While it can be challenging, opening up about your mental health and feelings is an important step towards healing and transforming your life. For me, bottling it all up was detrimental to my mental health and even affected those who care about me.
In the past, I used to worry all the time about what people would think if they found out I was diagnosed with depression. How would they react? Would they begin to treat me differently? Would they think I was seeking attention? Will they think I was crazy? The list of questions can go on for a while. Eventually it caused me to hide it. I didn’t want to deal with any negative outcomes that came from opening up.
I was convinced that nothing good can come from speaking up.
It did more harm than good though.
The more I hid it or isolated myself, the more I damaged my mental and physical health. I pushed a lot of things to the side which inevitably caused me to snap. Suppressing what was going on made me a ticking time bomb. I blew up multiple times, on multiple occasions, towards multiple people. It was awful!!
When I finally tried to talk about what was going on with me, I didn’t even know where to start. I felt so many emotions. I felt scared, guilty, shameful, angry, and worthless. But, imagine how everyone else felt. Probably confused as hell, hurt, and maybe helpless because they had no idea what was going on with me.
You’ll be surprised that chances are there are some people in our lives that are already concerned about what’s going on with us and they too are struggling to find ways to talk to us about it. A good way to begin this process is to just start anywhere and take things one step at a time.
Here are some tips about how you can open up and start the conversation with your family and friends about your mental health.
1. Think of someone to talk to
Different people can offer different kinds of support for you, so it’s a good idea to think about what you need at that moment and who in your life can help with just that. Pick someone who you can trust and are comfortable with. As well as, someone who will take the conversation seriously and is an understandable person. Some ideas on who you can speak with:
- Family member (immediate or extended)
- Partner or spouse
- Someone in your life who you know has experience with mental health/depression
- Coach, counselor, professor, or someone you trust in your religious community
2. Start somewhere
I used to overthink this step so much, but whatever you’re worried about isn’t as important as starting the conversation in the first place.
I’ve found it helpful to write down what I wanted to say or how I’ve been feeling. Taking some time to organize my thoughts on paper or on my phone has helped me so much. It relieved some pressure from trying to think on the spot and I also had the chance to practice what I wanted to say so I can feel confident starting the convo.
Next, pick the location. A casual environment or doing something you both like can make it easier for you to open up and easier for the other person to take in what you’re saying. A few activities you can consider can be going for a walk, grabbing coffee or lunch, painting, or sitting in the car.
Here are some lines you can use to get the convo rolling:
- I’ve been going through a tough time
- Lately I’ve been feeling way too stressed and overwhelmed and could use someone to talk to
- This is difficult for me talk about, but I think I may have depression
- I’ve been feeling depressed for sometime and I’m not sure what to do. I think I may need help
3. Don’t be discouraged
Realistically, everyone will have different responses and being unsure how they’ll respond is one thing that holds many of us back from reaching out for support. But it’s important to keep in mind that this might be a new situation for them as well, so don’t be discouraged if the first go-around isn’t what you’ve expected.
Not everyone will understand, and that’s also okay. It may take longer for others to come around too. Be open to questions and allow others time to learn how to help you on your journey. This will be a learning experience for both sides, so the same way we expect them to show compassion, we should do the same.
4. Consider seeking professional help
Psychotherapy has helped me in numerous ways, but for the sake of this topic, I no longer feel embarrassed and I’m willing to open up about symptoms and my overall feelings more effectively than in the past. Therapy was the extra push I needed to wholeheartedly embrace my story and share it.
Aside from developing new tools to maneuver your day-to-day with your mental illness, talking to a professional can also help expand your skills to talk about your depression with others. Together, you and a trained therapist can work on new strategies that will allow you to feel more comfortable sitting down with friends and family and talking through what you’re experiencing.
Depression is very common— you’re not alone and don’t have to combat this alone. Confiding in someone you trust and/or seeking professional help is an imperative step towards recovery and wellbeing. Speaking to your loved ones helps them understand your mental health condition and how to support you on your journey of treatment.
Take your time and don’t give up. You got this!