Opening up to people about your mental illness is, to put it plainly, hard. When you are unsure of how someone is going to react, it’s hard to tell them anything, but especially when it’s something as personal as your wellness. There is a stigma associated with mental illnesses, so it’s natural to believe that people will react poorly. However, confiding in someone, as scary as it may seem, can encourage you and help you receive the care you need.
- Find a Confidant
You may already have a person in mind that you want to share your story with. If you keep juggling between doing it or not, make a list of pros and cons. You might list the advantages and disadvantages of telling them and not telling them just to help you feel confident in your choice. While you might think of a confidant as a parent or close friend, realize that teachers, coworkers, religious leaders, and doctors can act as good listeners too. It might be easier for you to confide in someone who is not socially close to you first. How and who you confide in is completely your choice.
- Approach with Purpose
When you’ve decided who to talk to, approach the situation gracefully. Maybe that looks like texting a friend that you have something you want to talk to them about and meeting up later. Setting the scene and attitude of the conversation will help you feel in control and can prepare the other person for a more serious talk.
- Give Examples/Diagnosis
Telling people you feel sad is something that is easily brushed off. It’s unfortunate, but people don’t take warning signs of mental illnesses seriously unless you do. Don’t laugh off your problems and treat them like a joke–go into detail about how you feel. Saying you feel anxious or sad is general; everybody feels anxious or sad sometimes. So, tell them “I have been feeling depressed for the last few weeks–to the extent that I don’t want to get out of bed or participate in any of my hobbies. I think I might have depression. I feel alone and I know I need help.” Most importantly, just try your best to convey your feelings and emotions.
- Ask for Help
Asking for help is awkward and sometimes we feel embarrassed. Many feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but it takes courage to admit that you have a problem. When confiding in someone, suggest ways that they can help you–because most people will want to. Some ideas may be asking them to help you find a doctor or mental health treatment center or to just hug you now and then.
- Be Understanding
Some people won’t react as well as you want them to, and that’s hard, but it’s okay. Move on and keep confiding in people until you find someone who can help. As much as you want others to be understanding, you should also be understanding. The people you confide in will likely have questions about how long you’ve been feeling this way, what triggers set it off, and what your experience has been like. You can decide to not share some information and set boundaries, but in some cases, if you confide completely, they’ll be able to get you the full care you need.
Struggling with a mental illness can make you feel less like yourself. Telling people about what you are experiencing can help you feel supported and find the care you need.