Mike McBride

@mikemcbride | contributor
A survivor of childhood abuse, major depression and fugue states. Now blogging to connect with other survivors about healing and overcoming at https://www.childabusesurvivor.net
Mike McBride

The Danger in Invalidating Someone's Mental Health Experience

I have shared about the importance of validating someone’s story when it comes to abuse or mental health, but I saw something later that made me want to write more about the little ways we invalidate someone’s experience. It all started with this story, where Heidi shares what is probably not an uncommon scenario: “The first time I needed to go to the hospital for mental health reasons, I was in my early 20s and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen. I had nearly no familiarity with talking openly to anyone about my inner workings, let alone to strangers. Eventually, you, the doctor, commenced with asking me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to respond. I froze while searching for my words. And that’s when you said “it.” “Did your boyfriend break up with you?” I stared back bewildered, and eventually replied:“I don’t have a boyfriend.”You: “Oh, is that why you’re sad?”Me, in disbelief: “… No.”” What we see here is a young woman in distress because of a mental health condition and having the doctor, and others, ask questions that appear to be very dismissive. Tying a major depressive episode to being sad about a breakup. Because you know, young women get all “in their feels” when they have a breakup, so it’s probably nothing more than that. Except major depression is more than that! Someone heading to a hospital for mental health care is not sad a boy doesn’t like them anymore, is not hormonal, and is not angry about not getting a job, or even looking for a break from a stressful job. They are sick, in every meaning of that word, and they need treatment from caring and compassionate health workers. We could go on about the inherent sexism in Heidi’s story, but I leave that to her to tell by following the link above. What I want to talk about is the dismissiveness, because that really cuts across all genders and people who are struggling. As I consider mental health struggles there has always been a standard list of things people say that while maybe not meaning to be dismissive, are. And when someone dismisses our story or our situation, it can have some really negative impacts. Things like: “It’s not that bad” “Are you just tired?” “You need more exercise, or to eat healthier” “Just stop being so negative” Every one of these comes across as you wanting to provide an easy answer so that you can stop having to think about mental health. You need them to get better because they’re bringing you down, so it’s frankly easier for you to be dismissive, as opposed to trying to validate what someone is feeling or going through. That might require more time talking and thinking about mental illness, and who wants to do that? Yet, that’s exactly what helps someone feel validated. Being able to tell their story to someone willing to not dismiss it. We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult: “You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well) “Are you sure it was abuse?” “I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could you have let that happen?” Sadly, I’ve seen these phrases applied to adults in abusive relationships, and I’ve also seen them applied to children by people who clearly do not understand how incredibly hurtful they are to hear. Again, abuse is not a subject many of us want to talk about, or even think about. It’s dark, painful and ugly. Knowing that someone we care about was, or is being, abused is painful. It hurts, and often we want to avoid that hurt, so again we find a way to question it. To dismiss this person in front of us who is dealing with that same uncomfortableness, only more so because it’s their story, they don’t get to walk away from it. These are not things they want to hear. Hearing them usually leads to an immediate shutdown. A decision that my story is too much, that I need to go back to being quiet, possibly even go back to being abused, because there’s no one willing to even validate what I’m going through, let alone support me through it. And that silence kills people. Don’t doubt that for a second. Please keep that in mind before you speak. That person sharing their story doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems, they just need you to know, to be there with them, and validate that what they are feeling is real and OK. That’s not that hard when you think about it, but it will be uncomfortable. Is someone else’s life worth some discomfort to you? I sure hope it is. The original version of this article appeared on the author’s blog.

Mike McBride

The Danger in Invalidating Someone's Mental Health Experience

I have shared about the importance of validating someone’s story when it comes to abuse or mental health, but I saw something later that made me want to write more about the little ways we invalidate someone’s experience. It all started with this story, where Heidi shares what is probably not an uncommon scenario: “The first time I needed to go to the hospital for mental health reasons, I was in my early 20s and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen. I had nearly no familiarity with talking openly to anyone about my inner workings, let alone to strangers. Eventually, you, the doctor, commenced with asking me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to respond. I froze while searching for my words. And that’s when you said “it.” “Did your boyfriend break up with you?” I stared back bewildered, and eventually replied:“I don’t have a boyfriend.”You: “Oh, is that why you’re sad?”Me, in disbelief: “… No.”” What we see here is a young woman in distress because of a mental health condition and having the doctor, and others, ask questions that appear to be very dismissive. Tying a major depressive episode to being sad about a breakup. Because you know, young women get all “in their feels” when they have a breakup, so it’s probably nothing more than that. Except major depression is more than that! Someone heading to a hospital for mental health care is not sad a boy doesn’t like them anymore, is not hormonal, and is not angry about not getting a job, or even looking for a break from a stressful job. They are sick, in every meaning of that word, and they need treatment from caring and compassionate health workers. We could go on about the inherent sexism in Heidi’s story, but I leave that to her to tell by following the link above. What I want to talk about is the dismissiveness, because that really cuts across all genders and people who are struggling. As I consider mental health struggles there has always been a standard list of things people say that while maybe not meaning to be dismissive, are. And when someone dismisses our story or our situation, it can have some really negative impacts. Things like: “It’s not that bad” “Are you just tired?” “You need more exercise, or to eat healthier” “Just stop being so negative” Every one of these comes across as you wanting to provide an easy answer so that you can stop having to think about mental health. You need them to get better because they’re bringing you down, so it’s frankly easier for you to be dismissive, as opposed to trying to validate what someone is feeling or going through. That might require more time talking and thinking about mental illness, and who wants to do that? Yet, that’s exactly what helps someone feel validated. Being able to tell their story to someone willing to not dismiss it. We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult: “You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well) “Are you sure it was abuse?” “I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could you have let that happen?” Sadly, I’ve seen these phrases applied to adults in abusive relationships, and I’ve also seen them applied to children by people who clearly do not understand how incredibly hurtful they are to hear. Again, abuse is not a subject many of us want to talk about, or even think about. It’s dark, painful and ugly. Knowing that someone we care about was, or is being, abused is painful. It hurts, and often we want to avoid that hurt, so again we find a way to question it. To dismiss this person in front of us who is dealing with that same uncomfortableness, only more so because it’s their story, they don’t get to walk away from it. These are not things they want to hear. Hearing them usually leads to an immediate shutdown. A decision that my story is too much, that I need to go back to being quiet, possibly even go back to being abused, because there’s no one willing to even validate what I’m going through, let alone support me through it. And that silence kills people. Don’t doubt that for a second. Please keep that in mind before you speak. That person sharing their story doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems, they just need you to know, to be there with them, and validate that what they are feeling is real and OK. That’s not that hard when you think about it, but it will be uncomfortable. Is someone else’s life worth some discomfort to you? I sure hope it is. The original version of this article appeared on the author’s blog.

Mike McBride

The Danger in Invalidating Someone's Mental Health Experience

I have shared about the importance of validating someone’s story when it comes to abuse or mental health, but I saw something later that made me want to write more about the little ways we invalidate someone’s experience. It all started with this story, where Heidi shares what is probably not an uncommon scenario: “The first time I needed to go to the hospital for mental health reasons, I was in my early 20s and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen. I had nearly no familiarity with talking openly to anyone about my inner workings, let alone to strangers. Eventually, you, the doctor, commenced with asking me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to respond. I froze while searching for my words. And that’s when you said “it.” “Did your boyfriend break up with you?” I stared back bewildered, and eventually replied:“I don’t have a boyfriend.”You: “Oh, is that why you’re sad?”Me, in disbelief: “… No.”” What we see here is a young woman in distress because of a mental health condition and having the doctor, and others, ask questions that appear to be very dismissive. Tying a major depressive episode to being sad about a breakup. Because you know, young women get all “in their feels” when they have a breakup, so it’s probably nothing more than that. Except major depression is more than that! Someone heading to a hospital for mental health care is not sad a boy doesn’t like them anymore, is not hormonal, and is not angry about not getting a job, or even looking for a break from a stressful job. They are sick, in every meaning of that word, and they need treatment from caring and compassionate health workers. We could go on about the inherent sexism in Heidi’s story, but I leave that to her to tell by following the link above. What I want to talk about is the dismissiveness, because that really cuts across all genders and people who are struggling. As I consider mental health struggles there has always been a standard list of things people say that while maybe not meaning to be dismissive, are. And when someone dismisses our story or our situation, it can have some really negative impacts. Things like: “It’s not that bad” “Are you just tired?” “You need more exercise, or to eat healthier” “Just stop being so negative” Every one of these comes across as you wanting to provide an easy answer so that you can stop having to think about mental health. You need them to get better because they’re bringing you down, so it’s frankly easier for you to be dismissive, as opposed to trying to validate what someone is feeling or going through. That might require more time talking and thinking about mental illness, and who wants to do that? Yet, that’s exactly what helps someone feel validated. Being able to tell their story to someone willing to not dismiss it. We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult: “You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well) “Are you sure it was abuse?” “I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could you have let that happen?” Sadly, I’ve seen these phrases applied to adults in abusive relationships, and I’ve also seen them applied to children by people who clearly do not understand how incredibly hurtful they are to hear. Again, abuse is not a subject many of us want to talk about, or even think about. It’s dark, painful and ugly. Knowing that someone we care about was, or is being, abused is painful. It hurts, and often we want to avoid that hurt, so again we find a way to question it. To dismiss this person in front of us who is dealing with that same uncomfortableness, only more so because it’s their story, they don’t get to walk away from it. These are not things they want to hear. Hearing them usually leads to an immediate shutdown. A decision that my story is too much, that I need to go back to being quiet, possibly even go back to being abused, because there’s no one willing to even validate what I’m going through, let alone support me through it. And that silence kills people. Don’t doubt that for a second. Please keep that in mind before you speak. That person sharing their story doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems, they just need you to know, to be there with them, and validate that what they are feeling is real and OK. That’s not that hard when you think about it, but it will be uncomfortable. Is someone else’s life worth some discomfort to you? I sure hope it is. The original version of this article appeared on the author’s blog.

Mike McBride

The Danger in Invalidating Someone's Mental Health Experience

I have shared about the importance of validating someone’s story when it comes to abuse or mental health, but I saw something later that made me want to write more about the little ways we invalidate someone’s experience. It all started with this story, where Heidi shares what is probably not an uncommon scenario: “The first time I needed to go to the hospital for mental health reasons, I was in my early 20s and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen. I had nearly no familiarity with talking openly to anyone about my inner workings, let alone to strangers. Eventually, you, the doctor, commenced with asking me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to respond. I froze while searching for my words. And that’s when you said “it.” “Did your boyfriend break up with you?” I stared back bewildered, and eventually replied:“I don’t have a boyfriend.”You: “Oh, is that why you’re sad?”Me, in disbelief: “… No.”” What we see here is a young woman in distress because of a mental health condition and having the doctor, and others, ask questions that appear to be very dismissive. Tying a major depressive episode to being sad about a breakup. Because you know, young women get all “in their feels” when they have a breakup, so it’s probably nothing more than that. Except major depression is more than that! Someone heading to a hospital for mental health care is not sad a boy doesn’t like them anymore, is not hormonal, and is not angry about not getting a job, or even looking for a break from a stressful job. They are sick, in every meaning of that word, and they need treatment from caring and compassionate health workers. We could go on about the inherent sexism in Heidi’s story, but I leave that to her to tell by following the link above. What I want to talk about is the dismissiveness, because that really cuts across all genders and people who are struggling. As I consider mental health struggles there has always been a standard list of things people say that while maybe not meaning to be dismissive, are. And when someone dismisses our story or our situation, it can have some really negative impacts. Things like: “It’s not that bad” “Are you just tired?” “You need more exercise, or to eat healthier” “Just stop being so negative” Every one of these comes across as you wanting to provide an easy answer so that you can stop having to think about mental health. You need them to get better because they’re bringing you down, so it’s frankly easier for you to be dismissive, as opposed to trying to validate what someone is feeling or going through. That might require more time talking and thinking about mental illness, and who wants to do that? Yet, that’s exactly what helps someone feel validated. Being able to tell their story to someone willing to not dismiss it. We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult: “You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well) “Are you sure it was abuse?” “I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could you have let that happen?” Sadly, I’ve seen these phrases applied to adults in abusive relationships, and I’ve also seen them applied to children by people who clearly do not understand how incredibly hurtful they are to hear. Again, abuse is not a subject many of us want to talk about, or even think about. It’s dark, painful and ugly. Knowing that someone we care about was, or is being, abused is painful. It hurts, and often we want to avoid that hurt, so again we find a way to question it. To dismiss this person in front of us who is dealing with that same uncomfortableness, only more so because it’s their story, they don’t get to walk away from it. These are not things they want to hear. Hearing them usually leads to an immediate shutdown. A decision that my story is too much, that I need to go back to being quiet, possibly even go back to being abused, because there’s no one willing to even validate what I’m going through, let alone support me through it. And that silence kills people. Don’t doubt that for a second. Please keep that in mind before you speak. That person sharing their story doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems, they just need you to know, to be there with them, and validate that what they are feeling is real and OK. That’s not that hard when you think about it, but it will be uncomfortable. Is someone else’s life worth some discomfort to you? I sure hope it is. The original version of this article appeared on the author’s blog.

Mike McBride

The Danger in Invalidating Someone's Mental Health Experience

I have shared about the importance of validating someone’s story when it comes to abuse or mental health, but I saw something later that made me want to write more about the little ways we invalidate someone’s experience. It all started with this story, where Heidi shares what is probably not an uncommon scenario: “The first time I needed to go to the hospital for mental health reasons, I was in my early 20s and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen. I had nearly no familiarity with talking openly to anyone about my inner workings, let alone to strangers. Eventually, you, the doctor, commenced with asking me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to respond. I froze while searching for my words. And that’s when you said “it.” “Did your boyfriend break up with you?” I stared back bewildered, and eventually replied:“I don’t have a boyfriend.”You: “Oh, is that why you’re sad?”Me, in disbelief: “… No.”” What we see here is a young woman in distress because of a mental health condition and having the doctor, and others, ask questions that appear to be very dismissive. Tying a major depressive episode to being sad about a breakup. Because you know, young women get all “in their feels” when they have a breakup, so it’s probably nothing more than that. Except major depression is more than that! Someone heading to a hospital for mental health care is not sad a boy doesn’t like them anymore, is not hormonal, and is not angry about not getting a job, or even looking for a break from a stressful job. They are sick, in every meaning of that word, and they need treatment from caring and compassionate health workers. We could go on about the inherent sexism in Heidi’s story, but I leave that to her to tell by following the link above. What I want to talk about is the dismissiveness, because that really cuts across all genders and people who are struggling. As I consider mental health struggles there has always been a standard list of things people say that while maybe not meaning to be dismissive, are. And when someone dismisses our story or our situation, it can have some really negative impacts. Things like: “It’s not that bad” “Are you just tired?” “You need more exercise, or to eat healthier” “Just stop being so negative” Every one of these comes across as you wanting to provide an easy answer so that you can stop having to think about mental health. You need them to get better because they’re bringing you down, so it’s frankly easier for you to be dismissive, as opposed to trying to validate what someone is feeling or going through. That might require more time talking and thinking about mental illness, and who wants to do that? Yet, that’s exactly what helps someone feel validated. Being able to tell their story to someone willing to not dismiss it. We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult: “You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well) “Are you sure it was abuse?” “I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could you have let that happen?” Sadly, I’ve seen these phrases applied to adults in abusive relationships, and I’ve also seen them applied to children by people who clearly do not understand how incredibly hurtful they are to hear. Again, abuse is not a subject many of us want to talk about, or even think about. It’s dark, painful and ugly. Knowing that someone we care about was, or is being, abused is painful. It hurts, and often we want to avoid that hurt, so again we find a way to question it. To dismiss this person in front of us who is dealing with that same uncomfortableness, only more so because it’s their story, they don’t get to walk away from it. These are not things they want to hear. Hearing them usually leads to an immediate shutdown. A decision that my story is too much, that I need to go back to being quiet, possibly even go back to being abused, because there’s no one willing to even validate what I’m going through, let alone support me through it. And that silence kills people. Don’t doubt that for a second. Please keep that in mind before you speak. That person sharing their story doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems, they just need you to know, to be there with them, and validate that what they are feeling is real and OK. That’s not that hard when you think about it, but it will be uncomfortable. Is someone else’s life worth some discomfort to you? I sure hope it is. The original version of this article appeared on the author’s blog.

Mike McBride

The Danger in Invalidating Someone's Mental Health Experience

I have shared about the importance of validating someone’s story when it comes to abuse or mental health, but I saw something later that made me want to write more about the little ways we invalidate someone’s experience. It all started with this story, where Heidi shares what is probably not an uncommon scenario: “The first time I needed to go to the hospital for mental health reasons, I was in my early 20s and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen. I had nearly no familiarity with talking openly to anyone about my inner workings, let alone to strangers. Eventually, you, the doctor, commenced with asking me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to respond. I froze while searching for my words. And that’s when you said “it.” “Did your boyfriend break up with you?” I stared back bewildered, and eventually replied:“I don’t have a boyfriend.”You: “Oh, is that why you’re sad?”Me, in disbelief: “… No.”” What we see here is a young woman in distress because of a mental health condition and having the doctor, and others, ask questions that appear to be very dismissive. Tying a major depressive episode to being sad about a breakup. Because you know, young women get all “in their feels” when they have a breakup, so it’s probably nothing more than that. Except major depression is more than that! Someone heading to a hospital for mental health care is not sad a boy doesn’t like them anymore, is not hormonal, and is not angry about not getting a job, or even looking for a break from a stressful job. They are sick, in every meaning of that word, and they need treatment from caring and compassionate health workers. We could go on about the inherent sexism in Heidi’s story, but I leave that to her to tell by following the link above. What I want to talk about is the dismissiveness, because that really cuts across all genders and people who are struggling. As I consider mental health struggles there has always been a standard list of things people say that while maybe not meaning to be dismissive, are. And when someone dismisses our story or our situation, it can have some really negative impacts. Things like: “It’s not that bad” “Are you just tired?” “You need more exercise, or to eat healthier” “Just stop being so negative” Every one of these comes across as you wanting to provide an easy answer so that you can stop having to think about mental health. You need them to get better because they’re bringing you down, so it’s frankly easier for you to be dismissive, as opposed to trying to validate what someone is feeling or going through. That might require more time talking and thinking about mental illness, and who wants to do that? Yet, that’s exactly what helps someone feel validated. Being able to tell their story to someone willing to not dismiss it. We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult: “You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well) “Are you sure it was abuse?” “I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could you have let that happen?” Sadly, I’ve seen these phrases applied to adults in abusive relationships, and I’ve also seen them applied to children by people who clearly do not understand how incredibly hurtful they are to hear. Again, abuse is not a subject many of us want to talk about, or even think about. It’s dark, painful and ugly. Knowing that someone we care about was, or is being, abused is painful. It hurts, and often we want to avoid that hurt, so again we find a way to question it. To dismiss this person in front of us who is dealing with that same uncomfortableness, only more so because it’s their story, they don’t get to walk away from it. These are not things they want to hear. Hearing them usually leads to an immediate shutdown. A decision that my story is too much, that I need to go back to being quiet, possibly even go back to being abused, because there’s no one willing to even validate what I’m going through, let alone support me through it. And that silence kills people. Don’t doubt that for a second. Please keep that in mind before you speak. That person sharing their story doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems, they just need you to know, to be there with them, and validate that what they are feeling is real and OK. That’s not that hard when you think about it, but it will be uncomfortable. Is someone else’s life worth some discomfort to you? I sure hope it is. The original version of this article appeared on the author’s blog.

Mike McBride

The Danger in Invalidating Someone's Mental Health Experience

I have shared about the importance of validating someone’s story when it comes to abuse or mental health, but I saw something later that made me want to write more about the little ways we invalidate someone’s experience. It all started with this story, where Heidi shares what is probably not an uncommon scenario: “The first time I needed to go to the hospital for mental health reasons, I was in my early 20s and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen. I had nearly no familiarity with talking openly to anyone about my inner workings, let alone to strangers. Eventually, you, the doctor, commenced with asking me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to respond. I froze while searching for my words. And that’s when you said “it.” “Did your boyfriend break up with you?” I stared back bewildered, and eventually replied:“I don’t have a boyfriend.”You: “Oh, is that why you’re sad?”Me, in disbelief: “… No.”” What we see here is a young woman in distress because of a mental health condition and having the doctor, and others, ask questions that appear to be very dismissive. Tying a major depressive episode to being sad about a breakup. Because you know, young women get all “in their feels” when they have a breakup, so it’s probably nothing more than that. Except major depression is more than that! Someone heading to a hospital for mental health care is not sad a boy doesn’t like them anymore, is not hormonal, and is not angry about not getting a job, or even looking for a break from a stressful job. They are sick, in every meaning of that word, and they need treatment from caring and compassionate health workers. We could go on about the inherent sexism in Heidi’s story, but I leave that to her to tell by following the link above. What I want to talk about is the dismissiveness, because that really cuts across all genders and people who are struggling. As I consider mental health struggles there has always been a standard list of things people say that while maybe not meaning to be dismissive, are. And when someone dismisses our story or our situation, it can have some really negative impacts. Things like: “It’s not that bad” “Are you just tired?” “You need more exercise, or to eat healthier” “Just stop being so negative” Every one of these comes across as you wanting to provide an easy answer so that you can stop having to think about mental health. You need them to get better because they’re bringing you down, so it’s frankly easier for you to be dismissive, as opposed to trying to validate what someone is feeling or going through. That might require more time talking and thinking about mental illness, and who wants to do that? Yet, that’s exactly what helps someone feel validated. Being able to tell their story to someone willing to not dismiss it. We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult: “You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well) “Are you sure it was abuse?” “I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could you have let that happen?” Sadly, I’ve seen these phrases applied to adults in abusive relationships, and I’ve also seen them applied to children by people who clearly do not understand how incredibly hurtful they are to hear. Again, abuse is not a subject many of us want to talk about, or even think about. It’s dark, painful and ugly. Knowing that someone we care about was, or is being, abused is painful. It hurts, and often we want to avoid that hurt, so again we find a way to question it. To dismiss this person in front of us who is dealing with that same uncomfortableness, only more so because it’s their story, they don’t get to walk away from it. These are not things they want to hear. Hearing them usually leads to an immediate shutdown. A decision that my story is too much, that I need to go back to being quiet, possibly even go back to being abused, because there’s no one willing to even validate what I’m going through, let alone support me through it. And that silence kills people. Don’t doubt that for a second. Please keep that in mind before you speak. That person sharing their story doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems, they just need you to know, to be there with them, and validate that what they are feeling is real and OK. That’s not that hard when you think about it, but it will be uncomfortable. Is someone else’s life worth some discomfort to you? I sure hope it is. The original version of this article appeared on the author’s blog.

Amayah Rees
Amayah Rees @jojoba
contributor

When You Have a Lifelong Struggle With PTSD and Depression

A lot of people can pinpoint a time when they lost their mental health. When depression or anxiety began. I’ve heard people wish their life could go back to the way it was before, the way it used to be. Each time I’ve seen a new psychologist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist etc., they have asked when it all began. How old was I? What was I doing at the time? How did I know something was wrong? I’ve never been able to answer those questions, not to the practitioners satisfaction anyway. You see, there was no “before.” My earliest memories are of abuse, which resulted in hypervigilence, anxiety, depression and self-harm. That was my life. And I hated it. I wasn’t a happy child. I wasn’t a confident child. I didn’t do well at school. I didn’t have friends. I wasn’t capable of socializing. I was different. I didn’t fit in. I was a very serious child. I was overly concerned about cancer, the war in Iraq and the end of the world. Most of these issues were largely the result of trauma and the resulting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As I got older, my depression gradually became worse. There came a point when the PTSD combined with the depression left me unable to function. I dropped out of school in year 11 to sleep all day on the couch. That was my existence for several years. That was the extent to which I could function. My mental health continued to deteriorate for many years, despite medication and therapy (more trauma was added by “professionals” trying to “help” me, so obviously that didn’t help). Sometimes, if I was lucky, it would plateau for a bit. I can’t pinpoint a time when it all happened. I can pinpoint a time when it became worse, but I feel that for the most part, I was born this way because I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t this way. I’m nearly 40 years old now and there is no before and there has been no after. I have no “before” to hold on to and no “after” to keep my hope alive. So while some people wish they could go back to “before,” all I can do is wish that I had a “before.” I wish I had a “normal” part of my life or at least a part where I felt normal. I like to imagine that maybe I’ll have an “after,” but as the years continue to pass, I lose hope.

Mike McBride

The Danger in Invalidating Someone's Mental Health Experience

I have shared about the importance of validating someone’s story when it comes to abuse or mental health, but I saw something later that made me want to write more about the little ways we invalidate someone’s experience. It all started with this story, where Heidi shares what is probably not an uncommon scenario: “The first time I needed to go to the hospital for mental health reasons, I was in my early 20s and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen. I had nearly no familiarity with talking openly to anyone about my inner workings, let alone to strangers. Eventually, you, the doctor, commenced with asking me what was wrong. I didn’t know how to respond. I froze while searching for my words. And that’s when you said “it.” “Did your boyfriend break up with you?” I stared back bewildered, and eventually replied:“I don’t have a boyfriend.”You: “Oh, is that why you’re sad?”Me, in disbelief: “… No.”” What we see here is a young woman in distress because of a mental health condition and having the doctor, and others, ask questions that appear to be very dismissive. Tying a major depressive episode to being sad about a breakup. Because you know, young women get all “in their feels” when they have a breakup, so it’s probably nothing more than that. Except major depression is more than that! Someone heading to a hospital for mental health care is not sad a boy doesn’t like them anymore, is not hormonal, and is not angry about not getting a job, or even looking for a break from a stressful job. They are sick, in every meaning of that word, and they need treatment from caring and compassionate health workers. We could go on about the inherent sexism in Heidi’s story, but I leave that to her to tell by following the link above. What I want to talk about is the dismissiveness, because that really cuts across all genders and people who are struggling. As I consider mental health struggles there has always been a standard list of things people say that while maybe not meaning to be dismissive, are. And when someone dismisses our story or our situation, it can have some really negative impacts. Things like: “It’s not that bad” “Are you just tired?” “You need more exercise, or to eat healthier” “Just stop being so negative” Every one of these comes across as you wanting to provide an easy answer so that you can stop having to think about mental health. You need them to get better because they’re bringing you down, so it’s frankly easier for you to be dismissive, as opposed to trying to validate what someone is feeling or going through. That might require more time talking and thinking about mental illness, and who wants to do that? Yet, that’s exactly what helps someone feel validated. Being able to tell their story to someone willing to not dismiss it. We could also talk about abuse here too, and all the ways our stories all invalidated. How many of these have you heard from folks who find out about the abuse you dealt with as a child, or even as an adult: “You were young, you’ll get over it” (Or you don’t remember it that well) “Are you sure it was abuse?” “I can’t imagine (abuser) doing that” “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could you have let that happen?” Sadly, I’ve seen these phrases applied to adults in abusive relationships, and I’ve also seen them applied to children by people who clearly do not understand how incredibly hurtful they are to hear. Again, abuse is not a subject many of us want to talk about, or even think about. It’s dark, painful and ugly. Knowing that someone we care about was, or is being, abused is painful. It hurts, and often we want to avoid that hurt, so again we find a way to question it. To dismiss this person in front of us who is dealing with that same uncomfortableness, only more so because it’s their story, they don’t get to walk away from it. These are not things they want to hear. Hearing them usually leads to an immediate shutdown. A decision that my story is too much, that I need to go back to being quiet, possibly even go back to being abused, because there’s no one willing to even validate what I’m going through, let alone support me through it. And that silence kills people. Don’t doubt that for a second. Please keep that in mind before you speak. That person sharing their story doesn’t need you to solve all of their problems, they just need you to know, to be there with them, and validate that what they are feeling is real and OK. That’s not that hard when you think about it, but it will be uncomfortable. Is someone else’s life worth some discomfort to you? I sure hope it is. The original version of this article appeared on the author’s blog.

Mike McBride

Shame at Needing to Tell Work You're Struggling With Depression

A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog during the week of Jan 6. I had to follow my own advice yesterday, and do something that wasn’t easy, and made me feel weak. I had to admit that I’m not OK. My workplace is having a virtual social event for our department today. Something light-hearted and fun that would help us all toast the new year. On Thursday morning, I woke up and sent an email to my boss, his boss and our department head saying that I wouldn’t be participating. That I appreciate the planning and effort being put into this event, but that I also can’t find it within myself to celebrate anything this week. I had to admit that staying focused long enough to get any work done is a massive struggle right now, and I don’t think I have it in me to be social with the team on top of that. And then, the emails and chat messages started. It was all three of them, each in their own way, checking in on me, asking what they could do to help me, beyond just not attending this event. They were all the things every workplace should do when an employee is struggling, they were all the exact things I tell people to do, and try to do for friends and coworkers in the same situation. I should feel grateful to work in an organization that takes this seriously, and I do. But, I also felt weak. I felt disappointed with myself for not being as OK as everyone else who will be participating. I chided myself for letting the anger I feel about the world this week get the better of me, to get me off my game, for being unprofessional. In short, I feel like I am all of the things that I tell other people that they aren’t when they’re not OK. This brings me no joy to admit. There are tears in my eyes as I type this, admitting to my own failings, knowing that there are people out there, and in my own home, worried that I’m not going to be OK, and because of my shame at needing help, despite years of telling others that there’s no shame in it. But, I also know that these feelings of shame come from my own battles with stigma, not from reality. I might feel ashamed, but there is no shame in not being OK. Not ever, but certainly not this week either. I’m angry, and I have not yet found a positive way to channel that anger. I hope I will, and as I told one of those folks checking in on me about the wine the company sent me to enjoy during this event, when I do find a positive way to channel this anger towards making a change in the world, I will pop the cork and drink it then. For now, though, I’m just not OK. And there’s no shame in that.