When many of us think of a mental illness, the first thing we think of are things that we can see. Some people act out because of their illness and sometimes commit crimes.
We can see that, and from that determine that they are mentally ill; however, most of the time, a mental illness is invisible.
If someone has good grades, a group of friends, and goes out a decent amount, we assume they are perfectly fine, but that may not be the case.
Most of the time, people who are struggling the most don’t show it. Because of this, we often think they want attention when they say they’re depressed or anxious.
How could someone with their life together be breaking at the seams? Depression and anxiety aren’t always apparent to everyone else.
People with these issues are often told to just “snap out of it” or get over it, but you can’t ignore something that is chemically imbalanced in your brain.
Similarly, because someone has a good day, it doesn’t mean the mental illness is simply gone. Everyone has good days and bad days, with or without a mental illness. It doesn’t mean you have been magically cured, it means that maybe you woke up in a good mood, or something didn’t trigger you that day.
A lot of times there isn’t a reason for someone’s anxiety or depression, it’s simply there like impending doom. This is really hard for others without these illnesses to understand because if there is a problem, then there must be a solution.
However, if there isn’t a definite problem, there isn’t a fix-all solution. There’s a lot of trial and error with a mental illness.
Some people see a therapist or try medicine, others try to go for a walk or take a bath.
Often there’s a combination of all of these things.
Some people are really good at controlling their illness by not bringing attention to themselves. Anxiety can simply be being controlling, constantly irritable, or a lack of concentration.
These symptoms can make someone seem like they are uptight and mean, but they’re dealing with something you can’t see.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, which is what we usually associate anxiety with, is complete introversion, constant panic attacks, and staying shut-in.
These all can be very true with anxiety, but is not the common everyday life of someone with an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety and depression are a constant battle of feeling exhausted constantly, reacting without thinking, and the thought of ‘when is this going to end?’.
Generally, people with high-functioning anxiety still push themselves to go out and be social, even if they know what’s going to happen because of it.
They want to try their best to control what’s going on inside, even if the consequences are dire.
Don’t point out if someone seems anxious while hanging out, instead bring up something that will ground them, like asking where they bought their shirt.
Most people with anxiety and depression want to be heard. They don’t want you to call them crazy or psycho, instead they want you to understand how hard it is day to day and realize that they just need a friend.
Little things like going to the pharmacy can be hard. Sensory overload often kicks in for people with anxiety.
The noises become too loud, the lights are too bright, and everything is just coming down all at once and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Sometimes even though it looks silly, someone might need to put on their sunglasses inside a store. Don’t make fun of them, just put your sunglasses on too and go with it.
Make someone feel heard without out-right talking about it. Don’t ask someone about their illness unless it is brought up by them on their own.
It’s not that they don’t trust you. Maybe they don’t, but it’s a personal topic.
Unfortunately, when people don’t talk about their personal things, others may take it personally. However, quite frankly, it’s nobody else’s business but their own.
Your one job as a friend is to make them feel not alone and maybe laugh a little.
Dealing with anxiety, depression, or any other mental illness is a day to day struggle on its own without all the ridicule of being fake or not.
Make it easier on your friends dealing with their struggles by being a good listener.