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How to Help a Friend Who Is Struggling With Mental Illness

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It’s pain. You feel it in your heart, looking at your loved one who’s struggling. You want to do anything to help them. You want to tell them how wonderful they are. You want to explain how much love you have for them. You’re not sure they’d hear it right now though.

Actually, you’re definitely sure they won’t.

You see them day in and day out, fighting the intangible demons in their soul and you just want to fight with them. You want to stand at their side and tell them you know how strong they are, that this is something temporary and this too shall pass. You’ve seen them come back from darker moments but you’re not sure if this is the one that breaks the camel’s back.

You want to be their strength in this time of weakness. You want to carry them on your back as their knees get weaker and weaker and standing becomes almost too much for them to bear. As life kicks them square in the jaw, you’re the one picking them up every time and reminding them they can do this. They can get through this.

How do I know about the pain you’re feeling while struggling to love your loved one? I see that same pain in the faces of the people who love me every time I feel like giving up. I hear the determination in their voice to try to save me when I’m at my lowest point in my depression.

I feel their love when the numbness takes over my entire body and getting out of bed isn’t going to happen that day.

I fully believe people with mental illnesses are warriors who are so strong, embracing their struggles and dealing with their shit. I also know that their loved ones, our loved ones, are heroes. Sometimes our loved ones are the only shining beacon of light in dark and painful times.

I know it’s hard for me to appreciate those people when I’m struggling. It’s hard for me to remember every single person who showers me with unconditional love when my heart is broken into millions of little pieces. Those people crouch beside me and help me pick up the pieces time and time again. They lie next to me when I can’t get out of bed and comfort me by just being there.

I know there’s things you wish you could do — a way to take the pain away that’s plaguing your loved one so bad right now. I know there’s a need to fix everything. I also know there’s a helplessness you feel when you realize that sometimes you can’t do something to help. Sometimes there isn’t a right thing to say. Sometimes there isn’t a right thing to do. No matter what, the love you give is enough. It’s enough to be just a phone call away. It’s enough to just give us a hug when things feel like they’re collapsing. It’s enough to just be there.

So this is an appreciation to all the loved ones out there who are loving the shit out of people with mental illnesses. This is also for the people who don’t turn their back when someone is struggling to deal with their own heartache. This is for the people who continuously love no matter what.

You are appreciated for being you and for loving us when we need it most. Thank you.

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Unsplash photo via Evan Kirby

Originally published: May 17, 2017
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