I have, over the last few weeks, taken part in a course which looks at what Jesus had to say about blessing and the kind of people who find blessing. It is a practical course where we are set tasks to do each week. This week has been about being a blessing through seeking justice.
Imagining how we would like the world to be and doing something practical about it. This post is my attempt at that.
To be honest, most of my suggestions on helping people find their way through life when depressed or low comes down to things that I have found work, or things I would find a blessing myself.
It has been to some degree or another, a feature of most of my adult life. Like so many, the last 12 months have magnified it considerably. I have had more trouble with it over this last year than I have for the best part of ten years. On the bright side, I am also much better equipped to deal with it than i was in the past, but it still sucks.
It is worth bearing in mind that the spectrum of low through to really really depressed is both wide and deep. And how you help will depend on how well you know the person, how much (or not) they want to be helped and how much you are able to give without shooting yourself in the foot.
The difficulties depression brings are many, but just imagine trying to get on and do an ordinary day when:
Your brain feels like someone removed it, put it on the shelf and filled your head with cotton wool instead.
You feel anxious like you are about to take an exam on which the rest of your life depends
Your inner voice is constantly telling you that you are rubbish, no one loves you and you might as well die.
When you are presented with any kind of decision be it what to have for dinner or which pair of socks to put on, it puts you into an emotional tailspin
You are thoroughly exhausted and either cant sleep at all or need to sleep 15 hours in every 24.
You are full of grief like feelings which at times are so strong its physically painful.
As you cope less and less, your world shrinks to fit what you can manage until you are shut indoors unable to make contact with anyone.
So what can we do to help someone? To be honest, my ideas mostly come down to making sure the person continues to know they are not forgotten and not alone. Pick the things you like and that are relevant, leave the rest.
Keep in contact
Bear in mind that not everyone will feel able to talk on the phone. Whatsapp, email and especially physical mail are really useful.
Try not to put people on the spot – “how are you” can floor people or make them feel like they need to get better quickly so they have something to say. Perhaps try “how has today been?” instead.
Small gifts or a handwritten note can give people physical evidence that they are cared for at a time when they can’t trust what their brain is telling them. There is so much out there for free to beautify anything you send (see links below for examples). Gifts which help self care are far more valuable than their material worth.
Whether you believe in God or not, how ever you are able, positive thoughts thoughts or asking Jesus for strength and healing – lift up your friend in prayer. It will make a difference to both of you.
Even in these socially distanced times, it is possible to offer practical help. From shopping or providing home cooked meals or making phone calls on behalf of the person you are supporting.
Getting outdoors and exercise are incredibly valuable but it can feel just too much to get out of the door alone. Organising to go walking with someone where you turn up on their doorstep at a prearranged time, prepared to wait while someone gets ready because they haven managed to do that yet, is a real gift.
The crisis card
A crisis card or plan, is something a person writes while they are well. In it they detail what they would like to happen if they become really unwell. It is invaluable because it helps that person remain in control of their lives and gives you, the helper a list of things that really do help. If you are in a good enough relationship with someone, this is something you might suggest to them. Blurt Foundation Crisis Plan.
Get help and get educated
Helping someone with a mental illness can mean being in for the long haul. It can also take a lot out of you. So dont go it alone. As a minimum, have someone in your life you can speak to in confidence and how YOU are. But also, where ever possible, get a few of the person’s friends/relatives together and figure out who is going to do what and when, so that you can week by week support the person without burning out yourself.
Finally, make sure you sre up to date with your own knowledge. Have a look round some of the following websites:
I’m trying to raise £300 to buy Suzanne Stabile’s 12 week Enneagram course so that I can deliver it locally for free.
The Enneagram is an amazing personality tool which helps people grow in compassion for others and themselves. What a great way to promote good #mentalhealth and #socialwellbeing
So around it comes again, time to talk day. As a youth worker, I deal with and talk about mental health issues all the time.
I am also open about my own mental health, having suffered five major depressive episodes in my life, and now, permanently on antidepressants.
Really, you are supposed to talk to people face to face today, but to talk in depth would feel too exposed for me, so here it is in a blog post.
The medication and my own self care, which includes prayer, mindfulness, healthy eating, regular dog walking and sleep (as much as a new mum ever gets) keeps me well.
But there in lies the thing.
I have found that talking about mental health, people tend to see it as “my thing” as in, they don’t mind me being passionate about the subject, and will listen to me talk about it… But that’s as far as it goes. People generally, I find, don’t really want to take action.
Secondly, people are great when you have a crisis. So five, nearly six years ago, when I was too depressed even to leave the house, people were very kind to me.
But when it comes to living with clinical depression, if you are well enough to work, and you look cheerful, people forget you have a chronic illness.
No one sees how much effort, how much energy it takes, just to be normal.
If I slip at all with my self care, particularly at this time of year (between December and March), I would become unwell.
And I see other people able to do so much in their lives and I think of all the things I could fit in my life if I were mentally strong enough… But I’m not.
Keeping the discipline of a balanced life is what keeps me well enough to work and to take care of my son properly.
Its so hard, actually. You don’t get medals for ordinary, even when it takes extraordinary effort to get there. People don’t realise that their starting point is my mid point.
So next time you see people being ordinary, remember, for some of us, that, in itself, is a daily achievement.
So apparently the meaning of my life starts today, as I turn 42 😊
And I am planning to take hold of this coming year with both hands.
I saw a @tearfundlife article recently on how our lives can be a place:
where the outsider is brought close, the excluded are ushered in and the down-trodden are given refuge.
This matters a great deal to me and I want my life to be:
a roaring fireplace of safety and warmth, rather than a mat that tells you to wipe the dirt from your feet before entering.
So figuring out what that looks like this year is my top priority.
I have other priorities, never stop learning, keep on being creative, find wonder wherever I can and stay well.
So my something new is going to be joining a flower arranging club in January.
My something old will be continuing the diploma I have been doing… well forever really. And the future learn courses I have on the go, and maybe one or two more.
Finally I intend to keep in top of my health, so no blue for me hopefully, just the gym, proper sleep, lots of prayer and healthy food.
I wonder, what would your old, new and not blue things be?
This week I am curating the twitter feed mh_voices.
It is always a privalage to hear other people’s stories and I am using this week to get as many people heard as possible. I may not be a politician or a celebrity and my voice may not get heard very far away, but listening is an act of love, and as mother Theresa said:
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
So this week I get to help promote the voices of people who sometimes find even getting out of bed and dressed takes all the mental strength they have… and yet get up and go to work/college/school anyway. Surely this is worth hearing.
So many people with mental ill health get on each day and do the same day as their co workers but it takes the courage of heroes to do.
I used to be the kind of average middle class citizen that believed in government and supporting our national leaders.
I have always voted and enouraged others to participate in the democratic process (and will continue to do so).
But now I am beginnjng to wonder if I even live in a democracy.
Right now our government is putting into law what we are allowed to protest or not.
And this is not just about Israel, it’s about weapons, tobacco and fossil fuels. Read this from the independent:
“Under the plan all publicly funded institutions will lose the freedom to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank….
…The only exemption will be UK-wide sanctions decided by the Government in Westminster.”
It’s so true. I hate having to spend so much time and effort just to remain well.
Others sail through the week without so much as a thought to the fact that they are well – it is taken for granted.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so very grateful to be well. I notice it all the time and thank God for it.
But all the same. All that time and energy spent maintaining wellness. Imagine what I could do if being well was effortless and I could use all that energy for something else. Imagine the projects that could be started, the goals achieved…
So yes, this little cartoon does indeed, say it all.