Life experiences form the basis of how you understand your mental illness. No one understands the mind of someone with mental illness as well as the person who is going through that experience. This goes for most of the other issues people face as well but not to the same extent. When it comes to physical pain, most people feel a similar range of pain. When it comes to mental disorders, however, the impacts are varied. They can disrupt who you are and affect how you believe you fit into this world.
This type of understanding must come with a previous appreciation of your identity and your world. Understanding the importance of lived experience is key to mental health, but life can be significantly more complicated when lived experience is not acknowledged or respected.
Often, when people open up about their experiences with mental health disorders, certain questions come up. These questions are not always the most respectful, and sometimes they come without understanding. Many people try to make suggestions that come from a place that can seem belittling. This can be irritating for those with a mental disorder. Although the others may be coming from a good place, this can still make someone very upset.
Suggesting that their mental disorder, which may have come from traumatic life experiences, can be fixed with a simple comment that can be hurtful to the one suffering. Unfortunately, the line of questioning rarely involves questions like “what happened?” “what have you learned?” or “what has helped?”
Instead, the actual questions or recommendations tend to be degrading to the person experiencing mental illness by oversimplifying the experiences. Suggestions like getting exercise, good nutrition, or changing your attitude without further explanation are not enough for everyone. This leads to people feeling like they are being judged by the person they confided in.
Making suggestions about how someone should handle their mental illness without understanding the situation can be detrimental. Summing up people’s problems by discussing a simple oversight in their diet or exercise can lead people to push you away.
It can take months — or even years — of personal work with healthcare professionals to gain the information and guidance that really helps them. Progress is being made one day at a time, though, and sometimes people fall short. The last thing they want to hear is that they should try to change something that might not even be the problem at hand.
It’s important to understand what effort or progress has been made before making any suggestions. If you truly want to help someone, then it is a good idea to try your best to understand where they are coming from. This is how you build trust. If someone is struggling with anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression, establishing trust is critical to get them to open up to you. When people don’t understand mental disorders, they assume things like what goes on in your mind to be under control, which is not always the case.
The things you experience in your life may be important for who you are, regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. This especially goes for those who have experienced trauma that has led to a mental disorder. After experiencing trauma like this, people may begin to guard themselves.
Although this is easier said than done, it’s important not to let negative situations become walls. When you let someone know about your mental health experiences, you invite them into your perspective. It is an invitation into your innermost thoughts, which is an area that many people may not know about. On the other hand, understand that you also don’t want to judge those who you feel judged by. Although their comments or questions may have come off wrong, typically, they mean well.
Sometimes they are simply not fully aware of how mental illnesses can affect people. If you are the person dealing with a mental disorder and someone wants to have a discussion with you, make sure to let them know that you and your therapist are the ones who make decisions about treatment.
If you are someone who desires to truly help someone in your life with their anxiety or depression, then do your best to leave the floor open for them to talk. People often want to tell others what they should be doing to change their lives, but if you don’t listen to what they have experienced, the conversation loses its potential.
Everyone has a multitude of different experiences they have faced that make them who they are. Experiences that lead to trauma are important and should be taken seriously by everyone around you. If you have someone in your life who is dealing with anxiety or depression and you want to help, make sure to give them a chance to speak their mind. Let them tell you what led them to this point and what they are doing to change their situation. Taking this approach to understanding can help change the lives of many. You can even take it a step further by bringing your loved one who wants to understand to your therapy session. At The Kimberly Center, we wish to help those battling an addiction or any mental health disorder. We offer plenty of treatment options for those who are looking for a change in their life. Contact us today at (855) 452-3683 for more information.