Last night I was browsing the WordPress blogosphere and happened across a blog called “Second Chances“. In this post, the author, Christine, wrote about her struggle with anxiety, a struggle I’m all too familiar with. She also spoke about being more open about her mental illness. This is something that I have felt has helped me immensely in my own life. But how it seems to affect other people is what has been most fulfilling.
I’ve discovered that putting yourself out there and make your mental illness known will result in a couple of possible reactions from people. The first response is a response that is barely there. Yes, people will hear what you have to say and become a deer in headlights for about 1.3 seconds (I’ve actually timed it) before changing the subject. The second response is “I never would have imagined you had anxiety problems.” I call this one the reaction of disbelief. These responses result in great dialog.
Let’s first talk about the barely there response. This is the one that can get you in the most trouble. Not because of what someone may do to you but what you may do to yourself. A lot of people who put themselves out there expect the person they’re telling to react by telling them that they have nothing to worry about, or that they love you despite your “problems”. You cannot think like that. You will destroy yourself thinking about that. Many people cannot relate to you or have no experience with mental illness. They choose not to comment on what they do not understand and change the subject. It is better if they don’t comment, quite frankly.
The reaction of disbelief is where things get interesting. I’ve found that people who respond this way have some sort of understanding of your situation. Many people will be curious and ask questions. I’ve found this to be good because many people are looking for information on how they can help a friend or relative. Seldom, however, you get someone who comes to you on the down low and tells you of their own struggles.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading a few different emails from friends who see me post something about ADHD or anxiety on my social media pages and decides to reach out to me. It usually starts with “I saw you post on Facebook and couldn’t believe you have anxiety.” Out of that I’ve had some great conversations with friends. I’ve given and gotten a lot of great advice and we’ve grown as people and friends. Some of these people are the most seemingly confident people I’ve ever met.
I would encourage anyone who deals with a mental illness to reach out to people. I’ve never had a bad reaction from anyone. Start with close friends and work your way up.