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"all i have is a voice" ~ w.h. auden


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Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder: The basics…

“People with BPD are like third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.” – Marsha M. Linehan

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder diagnosed in around 2% of adults – making up 20% of those using mental health services. BPD is diagnosed by noticable symptoms. Symptoms are, as listed by MayoClinic;

  • An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
  • A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
  • Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
  • Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
  • Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
  • Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
  • Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights

 

Abandonment. Don’t we all fear that though? Yes. But not as drastically as those with BPD. People with BPD will go to extremes to ensure they are not abandoned or feeling abandoned, even if the threat is non-existent to others. This results in behaviours that are less than ideal. Suicide attempts are often a means of this fear and an attempt to keep the person around. Fighting can be a result of this fear too. A negative reaction is still a reaction and at times people with BPD will start fights to ensure they still are in the persons attention.

No sense of self image or identity. There is no real understanding of what they enjoy and what they dislike. People with BPD tend to not be able to list favourite things or list too many. Sometimes they look to those around them for an identity ie: “I like Italian food.” “Oh me too!” – even if they may not have ever had it. It may sound fine and harmless, but it can lead to a very destructive behaviours to fill the void. Things such as drug use, continuously quitting jobs, putting themselves in harms way. Many people with BPD are diagnosed with an eating disorder as they have taken the label to gain some form of identity. This is not to say an eating disorder is a compulsory symptom of BPD.

The biggest part of BPD, for me, is the emotional roller coaster it creates for you. You aren’t just upset, you are devastated. You aren’t just happy, you are elated. But isn’t that like normal human emotions? It may sound like it, but the reality is there is no words to explain just HOW intense the emotions are. The best way is to use images.

01

First we look at the “average” human emotion. While it can spread away from neutral, the span is very small. You can experience a jump in the emotions from neutral to sadness etc, but the span is, say, 2 metres.

03

Then we look at borderline personality disorder. This is intense. The whole span is, say, 10 metres.  The whole span of the average human emotion fits within the BPD span, with plenty of  room to spare. It is severely intense.

So isn’t it just like Bipolar? No. Bipolar is from manic to depressed (in it’s most basic sense). Some say that those with BPD experience the same 07emotional length when at those stages, i.e; when someone with BPD is sad, they are at the same level of someone diagnosed 02with depression, and when someone with BPD is happy/excited, they can become manic at the level of someone with bipolar. But this is simply a way for people to understand the severity of the emotions of those with BPD and is not a clinical diagnosis.

There is no real knowledge about what causes BPD but it is thought to be environmental – childhood abuse/neglect, genetics, and/or brain abnormalities. There are beleived to be risk factors that can include hereditary predisposition, a stressful childhood – this doesn’t necessarily stem down to childhood abuse/neglect but any kind of stress including the loss of a parent(s), or hostility such as family fighting.

BPD is an annoying son of a bitch and it sucks. There are good things about it, like if you love someone you love them with everything you have (because you only know go big or go home), people with BPD are passionate. About loving, about art, about anything. Although frequently called manipulative and harmful, people with BPD are actually very sensitive. They know how hard it is to feel sad, because to them sadness is not just being sad, and they want to prevent other people from feeling that way or to give them answers to help.

If someone comes to you and tells you they have borderline personality disorder, do not run to google the ins and outs – because all you will find is negativity. Ask the person themselves; ask them what you can do to help – maybe sending them a text every so often to remind them you have forgotten about them, ask them what it feels like for them – every person with BPD experiences it differently. Lastly, do not treat them as the monster under your bed, they are human and they have feelings. They don’t mean to be manipulative or impulsive or irrational, it’s a fight or flight mechanism. Work with them to create a way to ensure you are going to be able to give them the best chance at your relationship.

 

BPD Quotes:

“She feels more than you, you have to understand that about her. She feels the edge end the details of things and when she gets close to someone, she feels their happiness and pain.” – Jim Storm

“She is strong but not in the way people think. She loves more than she will ever get back & she knows it… Yet she loves anyway”

“I feel everything, all the time. It’s exhausting. But it also makes me passionate, which is beautiful.” – Alicia Sarah Raimundo

“Sensitive people suffer more but they love more and dream more.” Augusto Cury

“I don’t know what living a balanced life feels like. When I am sad I don’t cry, I pour. When I am happy I don’t smile, I glow. When I am angry I don’t yell, I burn. The good thing about feeling in extremes is when I love I give them wings but perhaps that isn’t such a good thing, cause they always tend to leave and you should see me when my heart is broken I don’t grieve, I shatter.” – Rupi Kaur

“You are so good. So good, you’re always feeling so much. And sometimes it feels like you’re gonna bust wide open from all the feeling, doesn’t it? People like you are the best in the world, but you sure do suffer for it.” – Silas House

“My skin is so thin that the innocent words of others burn holes right through me.” – BPD Pieces of Me Community

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Environmental vs. Chemical Depression

I’ve had this theory for a while. That there are two cloud causes for depression. There is environmental depression – caused by the environment around you, and chemical – caused by your brain chemicals.

In 2013 (I know ages ago, but New Zealand statistics are impossible to find) the amount of children and teenagers diagnosed with a mental health condition had almost doubled over the previous five years. But it’s known that the rate of those diagnosed with depression and anxiety is on the rise and we’re seeing some of the highest numbers yet. I think this is down to environmental depression becoming more prevalent. We have put pressures on academics, friendships, extra curricular, university entrance, job options, etc that adolescent are understandably struggling under the pressure. The way to distinguish environmental depression is if you were to have no stresses would you still be depressed? If you were climbing a mountain and no essays were due, you had just won the lottery so money wasn’t an issue, and you had a steady job source – would you still be depressed? I believe environmental depression still sees a decrease in serotonin but as an after effect – as a direct result of the environment and the situation one is in. The simplest way to determine environmental depression from chemical depression is it typically starts around adolescence and puberty.

Most people won’t admit that the environment has caused their depression, some think it makes it less real, others just don’t want to have to change everything in their life to cater to their depression. But it’s not any less real, and it’s important for one’s health to be in a position where you are able to live as stress free as possible. Of course in this consumerist, money hungry society it’s hard – and that’s on us as a nation and a globe. We have to change the demands if we want to see environmental depression decrease.

Chemical depression is as it sounds. Just like ADHD, and other chemically changing disorders, chemical depression changes the serotonin levels in your brain. Not when you reach puberty or stressful times, but from birth. It would 9/10 times go unnoticed, because children aren’t good at explaining their emotions, but it can produce as shyness. A child may seem shy on certain days and not shy on others. Looking back on my childhood I wonder how no one noticed I was depressed. It’s this lingering sense of “what’s the point of it all?” I remember thinking – as a child, about 6 or 7 – about being killed and aside from it hurting and me being scared of the person should they be a stranger, I didn’t really think it would make a difference. It wouldn’t matter if I was alive or dead – it was all the same. That’s chemical depression. And it typically goes away with anti depressants and minimal counselling. I have never received adequate counselling because it never helped. It was just annoying to me. And I think this is why. Because it wasn’t anything that happened to have caused it – sure things had happened to me, but talking about them and learning to cope with them wouldn’t make it all go away. It was just the way my brain was and when I found the proper medication, I saw my mood rise. I still get sad about the things that happened and happen to me, but they aren’t the reasons I want to kill myself. They’re just “life” to me. But for those with environmental depression they are the root of their depression.

Why does all this matter now? I’m sure we’ve all heard about or seen the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”. There are numerous reasons I am against this series, but this is a very crucial part. By killing herself, Hannah has stopped all living. She cannot grow to see the happy. From the portrayal of the story on her tapes, all her reasons were a direct result of her environment. If she was removed – flown to a remote island – she would most likely not want to kill herself. In 5 years from when the suicide happened, Hannah could have very well not even believed she was going to kill herself – had she made it out alive. But because she threw it all away at high school, she will never be able to see anything she could have accomplished. Her story ends there. She could have done so much to raise awareness on bullying and sexual assault, she could have become a spokesperson for mental health, but instead she killed herself.

This means so many of those struggling with environmental depression will see this as a plausible and very real option. But they will fail to see that the situation will change. That school will end, and 90% of your friends will be people you haven’t even met yet. But because of this ill filmed and poorly devised show, people will think that it isn’t worth fighting for. That it’s better to just quit. It is not. It is worth staying alive for. There are so many great things out there that you can’t dream of because of school stress, and peer judgement. But it’s there and you can see it, but you have to stick around.


NOTE: Chemical depression is in no means a reason for suicide either. With the help of medications and a steady plan you can enjoy life. Please if you are feeling suicidal contact a 24/7 helpline

INTERNATIONAL:

LIST A (Wikipedia) LIST B (Suicide.org) LIST B.5 (Suicide.org, USA)

LIFELINE AUSTRALIA: 13 11 14

KIDSHELPLINE AUS: 1800 55 1800 (Ages 5-25)

NATIONAL (NZ):

LIFELINE AOTEAROA: 0800 543 354

SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 – or free text 4202

YOUTHLINE – 0800 376 633

KIDSLINE – 0800 543 754 (0800 KIDSLINE) *up to 18 years old


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My Emotions Are Too Big – Living with borderline personality disorder

It’s hell. In one word. But I am not on some twitter 140 character limit and so I can expand further than hell. Crap. Sh*t. Horrible. Adjectives (and even the words I write) cannot describe what it is like.

There is the inevitable “oh no I’ve made this up, I’m a fraud” when you see someone reblog/repost something that is specific to BPD. But there is also the toddler snatching back the toy because “it’s mine! You can’t have it!” If I see someone relate to a feeling I have, it’s a hard time not to completely hate them because they’re trying to take away what’s mine.

A massive criteria for BPD is the inability to create an identity of your own. You start to cling to the diagnosis because it’s all you have. It’s all you know for sure – and even then you don’t truly know. When you meet a new friend, you begin to become them. Although not the only time, when I was nine I watched Cheaper By the Dozen and I copied how Kim Baker (portrayed by Morgan York) talked, walked, sat, ate, and spoke. Of course my mother thought this imitation was adorable and creative, not the beginning of what I would soon find out to be a nonexistent-yet-ever-changing personality. Another instance I had hated the colour pink (thanks society) but I found out that Dakota and Elle Fanning’s favouite colour was pink. So suddenly I loved pink. I constantly try to find what is “my personality” but it always fails. No matter what I try, I am nothing. The very definition of the word. I don’t mean that in a negative way (not anymore anyway). By being nothing, I am also everything. I am a writer, a reader, a singer, I like colours, I hate those same colours, I talk like someone, I talk like someone else. I am nothing and I am everything.

If I were to explain BPD, I would say it’s big. Everything is big. Enlarged. Multiplied on a magnified scale. I don’t have any other way to explain it. It’s not, oh I’m really upset. It’s the worst you’ve ever felt. You have no emotional permanence, every emotion is the most you’ve ever felt. In today’s society we tend to have this nihilistic view that is exaggerated for humour and even as a stress relief. But for BPD it really IS that exsketch-1487512166904aggerated. Maybe not necessarily in the grand scheme of life and ‘there’s kids starving in Africa’ but to me in that moment, it is the most horrible I’ve ever felt. I imagine it like this: an average, neuro-typical persons emotions are a circle. A nice, neat, compact size circle. Someone with Bipolar takes two of the human emotions – mania and depression – and performs them on a much larger scale. (I am not clear on bipolar as it’s not something I struggle with so this is just my understanding.) Borderline personality is almost as if your brain has taken bipolar and gone, “you know what? let’s just do it with everything!” So all your emotions are drastic. All of them are at the tip of scale. They’re all too big and too much. I’ve lived through deaths and still I will swear that my cat getting up and leaving my room is the most lonely and sad and hurt I’ve ever felt. I feel everything on a  drastic scale. It’s being sensitive, but enlarged. I used to hate it – why was I made like a glass gone through one too many washes, almost about to shatter at all times? But now I like to think that it makes me a nicer person. I may feel my emotions on a big scale, but I also feel other people’s emotions on a big scale too. It helps me be empathetic and sympathetic. And I love that part of me. So I have learned to love the part that cries when my cat leaves or the part that wants to die when a friend is busy. I’m learning to love those parts because they’re a part of me.

There’s the attention side. It sounds about as horrible as it is. Please know that most – if not all – people with BPD don’t want attention in the sense it seems. Somewhere between birth and puberty, their mind confused attention for love and affection. So when they’re seeking and striving for attention, it’s really just love they’re looking for. A misguided, miscommunicated love. When I’ve overdosed, it was never because I wanted people to look at me and say that I’m not okay, or because I wanted them to know I was hurting. I wanted the hug that came with it. I wanted the love that they gave because suddenly they realise you could be gone. That love is the love I’ll spend my whole life trying to safely create. It’s – to me – the epitome of love. Acts of attention are not acts of school girl, my boyfriend isn’t looking at me, acts of attention. They are bids to receive love and affection and acknowledgement. Misguided because our brains don’t work the same way…almost like we have a mental disorder…

Then there’s the part where you have to function among others because god forbid you are different. Existing, simply waking up and going about your day, is 100x harder with BPD. Before breakfast you’ve already gone from wishing you were dead, to hoping you will live forever, being the most distraught human on the planet to being the happiest person alive. And then you get to the kitchen and there’s no milk in the fridge so you cry because it’s the worst thing to have happened to you ever. And non of this is a millennial exaggeration. It literally does feel like the worst thing ever. Whenever anyone finds their milk empty they’re upset a little. So magnify it. Not by a hundred but by thousands, billions, and that’s how it feels. It’s almost like your body can’t feel anything so when it feels a tiny emotion it just HAS to make it big. So imagine feeling that every second of the day. Each action leads to an exceptional (in the nicest way possible) over reaction. It’s exhausting. And we haven’t even left the house. Imagine just getting to work? Drive down the road and a car comes out of nowhere? Never been more scared in your life! Driver toots their horn at you? I WANT TO DIE! It never ends and it’s too big and too much and to exist is hard. Sometimes I wish I could just find the “infected” part of my brain and get it removed. I don’t care if I can’t write some things, or if I can’t see out of one eye. I don’t care if my left side never works again. It would all be worth it if this would stop. It would be easier to have my right side overwork to compensate for my dead left side than to live with this. But I can’t do that because it’s not possible and it feels like it’s spread through my whole body anyway. So I have to learn to live on a small scale so my big emotions are as little as they will ever be. I feel like I have to live half of my life and never get to experience much because I get too overwhelmed. I get to scared, too sad, too angry. You can only be too much of something for so long before you have to get away.

Part of me wants to evade all responsibility and hide away because functioning and acting like a reasonable human being is too exhausting. The other part knows that I have something to offer and that one day this will all be worth it. Maybe a kid will come to me and say they feel things too big too and I will be able to show them they can be just like their friends too. They can live and they can be okay. Maybe it will be someone feeling upset and I lend a helping hand because it’s heartbreaking – of course literally heartbreaking – to see someone so sad. I’m not sure. But I have to believe it’s going to matter. So what if I tell myself a little lie to get me by? I have to make my body get out of bed and exist. I have to force my body to feel too much and be too much because I want to live.


PLEASE: Do not read this if you are not diagnosed (excluding appropriate self dxers) and think “Oh I have BPD.” Chances are, you don’t. A lot of today’s society is viewed in an exaggerated state. It is very hard for people with BPD to hear neurotypical people say they have BPD. See the identity paragraph. It’s like a blow to the stomach. We are toddlers on the playground – this disorder is ours. Please don’t romanticise it.

Art by Jake


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Why I Refuse To Watch Split – And why you should too.

Why am I writing this when the film released a whole month ago in USA? Well a friend of mine was asking for someone to see it with and it reminded me of this exert I had written as a blog topic when I first heard about the movie’s release at the beginning of the year. So even though some – if not most of you – have probably seen it, I’m going to write this. Why? Because it’s important and people need to know.

From the Split movie trailer we see the main character – a man – depicted as a villain, a bad guy. We are already plastered with the image of a violent person. A criminal. The main character is said to suffer with multiple personality disorder, having 23 personalities (or alter’s).

Multiple personality disorder – now diagnosed as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – is a mental illness that affects both men and women. It is classically diagnosed when the patient is presenting with multiple personalities (alters) that will vary in age, race, and religion, and are different to the patients. Typically, but not always, DID is caused by childhood trauma. Child abuse (neglect, physical, emotional, or sexual) abuse can be too severe for the patients mind that the body creates alternate personalities to deal with the abuse. The alters are essentially protecting the patient from pain and allowing them to evade the trauma as the alternate personality is present.

So what does this all have to do with the film? The film is contributing to the stigmatism we see facing mental illnesses. We have come leaps and bounds on how we treat those diagnosed with depression and anxiety (still with a long road ahead), but we seem to have left other mental illnesses at the way side due to them being “too much” and not as “pretty” as depression and anxiety. We seem to have forgotten that there are more than two existing mental illnesses – a conversation for another day. DID is a very real, and very serious condition. It is not a plot line to a feature film and it is not a punch line for that conversation with your friends.

There is so much the public, and even the mental health community, do not know about living with DID. I am in that boat. I know next to nothing about living with DID and I’ve watched documentaries and followed people’s own personal journey’s. So if I’ve gone out of my way to learn about DID and still know barely anything, I can’t imagine the amount of nothing your average person knows. Can they know negative nothing?

Watching a film that adds to the stigma of DID being a violent and horrifying illness is teaching yourself the wrong idea of DID. I won’t lie, it can be messy, it can be scary. But that doesn’t mean you should actively make films teaching people to be afraid. It’s not about the person diagnosed being scary, but the person approaching them being aware. Work with them, not against them to figure out how to be together.

This film is a horrible idea and it didn’t have to be made like this. It could have been a whole family of people as the “identities”. It would remain the same. But now we have people believing that, because DID has been portrayed as a violent and scary disorder (and not for the first time in cinema), it is something to fear and avoid. People we should run from. Should they make a film on DID? A feature film documentary yes. Give society the truth, not a butchered version of what it’s like. We have had enough of your #alternativenews

Realistically, I can’t make you stay home instead of going out. But there are plenty of other films that have been released – I hear 13th (2016) is a good film. If you have already seen it and now wish you hadn’t, don’t worry. There’s nothing you can do about that now. But what you can do is not buy the DVD, let others who are thinking of watching it know. Make sure that we are helping our brothers and sisters in the mental health community and not hurting them. We already think you had us, don’t prove us right.


OTHER ARTICLES ABOUT SPLIT FILM:

Business Insider // Hollywood Reporter // The Guardian // Healthline // Kern Golden Empire // The Verge

SUPPORTING DID:

Wikihow // Sybil’s Friend // DID Legit // Healthy Place

ImageLior Shkedi


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Why Did I Say That? – Understanding unfiltered words among disorders.

*Please note this is not a professional account but a personal one. This is merely a way for people to see the perspective of someone struggling with a disorder. This can be helpful if professionals don’t provide a means of understanding or if a friend wants to help their friend. Remember that each person is different and I am only one of many.*

I’m so annoyed when people say “You can’t blame your disorder for saying rude and insensitive things!” But they are an impartial judge. They don’t know, they don’t understand.

I don’t “blame” my disorder. I have to own what I said and take responsibility for the consequences. However, many times I, and those I said it to, have no idea why I said it. Why was I so insensitive and rude when I’m usually not? Admitting that it was because of my disorder that I said it helps provide me, and those around me, with reasoning and answers. Do you know how confusing it is when you can’t figure out why. the. fuck. you just said that? Why it seemed to just slip out before you could even determine if it should be said? Multiple times each day. It’s hell. It’s exhausting. I’m not blaming my disorder but I am also not my disorder.

I would also like people to understand that I try so hard to filter things and I try really had to slowly process every word of what I’m going to say. And it’s hard – really hard. Many times things slip out and I cannot control them no matter how much I try and wish I could. They just zoom right by me and out my mouth before I even know I’ve thought it. I have to spend a long time ensuring my thoughts are appropriate, not just that they are kind but that they are suited to the situation. Most times my brain doesn’t give me time, others I might not even know the answer. It’s not like I just randomly had one really fast thought. All my thoughts are fast. Sometimes I can’t stop them from spilling out of my mouth. I wish I could. I offend people, I lose friends and relationships, I sometimes lose myself.

It’s like you’re playing chase with your thoughts and sometimes you’re in front winning the race, sometimes you’re right beside another and it’s a close call. Other times you’re behind because you’ve been running for days and you’re tired and so you aren’t fast enough. And it slips out. You couldn’t catch up.

I don’t just think “oh well, who cares if I say something offensive or inappropriate because I always have this back up option to excuse my behaviour.” It’s not a “back up” option. It’s every day and it’s every moment of my day. You only see a small portion of the disorder. There is a reason it’s called a mental illness…it’s happening inside my head. It’s hell and it’s not my fault and I’m tired of feeling like a bad person for saying that. Yes I said it and I have to take the consequences, but you know when your sibling does something naughty and you get blamed? That’s what it feels like. It feels like I have to deal with the aftermath because of my disorder. Because my disorder wouldn’t, couldn’t, didn’t let me filter my thoughts.

If someone says “hey I’m sorry for what I said, my disorder got the best of me and I’m sorry” do not tell them that they shouldn’t use “the disorder card”. As if it’s a full house in poker and I’m lucky to be holding it. It’s not a card. It’s my life and it impacts a lot of my day and my life. Please don’t make me feel sorry for apologising. I am trying to fix the mess that my disorder made and I already feel like hell. Please don’t make it worse.


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How to Help a Relative/Friend with Mental Illness

It can be hard to watch a friend or relative succumb to mental illness. You may feel helpless as they cannot cope with their day-to-day life. It’s important that you don’t blame yourself. Mental illness is 95% genetic components, but that doesn’t exactly mean someone with the genes will develop the disorder/illness.

Helping someone with a mental illness is hard, because ultimately there’s not a lot you can do. You want to heal them and make it all a-okay, but that’s not going to happen. It is a very helpless position. But there are some things that can help and make the recovery easier.

“Don’t give up on them.”

I know it sounds cliche, and it’s the first thing you would think, but it’s important. Especially for those with “ugly” disorders/illnesses. It’s easy to stand by them in the first months, when it’s new and you still feel like the end of the illness is near. But as you slowly realise it’s going to be a long road, you begin to ease up on calling, you stop going around as much, you forget to ask them if they want to come…you start giving up on them. It’s not going to be an easy journey, but try to remember that if it’s this hard for you, it’s a million times harder for the person actually struggling with the disorder. So even if you’re tired of being told “I don’t want to go out today sorry”, keep asking, keep reminding the person that you are there when they do want to go out. Dont. Give. Up. On. Them.

“Help out where and when you can.”

It’s the simple things – the little things that help ease the anxiety, lift a little bit of the depression. I have a friend that will ask for things at restaurants for me, they will ask any inquiries I have – this eases so much of my anxiety when going out in public. It gives me one less thing to worry about. One less thing to focus on. If your friend has been in a depressive state and hasn’t gotten around to doing their dishes for a couple of days, go around and do the dishes, empty the bins. Do the things they haven’t been able to do and let them not have to worry. I know sometimes depression messes can be embarassing and along with feeling depressed, there is now this “oh my god look at the state I’ve let my bedroom/kitchen/lounge/etc get into!” Helping to clean up means they won’t feel so horribly embarrassed. It also allows them to feel “clean” (I don’t know about you but a messy room makes me feel messy, yet the depression just doesn’t care). Do little things that may seem minute, because while they may feel like nothing to you they can mean a lot to someone who is mentally ill.

“Help is there for them”

Let them know that help is out there and they can seek it. Many districts in NZ have community based mental health care for those that cannot afford to go privately. Some people believe that they aren’t “sick” enough or “bad” enough to warrant using facilities or resources available to them. It’s important you help them to understand that they deserve the help just as much as the next person. The team appointed to them will help to give them the best treatment options – whether that is one on one therapy, group therapy, or even just touching base every so often. People can find these processes very daunting and they are allowed to bring along a support person, if they ask you to come, please do. It may seem like a nuisance on your day-to-day life (taking time out of work, getting childcare sorted etc) but it is such an important, and huge, step for them to be seeking help.

“Don’t relate their disorder to ‘a really hard time’ in your life”

It’s hard enough to feel like you’re making it all up, but when someone equates your depression to this one time when they were sad, it hurts. You think “oh boy I really am making it all up!” Or even worse, they feel alone. Before you made a statement they may have felt alone, but at least you were there to listen. But when you make a statement minimizing their struggle, your name is added to a file labelled “never talk to about mental illness again”. Mental illness is bigger than just a hard time in life, more than just one time you dieted etc. Please do not minimise their struggle by trying to relate. If you have the diagnosed mental health issue then don’t be afraid to use your journey as a foundation – do not assume the two journey’s will be the same. Mental health issues are serious and often life threatening. It’s important that they aren’t treated as just a bad day.

“It’s not your job to cure them”

It’s so important that you are aware of your own limits. Never feel like you are obligated to fix their world. Explain why you can’t be there for them at that time, for that scenario, eg. trauma based talking can be harmful to someone struggling with PTSD and therefore they may stay away from that portion of their friends/loved ones disorder. There is a reason that resources exist, it is so that the friends and families are not dealing with the pressure of curing the disorder/illness. Help in the ways you can, as much as you can. But remember that it’s not your job to cure them.

Dealing with mental health issues and illnesses takes it’s toll on everyone involved, but especially the one diagnosed. While it’s a good idea to help, make sure you aren’t putting them in a position they aren’t comfortable with – some people may not want friends to help or talk about it, and that’s okay. Talk to your friend/loved one about what you can do to help and LISTEN to them. There’s nothing worse than asking and then doing your own thing anyway.


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Mental Health vs. Mental Illness

Mental health is an important part of our day-to-day lives. To perform at our best, and to live our life as much as we can we need to be mentally healthy. If we look at our four main components of Hauora – physical health, mental and emotional health, social well-being, and spiritual well-being – we can see that all these areas are needed to be mentally healthy. Looking at the “four walls of the house” theory, if each component of health is a wall, we need the walls to be strong to hold up the roof/house. If one area begins to suffer, say you stop being socially active, the wall will collapse. From there, the other walls have to bear the weight. Each wall taking on much more weight than it can will eventually cause the other walls to collapse too. Some believe this is where environmental mental illness begins.

Mental health is something everyone has. Good mental health is the ability to participate in life at the highest level of your own potential. Bad mental health – or mental illness – is when you cannot function appropriately in day-to-day life and you are unable to get the most out of life. Mental illness rates are becoming alarmingly high among teens and I believe it’s due to environmental mental illness. That due to the pressure of examinations etc, other areas of health are being let down. We need to teach our students specifically, about allocating time to each area attributed to mental well-being.

Mental illness, while sometimes treatable by tending to each area of health/well-being, is usually not helped by having these walls all strong. Sometimes when your walls are at their strongest, it’s just not strong enough. And that’s okay.

Mental health is very crucial to ensure that we are living our lives to the fullest and able to cope with daily pressures and stress. It also allows you to be productive within your life and add your contribution to the community around you. We have to remember to set aside time for ourselves, for each wall, and to ensure our mental health will remain strong throughout our lives – regardless of what is thrown our way.