How to help your Mentally Ill Friends

First of all I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported my Liptember campaign so far. My goal was to raise $1000, double what I raised last year. Before Liptember even started I had reached that goal and I have since changed my goal to $1500 with $1131 raised so far (if someone would be so kind as to donate $9 so my OCD brain doesn’t implode that would be awesome).

DONATE HERE – http://www.liptember.com.au/miss-fairchild

Again other ways you can help are:

  1. Join up for Liptember and raise money yourself. It’s not too late.
  2. Buy aLiptember lipstick from Chemist Warehouse (or buy them all!)
  3. Buy a special Liptember Candle from TANDA modern (all profits go to liptember) http://www.tandamodern.com/product/liptember-limited-edition-candle
  4. You can also buy anything in https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/Nessbowify shop with 10% of all sales going to liptember
  5. Talk about Liptember. Talk about Mental health. Organise a day at work to talk about the ways mental illness can affect a persons ability to work. Talk about how you can set up support systems. Talk to your nana who thinks it’s all just an excuse to be lazy. Talk to your neighbours. Talk to your friends. Check they are ok. Read. Read a lot. Read blogs by mentally ill people (and you will see we all come from different walks of life as mental illness doesn’t care if your rich or poor or black or white. Read medical journals. Read weird statistics on mental health. If you are in Melbourne visit the Melbourne Museums permanent exhibit on the mind and body (where you can learn about the history of Mental health – like did you know Lithium was first discovered as a treatment for mania by an Australian psychiatrist John Cade in 1949 and is still used today). Or visit the DAX centre http://www.daxcentre.org/ which is an art gallery filled with art made by people with mental illness. Read up on how to see the signs in friends and families. “RUOK” day is great and all but we will often say we are fine. If you know the signs you can sit them down and really ask the question. Not only are they ok – but what do they need? Can you take them to the dr? Drive them to their psych appointments? Bring frozen single meals they can reheat (brushing my teeth becomes impossible when I am truly unwell…if I didn’t have a full time carer/husband I might never eat). When they withdraw it’s often when they need you the most. Ask to see them. Tell them you don’t care if they are in their pj’s. Offer to take them somewhere they love. I personally love going for long drives – but I don’t drive and neither does my husband. Volunteer or donate tp organisations like MIND (who provided us with $500 a few years ago to go toward a family holiday) who offer days out to people with a mental illness – op shopping, picnics, bush walks ect. http://www.mindaustralia.org.au/ or Outdoors Inc. http://outdoorsinc.org.au/ who provide outdoor activities, team building exercises and camps that build our confidence and give our carers a break. If you know a carer remember they deal with the worst of it and it is often their most beloved person (a mother, a sister, a child) and make sure they are ok. Could you do grocery shopping for them or hang out with their loved one so they can see a movie or just get out of the house.

As you can see by that last one there are a million ways you can make a difference and the more you read and learn and  experience the more you will understand. Simply asking “are you ok” or “what can I do to help” is not going to get you anywhere in my case as while I can unload on twitter I can’t talk in person at all when I am depressed. I am not ok but I may say I am. I also have no idea what I need at the time except love and support and even then I will think I am so undeserving of it that I will push you away. I will cancel our fun days out because I can’t leave the house even though those days could help break the cycle.

The hardest part about being friend or family with someone with a mental illness is being pushed away, getting frustrated when you want to help but we don’t let you. We need patience and understanding. Unfortunately at the end of each major depressive episode I have had, I have come out with less friends. Friends who got fed up with waiting to see me. Friends that got sick of me cancelling for the 6th time. Friends tat just couldn’t deal with mental illness. Friends left heartbroken by suicide attempts that decided for their own mental health they couldn’t be around me anymore. Please don’t leave us. We need you more than ever. We sometimes need forced hugs when we are backing away or thrashing – hold us tighter. Tell us you love us. Tell us all the things you love about us. Because our brains are telling us the most vile hate filled things about us. Don’t let us go. Send us care baskets filled with things you know we love. Or something from an in joke (hubby bought me the book of “P.S. I love you” and I laughed so much – at a time I had done nothing but cry). Write us letters and cards. Give us something we can look at and hold and read again and again to show the brain someone loved us enough to write the words and put them on paper just for us. Come and sit in bed with me and watch Jurassic park over and over. Hold me hand. Stroke my hair. Remind me that I am not a totally useless person. Love us fiercely as we can’t even like ourselves. Be prepared to do it all again in a month when we fall down that black hole again. Please don’t let us go.

Blanket Nest Depression & anxiety

 

Thank you to everyone who held onto me and didn’t let me go. Thank you to my husband who held me so tight until I could rest when I was yelling and screaming and crying and trying to pull away. Thank you to my baby girls who leave notes of love on my pillows. Who make me brooches and origami flowers. Thank you to Elise who comes and hangs out in my bed and who let me lay in her lap while she played with my hair. Thank you to Sian and Michael who always had a tweet to share and who never stopped offering visits…you didn’t give up on me even though I was just a stranger on the internet. Thank you to Vanessa who let me come and hide in her flat when I couldn’t handle anymore noise or conflict and expected nothing from me. Thank you to everyone who told me I was a good person and deserved good things. Thank you to everyone who donated to liptember because they knew it meant so much to me. Thank you to those who joined to support me. Thank you to the wonderful friends (I didn’t think I had) for coming to my tafe parade & exhibition and surrounding me all night with a shield of love.

You saved my life.

Miss Fairchild xoxo

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10 Responses to How to help your Mentally Ill Friends

  1. Almarie says:

    Thank you again for telling us what it is like being ill. I now realise that I could do more to reach out to my sister – in – law to try and help her. And to my brother who bear the brunt of caregiving to both her and their child.

    • I am so glad this post was able to help. Good luck with helping out your family – if you can find practical ways of supporting them their lives with improve so much. I am not sure where you are but there is usually a carers support organisation in place and I would encourage your brother to join. Carers need understanding and also a safe place to vent without making their caree the “bad guy” as well as knowing their venting will never get back to their loved one with a mental illness as those words could crush them. You can be awesome aunt who takes your neice/nephew for a few hours when you can. Give them a safe space to explore their feelings without reporting back to their parents who are already well aware that the environment is not always focused on their child. You are such a wonderful person for caring. Good luck and lots of love.

  2. egbh says:

    Hi Miss Fairchild
    I have a family member who has mental health issues however he is physically and verbally abusive to me, which I can not tolerate, and hence i feel i can not support him. Although I would like to support him, I have made the decision not to as I can’t cope with the physical and verbal abuse he puts on me as a result of my help. There are different types of mental health issues, and I believe that help and support is important, however help and support is also needed for the the carer/s too. So I hope you treat your husband to something lovely once in a while as he sounds like he helps you so very much.

    • Hey lovely,

      I wanted to address this issue is while someone may have mental health issues you are not under any obligation to have them in your life. My blog post was not intended to shame those who can’t do those things. You do need to put yourself first. If your family member is also physically and mentally abusive it is even more important to look after yourself. My mother has bipolar and is abusive, violent and a drug & alcohol abuser. I cut her out of my life because she was never going to respond to love and support and I needed to save myself. When I am well I try my hardest to support my hubby back but that’s also why we have a social worker and are involved with a carers organisation. Without a full time carer I wouldn’t be alive.

      • egbh says:

        Hi Miss Fairchild
        I feel guilty for not supporting my mentally ill, physically and abusive sibling. I thought maybe I was taking too hard a line, but now I have 2 young children that I need to shield this from too. You have taken an incredibly brave and strong position decision to shield yourself and family from your mother. Don’t underestimate that inner strength that you have taken a very strong and powerful step in the right direction. Xx

  3. Kim Campbell says:

    You are the bravest person I know.

  4. Sesame says:

    Thank you for being so honest and writing about this important topic!

    Many hugs,
    ~ Sesame

  5. This is a beautifully written post. I am very touched at how honest you are being about your experiences. I think it’s positive to see the truth of people’s complicated, real lives rather than just the unhealthy glossy surface most social media would have you believe.

    For that, thank you very much and good luck on your journey.

    You have so much to live for with your beautiful children and partner/husband x

  6. thanks for sharing!
    i’m pretty touched reading your words … you have a wonderful family, a strong and loving husband …

    in my early 20s i split up with someone who was mentally ill. he never told me what i kind of illness it was … at a special point he just said, that there was no cure for him – then he left me out there in the rain with no information, no explanation about it. i was scared. At a special point i stopped asking …
    the illness was a part of the break up -for sure- but i had to find out (even before the ‘breakout ‘) that he wasn’t the one for me … once in a while i think of him and i deeply hope that he is ok. after the break up he split up with everyone that was somehow connected to me …

    … i really love your hat collection!!!! i can’t wait to see more of your creations!

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