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When You Don’t Know How to Answer ‘What’s Wrong?’

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It’s difficult when someone asks, “Why are you feeling that way?” It’s a natural question, of course. However, it’s not one that’s easy to answer. This is because sometimes there simply isn’t an answer.

This can be really hard for people to accept, both the loved ones of those supporting someone with mental illness and the person themselves. This seems to be because it’s easier to help when you know what’s wrong. It offers options. You can talk about the issue, combat it in some way.

However, when you don’t know why you feel a certain way, it’s not so easy for anyone to know what to do. Unfortunately, despite popular belief that there’s always a trigger to someone’s mental illness, this is not always the case.

For example, as someone living with depression (as well as schizoaffective disorder), sometimes there are days where I wake up and just don’t feel OK. There doesn’t seem to be any tangible reason for it, which is the most frustrating part. It makes it extremely hard to move past and extremely hard to explain to anyone.

When people don’t get a response to “What’s wrong?” sometimes, some of them will feel so hopeless and frustrated, they will eventually give up and avoid someone who really needs help.

Many will say that talking about the problem will make you feel better, so what do you do when you don’t know what the problem is?

Personally, I try to think outside the box. If nothing specific has happened, I move to the physical. Have I been sleeping normally? Have I been eating OK?  Is it possible I’m getting sick? No?

Then it might be best to just accept it’s one of those days. Even those without mental illness can have bad days. It’s just that, for those of us with mental illness, our “bad days” can be accentuated.

This doesn’t mean you have to lie down and let it wash over you. But it does mean it’s OK to be easy on yourself on these days. Do what you can. Get up, take a shower, take care of yourself the best you can. Do something nice for yourself. If you feel up to it, try to fit in something constructive.

It’s easy for me to just sit in my chair and stare around at my bedroom, telling myself there’s nothing I can do to pull myself out of such a mood. For me, if I’m really down, distraction is key. I need to force myself  to do something (or have someone else help with this). This is often something simple at first, like turning the television on just to focus my attention on something else. After a while of this, I find my negative thoughts slowly start to dwindle. If my concentration allows, I will read a book or even try some writing.

Some people like to have company at these times. It’s really good if you have someone close to you to explain to them, “I’m having one of those days, so I might not be very talkative, but can you come over and we can watch a movie or something?” This takes the pressure off both parties and allows you not to feel so alone at a difficult time.

These things will be different for everyone, but I do think distraction is an important tool when you don’t know what’s wrong. It’s not about finding the root of the problem, because perhaps there is none — it’s just about getting through the day and reminding yourself that’s OK.

Most importantly, try to go to bed with the thought that yes, today was unpleasant, but it won’t last forever. As cliché as it is, tomorrow is a new day, and things will feel better.

Editor’s note: Any advice included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: August 9, 2016
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