How to Tell a Loved One You're Struggling with Amy D. - E024
How do you tell a loved one you're struggling?
OK, so you’ve decided you’re ready to tell someone that you need support and that you’re struggling – what do you do now? This is a tough question I get asked a lot about so I decided to answer it through a podcast episode.
On today's episode, we're going to take a look at my experience when I was struggling to tell other people about my mental health struggles as well as what you can do if this is something you're going through right now. I promise, you are NOT alone. I've been there too and that's why I get to share all of the ways and coping mechanisms that helped me through these hard times. Believe me, I get it. Let's talk about it in this episode.
So if you're ready to leave the fear of talking behind and make one tiny yet important step forward go ahead and take a listen to this episode. Then message me on Instagram with your biggest takeaway!
> What this episode is about? And who's it for? (01:40)
> The first step is establishing a self-care management plan (02:05)
> Now that you have a self-care plan what's the next step? (04:38)
> The framework I use, explained and how to use it (06:02)
> The last and most important question of the framework is "How". What does it means? (09:53)
E024: How to Tell a Loved One You're Struggling
Do you wonder how to tell a loved one you’re struggling with your mental health? If so, then this is the episode for you.
Amy: [00:00:00] Today's episode answers the question, how do you tell a loved one or a family member if you're struggling with your mental health? This question came from Instagram, so I thank you listeners who are reaching out. If you'd like to do the same, please hit me up on Instagram at TheEmpathyFront, or you could go to my personal account, which is Amy.Demone. Both links will be available in the show notes, so you can easily find me on Insta.
This is a great question. And it's a question that I never really thought about before I shared with my family what was going on. Now, I was a bit older when I shared what was going on. Because I didn't truly understand what was going on inside my head until I was about 25.
Now this question did come from a younger listener. So, I'm going to just give a forewarning warning that there is great advice in here for everyone, but this is specifically for the listener that asked.
Now, if you are someone that doesn't live with your family, when it comes to sharing this advice, that's okay. There are just slightly different plans of attack that you would take when you don't live with your family and questions. That being said, we're going to switch to this advice for this week. And I will start with this advice.
Now, before we really dive deep, you've got to establish a self-care management plan.
That means when you're feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or sick, what are some practices and exercises that you have in your toolbox (as cliche as that is) that you can rely on to help you get through the pain and the emotion of that moment? Now healthy coping mechanisms look like taking a bath, reading a book, or maybe screaming into a pillow. If you really need to get out that fiery energy that's within, that's always an option. You’ll need these when you tell a loved one you’re struggling.
So negative coping mechanisms look like smoking marijuana to run away from your issues or to avoid them. Plus other avoidance tactics, like maybe even grabbing for an extra glass of wine at night, dinner. Whatever it is, you know what is a negative coping mechanism within your life and not something that you experience every once in a while to treat yourself.
That's why self-awareness is so important. So, a self-care management plan, make sure you have a list of healthy coping mechanisms that you can use in case this conversation doesn't go as planned.
Preparing to tell a loved one you’re struggling with your mental health.
[00:03:20] Now, I say as planned, because I find when you have the ability to communicate with a family member, most of the times when you're speaking about your mental health issues, they are understanding and they hear what you're saying.
Now, granted, there's always the instances where this is not the case. That's why if this were to go in a different way than you hope for, you have a set of instructions that you've created for yourself to help you regain some balance. Because in the parent and child dynamic, the child just craves the love and the acceptance of a parent.
It's also a survival tactic that happens during development. We need our parents to accept us from a basic biological, survival standpoint. So we are so attached to this outcome, most of the time it's very welcoming. But if it's not the case, I want you guys to be ready to move forward through it, without it being incredibly traumatic. But it can be hard to tell a loved one you are struggling.
Okay. So you have your self-care plan now, what? I encourage you to always establish that you want to have a serious conversation with your family member or members in advance. And that is because when tensions are high or something is going wrong and we're feeling that our mental health is getting triggered and we're starting to resort into more anxious feelings, that becomes anxious behavior or angry feelings, and that becomes anxious and angry behavior. This can happen when you tell a loved one you’re struggling.
When that happens and then we try to talk about what's going on, it always ends in a miscommunication among the two parties.
[00:05:19]And it never feels resolved because you're in this state of feeling very erratic, very aroused, and essentially you're in fight or flight again. That's something that we want to avoid when we're having this conversation with our loved ones. Because if we are not approaching the conversation in this way, it's much less likely that they will be receptive and take us seriously on what we're trying to communicate.
Now, if you come from a family that doesn't communicate, which is very possible, it was, in fact, the case for me, then this is going to feel especially hard. So, I'm trying to give you a framework that you can kind of sketch out, work within, and apply it to your situation. I always answered these six basic questions and it's who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Some of it's pretty obvious. Who? You, obviously. What are you experiencing? This is where you would insert anxiety, depression, symptoms of bipolar disorder, or whatever it is that you want to communicate to your family.
When? This takes a bit of insight. You've got to pay attention to “what are the similarities when I get anxious, what are the similarities when I get angry?” Or depressed or numbed out, whatever it is. If you don't know what this is, That's okay. You’re getting to the place where you can tell a loved one you are struggling.
But maybe address that in the conversation.
[00:06:59] Maybe say something along the lines of “I'm feeling depressed all the time, and I don't know why, so who, what, when, where, now?” If you are in tune with your body, if you can feel the tension and the sensation within your body and where it happens to help describe what's going on, that's going to be something that most counselors and therapists address in counseling.
That's just giving you a headstart on thinking about where this sensation, tension, and stress is being kept in your body. However, if it's also environmental, for instance, you're always at school and you're feeling depressed or you're always at your aunt's house and you're feeling anxious... Or maybe it's every time I go outside, I feel like the world is falling in on me.
If you can establish an environment, that's awesome. Again, if you don't know the answers to these questions, that's okay. You’re starting to understand yourself and that’s what you need to do to tell a loved one you’re struggling. It's just to give you an idea of what you should be, including when you bring this to your loved ones. Now “why?” This is really hard. A lot of people, especially at a younger age, don't know why they're experiencing what they are.
For me, I went into a deep psychoanalysis dark hole for five to 10 years of my life. I have a good understanding of why my anxiety is present today. I've also been in therapy. What they do explain in therapy is that there's a huge importance to creating a narrative or a story around your anxiety so you can understand it, and eventually manipulate it to work in your favor. I'm making it sound a lot easier than it is though.
That being said, start to think about why you think you have these things.
[00:09:01] Now, I want you to get in touch with your intuition here. I don't want you to be Googling or go on YouTube.
I want you to be thinking and feeling, “Okay, I am really not happy at school and I get anxious and my blood flushes to my face. And that's all I know.” Okay. You're at school. What at school is happening? Is it the fear of being judged? Maybe it’s the fact that someone's making fun of you or bullying you?
Is it something unrelated to that? Are you being taken advantage of by a loved one? Whatever it is, it's important to check in because that will give you insight into what is causing and continuing these feelings and emotions within your body and your life. You can tell all this when you tell a loved one you’re struggling.
Okay. So the last question is “How?” Now, this is the most important question. This doesn't mean, “How is this happening within?” You don't need to explain the biological, the sociological, or all the different ways you can explain why it's happening or how it's happening inside. “How?” answers the question of how can you move forward from this conversation feeling heard or loved or whatever.
We're taught that humans and individuals are just supposed to understand what we want by feeling.
[00:10:29] And that's very rarely the case disconnection among human beings is growing. And it's just not something that you can rely on.
I used to fall into the Disney Prince trap where I was just waiting for Prince Charming to know exactly what I needed, to kiss me from my sleep and wake me up, and blah, blah, blah. That's not saying that you can't find your Prince charming. It's saying that you have to ask certain things in order for that relationship to stay in the Prince Charming category, because nothing is static and everything needs work.
So, state your desired outcomes. I also know that this sounds silly because adults aren't as smart as they lead you on to be. That was one of the biggest things that I realized when I grew up a little bit, was that everyone who is an adult doesn't know absolutely anything and they're all lying to us and pretending that they know. Now, granted there's obviously people that know more than me, and vice versa, but it has nothing to do with my age so much. It’s more so experience and what I've learned from it and my behavior that stems from that.
Here are some examples on how you can articulate how you want to move forward from this conversation feeling heard and/or unconditionally loved. So, here are some examples:
“I want you to know that I'm struggling and I'm looking for help on how to overcome it.”
Or “I think I need to check out rehab programs.”
Maybe it’s, “I'm wanting to join some form of group therapy program.”
Perhaps even, “I need a resource online to talk to someone.”
Or “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” You may figure out your own.
If again, you don't know how, really, really dig down deep.
[00:12:18] How can you move forward from this conversation in a way that's positive? Because you are feeling this undeniable pull to share your experience with your family members. You want to tell a loved one you are struggling.
So, you obviously are expecting some form of outcome from this conversation. That's totally okay. Just be honest with yourself and then be able to communicate that with your family.
Here's where I remind you about your self-care plan. If this conversation didn't go well, you must refer to the self-care care plan that I just talked about.
It's very integral. And it will help you process the situation in which you're in. Remember, nothing is forever. Just because that conversation goes bad, if you know your parents love you and want to support you, they will hopefully come around or start to seek out resources for them to understand what's going on.
Because that's another thing: it's really hard to take education for our children. We grow up with this preconceived notion that because they are parents and we love them that they know what's best for us. They know everything that is good for us, but they don't live in our life 24/7. So, that just can't be the case.
Many times they are also blinded because they don't want to admit that they may have been contributing to some elements of your poor mental health.
[00:13:43] It's really not for you to demonstrate to them that that may be the case. In fact, I greatly suggest that you don't. Instead, recognize that they're human too, and they may need some time to process. They may need to refer to people that they love and trust to truly understand what you need from them.
So, if all of this goes to shit and you still feel horrible, here are some things that I want to remind you. School guidance counselors are there for a reason. And I imagine right now it's incredibly hard to connect with them, especially if you're not going into the physical school. But do reach out to them in the very least, they will hopefully reply back to you with a reference or referral.
Tell a close family member that you can trust.
Sometimes there's a disconnect between our parents. Instead, we can really trust our cool fun aunt or quirky uncle or something like that. Or grandmother or grandfather. The list is really endless.
If you're able to rely on another family member that you can trust, do that. You can tell that loved one you’re struggling. That unity within the family unit will be really helpful to help drive home to your parents that you're having a conversation with other people in the family that support you.
Also friends' parents.
[00:15:05] Now, choose wisely, because this can really step on toes. It happened in my life. I relied on a friend's mother and father during a really hard time in my life. My parents took it very personally. Regardless of the fact that they were actually the reason that I was looking for some tender care. Because they were causing me a lot of suffering.
This is by no means foolproof. What this does show to the person that you're having a conversation with is that you've thought this through. And it can show that this is something to be true for you. Plus, you're finally feeling comfortable and reaching out to them to share part of your life that you've been hiding from them.
I think this is an incredible act of bravery and something that's incredibly hard to do. Especially in the age of perfection and social media influencers. Now, I recognize there's so many of us doing a great job at breaking that down, but the society and societal norms are still very much present. And for a lot of us, we can not get into the position where we ask for help.
So, I admire you and I am always here for you. If you need any help with anything else, please don't hesitate to reach out and ask me exactly what your own personal question is. I am going to answer it. On these short - well, I always say short, they always end up being much longer - podcast episodes to give you advice so you can move forward process the change that you're experiencing and really step in to the person that you know you can be.
You can tell a loved one you’re struggling. I believe in you.