Many people want to help when they learn someone they know is going through or has been through, a rough period in life. The issue lies in the right way to approach the situation without making it worse. These encounters, whether they be continuous or a single conversation, are never easy. It's okay to feel discomfort and to question whether or not you're handling it properly.
There are a few things I've found to be mostly universal in theory (if not in full thought) from the person going through a tough time. I hope this brings some understanding and perspective for the next time you have a sit down with someone you care for.
Keep in mind that while similarities are almost always present — whether they be big or small in detail — every person is unique, as is every experience. There is no universal fix for these situations.
1. Thoughts don't go away over night
Please be patient. Although it may seem as if we've snapped back from the situation, that is not always the case. There are good days and bad days — good hours and bad hours. Yes, this still applies after seeking and receiving professional care and guidance. Thoughts can't be turned off like a light switch.
There will be moments where the mind starts to go down that low path. Part of recovery and overall coping is acknowledging that this may happen and understanding it does not take the place of any progress made. Not letting the thoughts win is a part of the battle and it's tough. Please do not show anger or frustration if we spend the day in bed or have a slight relapse. Don't give up on us. The journey to the establishment of healthy coping mechanisms, self-understanding, and acceptance is a long, bumpy ride.
2. You don't always have to say something, you can just listen
"What do you want me to say?"
"Have you taken your meds?"
"I'm not a doctor!"
"Make an appointment. You see someone for a reason!"
These things and more — please don't. We are very aware of the professionals we may or may not have the privilege of being in contact with. Yes, occasionally some of these words are fitting. Most of the time, however, they are hurtful and dismissive blows.
We are still human. Sometimes we want to talk to a parent or friend about what's bothering us, just like everyone else. Converse with us as you would anyone else. This shows your support and care for us and that we are more than our circumstances or past to you. Being suicidal and having people know about it puts us in a box. There will always be someone with a view shaped entirely around one of the lowest points in our life. We have the doctors, the scars, the memories, our minds, etc. as a constant reminder. We don't need the rest of the world to treat us as if there is nothing more we can offer. Don't assume what we're saying is life or death. Listen to us first.
3. My humor towards the subject isn't for everyone
I'm sure you've heard of "coping." Well, not all coping mechanisms involve journals, mantras, visualization, or whatever else comes to mind. Humor is a mechanism used by many — sometimes we don't even realize we're doing it. Think of it like laughing when you're nervous. You don't know why you do it. It doesn't always fit the mood. Oddly enough it does help with the nerves. There are always those few who don't join in on the laughter.
Our humor is considerably similar. It is not for everyone, in fact, it may disturb others or make them feel uncomfortable to hear us talking so openly about such an extreme time. For whatever reason, something in that moment leads us to the statement made and we may not realize or recognize what it is, nevertheless, our brain has chosen to react.
It's okay to make humor out of your own experiences. It creates a wonderfully different attitude than we are used to when going through the low times. It can be awkward and hard to understand, but it's going to happen, at least once. Just remember we're not professional comedians. We aren't saying anything in an effort to gain a response from those around us. You don't have to laugh. You don't have to engage. Let us have our moment.
4. It doesn't have to make sense to you
You don't have to completely understand what led us to those thoughts and actions. Our progress or lack of doesn't need to play out like a math problem in your head. This is life. This is the brain. This involves emotions. None of those things can be fully understood — not by you or us for that matter. Don't get caught up in the minor details and trying to make them connect because you may not always be able to complete the puzzle.