A number of my friends suffer from Anxiety or Depression: We helped each other stay grounded and make light of the world when it’s feeling particularly dark.
Some people are better at hiding it than others, and just as you think they’ve gotten over their worst days, they’re back to feeling low.
That’s the thing about mental health issues; they don’t go away for good, there’s always a part that stays with you – Whether it’s the fear or relapse, or a sudden emotional dip.
“Depression is a sort of monster. It sits inside your head and whispers things to you. It’s been with you since you were little, so it can exactly imitate your thoughts. When Depression speaks, it feels like the thoughts were your own.”
In light of this, I thought I’d write a two-sided guide for coping with Mental Health issues, as well as what to do when you want to help someone suffering.
For Those Suffering
Eating is one of the hardest, yet most important things to keep consistent: Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet each day can do you the world of good.
In my worst stages a few years back, I felt like eating was the only thing I was in control of. Most days I chose to eat as little as possible, just to prove to myself I was in control. In my head, I thought if I felt I looked good on the outside, I’d inevitably feel good on the inside.
I ended up pretty ill, feeling worse and becoming underweight. Whilst at the time it felt good to control the amount I was eating, I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s a destructive path and never the solution.
Eating is super simple yet can sometimes seem like a waste of time and effort if you’re feeling bad. But having a good diet helps your body stay healthy and alert – giving you more energy to fight off the low moods and the toxic thoughts.
2. Get some sleep
Insomnia is one of the many side effects of most mental illnesses: Be it Anxiety, Depression or anything else, it’s difficult to get to sleep with a head full of thoughts and voices. Sleep gives your brain time to relax and calm down, so it’s crucial for anyone suffering from overthinking and low moods. A few hours – or as much as you can get – can change your outlook on the upcoming day.
Whether it’s using mild sleeping pills, listening to peaceful songs, or using a meditation exercise before bed – try to have a good night’s sleep.
It’s usually a viscious circle between your body being exhausted and your mind on high alert; overthinking til the early morning, despite knowing you’ll feel better after some sleep.
3. Find your escapism
When living in the harsh world of your own mind, it can be difficult to see any form of good or happiness. You need an escape in place for times when everything gets a bit too hard: I struggled whilst at Uni and ending up having to quit in my first year because I couldn’t continue any longer. I didn’t really have an escape so I allowed myself to be engulfed by my own worries and moods. Please don’t follow in my footsteps: See a friend, have a hobby, write down what’s on your mind, or find a song that makes you automatically happy and force yourself to listen to it.
Whether you want to or not, light exercise throughout the week is scientifically proven to help people with mental health – it helps get rid or excess Adrenalin (which calm anxieties), release frustration, produces happy endorphins and helps you sleep better.
5. Talk to someone
I totally understand how hard it is to talk to friends and family. There’s the overwhelming worry that you’ll be a burden, they won’t care or worse; they won’t understand. But talking is a really important part of feeling better and getting to the point where you do talk to someone, is a really big and brave step. It could be your closest friend, a doctor or a complete stranger. Talking can help you make sense of things in your head, and it’s a good feeling to know that you’re not alone.
Helping Those Suffering
1. Talk to them
Talk, invite them places and send them texts just so they know you’re there. Not every conversation has to be negative and serious; generally speaking, people want to be treated no differently – so make sure to ask how they are but don’t pry too much. Talk about the latest gossip or what you’ve been up to.
I find that people talk to me a lot about problems of their own. It cheers me up knowing people trust me and come to me for advice, and helping them distracts me from my own thoughts.
It’s easy to push people away whilst feeling low or out of control – but as a friend, you need to make sure communication isn’t lost.
Inviting them places is also a really good and comforting thing to do – even if they don’t ever accept the invitation, keep trying – it shows that you’re there and thinking of them.
2. Don’t treat them any differently
I’ve found that when I’ve opened up to people about serious matters, our friendship or relationship has changed. People tend to be a lot more sensitive and questioning about your motives, your moods and your whereabouts. Whilst this seems like the good idea, it’s a little overwhelming and makes people close up and not talk about things. A good friend should be there if you want to talk seriously, but most importantly, help you to remember how fun and great life can be.
3. Look after yourself
I know that sounds a little selfish, but looking after yourself can inspire others to look after themselves, as well as making sure you’re strong and happy to help your friend in their time of need. By looking after yourself, it means you can look after your friend better, without being overwhelmed and worried about them.
4. Have someone to talk to yourself
Having someone depend on you can be really tough when alone. So make sure you’ve got other people to talk to when you’re concerned or upset.
So that’s that. From experience these are just some simple things I’ve found helpful as a sufferer as well as someone with suffering friends. The main thing to remember as a friend, is how you would want to be treated?
If you have any other questions or need advice, be sure to get in touch. Nobody has to go through these things alone. And if you’re worried about your own, or a friend’s mental health, contact your GP, or search for local helplines in your country/area.