Having a mental illness can be tough enough, but when we’re brave enough to tell people and they have a bad reaction to it, that only serves to validate those horrible thoughts of being a burden, worthless and helpless. In addition to the shame we might already feel, we now feel silly for reaching out and are tempted to clam up.
Being supported with your mental health and having an outlet for what you are going through is really important. We understand how incredibly difficult it can be to speak out and reach out.
Try to remain calm
Before you do anything, take a deep breath and remain calm. We know it’s incredibly frustrating and upsetting when you face a negative reaction instead of understanding. All you want to do is shout at them and tell them they’re wrong and how hurtful they’re being, but stay calm, composed and you’ll ultimately come out of this situation better as a result.
Talk to Them
Just because someone reacts badly doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, they just don’t understand how hard mental illness can be. So whether they roll their eyes, ask really inappropriate questions or make you feel bad about something you can’t control, talk to them about it.
Tell them how it makes you feel when they react that way and ask them where that reaction comes from. Tell them your story, tell them how it’s a medical thing and not something you can control, tell them whatever you feel will help them understand.
Ultimately the more they know about your mental illness, and the more they know how their reaction upsets you, the better they can be at supporting you in the correct way in the long run.
Remind Yourself It’s Their Problem
If after talking to them they’re still reacting badly, then ultimately it’s their problem, not yours, so don’t take it personally. You tried, and if they’re still reacting badly then be the bigger person and walk away, your mental health isn’t the problem, their attitude is.
Remind yourself that you are an amazing person battling something that takes bravery and strength and if they don’t understand that, they aren’t special enough to be a big part of your life. Don’t let their reactions drag you down, you’re better than that.
Talk to People Who Do Understand
Chatting to the people who understand you, show you compassion and support no matter what and generally react in the correct way will help you remember that not everyone is going to react badly to your mental illness.
Tell your support network what happened, they’ll support and reassure you that talking about your mental illness is important. Chatting to people who are always there for you and who encourage you to talk will ensure that you don’t let bad reactions put you off communicating with those around you.
Join a Support Group
Don’t have someone you feel you can talk to? Why not join a support group? Or sign up to an activity that interests you to meet new people? There are people out there who will support you and understand what you’re going through.
Even if you already have people you can talk to, joining a support group can be really helpful, especially when you’re facing bad reactions from others. You’ll be surrounded by people who are (sadly) bound to have experienced the same thing and knowing you’re not alone can make you feel even more supported.