Have you ever tried talking to a loved one about your mental illness and they respond with a list of suggestions? This can be a frustrating (but understandable) issue. A common misconception in this kind of scenario is when the other person feels like you’re asking them to fix whatever is wrong. We wanted to figure out a way to help those eager friends & family members to learn that sometimes the best thing they can do is to listen. So in hopes of educating others about this, we asked our Instagram community two questions:
1) What does it mean/feel to be heard?
2) How can other people become better listeners?
Read below for their answers.
1. For the majority of my life, I battled Emetophobia (fear of vomiting) and other demons created by being sexually abused and raped. The most common responses I’d get when I shared with someone were:
“Are you sure you didn’t ask for it?” It wasn’t until I started therapy and then group therapy, that I finally got someone truly listening to me. I want/need empathy. Listening is hard, and I’m still learning how to do that myself. When in doubt, ask the person that’s sharing with you, if they want to hear your opinion or advice or if they just need you to listen. But the LAST thing to do is to try to give fixes. Especially if you are someone who has never gone through the same experience and have no idea about trauma and human psychology. A big no-no is :”Well, if that happened to me that I’d…” No, you don’t know what you would do. You don’t.
2. Listening to someone who is having a hard time is crucial. Everyone needs to be loved and listened to, because it’s a hard life to live keeping all your thoughts and emotions inside just for yourself.
The listener doesn’t have to be someone who knows exactly what to say or gives the best advice. Listening means sitting with the person through a hard time and being there for them when feeling lost and lonely. Friendship goes both ways and the best way to show appreciation and love is being there for someone no matter is its good or bad. It feels good to know that there is someone who cares enough to be listening to the deepest darkest thoughts from your head. And listening even though there are no words is still listening. Because silence also tells many things when you don’t find a way to express emotions by words. And tears also tell many things. Taking off all masks we wear to protect ourselves and being honest and emotional with someone is the best gift to give. Honesty, love and emotion.
3. To be heard means to really listen to feel the emotion and most of the time a response is not needed. To be there and not judge. To many people listen to respond and are busy planning their response instead of waiting to hear everything. Focusing on the moment and listening to listen is something we all could use work on. I am here always to lend an ear to anyone in need. Lean on me when you’re alone we all need someone to lean on So just call on me when you need a hand we all need someone to lean on
4. I suffer from Post-traumatic stress disorder, and clinical depression. I have been taking anti-depressants for just over 6 years (though I have suffered much longer than that). About a year ago I also began experiencing anxiety attacks. Recently, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder – which is common for those who experienced childhood and adolescent trauma like I did. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have an array of truly remarkable friends who have provided me with so much love and support throughout my life – I attribute my survival thus far in large part to them. And when I think about what makes my friends who are family so amazing at supporting me, I think about them listening to me… And I am so lucky to have the kind of people in my life who listen with their hearts, their heads, and their souls, all at once. Because whether I like to admit it or not (I don’t! I *HATE* to admit it!!!), my life IS incredibly challenging and getting proper treatment for mental illness is unbelievably hard.
5. Last year in September 2015, I was diagnosed with meningitis and psychosis. It put a lot of stress on me, causing me to gain weight and have no motivation whatsoever to continue schooling. It was such a tough time that I ended up staying in bed for a month and a half. My parents didn’t understand what was so hard and what was wrong with me at the time and keep in mind, they aren’t fluent in English. Eventually, I told my Dad about how I felt exhausted emotionally and physically. I told him how I was depressed, paranoid, and had so much anxiety from my suicidal thoughts. I expected my dad to be mad about me being ‘lazy’ like the school had described my current condition. He told me that if I needed a break, we could go up to Colorado and go hiking or if I needed a break from school, I could stay at home for as long as I wanted until I felt better with myself. Knowing that he supported me and could understand just a little bit of the stress I went through, I started feeling better. It gave me motivation because throughout my childhood, I thought I was crazy. I hid things from my parents and I kept to myself no matter what because most parents get mad and pull the “you’re making it too hard on yourself” but he understood that things were not going the way it was supposed to and that my past illnesses and me being in a hospital for a lot of my life had affected me greatly. It was so important for me to see that he knew that me not feeling well, would mean that if I kept feeling like this, he could eventually lose me. Nowadays, I tell my parents mostly everything and it has become so important to me and had motivated me for the future. I hope many of you can experience that whether it be from a relative, friend, or higher authority figure. You may also talk to me whenever you’re feeling down.
6. To be heard can be everything. And can be sometimes close to nothing, if not counteracting (to be heard, and apathy within the recipient follows) it mainly depends on the true acceptance of others. If people are truly listening with full acceptance of one’s condition, the fact that acceptance exists can help heal psyches and/or make the healing process easier.