The 5 Worst Things People Do When Trying to ‘Help’
5. Making It All About You (Instead of Just Listening)
4. Giving Meaningless Advice Just To Be Saying Something
3. Forcing Your Help On Them (or Giving The Wrong Kind of Help)
2. Declaring Their Problem Solved, Then Walking Away
1. Not Knowing When To Back Off
While presenting at Ryerson University last week on youth, homelessness and mental health/addictions the professor commented that he thinks it’s great that despite the stigma and pain we have experienced in our lives we give back.
It had never occurred to me not to give back.
After a year of lying to a social worker, because 1) I didn’t want the help and 2) she told me she’d never known someone who cut, I decided in grade 10 that I wanted to be a social worker. I wanted to help young people like me. I wanted them to know that I understood. I wanted them to know that they’re not freaks. I wanted to give them what I felt I never got. That drive was far more powerful then the stigma and pain ever were.
Self harming and being diagnosed with chronic depression greatly shaped my life and who I was then and now. It was not a part of that I could easily ignore. I didn’t want to ignore it.
I can’t imagine where my life would be if I wasn’t working in mental health.
Sometimes I can catch it and sometimes I can’t. I couldn’t tell you the factors that go into whether I rage or not but I know it happens because I feel attacked or frustrated. Sometimes this means a rage and sometimes it does not.
What is consistent is people’s response to my raging.
I am always met with hostility back which fuels me to keep going, keep raging because they are confirming the paranoid thoughts I’ve already begun to think. Thoughts about how they don’t care about me, that I’m stupid, that I’m incapable and that I should be dead. When I’m in a rage any anger directed back to me sends me crumbling.
I try and express what I’m feeling and explain that I can’t handle what I’m experiencing on top of their own anger and that’s when the belittling begins. I’m told that I can’t expect people to be nice to me if I’m attacking them, that I’m being ridiculous, if I can’t control myself then why should they and that it shouldn’t be all on them to stop a rage.
I can agree with all of those points but I need them to understand and they simply do not. I don’t mean to be this angry! I don’t want to be this angry! It all feels so involuntary… I am left with the weight of the world on my shoulders. I am walking on eggs shells too. I cannot go into a rage because there will be no support, there will be no understanding at the time when I need it most.
I’m not at the point of where I can effectively stop a rage. I can prevent going into one but once I’m in it I’m in it for the long haul. I am confused, I am charged with adrenaline, my brain is on overdrive, my body feels like an explosive and I wish I could explode. I want everything I’m feeling to come outside of my body because I can’t take it being on the inside. This is when I scream, yell, throw things, hit people and hurt myself. I know this is wrong but words are not enough to tell them that I can’t understand what is happening, that I do not think it is fair and that I want it to stop. It feels like it will never stop. They do not understand and accuse me of wanting to make their lives hell.
What can I do when those around me can’t help? Or worse, they don’t want to because they believe I should be able to stop raging despite years of showing them how I struggle. That struggle is not seen as so, it is seen as me being childish and spoiled. That hurts me.
If I cut it is not show “prove” to you that I am in pain. I am trying to make my mind stop screaming, my body stop vibrating and the world slow down. I need to catch my breath.
I think I give up on trying to come up with solutions to help me communicate with these people. I can only do so much. They need to do their part; but their part makes them feel like my slave, that they have to take my abuse. This isn’t true and unless they change their minds we will never improve. They need to take responsibility just like they’re telling me I need too.
All I’m asking is that they ask me, at the beginning of a rage, “What are you feeling that is making you so angry right now?” and then please understand my response and know that I want to make sense of what is happening, I am aware that what I think and feel is distorted at times. Please kindly show me this.
I need to get out of my mind and body. I need understanding. I feel like I’ll never get what I need.
I am the Bitch, I am the Manipulator, I am the Attention-Seeker but I am never the one in Pain. I am the Blamed.
Many of my fellow BPD’ers will probably be familiar with the book “Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder” by Paul Manson and Randi Kreger. I learned about this book sometime last year when I was researching BPD discrimination and while I have never seen what is written inside just the title alone I find to be horribly offensive! “Taking back you life”…..seriously? That makes me feel like I’m the destroyer of worlds or the devil! It makes me feel like I’m struggling on purpose which I’m really not.
So, why am I bringing this book up now? While strolling through the bookstore with my Bestie we wandered to the self help section and looked around. While I was looking at a book called F**k It Therapy I saw the BPD book out of the corner of my eye. I picked it up and flipped through the pages, mildly annoyed, but then started raging inside when I came across a chapter called “Protecting Children from BPD Behaviour”. My Bestie told me to put it down which I did and she giggled while I stamped my feet down the stairs of the bookstore to leave. I told her I was going to get my hands on that book and she said if I did that I would only get mad, which is true.
So I got a copy! Should I read it? No, because it will most likely make me horribly angry but will I read it? Yes, because I want to know what people are raving about?! Does this book really make us look like monsters? Does it show the brutal truth that sometimes we can be shitty people (well, I’m sorry but who isn’t at times?) or will it provide a fair look at how we come to be the way we are?
I’ll find out and keep you posted!
A friend of mine has been suggesting that I check out blogging opportunities on The Huffington Post . Only recently did I stumble across their blog pitch form. I can send them an idea or the whole post and they’ll decide if they want it.
I don’t know what to write.
I know I have a whole blog but I need to submit focused ideas and ones that will most likely lead to publication.
I have 4 ideas so far an I would really appreciate feedback!
- The pressures of recovery: What recovery means, how its a loaded word and what recovery should be (an individual experience)
- Who is the problem a problem for: Can some of us be “disordered” and it not matter? What makes a disorder and how we could be people with unique brain chemistry.
- Self harm: My journey with self harm and how I eventually stopped.
- What having a mental illness taught me: Bring out all the positives, for example, I have learned how to listen, how to properly communicate, how to be empathetic etc.
LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!!!
Throughout my years, before and after diagnosis, friends and family have done their best to help me. These attempts were done for love, done in anger, done with a lack of understanding and maybe for some they would have worked but not for me.
Attempt to help #1: Threats
- Some people would threaten to leave me or tell on me if I didn’t stop cutting and/or start being happy.
Why didn’t this help?
- It put pressure on me to do things that I wasn’t ready to do or didn’t know how to do. I would cause me to feel guilty that I couldn’t be better for those around me. Telling on me just stressed me out which would make me cut more and encouraged me to hide it.
Attempt to help #2: Supervision
- At one point I couldn’t have the door to my room closed or I had to stay in the common areas of the house.
- It took away my privacy, encouraged further hiding of self harm and made me feel ashamed of myself. I was angry that I was being treated like a child.
Attempt to help #3: Reading my journals/going through my belongings
- My parents read my journals or went through my room and would confront me on what they had found.
Why didn’t this help?
- It took away my privacy and encouraged me to lie, even in my own journals. I also began to keep personal things such as blades on me at all times which would actually increase the chances of cutting since I had constant access to my tools.
Attempt to help #4: Leaving
- Friends/partners would stop hanging out with me or break up with me.
Why didn’t this help?
- It furthered my believe that I was alone and worthless. I had no one to turn to and made me feel very guilty that I could drive people away like that.
Attempt to help #5: Shame
- People would call me names or say hurtful things to try to get me to see that I was being “stupid”.
Why didn’t this help?
- Every name I was called and hurtful thing that was said confirmed, in my eyes, that others hated me and that I should hate myself.
Attempt to help #6: Self harming
- Some friends/partners would cut themselves in an attempt to show me how it felt to see someone I cared about cause themselves pain.
Why didn’t this work?
- I didn’t like having cutting held against me and I thought it was silly to hurt yourself just to prove a point.
Attempt to help #7: Removing “privileges”
- My parents wouldn’t let me use knives, threatened to remove my bedroom door, and would ground me/not let me go to friends houses.
Why didn’t this work?
- I was ashamed that I couldn’t go places or do things on my own. I was angry that I was being treated like a child and wasn’t trusted. This just encouraged me to dislike myself more.
- Friends would tell my parents or school staff about my cutting.
Why didn’t this work?
- It wasn’t what I wanted and encouraged me to lie and keep to myself.
In the end what helped was knowing that I had people to turn to and coming into counselling and healing on my own. Knowing that people loved me, that they were there to support me helped more than belittling me or making me feel more helpless.
Thought: I often find myself wondering how much counselling will help. I am going back to counselling because I want to improve my coping skills which will improve my relationships with people and namely my partner. I know that I can improve myself because I have in the past and I am ready to continue my journey. But…it feels like everyone else is allowed to be angry and sad whereas I am not. I feel like no matter how much I try I will be pushed back down by people who don’t care to help me, don’t understand the process I will be going through or are just full of shit thinking their emotionally sound when they are not. I’m finishing up the BPD video I posted earlier (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=967Ckat7f98) and one “experts” they have speaking, at 40:27, talks about an issue that is very important to me: validation. My whole teenhood was filled with emotional invalidation so I am very sensitive to that now. He says that family members need to listen to their BPD loved one when they’re in a rage and find the points in their argument which is true and validate those points. This will ultimately result in a possibly sharp decline in anger. I never feel validated. I’m usually told I’m wrong. Que the yelling, screaming, suicidal thoughts and self harm. I can be wrong but I can’t be completely wrong when I feel there is truth. This will be my downfall if someone can’t help me out. I will be stuck if someone can’t manage to say to me, “Kristen, I see where you’re coming from and I’m sorry you feel that way. Let’s make this better.”
I’m in this article!!!!!!!! (I bolded my name so you know!)
Mental health help lags behind demand
Sometimes you don’t help.
Sometimes you are the reason people with mental health issues are stigmatized.
You create stigma when you label yourself as experts. Claiming that you know more about my life than I do. You are the reason every person who took a psychology course at one point in their life feels they can now diagnose everyone and understand what mental illness is. I hate it when random people play “expert” and tell me what my symptoms are and what treatments I should consider because “I took a psychology class once.” If you have not lived it you will never get it. When you don’t listen to me when I say that something isn’t working because you can’t trust the judgement of someone who is “crazy”. You create stigma by taking away my right to choose all because you are the “expert”.
When you withhold valuable information on side effects you are creating stigma. You are keeping all knowledge to yourself and not sharing it with those who deserve to hear it; those taking the medications and treatments you offer. You keep us in the dark so we need to look up to you and trust you because we don’t have access to this information ourselves. You have the power. We become powerless.
When you blame the disease and not the drug, you are creating stigma. It is a horrible feeling to think that you are so sick that not even the industries “wonder drugs” can help you. This leads to “common” knowledge being that these medications WILL help and if they do not then you are a lost cause. This also creates a fear for those who have mental health issues but are not on psychiatric medication, such as myself. “Rarer than corpses are the unmedicated Mad” (Terrence McKenna). We must be truly crazy and out of control since we are not on medication. Maybe this is because we’re thrown into an industry that can’t admit it’s flaws. Only patients fail. The Industry can only succeed. Stop spreading this lie.
“Experts”, when you don’t take us seriously you create stigma. I was talking to my Mother last night about my Prozac-induced suicide attempt at 16 years old and how I’m afraid to talk about it on national TV. She began telling me that the hospital just waved off my attempt. They had always waved me off claiming it wasn’t a big deal. I got worse. If those who are supposed to help us cannot take us seriously then who will? And why should they?
What, you may ask, should you do about this? “Experts”, stop being experts. Value our insight, value our knowledge, value our lives. See us as equals, see us as valid. We should be your partners, your answers to everything you want to know.
We cannot be helped, we cannot recover if those who help us are apart of the problem.