On Why: You Should Reach Out

*Disclaimer: This is not professional advice, it is based on my personal experience. This article should not be taken in the substitute of professional advice and guidance. Should you have any health, medical, or disability questions or concerns, please consult a physician or other health care professional.  WM makes no claims to the accuracy of the professional resources linked at the bottom of the article.*
When someone breaks their leg we know what to say, we know what to do, we know how to act. “I hope you feel better soon!” “Do you need someone to cook or clean for you?” “Do you have a ride to the doctor?” We follow up, not just because we care, but because we’ve been taught how to care.

Through school, childhood experience, and personal experience, we’ve learned how to tend to those struggling with their physical health. This is referring to certain illnesses (ex: the flu) and physical issues (ex: a broken arm) and does not encompass physical disabilities and stigmatized illness (like STIs, HIV/AIDS, etc). We aren’t taught how to ask, inquire, or care for a person’s mental health, despite the fact that in the US nearly half of adults will experience mental health issues in their lifetime.

When someone is experiencing a low in their mental health we are silent. We think that because we don’t know the perfect thing to say that we should say nothing. I can tell you from my experience with anxiety, depression, and PTSD that I have never once needed my friends to be my doctors, I’ve needed them to be my friends. I’ve needed support, not guidance. You don’t need to have all the solutions to aide someone. You don’t need to “fix” someone.

I’m fortunate to be in a relationship now with a very grounding foundation. I’m also fortunate that I have the ability to workout every day. For me, those two things are better than the world’s best medication. However, there have been several times in my life where I didn’t have those things and was having anxiety attacks nearly every week. Or times in my life that emotion-focused coping mechanisms were not enough to support me.

I can so vividly remember the first time I had an anxiety attack and I wasn’t alone. It was a Saturday night, behind a group of apartments on my college campus. Someone I didn’t know found me as I was doubled over and gasping to breathe. All she did was put her hand gently on my back and say “It’s okay, I’m going to stay with you”. And she did. She walked me home and I still don’t know who she was.

I’m not advocating that you begin touching strangers without their permission, but I am suggesting you reach out to those who may need help. It made all the difference in the world. She didn’t try to fix me, she didn’t try to make it stop, she just let me know I wasn’t alone. I truly think that is the best thing you can do for someone going through the roughest moments in their mental health. Just tell them that you are there and that they aren’t alone.

We don’t need you to have the perfect sentence to make the difference. We just need you. Somethings you can say to someone needing support:

“I’m here for you.”

“Would you like me come over and make dinner for you?”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I’m checking in to let you know that I care about you and I’m here for you.”

“What can I do for you?”

“If you just need company I can come and sit with you.”

“Do you want someone to go to the doctor with you?”

“How are you feeling?”

 

Professional sites offering more information and options:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline.

Advice from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

How to help someone with depression.

Supporting someone in a mental health crisis.

10 things to say to someone with a mental health problem.

 

A final note: mental healthcare is still very inaccessible for many people. It’s difficult to see quality doctors, medications are expensive. Look into the leaders you vote for an ensure that improving the mental health system is important to them. Stay up to date on new policies. Look at what you can do in your community to help. If you shop using Amazon navigate to Your Account > Change Your Charity and select a charity that supports access to mental healthcare. Look at what the people around you need every day.

Pennies become dollars. The small things you do every day to support those around you will have lasting results.

Dear Molly, How Do I Become a Better Big Sister?

Hi! A few weeks ago my sister started sending me your posts and blog stories. I’m glad she did because I think you have so many good insights and thoughts, but it also hurt my feelings because she’s my younger sister and she’s going online looking at “big sister” blogs instead of coming to me. I want to be a better big sister and friend to her, someone she can call at 2 am if there’s a problem or she has a question, but I don’t know where to start. We’ve never been super close, but we also aren’t distant or estranged or anything like that. If it helps, she’s 19 and I’m 29.

 

A strong sibling relationship is one of the most beautiful relationships you can have in your entire life. Sisterhood especially. I have an older sister and two younger sisters and I don’t know where I’d be without our group chats, meme circles, and little “Shephard-sisters” network. Especially living a couple hundred miles from them, that constant communication is what keeps us feeling close. I think it’s deeply beautiful that you care about being a strong support for your sister and want that same closeness.

It seems like you feel that your sister isn’t sharing with you because she isn’t coming to you first. It’s difficult to share how we truly feel when we anticipate that we’re going to be judged. We all know the dropping feeling after you say one self-exposing thing and it just hangs out in the air. Coming to an online resource, like a blog, is the exact opposite of a one on one conversation, you can’t be judged.

However, it doesn’t seem like your sister is avoiding talking you about certain things because she’d rather come to a blog, it seems like she’s using blog posts as an avenue to open a line of communication with you. At 19-years-old she doesn’t need to be told what to do, but how to do it. She’s sending you articles because she values what you have to say and wants to hear your thoughts. She wants to be validated and heard by her real-life, big sister and she trusts your advice. If you want to be the person she calls late at night with every issue that comes up, tell her. Give her the space to make the decision of who to come to because ultimately that is her call. You can be a resource, but she gets to choose.

I wouldn’t take the fact that your sister comes to “big sister” blogs as a commentary on who you are as a big sister at all, but more of a commentary on the things she’d like to openly talk about with you. She’s testing the waters to see how you will respond. Be open and considerate and the one-on-ones (without a blog post) will come naturally.

 

xx

 

Dear Molly, My Best Friend is Blowing Me Off for Her New Boyfriend.

My best friend started dating someone new a few weeks ago and since then I feel like I never see her. She’s blown me off for HH several times, she’s missing our weekly SoulCycle class, and I know it’s because she’s spending all her time with him. We’re actually roommates and she spends maybe three nights a week in our apartment. I’m happy for her (she dated a long time before finding someone solid), but at the same time, I feel like she’s prioritizing him over me and the rest of her friends. Should I say something? Or is this in my head? Just a phase? I can’t tell if I’m just being selfish and don’t want to share her with someone new.

 

For a lot of people, myself included, the first few months with a new love are all-consuming. You think about that person all the time, you want to spend all your time with them, you miss them when they’re one room over. It’s a beautiful feeling but can easily make other people in your life feel pushed to the side. I don’t think you are overreacting here. It seems like the two of them have been together for a little while now and the “crush rush” of the first few weeks should be giving way to normalcy, but it isn’t.

Truth be told, my boyfriend and I are a lot like your friend. The first few months of us dating were very fast and overwhelming and did cause a little friction within our friend groups. We had both recently come out of relationships that weren’t serving us and the excitement of being in a solid relationship, so early, was overwhelming. So much so that we didn’t notice how long it had been since we prioritized friend time, until they told us.

Like just about every inter-personal problem, the solution here is to talk to her. It doesn’t need to be an ambush, it doesn’t need to be a long written out letter, but it does need to be in person. A few things to remember when you are talking with her:

/ You can only speak for yourself. You can’t say that “We’ve all been thinking…” When you do that you turn it into an “us” versus “you” situation. In reality, this is more of a “me” for “us” situation. You miss your friend and are acting as an advocate for your friendship. Be open and honest about your feelings, but don’t speak for others.

/ Even if it feels like she is, your friend is not prioritizing him over you. She’s a little blinded with love and likely doesn’t even realize what she’s doing. If she’s a good friend for you, talking through how you feel with her will definitely help. Turning it into a “me or him” scenario will not. If you miss her, you miss her and leave it at that. Making assumptions about why you’re seeing her less will not help.

/ Remember that it’s her choice where things go from here. Invite her to something (like SoulCycle) that you used to do together and expect her to show up, but ultimately remember that if she doesn’t that’s not on you.

/ No one’s happiness is more important than another’s. You don’t get to guilt her into spending time with you to make you happy and she doesn’t get to ignore you and spend time only with him to make her happy. You both will need to compromise a little, but that give-and-take will absolutely serve you in the long run.

The unfortunate aspect of this situation is that with a friend, particularly a roommate, you don’t want to “create drama”. But letting this fester will absolutely breed animosity between the two of you. Talk it out, let her make a decision of how to prioritize her time, and take it from there. If she’s a good friend, who cares about you, she will make space for both you, your friend group, and her new love.

 

xx