What Those Struggling with a Mental Health Diagnosis Don't Often Share
Communication can be very difficult when you do not feel comfortable or safe to share. This makes sense when you do not know someone well, however, when you are in a relationship with someone, communication is what helps you stay connected. We can do things at times that makes others feel they cannot communicate, without even realizing it. Sometimes there is a discrepancy for how one intends for a message to be heard and how it is actually recieved. Often times when this happens, relationships can take a downward turn.
One of the common struggles in communication I hear is that people have difficulty admitting they have a mental health issue, need help, or just need to talk. As a result, one person feels unsupported and the other person feels disconnected. Lets look at a few of the reasons why this might happen.
Some people have this idea that asking for help means you are weak somehow. This can prevent someone from speaking up because they do not want to be thought of as weak in the eyes of the people they care about.
Sometimes the way in which we prioritize can give the impression that someone is not good enough. When this happens, they feel that if they shared anything about themselves needing help, they would be a burden to you. Because they do not want to put more stress on you, they keep things to themselves.
The choice of words that people use can also give off an unwelcoming impression. For example, "That's so Bipolar" is often used to describe someone who is easy to anger or who is acting grouchy. "You're having an ADD moment" is another term I hear when someone is having difficulty paying attention. Yet another term I hear people use often to describe something that was difficult to experience is "That was SO traumatic". Another term used to describe poor boundaries is "You are such an enabler". I have also heard people saying "That's such an Autistic thing to do" when someone is struggling with social skills. These terms can get thrown around to put people down or assign blame. More commonly they are used in the wrong context to describe a behavior without the intention of hurting anyone. Unfortunately, there are people out there who really do struggle with Bipolar disorder, ADHD, Autism, and trauma. When they hear these terms, they don't always feel comfortable and open to talking about their need for support. They hear these statements and feel judged.
So how can you make the other person feel more comfortable so that you can support them and have better communication? While we cannot control how other people interpret what we say, we have full control over how we say it. Pay attention to what you are saying and how you are delivering it. If you are frustrated, wait to talk so that you are abe to respond instead of react. If you do react, apologize so the other person knows what you actually meant. If you feel you are being clear, and you are in a good place to talk, pay attention to how the other person is behaving. Look at their body language. How are they receiving what you are saying? It is okay to ask. Remember that it does go both ways. It is also up to the other person to communicate what they need to feel comfortable. You cannot do better if they cannot lay that boundary down. If they express they are not wanting to talk yet, respect that. Sometimes just sitting with someone and showing them they are not alone goes a long way.