All you need to do

Since this blog is about mental health, primarily, I really find there isn’t a lot for me to say that hasn’t already been said. I may reframe this conversation or limit it to posts about stigma attached to mental illness when I run across such. I already have faced a tiny bit of that, with people thinking that when I take time off work for “stress” I’m being a delicate flower, when in fact I’m in hell and sometimes can barely function because of how upsetting the bizarre notions in my head are. No one would look down on a person grieving the loss of a loved one for taking time off work- it’s extremely emotionally upsetting. Everyone can relate to that. Well, so is some of what I have to deal with sometimes; the fact that my thoughts are not based in real events makes it in many ways worse, because I don’t get the sympathy or concern I would if it were not the case, but I experience them and relive them over and over and over, and am traumatized just as if they actually had happened.

I’ve been told to “just forget about it” or “just snap out of it”, and this does not help- I am not choosing to dwell on these ideas, they sneak up behind me, put a hood over my head, and attack. I try to distract myself with writing or exercise or movies or housework, when I’m feeling relatively well I go to work and often that helps a lot, but when I have a moment to myself or am trying to sleep at night, there they are- those damaging ideas, and the only thing that makes them leave is medication, rest, and time.

I am not complaining- most people, when they understand my situation, are sympathetic, or at least don’t tell me to my face that they think I’m being overly sensitive. Most people ask if I’m suicidal and when they find I’m not, want to talk to me, as if prying out my delusions will somehow help- this is kind of them, but this is not helpful. I need distraction from my problems, not an in depth analysis of them, particularly if I don’t know you well or I feel unsafe for some reason (as I do ALL THE TIME when I am paranoid), and I certainly am wise enough to know that, however well-meaning, analysis of my thoughts by a friend is just no substitute for psychiatric care. And my psychiatrists have told me over and over that I need to train myself to ignore my bizarre, upsetting thoughts instead of dwell on them, so, friends, talking to me about my thoughts while I am ill is only going to make things worse.

No, the best thing you can do is just be a friend- have coffee and just quietly put up with me stopping and staring off into space for a few seconds while an idea tries to ambush me, and continue on with the conversation as if nothing had happened instead of pouncing on it and trying to drag out all my worst nightmares from me. Just laugh with me at silly jokes or make comments about bad movies we watch, or enjoy a walk in a beautiful park with me. Anything to distract me from my thoughts. My long-distance friends find I send them anxious letters asking if bizarre things happened, or maybe making vague inquiries: the best thing to do is just to reply with “nothing like that happened” and sign off with a hug.

If I trust you and feel well enough, you’ll find out what my thoughts are eventually, and for that to happen all you need to do is apply kindness, and time.

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