One thing many who experience severe symptoms of mental distress, trauma, or illness face on a daily basis is the pervasive need to explain or justify their feelings or behaviors to others. This need for explanation unintentionally adds a tremendous amount of shame on those who are already feeling bad because they all too easily feel like ‘what is wrong with you?’ discussions. These conversations are framed as though there must be a simple reason for what is causing this distress or adverse behaviors and therefore a simple solution, and that it is the individual’s fault that they are unable or unwilling to help themselves. For example, how frustrating is it when you’re feeling depressed and your friend or loved one suggests you try getting some exercise because that helps them when they’re sad? This problem solving tendency can be maddening in itself.
It is for this reason that talking to loved ones may actually do more harm than good. While they are certainly not meaning to make things harder, friends and family members are rarely able to help you change because they all see you in a particular lens and role in their lives and vice verse. What is so stifling about this is that we as human beings all have a basic need to feel seen and heard for who and what we are. Often times it is the relationships we hold that can add such distress to our lives either because we feel unseen and unheard in those dynamics, or we feel as though we can’t or shouldn’t allow ourselves to be seen or heard for fear of how the other will react.
The following is an incredibly powerful video clip of a young woman trying to explain her depression to her mother. In it you will not only see her getting increasingly emotional and intense, but taking a deep breath of relief towards to end. Feeling safe enough to make yourself seen and heard is hard enough without the constant pressure to have to explain your mental distress to others. Sometimes all you need is to feel like someone out there is actually listening. Life can be incredibly sad and painful, and there isn’t always something you can do to change that despite what your others may think or say.