First off, this is all in my opinion. These are things that have been said to me or that I have heard. I am not a therapist or anything of the sort. The following are just some simple do’s and don’ts for me personally, use with caution on others.
1. You shouldn’t worry, it’s not doing you any good.
Please, please don’t say this to me. I may know I “shouldn’t” worry about XYZ. But you know what? Worrying is inevitable, it is a part of life. And guess what? I am okay with worrying to an extent! It shows that I care about school, family, my future, etc. Yeah, maybe I know I shouldn’t worry as much as I do. But is it really your place to tell me what I should or shouldn’t worry about? I have fallen victim to saying this when a friend/family member is worrying. The fact is… “shouldn’t” worrying about something is easier said than done. Whatever you are worrying about is obviously important to you, or you wouldn’t be worrying about it.
Most of us would love to turn off our constant worrying about our grades, jobs, responsibilities, etc. It is very hard to dictate what you can and cannot worry about. Sometimes the more you try to not worry about something, the more you do worry about it. I try to limit the amount of time I worry about a particular subject and sometimes set a certain time to worry about it. When time is up, I redirect the subject I am worrying about so I can attempt to get on with my day.
What you could say to me instead: I know this is a really worrisome thing/event that you are dealing with, can I offer some advice? ((If I say yes, (half of the time I don’t want any advice), then say the following)) Have you tried redirecting your thoughts into something proactive?
This is validating someones feelings. Validation is something that is so important and so overlooked when talking about mental health. Sometimes you just want someone to listen and validate you, no matter what their opinion or any type of advice is.
2. It’s all in your head.
Don’t get me started on this, just don’t say it to me. I will get very offended and most likely walk away. ***Even if it is “all in my head,” do you think I want this? Do you think I want the stigma, the labels, the doubt, etc??? Do you think I want all of the nasty symptoms and feelings that come with this? The answer is no, no I don’t want this. But I have this, and I am choosing to not let this define me anymore. Why? Because, I am worth it.
3. Suck it up, everybody goes through this.
Okay… Even if everybody did go though this, how would you know? Are you me? Are these your feelings? Are you in my situation? Most importantly… Have you actually taken the time to LISTEN to me and what I am saying? When you say this to me you are doing the exact opposite of validating my feelings. You are putting blame, guilt, and a sense of a burden on me. This is exactly why I was afraid to open up and be vulnerable in the first place. Being vulnerable isn’t a walk in the park. Opening up to someone is a HUGE step in the recovery process, so please try to not only listen to me but really hear what I am saying.
What you could say instead: It is okay to not be okay. Even if you feel alone right now, you are not. I am here for you.
4. Think of it this way, people have it much worse.
Again, chances are, I am just looking for you to validate my feelings. When you say this to me I feel a huge sense of guilt and shame. I used to tell myself this over and over again daily, thinking that my feelings aren’t important or valid because someone has it worse. Yes, someone may have it worse, but we are talking about me right now and I deserve to be heard and validated. Why? Because, I am pretty important too.
5. It will be okay.
At the darkest time in my life this phrase was one of the worst things one could say to me… I think it was because I was NOT okay, things were not okay, and things weren’t getting better for what was a really long time. I honestly 100% believed that things could not and would not get better. I was hopeless. Telling someone with no hope that things will be okay may seem like a valid idea, but all it did was make me upset. I felt shame that I couldn’t think the future would be okay. I wanted to have hope but I was hopeless. I didn’t believe anyone else because I didn’t believe in myself.
If I was upset and you told me the same phrase today, I probably wouldn’t budge. It doesn’t really effect me in the same way anymore because 1) I’ve heard a million times and 2) my thought process has began to change. I have hope, so I do know (and believe) that even if things aren’t okay right now, they will be in time.
All in all, when all else fails, say the following phrases to me:
“It is okay to not be okay.”
“Your story isn’t over yet.”