A girl with too many thoughts...

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Speaking With Family/Friends About Your Illness

One of the hardest things to face when suffering from a mental health disorder, is opening up to those around you. There are many things you might be worried about. Maybe you are concerned that they might not understand or will think less of you for having a mental health condition. Perhaps you are embarrassed or ashamed of some of your thoughts or behaviour and are worried that they might just think you're ‘crazy’.

These things all seem very scary, which makes it even more difficult to be honest with family and friends about your illness. However, once you have done it, you might find it to be a huge weight off your shoulders. Making those close to you aware that you are struggling, can come as a great relief and ease the pressure of having to hide your symptoms or make excuses for your behaviour. If they know the reason why, they are less likely to question you about why you might not want to do something or why you might be particularly down some days. It could just make it that little bit easier to deal with your mental health condition.

Chances are, those close to you have realised that something isn’t right. They may have noticed a change in your personality or behaviour. Maybe you don’t seem as happy and bubbly as you used to, or you are a lot more withdrawn and don’t go out as much. Don’t assume that admitting you are struggling is going to come as a massive shock to them – they probably know, but are just waiting for you to open up to them. If they know something is wrong, they are probably worried about you, but don’t know what to do to help. They might be waiting for you to say something to them, rather than the other way around.

I know that when I was struggling particularly badly with OCD, my friends definitely realised something was wrong with me. I was usually extremely energetic and happy. I’d say I used to be a pretty optimistic and positive person most of the time. Then, I suddenly changed quite rapidly. I was a lot more distant from my friends, not really bothering to keep in contact or be involved in anything they were doing. They noticed that I was always low, and didn’t really make the effort to speak to them much. They probably also noticed that I wasn’t taking as much care of my appearance, although they keep telling me I looked fine (I know I didn’t!)

I knew that they knew something was up, but because I hadn’t really broached the subject with them, it made the whole situation a lot more awkward. When I did tell them that my mental health had gone downhill and I was going to be getting help, they understood straight away and didn’t treat me any differently for it. All it meant was that they understood more why I was being how I was, which came as a relief to me because I didn’t feel the pressure to pretend everything was okay anymore or make excuses all of the time.
Of course, it needs to be a time when you feel ready. Opening up to those you feel comfortable around, those that you trust, could be a great place to start. For example, you could speak to your parents first, or a really close friend that you know will understand. I am lucky that I have a very close relationship with my Mum, who  could see the signs before I even had to say anything to her. She picked up on the fact that I was struggling and encouraged me to seek help. She has supported me throughout the whole process, from initially going to the doctor to being patient with me whilst I try to figure things out and recover!

However, it doesn’t even need to be a family member or friend - perhaps you have a teacher that you feel you are able to talk to (if you are in school, obviously). Even just ringing up a helpline, anything that will help you to start opening up and get it off your chest. Just remember, there are people that will listen and offer their support, even if you feel alone or like you have nobody close to you that cares.


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