The Mighty Logo

Why Reaching Out Is Hard When You Live With a Mental Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

One of the most important parts of breaking a stigma is education. The more we know about something the less we fear it. Some things are really hard to understand though. When it comes to the thought process of a mental health issue, understanding is often complicated because the person experiencing it can struggle to understand it themselves at times. People have expressed this to me before and I know this has certainly been true in my own experience. So I want to share one of the aspects I have struggled with. Reaching out for help. So if you struggle with it as well please know you are not alone. And if you know someone who struggles with this then maybe this will help you connect.

I got a message today from a friend. It was a meme that said, “Being mentally ill is weird, I can go through traumatic stuff and maintain a poker face but then have a mental breakdown over losing a pen.”

My response: “True story.”

This is one of the things I’ve found to be difficult to express effectively to people who do not struggle with their mental health. I have been in some very tense situations in my life, situations that have impacted me directly, where I have been able to stay calm and think clearly. To the point that people comment on it saying things like, “I don’t know how you do it,” or, “I am so glad you where the one who handled that, I don’t think I could have done it.”  Yet at the same time, I’ve started panicking because I was already at the grocery store and I couldn’t decide what to make for dinner. The pressure of choosing from all of the possibilities available to me on the store shelves was too much for me to handle.

I have had people say, “Why didn’t you talk to someone?”

It is hard to tell someone I am really struggling and then have to say why. It is embarrassing to tell someone what’s going on in my brain at times. And if I think about calling out every time I have negative thoughts? I would never stop calling out. And I don’t want to burn you out. I don’t want you to think of me and associate that with “so much drama.”

So I feel stuck. I know I should reach out. I have been told to reach out. I tell other people to reach out. But when it comes down to it, when I have to actually pick up the phone, it is so hard to do. I wonder what you are going to think. I wonder if you are going to roll your eyes at me. My paranoia makes me wonder what you tell your friends about me.

I just want you to understand this. I know part of the reason I so often feel alone is because I don’t reach out when I need to. I know there are people who love me and want to help and would never roll their eyes at my number coming up on their caller ID. I know this. Yet there is a part of my brain that asks, “How much more will they put up with?”

What if I go from just feeling alone to actually being alone? I want the other person to take care of themselves and set up boundaries. I also want to not take it personally when they do.

I want you to know I am trying. I want you to know that this is hard for me; harder than it may seem. I want you to be patient with me. I also don’t want you to take it personally when I don’t get it right. Sometimes I will need you to remind me to try. Let me know you care. Let me know the thoughts in my head saying, “Don’t talk,” are not voices I should listen too.

I want you to know this is just as confusing for me as this probably sounds to you. My life is a series of paradoxes. So I don’t often get it either. That is OK. We don’t have to solve the problems. Just help me figure out how to phrase them. Or maybe just let me ramble on while I try to figure out how to phrase them. Then one day I am going to call you up and say, “I filled out a form by myself and I didn’t freak out at all!” And you will be happy for me. And I will know that you genuinely are happy for me, because you will know how much it mattered to me. We will get to enjoy hope, because we were able to first share in the struggle.

Follow this journey on Mental Health Pulpit.

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Originally published: July 17, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home