Talking about your mental health can feel daunting. You might find yourself becoming withdrawn or guarded around others. Or, you may struggle with blurting out your feelings without consideration of the potential consequences.
Of course, the people who love you will support your well-being and root for you to succeed. Most of the time, they will feel honored knowing that you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings with them.
That said, knowing how to talk about your struggles and ask for help is an important communication skill. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Let Them You Want to Talk
If at all possible, don't just start talking without a plan. Instead, let your loved one know that you have a few things on your mind that you'd like to discuss. Ask them if you can schedule a convenient time that works for both of you.
If this request feels overwhelming face-to-face, consider sending them a text. This text can be as simple as the following script: I want to talk to you about a few things I'm dealing with. When is a good time for you?
This simple request puts your situation on their radar- they know they can revisit and address it with you when it's the right time.
Own Your Accountability
Take ownership for any mishaps or wrongdoings. For example, you might say, I recognize that I tend to act irrationally when I am feeling depressed. Last week, I quit my job impulsively, and I know that was a really bad idea. I really want to work on this problem.
Even if an apology isn't necessary, demonstrating that you recognize how your mental health affects others is a huge asset in building successful relationships. It shows that you are willing to look inwards and take steps to grow.
Furthermore, if your loved one comments on something you did (or didn't do), avoid defensiveness. It's normal to want to explain your reasoning, but these explanations may inadverdantly invalidate their feelings. Additionally, defensiveness can show that you aren't open and willing to take feedback, which can be off-putting to others.
Remember that your loved one has your best interest at heart. However, they are entitled to their own needs, feelings, and boundaries. If their feedback feels harmful, it's okay to let them know- but it's also important to listen to what they have to say. It may provide revealing information about how your behavior affects the people you care about the most.
Consider What You Need Most
Your loved one might want to know how they can support you. Or, they may quickly jump to assumptions about what you need (or don't need). While unsolicited advice can feel frustrating, remember that most advice comes from a place of good intentions.
With that in mind, it's a good idea to think about what you need before having the conversation. Do you want help finding appropriate treatment? Do you need support in finding a place to live or getting a job? Or, do you just need emotional support where you know you can come to them when you need to vent or unload the day's stress?
Remember that asking for what you need doesn't guarantee the other person can or will meet those needs. Having realistic expectations is also an important part of the process.
Be Mindful of Codependency Patterns
Loved ones may unknowingly enable your situation by taking care of various tasks for you. Even if this comes from a place of love, this kind of entanglement often causes resentment, fear, and one-sided relationship dynamics.
Try to avoid letting loved ones do certain things for you. For example, if your mother always makes your doctor's appointments, take the initiative to learn how to do it on your own. Or, if your spouse tends to apologize to others if you lash out, make an effort to change this pattern.
Breaking codependency takes time and effort. Both parties usually need to play an active role in the recovery process.
Be patient with yourself when you do this work. Remember that growth can feel uncomfortable and strange. Fortunately, you can do your part by focusing on what you can control: your actions.
Invite Them to Therapy with You
Therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment to share your concerns. A therapist will facilitate an appropriate conversation where you and your loved one can freely discuss the situation.
Additionally, meeting with a therapist can provide you both with appropriate tools related to setting boundaries, coping skills, and trust exercises. Depending on the situation, you may also benefit from engaging in couples or family therapy together.
Final Thoughts On Talking About Your Mental Health
At The Mental Health House, we understand that talking about mental health can feel frightening and difficult. However, we also believe that these conversations can facilitate much-needed healing and recovery.
Mental health doesn't need to live in isolation. Having the right support can make a tremendous impact on your well-being. We are here for you and your loved ones. Contact us today to learn more about our unique treatment approach.