The need or desire to fix something that is broken, even another person is a pretty strong instinct. However should that desire override the feelings of the person that they are trying to fix? If a person is ‘just trying to help’ then does that mean that we need to grin and bear it?
I’m in two minds about this one. On one hand I think that when you put it out into social media specifically, that you have to expect that there are going to be people who are going to offer their help and suggestions. However on the other hand I think it’s not fair to expect someone who is feeling mentally unwell to have to take all advice in case someone feels offended. I think in the second case, that it’s presumptuous to expect them to ‘see the light’ with a suggestion you have made.
It is my belief that one of the most important things you can do for a person who opens up to you about their struggles with their mental health is to listen. However that doesn’t translate well on social media. People have different understandings of what ‘listening’ is and sometimes not knowing what to say leaves a deafening silence. In person of course there is the non verbal cues can help, especially when you don’t know what to say.
Listening doesn’t fix anything though and I think that is what makes it so good. I know for me personally, when I talk to Paul about something that has been going on with me lately, the moment he starts trying to ‘fix’ it, that is when I shut down. I feel like screaming at him (and I have on one or two occasions) that I don’t want him to fix it, I just want him to listen. It seems like a foreign concept to him.
While I think that offering suggestions definitely has its place, and I don’t think that people should be shouted down for offering their help, I think it’s also important to remember that sometimes an ear or a supportive ‘sending love’ can be enough. Sometimes it really is enough to know that you are being heard, that what you are feeling is pretty crappy but people are their to support you.
Next time you see a tweet or a facebook status from someone who is struggling, try to pay attention to what they are asking for. Sometimes a sympathetic reply is enough, and the beauty (and sometimes the downfall) of social media is that you don’t have to engage if you don’t feel comfortable.
What do you say when someone is struggling? Do you feel the need to fix a loved one’s problems?
Definitely!! People think they’re helping but trying to fix someone does not help! Being there and just listening is much, much more helpful! xx
There are so many of your posts on here that I can relate to, even though in my life mental illness is not our main issue and I think that this post relates (to me) about any situation in life. Sometimes we would just like to say to someone “I really feel like shit today” and have them say “oh, that really sucks”, or “is there anything that I can do for you to help you out”. And I’m not talking about anything major, I’m talking about offering to cook dinner that night so I don’t have to (my partner), or do you want to go chill for a half hour in the room and read your book, or just have a lie down or something.
So while that wasn’t directed at mental illness, I think that sometimes it is just nice to have acknowledgement. Not in the sense of making a drama out of your situation, but to vent, to be heard, to bounce off of someone and just be heard.
I think it is always great when someone offers a suggestion, and when they do, I think that they may sometimes feel the want for some sort of feedback in the sense to bounce their idea off of you and see if you think that will help. On the otherhand though, when someone makes a suggestion and keeps at it and expects you to, as you said, ‘see the light’, then I think that they are pushing the boundaries and more likely to do ‘more harm than good’.
I guess I feel that like with any situation in life, we all need to feel heard and understood and sometimes it is nice just to have that. Bonus if they have a suggestion, but bounce it and leave it. Don’t push it.
It can be irritating to me when people suggest things to me that I have tried and tell me things as though they are a revelation. I am in my 4th decade. I have had depression and anxiety since I was 13. Honestly, I’ve tried nearly everything. I get soooo tired of explaining that I have TRIED all the medications I am ever going to take, that I tried them for years..from all different families. This is a conversation with my GP I am particularly effing sick of. I could start listing all the horrible side effects and minimal help they gave me, for the 1000th time I suppose. And hey, really sunshine, fresh air, exercise and good food can help with mood lows? WOW. How did I miss that? Shame when I am depressed I am lucky if I can manage a shower eh? Lack of sleep is a bad thing? You don’t say? I will remember that next time I cannot sleep for two days, mind over matter. Alcohol is a depressant? Gosh, I had no idea. When I am at my wit’s end and have been miserable for weeks I won’t allow myself one night off then, cheers.
I sound angry, and I’m not. I just get a bit tired of it. Having said that we cannot learn knew things if people don’t share. I guess the bottom line is, if you know someone well it’s ok to suggest stuff. And then just leave it be. And if you’re a GP, or medical professional, for goodness sake pay attention to the first 10 times we have had this conversation about medication. Because no, I still haven’t changed my mind. And that’s not because I am opposed to meds or haven’t tried meds – it’s because I have. And they don’t fix everyone.
Angela’s comment above was spot on. We learn about this in counselling, about how people just want to have their feelings validated and acknowledged, not solutions offered. For example with grief, there are no solutions to grief except doing the work of grief. And, most of the time, there are no easy solutions to mental illness either. I usually just lie and tell people I am fine. Not because they will necessarily be judgey or uncaring, but because yep they will try to sort me.
For me, what has helped most has been CBT. Just a little human support and kindness, without judgement, and without thinking that if I would just do or try a/b/c I’d be fixed. Sigh.
Having said all that, if you DO find a way to fix me completely Teegs, let me know 🙂