How to Become "Safe" to Open up to

For many reasons, depression can be a hard thing to talk about.  Partly because I don't want this to be a label placed on me.  There's so much more to me than this ongoing struggle, and I want people to know me for who I really am.  It's also partly because some people don't understand, and it's devastating and heartbreaking to open up to someone, only to have them tell me that if I had more faith or prayed more that this wouldn't be a problem in my life.  Sometimes it's hard to talk about, because I'm not sure who feels comfortable talking about these things, and I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable if they don't know how to respond.  And finally, it can be hard to talk about, because sometimes it gets really bad, and there isn't an easy way to tell someone that I wish I could give up. 

But regardless of the reason that it can be difficult to open up, there are several things that people have done recently and in the far past to mark themselves "safe" in my brain for me to talk to, even when things are at their very worst.  I'm hoping sharing these things could help others know how to help someone they love or care about through the discouraging darkness of depression, because I can guarantee that I wouldn't know without experiencing it for myself. 

  1. "I know this is your struggle."  When we first moved here, I was struggling so much emotionally, but I didn't know who to tell.  I knew I needed support, love, and friendship in this new place, but I didn't know how to start opening up.  Finally, I decided to write a couple of blog posts on here and share them.  I was so nervous when I saw that a few people I had just met "liked" the post, but I also felt relieved that this "secret" of sorts was out there, and I didn't have to hide it anymore.  A little while later, a few people at different times said to me, "I know this is your struggle."  Those 6 words lifted such a heavy burden off of me, because I knew that they were aware of this difficulty in my life, but I also knew that they felt comfortable talking about it, because they were the ones that initiated the conversation.  That, in turn, made me feel comfortable going to them, because they were "safe" to talk to and open up to.
  2. "How are you really doing?" or "How are you doing emotionally?" or "How are you feeling today?"  People, in general, ask each other every day, "How are you doing?" without always wanting to know the answer.  I know I am guilty of it sometimes.  It's like this thing that we do in passing so that we can check it off our list that we did our friendly duty of asking how someone else was doing, but we only expect the answer of "good" or "fine."  Sometimes, I know we do ask this wanting to know the real answer, but it's hard for me to tell those two apart.  I don't want to be that person who divulges their whole life story, when someone asks a simple question expecting a short answer, so making the question just a little bit more specific allows me to know that someone actually wants to know my sometimes loaded answer.
  3. "I struggle with..."  A few posts back, I wrote about vulnerability.  I try so hard to be courageous enough to be vulnerable, but it is so helpful to me, when someone is willing to share their struggle as well, especially if that struggle is mental illness related.  It's like it forms this instant bond and helps me to remember that everyone has struggles, so I'm not alone in needing help or love sometimes.
  4. "Do you feel like you want to give up?"  I know this is a hard question to ask, and it doesn't need to be asked often, but I appreciate more than I can express, when someone asks me this straightforward question at the hardest times, because it allows me to explain the extent of the present darkness without feeling like that's too much to share.  Even if things are good at the time, it allows me to know that I can go to that person on the darkest of dark nights, because they care and want to help.
Hopefully this helps some.  I look forward to the day when talking about depression is as comfortable and as easy for everyone as talking about broken bones or the flu.  I've come so far, and yet, it can still be so challenging.  Thankfully there are so many people in my life who have been willing to help me along this journey and have allowed me to be more open and honest about how I'm doing.  I have such a good tribe of people around me who love and care as the Savior does, and that's the best gift anyone could give me.  

Let our hearts and hands

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