As someone who confronts mental health challenges everyday, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. And now it’s May, so we all get the opportunity to learn and grow our understanding of how important mental health awareness truly is.
If you’ve been reading or following us for any length of time, you know we are a large DID system (for those new, DID is dissociative identity disorder formerly known as multiple personality disorder). This is one of the most misunderstood and controversial mental health challenges in our world today. Media portrayals have hurt awareness far more than they’ve helped, and many of us who face these challenges daily are hesitant to let people get close enough to actually learn.
That has to change if we ever want to grow awareness. Back in 2019 we attended a Celebrate Recovery Summit where the theme revolved around stepping out of anonymity. It’s time to step out of anonymity and share some tips that may help others like us open up to you, and may help you step into our worlds.
What not to do
I’m choosing to start with some things to avoid, because these are usually the things people worry most about. This is not a specific list, it’s a list of generalities.
1). Please refrain from saying things along the lines of “let me know if you need anything”, “tell me how I can help”, etc. While the intention here is awesome, it actually isn’t helpful. This applies to far more than DID. People struggling with mental health issues and grief aren’t going to tell you what they need, for the most part. Mostly because our minds are so busy we have no idea what we need. We are barely making it some days and don’t have the extra thought processes available to figure out what we need and accurately convey that to you. We want your help, we just don’t know what we want the help to look like or what we need it to look like. Occasionally, what we think we need is the absolute opposite of what we do actually need.
2). If you are unsure of what to say, don’t be silent. Silence is not golden here. Silence typically represents rejection in the minds of those struggling. Your silence may be your way of not wanting to cause any more pain. I get that. I absolutely understand being wary of saying anything that causes more pain for the people you care about. Be honest about that. Even saying, “I don’t know what to say right now but I’m here with you” can go a long way.
WHAT TO DO
1). Be consistent. If you say you will be there for a struggling loved one, be there. Send messages, texts, and reminders they are loved. Even if your messages go unanswered, keep doing it. You may not realize it, but these reminders and messages remind us that we aren’t forgettable, expendable, or easily cast away. These reminders challenge the negative thoughts and cut through the pain, even for a moment. That moment is a big deal.
2). Believe in what you are being told. You don’t have to agree with what’s being said once someone has decided to talk to you, but you do need to believe that what you are being told is their reality at that moment. Offer support, ask to hear more, and ask open ended questions. You will gain a greater understanding in these moments. You will earn trust and grow deeper in community with the person you are supporting. Phrases such as “That sounds hard, can you tell me more about that?” will go a long way in showing support and promoting your own understanding.
It takes a village to support each other. By following these few steps we not only learn to support others, but we learn how to find support for ourselves. It’s through those conversations that those of us struggling learn what helps us and we can apply it to helping others also. This is how we build a stronger society, a stronger community, and start on the road to erase stigma.