wrong but you can always try this new medication. You are not struggling alone. And I know it’s hard to keep trying, when the answer is always “nothing,” but keep trying, one day at a time. And I’ll try with you. One day at a time.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign

stigmatizing mental illness costumes

5 Super Scary Halloween Costumes (That Don't Stigmatize People With Mental Illness)


Choosing your Halloween costume is a big decision for some people. Should you go with a classic, scary costume inspired by your favorite thriller? Or something more ironic that fits your clever personality? As you’re mulling over your endless options, you might consider dressing up as a “crazy” person. You know, someone who looks like they’ve come straight from the psych ward. Because, that’s scary, right? Ha ha!

mental illness halloween costumes
Boo! So scary! (Screenshot via Amazon)

But hold your horses there, buddy. Before you order that “Skitzo” costume with your Amazon Prime, we wanted to offer some alternatives that might work better than making fun of mental illness and the historically abusive institutions that were built to “treat” those who were committed there. I know it may feel like a tempting choice, but here are some other super scary costume ideas I hope you’ll consider.

1. Ghost (Boo!)

a ghost
image via Flickr

Classic! Not only is a ghost a cost-effective way to make your own costume, it also doesn’t make an entire group of people who are actually more likely to be victims of violence than violent themselves seem “scary.” Cut out those eye holes and embrace your scary without isolating an innocent passerby who’s been hospitalized for a mental illness before, is doing much better, and doesn’t need your shit right now.

2. Frightening Werewolf

werewolf
image via Thinkstock

 

If you think a mental health patient getting restrained is a good costume, because you don’t know what it’s like to actually be restrained at a psych hospital (or just don’t care!), may I suggest instead a scary werewolf? Rather than transforming from an insensitive person to an insensitive person who’s stigmatizing mental illnesses, you can transform from person-who-made-a-better-choice to a half person, half wolf! Much more fun.

3. Scary Skeleton

skeleton
image via Flickr

Don’t let mental illness be a skeleton people have to keep in their closets, and dress up as an actual skeleton instead! When we make light of mental illness or treat it like it’s something to fear, it’s harder for those who live with it every day to come out and be proud of who they are and what they’ve gone through.

4. Creepy Vampire

vampire costume
image via Pixabay

I want to suck your blood! You know what else sucks? When people think it’s funny to dress up as a “psycho,” when that word actually originates from people who’ve experienced psychosis or who live with conditions that feature psychotic symptoms like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. You might be surprised to find that those “psychos” are still people. The more you know.

5. Magnificent Mummy

mummy
image via Thinkstock

Mummy costumes are great because you can buy one online or make one yourself at home (hello, toilet paper!). What’s extra amazing about them is that whether you’re going to a Halloween party or galavanting around your neighborhood trick-or-treating, you get to have that quiet confidence that comes from knowing you’re not making fun of people with mental illness. And with so many other costume options, that seems like the very least you could do.

Lead photo via Amazon

a photo of marijuana

What I Want Other's to Know About Using Marijuana to Treat Mental Illness


It’s no secret that there is a stigma surrounding the use of marijuana in the United States. Although it has been legalized for recreational use and medicinal use across the country, the drug still hasn’t been legalized on a federal level. Many people find marijuana usage problematic, but they may not realize it can be used to help treat mental illness.

In fact, many people struggling with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety might benefit from using cannabis to treat common symptoms.

So what’s the problem? Well, United States-based marijuana research is problematic. The drug is currently federally scheduled as a Schedule 1 drug, along with Heroin and LSD, forcing the clinical research to be quite limited and actually outsourced to places like Israel, leaving a lot of room for medical advancements here in the U.S.

medical marijuana infographic

medical marijuana infographic

medical marijuana infographic

medical marijuana infographic

medical marijuana infographic

medical marijuana infographic

So let’s educate ourselves on how marijuana can help with mental illness and where the future of medical cannabis research might be going, because it could make a big impact for those in our community who are struggling with traditional medicine for treatment.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Infographic via Marijuana Doctors

Unsplash image via Esteban Lopez

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