Talking Things Through – Part 7 – When I Disappear

Welcome to part 7 of our Talking Things Through series!  If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out last week’s post about self-harm and some of the alternatives to it, though do be advised that it contains potential triggers.  In today’s post, however, we’re going to look at what happens when people disappear.  Let’st jump in!

To Disappear

Disappearance is something that has plagued me on both sides of the coin during the last few years.  Through my own experiences, I’ve seen the reasons why people will disappear but I’ve also been around someone who has needed to disappear and done so.  Because of this, it’s one of those topics that I’ve wanted to cover for some time.  After all, what do you do when someone disappears?  Is it always a bad thing?  Well…no, not really.

For many who struggle with depression or anxiety, the simple ability to disappear is a gift or a blessing.  Being able to just hide yourself away and struggle with your problems alone, in isolation, can be a great thing.  It allows us to recover without the watchful eyes of people.  That, in itself, can be a comfort.

But why do people do it?  Other than that isolation factor, what reasons could they have?  Given that it makes their loved ones or friends worry, why would they do it?  There a couple of reasons.  The first that I’d like to mention is simply a matter of energy.

Disappearance and the Mask

In Masks and Masquerades, I told you all about how depressed people will frequently put on a mask to hide their feelings from the outside world.  As mentioned in that post, maintaining these masks can take a lot of energy.  Whether we’re around friends or around strangers, we still maintain some modicum of control through that mask, shutting everyone out.  If we can convince you that we’re OK, perhaps we can convince ourselves.

On those days where the energy reserves are running low, however, things start to drop off one by one.  For me, communication is one of the biggest ones.  I will steadily stop replying to things as I shut myself away, trying to conserve what little energy I have left.  It’s one of those things I do to try and channel more energy into pushing myself through my spiral.

Communication with the outside world stops being guaranteed.  When I used to work at the bank, as soon as I left the building for the day I could stop putting energy into things.  Everything else became surplus.  Suddenly I wasn’t having to use energy for things, so I stopped.  I withdrew.  I disappeared.

All because of a lack of energy.

Disappearing and Demons

I follow The Mighty, a collection of blog posts surrounding mental health and physical health struggles like cancer.  Recently they posted an article written by Laura Coward about her depression and disappearance and things that she would want friends and family to know.  You can check the article out here.  One thing that she mentions is how our minds can sometimes go into fight or flight mode.

As I read it, I found myself agreeing with what she was saying.  Our fight or flight response trips and we find ourselves retreated further and further into ourselves in order to conserve energy.  The problem with that is that we then start to feel bad or angry at ourselves for not retaining that communication with the outside world.  That anger jettisons us into a vicious cycle of blaming ourselves, then feeling worse, then retreating further into ourselves, then blaming ourselves more and so on.

Our own inner demons can play a big part in our disappearances.  Unfortunately that’s one problem that we have to tackle ourselves, it’s difficult for people to tackle it for us.

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A Little Bit of Quiet

Sometimes the only reason for disappearing is to get a little bit of quiet time.  When thoughts are running wild and anxiety levels are running high, sometimes the only option we have is to remove ourselves from the situation.  It’s something that I’ve done frequently.  When things start to get overwhelming, I simply walk away.  Unfortunately it’s not always an option but if it’s possible, it’s something I will turn to.

Removing myself from the situation is a great way of getting that little bit of quiet.  Occasionally that’s all it takes to remove some of the nagging demons in your head, or simply quieten them.  During many of my anxious moments – and some of my depressive ones too – a little bit of quiet is all I’ve needed and it starts to help.

My example from this comes from New Year when I was home with my entire family.  Things started to get a bit loud for me and a bit overwhelming and so I went and hid in my room for the rest of the evening.  It was the easiest thing to do and it worked.

When I Disappear

As you can see, there are a number of reasons why I would disappear.  If you’ve read Laura Coward’s article then you’ll know that sometimes following up those texts or calls isn’t the best option.  Sometimes it’s just a case of leaving them to it instead of trying to get in touch.

Don’t take that as a rule of thumb because, as I’ve mentioned frequently in the Talking Things Through series, the pivotal point of these suggestions is how well you know the person involved.  If you know they are suicidal then you should have something in place for if they do disappear so that you know whether to contact them or not.  It’s all about your relationship with that person, knowing how their conditions affect them and whether or not their disappearance is anything to worry about.  It’s not always for suicidal tendencies, though there is that possibility.

My challenge for you is to try and talk to your friend or relative, whoever it is that you support, to try and find out why they would disappear.  Sometimes it’s just for some quiet time, sometimes it’s to remove themselves from the situation to allow their inner demons to quieten.  It’s not always dangerous.

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Talking Things Through – Part 6 – Apologies

Do you know someone who is always apologising?  Do you frequently tell them that they don’t need to apologise?  Well today I’d like to take a look at apologies.  If you haven’t checked out last week’s post on mindfulness, you can find it here or maybe access the first post in our Talking Things Through series.  Let’s have a look at apologies, shall we?

Apologies

Frequently in my journey, I’ve been guilty of apologising too much.  Well, I say too much…I’ve always felt I’ve got a reason for apologising.  Not everyone sees it that way though.  Still, it seems to be a common trait amongst people with depression, so I’d like to tap into that a little bit and try and explain it.

I blame myself for everythingWhy do I feel the need to apologise?

It’s simple: I blame myself for everything.

Why?  Quite simply, I don’t feel like I’m good enough.  If I’m not good enough then it must be my fault somehow, no matter what it is or who is involved.  It’s logical to me. Does it sound familiar?

 

It’s an easy trap to fall into.  When you have a brain that drags up every mistake you’ve ever made, every time you’ve not been good enough or you’ve simply not been enough, you start to blame yourself for things.  You blame yourself for the big things, you blame yourself for the little things and soon it’s blaming yourself for everything, even when you’re not to blame.

Perhaps you know someone like this.  Perhaps you are someone who apologises a lot. Do you know why?  I’ll tell you some of my reasons below but right now I’m interested in hearing yours.  Please leave a comment (anonymously if you want to) about why you apologise a lot.

“I’m Sorry…”

Where do I begin?  Unwrapping the numerous reasons as to why I’m sorry is difficult because there are so many.  Too many, perhaps.  Maybe you’ll recognise a few of these…

I'm sorry for being me.I’m sorry that I self-harm.  I know that, despite it harming me, it hurts others.  I really wish it didn’t but unfortunately it does.  Also unfortunately, that knowledge won’t stop me from self-harming.  Next week our series about self-harm launches, so do check that out to find out why that knowledge won’t stop me and people like me from self-harming.

I’m sorry I’m weak.  I know mental health isn’t a sign of weakness but on the days where I just can’t motivate myself to do anything or can’t even pick up the phone or get out of bed, I feel weak.  I can’t help it.  Living in a permanent state of exhaustion, it makes everything that much harder.  It’s not my fault, I know that, but that doesn’t stop me from being sorry for it.

I’m sorry I’m unpredictable. Sometimes I’m absolutely fine one moment then down in the depths of a spiral the next. Most of the time there isn’t even a proper explanation for it.  It’s just the way I am.  Whether I snap or get angry or just go quiet, I don’t mean to. It’s my depression setting in.

Lastly, I’m sorry that I put my mask on and keep it all inside.  My mask is a coping mechanism.  If I can convince you that I’m fine, perhaps I can convince myself.  It’s why I hide, why I don’t reach out and why I keep it all inside.  Well, one of the reasons at any rate.

What do you think?

What do you think?  Is it making sense?  Those reasons are a non-exhaustive list, as there are many others that I would give but also many that other people would give.  I hope it gives you a little insight into why people might seem to apologise a lot.

As this series is Talking Things Through, perhaps this week try and talk to someone you know, find out the reasons why they apologise so much.  Helping them through it could be a good start to getting them on the road to recovery.

Next Week

Do you know someone who sometimes disappears off the face of the earth?  Whether unexpectedly or not, people sometimes do just vanish for a bit.  But why?  And what do we do when that happens?  It isn’t always suicidal tendencies that make them do that.  Come back next week to find out why people sometimes feel the need to disappear.

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Talking Things Through – Part 5 – Mindfulness

Last week I told you a bit about the importance of moderation in your conversations with people struggling with depression.  Not badgering them with your questions or trying to force them to answer and combining all that with the personal touch: getting to know them so that you can utilise that knowledge to help them.  Today we’re going to take that a little deeper and look at mindfulness.

Mindfulness Unpacked

When I say mindfulness, I’m sure those of you who have done some form of therapy will be thinking of some of the techniques they use.  Mindfulness in that sense means knowing what is going on both inside and outside ourselves moment by moment.  I’d like to put a different spin on it, if I may.

I’ve said it before that there is a time and a place for your conversations about depression and anxiety.  In part 3 we talked about the importance of sensitivity in those discussions and how the wrong time and wrong place can have a disastrous effect.  Being sensitive to their state can have a far better impact than going in fully loaded though.  But what about being mindful?  Is that not the same thing?  Not quite.  Not to me, at any rate.

Imagine a coin.  It has two sides, doesn’t it.  Well sensitivity is one side of that coin, mindfulness is the other.  With mindfulness, you’re partly looking at the time and the place for your discussions and where that person is in that discussion but there is a greater emphasis on some other aspects.  These are as follows:

  • Who or what is talking?
  • What words are being used?
  • Avoid triggers.

Let me break these down for you a little.

Who or what is talking?

This might sound strange, as though we’re straying into schizophrenia territory but bear with me on this.  Sometimes when I get particularly anxious or particularly low, it’s almost as though I have a fog enshrouding my brain.  I don’t react in the usual way or I may say things differently to normal.

An example of this would be back when I was still working. One of my friends used to come and take me for drives at lunchtime just to get me out of the office.  I remember one day I was on a particularly bad spiral and just wasn’t hungry at all so wasn’t eating.  My friend insisted that I needed to eat something.  Uncharacteristically, I turned round and snapped that if she told me that again, I’d get out the car and walk back to the office.

As I said: it was uncharacteristic.  My black cloud drove me to snap instead of being calm and kind about it.  Unfortunately it happens sometimes.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t an excuse as I should have known better but sometimes it does happen.  I’ve heard a number of people say similar things have happened to them: people react differently to normal.  It can happen, so please try and bear it in mind if a reaction is uncharacteristic.

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What words are being used?

As I’ve mentioned, last week we looked a little at persistence and how asking the same question numerous times can lead to someone feeling pressured or badgered.  Similarly, it is important to be mindful of your choice of words when talking to someone.  Some words are definitely best avoided.  Examples of these are:

  • Need/needn’t
  • Should/shouldn’t
  • Must/mustn’t

These all go hand in hand.  If you’re trying to encourage someone to do something, definitely do not use them.  They leave people feeling pressured and that can start them on a spiral of thinking they should be doing better than they are. Consider the possibility that they are moving as quickly as they can or doing the best that they can.  I dare say they already know what they need to do, they just need the encouragement to get them there.

Other words to avoid are ones that might make them feel worse about what they are or aren’t doing.  Expressing disappointment, disgust, extreme unhappiness and other such things will only serve to push them down further.  By all means tell them you’re sad that they feel the way they do but do not emphasise it.  I’ve had people express the above emotions towards me based on my self-harm and it’s served to push me back towards the blade as it mirrors some of the feelings I’ve already felt.  It might not be true for everyone but please do bear that in mind.

Avoid Triggers

Again, this one goes back to last week’s post where I mentioned the personal touch.  Many people going through depression and anxiety will be looking for triggers so that they can better cope with their conditions. These triggers manifest themselves in many different forms, which is why I say you need to get to know the person and learn what triggers them.

An example of this for me would be crowds.  I’m not great with crowds of people but I’m reminded of a place I was in where my family and I were coming to the end of a session at an event and we were going to leave early.  My depression immediately told me not to bother saying anything so, stupidly, I didn’t.  I allowed them to walk me out…in front of 3,500 people.  Unsurprisingly I got that feeling that everyone was watching and my anxiety exploded.  Needless to say, I don’t think we’ll be walking out early again any time soon.

As you get to know the person, you can begin to identify some of their triggers.  This will help you when trying to look out for them, as you will know when they will need support, but it also allows you to try and avoid certain words or situations when dealing with them.  After all, triggering an anxiety attack or a depressive episode won’t get anyone anywhere.

Next Week

In next week’s post I shall be looking at apologies, as that’s one thing I’ve noticed a lot of people with depression do. Between now and then, I would be interested in hearing from you and some of your stories.  Do you know anyone who apologises constantly for being the way they are?  Perhaps you’re that person.  Would you mind sharing with me some of the reasons behind those apologies?  (All anonymously, of course).  Feel free to message over Facebook or email and we can get back to you.  Thank you!

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Talking Things Through – Part 4 – Moderation

Welcome to part 4 of our Talking Things Through series!  Last week we look at the importance of being sensitive to someone’s situation and how there’s a time and a place for your interactions, whether talking to them or simply listening.  Today we’ll tap into when to take a step back.  Let’s take a look!

“I’m Fine”"I'm fine - I'm just tired"

How many of us give this response when asked how we are?  It’s the normal human automatic response, isn’t it.  Simple, to the point but a closed response that people can’t dig into without putting some effort into it.  For many, it’s a simple way of staving off other peoples’ attempts at delving deeper into their private life.  Everyone does it, not just people with depression, but let me tell you about why I do it.

For me, “I’m fine” is a threefold answer.  On one hand, I’m reserving the innermost thoughts and feelings for people I know will listen without being worried about it.  If I know someone won’t worry, it’s easier for me to feel like I’m not burdening them with my problems.  On the other hand, I feel like my problems aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things, so keeping them in appears to be the better option.  Lastly, though, it’s a coping mechanism, but I shall explain that in a moment.

What does it mean?

Pure and simple, this is a tricky one.  It’s something my mum and I talk about fairly frequently, as it’s a difficult one to work out.  The trouble with saying “I’m fine” is that people perceive it as the standard response and don’t always believe it.  That can lead to them feeling as though they’ve been shut out, pushed away or rejected in some way.  Have you ever felt that way when trying to help someone?  It’s hard, isn’t it.

At this point I’d like to point out that it’s nothing that you’ve done.  Please don’t feel like it’s personal because, believe me, it’s not.  For someone struggling with depression, there are a lot of reasons why they might not open up and explain how they’re really feeling.  Perhaps they don’t want to worry you or perhaps they might not feel important enough, as I mentioned before.  For those of you who have depression, perhaps there are other reasons you have for saying “I’m fine” when you’re not?  Please feel free to comment some below so that we might get an idea of why.

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What to do?

So this part is really in two segments, as it’s where it all gets turned on its head.  On one hand you should persist and make sure they know that you’re there if ever they want to talk…on the other hand you shouldn’t push too much.

Tricky, right?

That’s where moderation comes in and this is where it gets turned upside down in some crazy mishmash.

From my own personal experience, I’d use the Rule of Two.  No, that’s not a reference to the philosophy of the Sith in Star Wars.  Think of it more along the lines of “two is company, three’s a crowd”.  If you ask someone the question and they say “I’m fine” then pause, give it a moment, then ask again.  If you get the same “I’m fine” answer, ease off and leave it.  Here’s why:

  1. Badgered: asking someone the same question more than twice can lead to them feeling badgered.  I’ve felt it many times before.  It closes me off further as I withdraw deeper into my shell to avoid being asked again.
  2. Lying: if I give that response of “I’m fine” because I want to give the impression of being fine, being asked more than twice can lead my mind to highlight the fact that I’m lying about how I’m feeling.  That, in turn, makes me feel worse.
  3. Aggravation: in some cases, constantly being asked if you’re fine can exasperate whatever problem you’re currently wrestling with.  When I’m having a depressive spiral or a panic attack, someone asking me repeatedly if I’m fine only serves to accentuate the feeling that I’m not.  On the odd occasion it’s even been known to make it worse.

Those are just three reasons why sticking to the rule of two is probably best.  If they want to tell you, they will tell you.  If not, they won’t. Opening the invitation for them to talk is great and a very important step.  Maintaining that respectful distance if they say no, however, is equally important.

The Personal Touch

Really, it all boils down to your relationship with the person.  People who know each other better are more likely to get it right than those who don’t.  As your friendship develops, you’ll know how the person will react to being asked questions or offers of support.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s very much a process of trial and error.  Take this example:

Cheryl and I have known each other for a little while now.  We met through work and have become close friends since.  She knows more about my struggle than anyone else I can think of but even she gets it wrong.  A few times in the past, I’ve snapped or become irritated over being asked if I’m OK and I’m sure she’ll back me up if I say we’ve had our fair share of discussions over what to do and what not to do, what to ask and what not to ask.  That’s spending a lot of time together, knowing each other really well and knowing the majority of the details of my struggle.

It really does take a personal touch to get it right.  You’ll make mistakes, you’ll get it wrong but persist because they’re certainly worth it.  They might not see it that way but I’m sure you’d agree.

Next Week

Next week we’re going to look at the importance of mindfulness.  Not the kind of mindfulness that the psychiatrists and psychotherapists talk about in the CBT therapies but my own special mix.  Think more along the lines of being aware of others’ situations, being mindful of what they might be going through.  Another important step to helping someone.  Come back next week to find out more!

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Talking Things Through – Part 3 – Sensitivity

Welcome back!  In last week’s post, we looked at how you can use positive phrasing and encouragement to help someone going through depression or anxiety.  Today we’re going to look at the importance of being sensitive.  Now, this may seem a little obvious on the surface but delve a little deeper with me and see why I believe it is one of the most important ones.  Here we go!

Being Sensitive?

Being sensitive towards someone is crucial.  If anything, it underpins both talking and listening to that person in a big way.  Why?  As I said in my last post: there is a time and a place for everything.  I know, it’s becoming one of my mottoes but there really is.  At the wrong time or in the wrong place, both trying to talk or listen to someone can exasperate their situation.  Why?  Let’s look…

From the perspective of both a depression sufferer and an anxiety sufferer, there is one major reason that sticks out for me: it can exacerbate the situation.  At the wrong time, a well-meaning question can actually trip things into a deeper spiral.  You probably don’t mean it that way but, unfortunately, it’s a distinct possibility.  It’s happened to me more than once.

An Example

Imagine for a moment that I’m sitting with a group of friends in the coffee shop and I’m really really quiet.  You can tell that something isn’t completely OK so you ask the nice and easy question of “Are you OK?”  A nice, innocent question but here are just some of the thoughts going through my head when someone asks that question:

  • Someone noticed, my mask is slipping!
  • Everyone is watching me now!
  • I’m not OK but I don’t want everyone knowing!
  • I’m not OK but now I’m more aware of my problem, especially now you know…

Just four simple thoughts that run through my mind if someone asks me whether or not I’m OK in the middle of a public situation.  Believe me, that isn’t an exhaustive list and there are plenty more.  Let’s move on from that, however, and just tap into time and place for a second.

Place

As I’ve already touched on, picking the right place can be important.  In general, publicising things is not the way forwards.  Whether you’re visiting the shops or at a family meal or simply grabbing coffee with some friends, asking someone if they’re alright when they’re quiet is not the way to go.

Generally avoid public places or, if there is no avoiding it, ask as a very quiet question, ideally in a one-to-one setting.  This avoids feelings of awkwardness and potential panic by eliminating the crowd aspect of the problem.  It also gives you that reassurance as to whether or not they are coping.

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Time

While I haven’t mentioned this much, the wrong time can be almost as bad as the wrong place.  In the wrong time, choosing to listen or to talk can sometimes have the opposite effect intended.  I shall cite another example from my own experiences in a moment but let me give you a few scenarios first.

If someone is in a depressive spiral or a particularly low place, don’t take the opportunity to try and untap things like why they self-harm.  I know, sounds a little obvious but you would be surprised how many people have tried this with me!  Alternatively, if they are wanting to try and tell you a bit about their condition, avoid talking about your experiences instead of listening to them.  Again, a touch obvious but it has had its day with me too.  Let’s look at an example, though.

I was caught in a particularly depressive spiral a few weeks ago.  In the low place that I’d reached, nothing I put into place was catching me and I was on the verge of turning back to self-harm.  I made a couple of phone calls in an attempt to get myself out of it but they didn’t amount to much.  I then messaged a friend.  Now, that friend could have easily started offering advice surrounding coping mechanisms, alternatives to try and so on.  Instead, she listened when I told her exactly how I felt and then proceeded to probe to get me to tell her what I’d done the day before.  By combining listening and talking in that perfect blend, she gave me the boost I needed to get myself out of that pit.

In short: she saved me from having more scars that night.

Ways Forward

It sounds fairly simple, right?  Yet quite complicated at the same time?  Unfortunately there is no five-point plan, no easy solution, no tried and tested way of succeeding at this.  It takes a lot of hard work sometimes as it’s highly dependable on how well you know the person involved.  That being said, I have a few suggestions that you might be able to make use of.

  • Talk Things Through – as mentioned in last week’s post, talk to them about it.  Take the time to learn a little more about their condition, what makes them tick, what they find helps them and then harness that in your approach.  I know I keep saying it but I shall say it again: everyone’s situation is different, so tailor your approach accordingly.
  • Avoid Making It Public – regardless of whether the person involved is an introvert or extrovert, avoid making their situation a public scenario.  If you’re sat at the coffee shop with friends, perhaps try sending them a text before you ask them out loud.  It’s something my friend and I do frequently so as not to draw everyone’s attention to the problem.
  • Establish a Code Word – it might sound a little silly but it works.  I use it with my mum nowadays and it works.  She finds it quite hard not to ask if I’m OK when everyone is at the dinner table so we came up with a code word for it.  If I say that I’m OK then it means exactly that.  If I say I’m daydreaming, however, it means I’m not OK but I’m coping with it.  It’s simple yet effective.
Next Week

Stay tuned for next week’s post concerning Moderation. We’ll look a little bit about when to take no for the answer, how hard to press and some of the reasons why you might not get the real answer.  If you haven’t already, check out my journey or some of our facts pages or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.  We’d really love to hear from you!

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Talking Things Through – Part 2 – Talking Positively

So last week I talked to you about the importance of listening to people suffering with depression or anxiety and the role you can play in their lives.  In this instalment, I’d like to talk to you about some of the important things to remember when you talk to them.  Let’s dive in!

Positivity

If ever there was a word that sets me on edge, it’s this one.  A common misconception for people to have with depression is that positivity will cure it.  No matter how down you feel, be positive and you’ll pull through.  Something like that, at any rate.

I’m here to tell you it does not work.

That said, I shall leave positivity there for this post.  If you want to read more about the power of positivity (or lack thereof, as the case may be) then check out my separate post on it here.

Meanwhile, let’s see why I’ve mentioned it if I disagree with it.

In a nutshell it boils down to two big things: Encouragement and Phrasing.  Let’s unpack those two concepts.

Encouragement

Basically, what it says on the tin.  Encouragement is a staple part of the road to recovery.  Without encouragement, how can we hope?  Why should necessity be the only reason to take another step?  Exactly: it shouldn’t.

Countless times during my journey I’ve come up against obstacles and people have encouraged me through them. Without that encouragement, I don’t think I would have taken those next steps.  It’s an easy way for people to come alongside you or get behind you and offer that motivation that you might so sorely need.  With it comes a sense of togetherness that says “We’ll be OK.  We’ve got this!”  Through that togetherness, encouragement has the power to push you over whatever hurdles your life has thrown at you.

But be careful!

Use in moderation!

Time it right!

One of the things that people supporting me don’t always get is that encouragement has time and a place.  At the wrong time, it can fall on deaf ears or, sometimes, have completely the opposite effect.  Again, I shall use myself as an example in this.  In a dark and depressive spiral, the encouragement only serves to push me lower.  For every “look at what you’ve achieved” there is a loud voice in my head saying “and now look at what you’ve not achieved!!”  In this instance, encouragement only serves to push me lower.

So time it carefully by figuring out which times and places work for the person you are trying to support.  (See? That’s where the listening comes in…)

Positive Phrasing

This one is the big nugget for this post.  For me, it’s one of the most important concepts ever (second to listening and talking).  I promise it’s not just because it’s a linguistic point and I love linguistics…honest!

Every concept you wish to communicate has multiple ways of being said.  In this instance, I’m looking at the positive and the negative.  Check out this example drawn directly from my own experiences:

“I’m so relieved at hearing from you!”

To you, that might be a nice, heartfelt sentence from someone who cares a lot about the person they are talking to.  Flip the perspective for a moment and step into my shoes.  Right there the word relieved brings about a sense of guilt.  It immediately implies that you worried about me.  Through my actions (or inactions as the case may be), I caused you worry.  From that word worry comes guilt, from that guilt comes anger at myself, from that guilt comes sadness that I’ve let you down and from that guilt comes fear that I might lose you as a friend.  Four negative emotions from one negatively phrased word.

LET’S FLIP IT ROUND!  Try this phrasing:

“I’m pleased to hear from you.”

You’re pleased.  With me.  Something I have done has brought about a good feeling in you.  Isn’t that so much better?  It also immediately tells me that you care about me because you’re pleased that I’ve got in touch.  No guilt this time, no anger or fear or sadness.  Just positive vibes which, in turn, trick my mind into a slight up.

But look at those phrases.  Both are saying exactly the same thing, aren’t they?  Exactly the same message but one phrased negatively and the other positively.  Two different phrasings, two very different reactions.  And that’s all by changing a handful of words.

Isn’t it easy?  By phrasing things positively, you avoid the guilt trip, you bring about some form of positive connections in the mind and you can communicate exactly what you were trying to say in a way that will be well-received and will perhaps sink in.

And it’s only a couple of words.

What’s Next?

Well that concludes positive talking.  If you haven’t already, check out last week’s post for more information about how you can listen effectively.  Also check out my journey or perhaps look at some of the ways you can support us in bringing this content to you.  Take care, guys!

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Talking Things Through – Part 1 – Listen

Welcome to the first instalment of the Talking Things Through series!  Over the next few weeks I shall be talking you through the things to say, things to avoid saying and other aspects of talking and listening for supporting people with depression.

In this first instalment, I shall be talking a little about the importance of listening.  It may seem like common sense but stick with it and see how a depressed person views listening.

Listen Carefully 

When was the last time you were in an argument?  Was it a long argument?  Did everyone listen well?  As you reflect on that for a second, let me ask you one question: how much of the argument could have been avoided if people had listened better?  Most of it, I’m sure.

Listening is one of the key parts of dealing with depression or anxiety.  Whether you’re an expert – a qualified psychiatrist or a doctor – or someone like me with a bit of experience or even a layman with no experience whatsoever, you can still offer a listening ear.  Sometimes that is all that is needed.

Listening to someone with depression can have the following effects:

  • Greater understanding
  • It helps unburden them
  • They feel valued
  • Unlocking additional ways to help them

Let me untap those a little.

Greater Understanding

Everyone’s condition is different.  Depression can affect one person one way and another person in a completely different way.  As such, there is no “one size fits all” model to apply to it.  That also means it can be quite difficult to know what’s going on inside someone’s head.  The good news?

Listening helps!

Whether you’re talking to a friend, a relative or anyone else, they are the ones who are living with the condition and, as such, they will have the best understanding.  They know how it affects them, they know how they feel, they know what seems to be working well for them and what doesn’t work as well.  By listening, you can find out what’s making them tick, what is and isn’t helping and plenty of other bits of information you might not find otherwise.

It Helps Unburden Them

There’s a reason we go to psychiatrists and it isn’t just because they can offer techniques and advice to fix things.  Psychiatrists listen as you talk.  As one of my therapists explained it to me, talking to someone about the condition is a way of releasing it from my mind.

Just like journalling, blogging, story-writing or songwriting, talking is a way of bringing the problem out of the mind and helps them let it go.  Simply by listening to someone, allowing them the space to talk about what’s going on in their mind, it helps unburden them, freeing things from their mind.

They Feel Valued

Taking the time to listen to someone does bring a sense of value to that person.  I know from my own experiences that someone taking the time to listen to me makes me feel as though they actually want to help.  They are taking the time out of their hectic lives, daily struggles and business to sit and talk to you.  It’s something special, wouldn’t you say?

Regardless of whether or not you have the answers, listening is a sure-fire way of making someone feel like they are important to you.  More often than not, people aren’t coming to you looking for answers.  That’s what the doctors and psychiatrists and other therapists are for.  No, deep down what the vast majority of people want is a listening ear, a non-judgemental opinion and the opportunity to speak freely.

You can give them this!

Unlocking Additional Ways to Support Them

I know, I know…there should be some great secret here, no?  Mental health is a subject that is highly stigmatised and sometimes almost taboo because of how mysterious it is but do you know what?

There’s no secret.

If you take the time to listen to someone and try to understand their problem, there’s no telling how many different ways you could find to help them.  Unlocking their story and how their condition affects them could lead to untold possibilities.

Take me as an example: I don’t like quick fixes as I feel they only postpone the problem – as do many people who talk to me – but sometimes I believe they are necessary.  Sometimes, in my darkest, deepest spirals, a quick fix pulls me back from the brink of more problems, whether that’s another spiral, self-harm or anything else.

Would you have gone for the quick fix?  Not everyone would.

Tailor It

Granted, some people don’t like to talk and that’s OK.  Whether they talk a lot or not at all, listening is still a very vital part of helping them.  If they don’t talk much at all, that only makes listening all the more important as they have so much less to say.  My mind is drawn to grains or nuggets of truth.

Tailor it to each situation.  If they don’t like talking, don’t push them.  Just reassure them that you are there if ever they do want to talk about it (again, don’t push the issue).  If they want to, they will come.  If not, at least they know you’re there.

Stay Tuned

Next week I shall be looking at the first aspect of talking to someone with depression. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too complicated, just a few tips and suggestions of how to leave a better impact.  In the meantime, check out my journey or connect with us on our Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn accounts.  We’d love to meet you!

Why not subscribe?

Subscribe today to receive a free chapter from my eBook “Pills and Blades”, a subscriber-exclusive podcast episode and more!

Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.