Have The Conversation

Have The Conversation

By Emily Phan, LMFT

While struggling with mental health concerns, many individuals tend to “suffer in silence”. There are a multitude of reasons that they will reference including, “I just need to be stronger”, “this is no one’s business”, “no one wants to be bothered with my problems” or “I don’t want my mood to affect someone else’s mood or to implant thoughts in someone who is otherwise happy”. Sound familiar? All of these thoughts come from a well-intentioned heart, the desire here is that you do not want to have a negative affect on loved ones. However, these thoughts can steer you down a lonely and sometimes dangerous path. While the stigma for mental health has lessened overall in the last decade, concerns about how one will be received by their loved ones or their community, if they are honest about their mental health, still exists.

One of the best ways to challenge this negative thought pattern is to remember how you would receive a loved one if they were to open up about their mental health concerns. Most likely, you would value their honesty and their vulnerability. You would have compassion and empathy and a desire to provide some assistance. Through the opportunity to prove your dependability, trust in the relationship is reinforced and strengthened. Allowing acceptance and support for a loved one in their time of need creates a safe space for healing to begin. Why is it that people are often more willing to provide grace and compassion for a loved one than they are for themselves?

People are social beings and are not usually able to feel truly better while in isolation. It is known that isolation has been used as a form of punishment and torture, but people often tend to isolate themselves when they are struggling. Individuals are stronger when they utilize their support system. When feeling overwhelmed it can be impossible to think through strategies or to redirect thoughts onto the positive, but if you reach out to a trusted individual, often they can help you through this process. Sometimes, that help is simply providing presence, helping you to remember that you are not alone and that there is someone who cares. What is the evidence that someone would feel bothered by your problems or evidence that they do not want to be involved? Do you feel bothered when someone asks you to listen? Have you been dismissed or told you were a burden? If so, the assumption is that was not a healthy relationship.

For a healthy relationship to exist, it takes both parties to initiate conversation. Just as the person who is struggling may worry about being a burden or making a loved one feel bad, a friend may not ask about the struggle because they do not want to create any discomfort or trigger any unpleasant thoughts or feelings. In this case, both people are worried about making each other feel bad and instead of having important conversation and connection, they both avoid and keep it surface level. The reality is that neither person is going to implant thoughts or feelings by reaching out or checking in. By recognizing that both parties may have some negative internal dialogue that is preventing them from reaching out or checking in, you can challenge yourself to be the first person to initiate this conversation. Take a moment to breathe and remember that your support system wants to be there for you and they just may not know how. You and your support system are in this together.

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