August 12, 2013

LisaTalking tip - Talk, but listen too
Like many people with mental health issues, my experiences in talking to friends and family about it have been mixed to say the least! However I do definitely believe that things are improving, with greater awareness and understanding, due to sites like Time to Change.

One of the best experiences I’ve had in talking to someone who helped me has been with my mum.

My mum is in her late 60’s and she has always dealt with her own anxiety and life traumas in a very down to earth, ‘let’s just get on with it’ way. Before finding out I was ill, she would angrily talk about how depression didn’t exist in her day and that if anyone had a reason to be depressed, it was her. But when things were bad for me she did her best to listen and to understand, to not judge and to support me in lots of little ways.

What caused this to happen; to let her have her big change of opinion (not an easy thing for my mum!) was in realising that it wasn’t just her daughter being difficult. She discovered that other people were experiencing similar things. One of her neighbours explained to my mum exactly what a panic attack was, as the neighbour’s daughter had been going through the same thing, and told my mum how panic attacks can be completely disabling and frightening.

Mum’s impatience with me turned into sympathy

She came home in a thoughtful mood and, after that, everything changed. My mum’s impatience with me turned into sympathy and a desire to understand me better. Although she still thinks depression is a giant mystery that she’ll never entirely fathom, just knowing she’s there and willing to spend time on me is a great help.

I would say that if you can, encourage your nearest and dearest to do their own research into mental health and, more importantly, to not dismiss their findings as not being exactly relevant to you; which I did initially, snapping at my mum that it was different for me (-this was the illness talking, wanting to exclude me from help). At least then you are opening a dialogue, a safe space where you can share any thoughts you’ve been having.

She just listens and chats away about normal things

My mum doesn’t magically have all the answers but at least I don’t have to come up with a specific reason when I want to phone her and tell her I’m a bit down. She just listens, chats away about normal things and always leaves me feeling that I’ve left a bit of the pain behind me.

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