Having a mental illness is hard for a lot of reasons. The difficulty that comes with enjoying certain activities, the trouble sleeping, the unpleasant side effects of mental health medication, etc. However, it is also hard because of stigma, which can be spread easier than most realize.
Examples of shaming people for simple activities is pointing out that someone with an eating disorder has hardly touched their food. Yes, those without such disorders might have no problem finishing their meal, but for others, it can be a challenge, and the implicit shaming that comes with pointing out or drawing attention to their battle doesn’t help. Similarly, suggesting someone “has no life” or needs to get out more if they struggle with depression or social anxiety just adds guilt to the negative feelings swirling in the darkness.
I have experienced plenty of this. Anytime someone says my decision makes no sense. It makes sense to me and my darkness, and sometimes it is just too exhausting to explain the twisted way my shadowy brain works. And so, their simple shaming leads to me suffering in silence. The same is true of many others who battle with demons only they can see.
Fortunately, the solution is simple. Just ask. Ask in a compassionate way, not a condescending one. Offer encouragement for the future. Some examples of this might include:
- “It’s okay if your not up for going out, sometimes I don’t feel like being social either. Maybe tomorrow.”
- “Are you done? No worries, sometimes we all don’t have much appetite. Why don’t you save it for tomorrow.”
- “What are you thinking about? I’d love to know because maybe I can help.”
Instead of shaming, including encouragement and open-ended questions allows those who battle to invite you in while feeling like their battle isn’t something to be ashamed of. Because at the end of the day, we all want to feel welcome, and avoiding simple shaming can do that and can hopefully end the silence that surrounds so many of us as we battle.
Hopefully, this has helped those of you who battle know that you aren’t alone and that there is no shame in fighting your fight. Hopefully, this has also helped everyone else realize how you can help those of us who battle. And until next time, thanks for reading.