There’s a stigma attached to the mental health community that insinuates that all conditions are inherent. That the onset of any mental health affliction is gradual, or that you were born with it. This can certainly be the case, however, it isn’t so cut and dry.
It can feel like second nature to dismiss individuals who experience unexpected bouts of anxiety, panic, or heavy depression. The sheer magnitude of an attack is scary in itself; but to speak out loud about it only to be told ‘it’s all in your head’ is even more frightening. Mental Health conditions do not discriminate. Stability and happiness do not grant you immunity. Just because others may not see you in that light, does not mean that your experience is any less significant.
We think we know better because we know them, so our approach to their cries for help can seem harsh or dismissive. Some of us try to solve the problem right then and there, instead of listening or offering silent comfort.
Things happen. Seasons in our lives change. You can wake up one morning to an unexpected trauma, a failed relationship, or terrible news regarding your career…whatever the case may be, defining moments and circumstances leave us ALL open to an adverse physiological response. Our minds are mapped with intense, complicated pathways that sometime misfire. That’s OKAY, It’s OKAY.
Due to fear of rejection, it is easy to isolate when you are in the midst of an episode. Someone close to you could be giving off subconscious indications that something is not right. Pay attention to those you love. Things can go from zero to sixty in a matter of minutes.
Here are just a few red flags to be aware of:
- Their routine has shifted – When you’re battling to keep your head above water, it becomes an obsessive focal point. This leads to isolation, as well as a severe cut in social ties. Normal activities, gatherings, and behaviors are put on the back burner – they are living solely off of fight or flight. Work, School, Home; rinse and repeat. Everything else is just noise.
- They go from one extreme to the other – Much like their routine; their personality and reactions to situations shift. They are quick to anger, may be defensive, and are highly sensitive. Insomnia may heighten these emotions. They can almost seem manic – happy one moment, sobbing the next. They have a hard time finding joy in anything.
- They will not appear to want help, even if it’s all they want – When you reach out to them to ask if they are okay, 99.9% of the time they will tell you ‘they are fine’. As someone who is close to them, you will know that something is off. Don’t be pushy, but be persistent. Reach out frequently, and with a genuine sense of love and caring. Be patient.\
- They have stopped trying – if they normally dress nicely, do their hair, or keep their homes in immaculate condition, only to then turn around and do the exact opposite, this is a red flag. People stop caring about their overall appearance when they are in a bout. Hygiene and cleanliness are the least of their concerns. Waking up in the morning can seem like an impossible hurdle to overcome, so finding the motivation to shower or do the dishes is a moot point. Before reacting in disgust, try to understand where it’s coming from.
- They apologize for everything – They are already hating themselves at the moment, and feel like they are failing at life. Even if it seems excessive, they truly believe that most things are the result of their wrong doing, and will sulk in the guilt, berating themselves incessantly.
- They’re eating more or less than usual – if they are someone who goes from rarely eating to eating everything, or vice versa, this could be a direct result of how they are feeling inside.
- They seem absent-minded – They forget important dates, cannot retain information, and seem distracted, because they are. This is also a side effect of their bodies fight or flight response.
- They over analyze everything – What you forgot about the second it happened, they will obsess over for the next week. The anxiety and depression take hold of every single thought, action, and reaction to every situation; only to then pick it apart piece by piece. Their minds hold them hostage until they are absolutely convinced their existence is nothing but a burden.
- They defer conversations about themselves – they don’t want to discuss anything that touches on their feelings. They think they are being annoying, or that you won’t take them seriously, or will tell them something to dismiss what they are going through. Tread lightly when you approach them with your observations, as they may see it as a personal attack on their already fragile character.
It can be difficult to open up to others when you’re waging an internal battle that even you don’t understand. What’s worse, is that even though they mean well; those that love us most tend to react in the worst ways. It’s by no means intentional; but goes along with the saying ‘we hurt the ones we love the most’. We think we know better because we know them, so our approach to their cries for help can seem harsh. Some of us try to solve the problem right then and there, instead of listening or offering silent comfort.
Someone close to you could be giving off subconscious indications that something is not right. Pay attention to those you love.
At the end of the day, we all are fighting something inside of us, so a little kindness and empathy go a long way. The next time someone lays themselves out on the line in front of you; instead of internally eye-rolling, be intentional about your response, and open to the opportunity to have an authentic presence in their life.
Until then, Take care of you.