Today I found a lavender coloured envelop in my mailbox, from the shape I presumed it was a card. My first thought was it was either a slightly late birthday card for hubby, or an extra early one for my son. The card however, was addressed to me. My name on the front, but no stamp, clearly hand delivered. Someone had been home all day so I knew it was meant to be found in the mailbox, and not given in person.
Over the past months I have been very open about my personal struggle with anxiety both here on my blog, and also on my Instagram feed. Not everyone has thought this the best choice for me, but it is my personal choice to make, and to be honest any one who is going through difficult times has the right to make that choice for themselves. What they choose to keep private and what they choose to share, we all have our reasons. My choice was one made because I didn’t feel I was being authentic if I pretended that I was all sunshine and happiness when in fact there have been days where leaving my own room was a battle. I think somehow though it is easier to get on my blog and type in words, or post on Instagram because I am not looking at anyone, not knowing their immediate reaction, or perhaps even judgement. Telling those close to me has been a much harder thing to do.
I want to help breakdown the stigmas attached to mental illness, and I felt in many ways the only way to do that is by being honest about my own mental wellbeing. I have to say that there has been a few comments from people that I have found hurtful, naive and disappointing, but that was only a couple, as for the most part the support, love and encouragement I have received has blown me away.
I am not sure if I doubted these people? Honestly I actually think I doubted whether I was loved enough that anyone would even really care. If you knew the people around me you would wonder how I could have doubted their love, but at a time when you struggling to see your own self-worth, or believe you are worthy of love, it is easy to believe that no one would really care. When grief, loss, mental illness, or your wellbeing is clouding your judgement it is hard to imagine that you are in fact loveable. When the darkest hours take over, I know for me I felt I may just be left completely alone. There is one thing though about me, I am an eternal optimist and so as much as I was feeling lost in a dark cloud there was always that sparkly part of me telling me to trust my gut, trust in my friendships, trust in the people who are there for me in the happy, laughing moments to be there for me when my sparkle has been dulled for a while.
Opening up to friends, and other parents from my children’s school was scary, would they judge me? Would it affect my children in a negative way? Instead these people embraced me and my family. They stepped in and stepped up in a way that I didn’t anticipate. This card, for example that I found today had the most beautiful words, and although it was written privately to me I want to share a part of what she wrote to me,
“No rule book. No time frame. No judgement.
Grief, pain, sadness, they’re all as individual as a fingerprint.
Do what is right for your soul”
I was so touched by these words, and her telling me she is here for me, this is a lady whose daughter goes to school with April and I can not tell you what a message like this means! I haven’t been ready to see a lot of people and I felt it was OK to let friends and family know this. I appreciate that people have respected that, and still showed support through gestures like this card.
I previously wrote a post “Early Warning Signs that you may be doing damage to your Wellbeing“. If you haven’t already read this post please do. This is a follow up post, as promised I wanted to offer friends, family, loved ones, partners and support people some insight into what you can do to help out, even in tiny ways, when someone you care about is going through a difficult time. That is why I mentioned this card, because gestures like just leaving a card in a mailbox without having to knock on the door can make all the difference to someone who is struggling.
Another friend who wanted to visit me or chat and I didn’t feel ready completely understood and so she decided to send me text messages (that I wasn’t forced to answer). Each morning there was a simple ‘good morning‘ message and each night a ‘good night, have a good sleep‘ message. It made me feel cared about and made a big difference.
Below are some other things friends have done that have been amazing. I hope that you can take some of these ideas and show support to someone you know is going through a hard time. If you are going through a hard time, feel free to forward this to some of your loved ones to help give them ideas on how they might better support you.
- Letting them know they are not alone
- Sending a text just to say you are thinking about them, and understanding if they are not ready to reply
- Asking would it be OK to visit or phone, and if not then perhaps just send a card, or regular text messages
- Just being there, it’s OK to not know what to say, just being there helps
- Helping out with getting their children to school, or after school activities
- Leaving a cooked meal at the front door and just texting to say it’s there
- Giving them a book you found helpful
- Giving simple little gifts like a box of tea, chocolates, wellness magazines, hand-cream, or lip balm
- Dropping them off a coffee from their favourite coffee shop
- A pack for their kids with some craft, or books
- Offering help to their partner
- Offering to take the kids for the day
- Homemade cookies, or muffins on the doorstep
- Book them a massage
- Hugs, if they like hugs of course
- Listen! Just really listen, no judgement, no trying to solve problems, just listen
- Sharing your own story if you have faced a similar issue, so they know they are not alone
- Soup, it is always good for the soul
- Research and find out what you can about what they are going through, there are loads of websites and books to help you better understand what to do and what not to do. If you feel you are being affected by what is happening their are also support groups for loved ones
- Never saying ‘just get over it’, or ‘snap out of it’
- Mowing the lawn, or weeding
- Hiring them a once off cleaner for an hour
- If they feel up to it, taking them out for a coffee, or a walk
- Taking them to a meditation class
- If they are happy for you to visit, you could turn up in your PJ’s with a movie and some comfort food
- Tell them what they mean to you
- Go along with their pace, if they feel ready offer to take them out, fresh air, or doing exercise together can be a great mood booster
- Be the friend that you would wish to have if you were having a difficult time
- Read my post “The Most Magical Gift“.
I have also previously written a post on how to help someone through pregnancy loss and their are more helpful tips for grief and loss in that article, feel free to click on the Link and have a look at those tips too. “How To Help Someone Through Miscarriage and Loss“.
There is no exact right or wrong, be guided by where you’re friend, or loved one is at, and remember this can change day to day so it is best to check in with them and make sure they are comfortable. Also offer support to those closest to them as they are often struggling too. Try not to feel rejected if they are not ready to see you, or open up, remember that just by reaching out you are making a HUGE difference! Talking openly and honestly and acknowledging their feelings will help them feel understood, and not so alone. Just be yourself, and be gentle on yourself too. Support people need to remember to look after their own needs too!
It can be in the difficult times, when the dark clouds are swirling and our hearts are heavy that we actually find out who truly loves us. My sparkle may have been dulled lately, but trust me I am determined to keep sparkling and sharing love and hope to the world through my actions, and my little blog. I am a warrior, there are millions of us, and we will stand up and fight for our vitality, and on the way we will break down stigmas and prove that we can overcome anything. Stand up along with us, be authentic, celebrate love and friendship and together we will hold our heads high whilst walking into a better, more compassionate, and healthier future!
Thank you, love Mac xx