Lena, July 24, 2019

“I have tried to be more positive. I have tried to just stop worrying. I have tried to be more grateful for what I have.”

Trying and trying...

I have tried pulling my socks up.
I have tried to stop thinking about myself so much.
I have tried to stop being selfish.
I have tried to keep myself busy.
I have tried not thinking those thoughts.
I have tried to think about others worse off than me.
I have tried to understand that everyone gets anxious.
I have tried to be more positive.
I have tried to just stop worrying.
I have tried to be more grateful for what I have.
I have tried to consider others feelings.
I have tried to pull myself together.
I have tried to focus on what matters.
I have tried to just get on with things.
I have tried to understand the impact I have on others when I am like this...
…more days than I can count.

Please don't say these things to someone with anxiety or depression and expect that you are providing help and support to them. 

These kinds of comments lead to more guilt, self-blame and self-hatred that we can't just think or act our way out of our difficulties in our lives. And this feeds the endless cycle of rumination, self-focus and negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger and disgust which are often already difficult to regulate.

I'm not saying that people with anxiety or depression do not hold responsibility for their behaviour. We absolutely need to own our approaches to seeking help, coping with difficult emotions and thoughts, our personal growth and eventual recovery.

But, in my experience, it can be more effective to help people in distress to them help themselves. You could let them know:

  • You hear their distress.
  • You care, even if you don't know how to help, ask would it help to listen?
  • Their feelings are valid, it's ok to express them.
  • It's ok not to be ok sometimes, try not to feel bad about feeling bad.
  • You may not understand it all so you may not know what to say.
  • You know they are trying hard.
  • It's important they consider how best they can take care of themselves right now.

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