“Just tell someone how you feel“…maybe easier said than done.
…sometimes, finding the words to say how you feel is tricky. What if you don’t know how you feel? What if you don’t understand how you feel? What if you feel nothing?
I think there’s a misconception that you need to understand and be able to articulate how you are feeling in order to reach out for help. Sure, the dictionary is full of thousands of words that you could theoretically use, but sometimes none of them seem to fit. When the world feels like a clouded mish-mash of emotions and triggers, how do you pinpoint that exact phrase or sentence that magically depicts your current state of mind to another human? You don’t. Nobody expects you to become the next Charles Dickens when talking about your mental health. It can be a hard thing to talk about and that’s okay. Take it slow. Even just starting a conversation with someone on a topic completely separate to mental health can help. Talk about something you have lots to say about, such as a favourite video game or a TV show. It may help you feel more confident if/when it comes to talking about mental health later on. If anything, having that human connection with someone, especially if you’ve been feeling very isolated, can help start the process of opening up.
I feel the issue of not being able to find the ‘right’ words to talk about your mental health presents itself as the biggest barrier when calling a helpline or going to see your GP/psychologist. Sometimes it can feel like because they are in the position of higher clinical knowledge, regarding diagnoses and symptoms etc, that they too expect you to have insight into how you are feeling, because ‘you know yourself better than anyone else‘!! Which…in some aspects is true, but that doesn’t mean you have to be able to articulate your emotions on command. I mean, who can even do that on a good day? Sure, if you do have some insight into how you are feeling, then that can be really helpful, but it’s not a necessity.
Health professionals and volunteers such as those who work for the Samaritans, just want to help. They don’t expect to be met with degree level knowledge about the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions and how they relate to you when you talk to them. They just want you to be as honest as possible so they can help in the best possible way they can. They can help guide you and prompt you if you cant find the words to express your emotions. You are allowed to say ‘things just don’t feel right‘, or even ‘I don’t know how I’m feeling‘. It doesn’t invalidate your need for help and support. If anything, it can help open up the doorway to further conversation and the person on the other end of the phone or the opposite side of the couch being able to help you explore what’s happening. Simple yes/no answers are fine too. Even those prolonged silences (as much as they can feel a little awkward at first) when it feels like your brain has legit just took a hiatus and you have no words to respond, can indicate to the person you are talking to that you need help or that they need to take over the talking for a while. I find listening to someone instead of talking can be a source of comfort too.
You don’t need to find the ‘right’ words in order to ask for help. I don’t think there even is a ‘right’ way to talk about mental health, as long as you’re not being disrespectful. Everyone’s experiences are subjective so the way people talk about it will greatly differ. Even just using the word ‘help’ can start a conversation and there’s no need for elaborate explanations as to why you need the help (as you shouldn’t have to justify that). Please don’t let a lack of words stop you from reaching out. You’ll be surprised once you start that conversation, how quickly the words will find you…