Before Opening Your Mouth

These past couple of days, I’ve had some really great conversations with people about the healing process and how difficult it is to be an individual struggling with a disability. Emotional healing, physical healing, the whole spectrum.

I’m not sure why it didn’t quite hit me before, but most people are unable to provide adequate comfort and and use discernment around people-such as myself- who have undergone serious emotional or physical trauma. This shouldn’t come as surprising.

Although we- me and you- talk openly about trials and tribulations of all kinds, but when it comes to be affirming and empathetic, the discussion ends. An excuse I’ve heard for not practicing affirmation and empathy is that some people cannot understand because they haven’t gone through the exact same experience. While it would be great if we could all relate in this way, that would only mean more people suffering. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

After I returned home from the ICU in November I was struggling with borderline PTSD and severe anxiety and depression. The plethora of questions and promptings from friends and family that encouraged me to rehash the serious and unfortunate events was not something I was ready for. In fact, it’s been about five months now and only recently have I been emotionally prepared. Nonetheless, I answered the questions, but didn’t realize later on that re-visiting this trauma was horrible for emotional healing.

I’m sharing this with the hope that you will read and hopefully think more seriously about how to approach a friend or family member whose physical and mental health is in a shaky place. I want my experiences to become a teachable lessons that I can share with others through my spoken and written words.

Do Not Say

1. God has a plan.

2. Jesus loves you, therefore, you have no reason to be depressed. Depression is sinful.

3. You’re such a fighter!

Explanation: When I was hospitalized, I felt like my life was falling apart. It DID fall apart. When my plans for school, work, and relationships fell apart in a matter of twenty-four hours, I did NOT feel comforted or encouraged by the phrase “God has a plan.” I didn’t disown God, by having these feelings. Depression is a mental disorder. The many stigmas Christians have attached to the word “depression”  and “anxiety”  are wrong and the result has been a lack of healthy discussion about the issue. In the hospital intubated, and in a wheelchair and at home when I found myself crying about my situation, I did not feel strong. I don’t feel worthy of praise for merely surviving a life-threatening event.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful for my friends and family who helped keep me standing these past few months and I’m not disqualifying anything they said to me. If you read this and thought “oops I said that to her” it’s OK. No long term damage was made. My goal with this blog post is to promote better conversations, not idle on ones that weren’t my favorite .

Do Say

1. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.

2. I’m sorry that you feel this way. What can I say or do (if anything) that would make this better?

3. I don’t know what you’re going through and I’m not going to pretend that I do. Forgive me for anything that comes off as insensitive and if you feel like talking, please help me understand your situation more fully so that I can better serve you and help you with this healing process.

Explanation: this may sound weird, but have been many times when I asked people like my sister or my mom to simply sit with me. I said “if I feel like talking, I’ll speak up, but for now your presence is enough.” Sometimes it is that simple. Instead of assuming you know the right words or actions, ask! What can I do or say? Another “do not say” would be, “I know how you feel.” No you don’t. Everyone is unique and so are there issues.

Lastly, nobody likes a heart breaker. Don’t pretend to care and then leave. Let’s try and be better supporters of our friends and family who are struggling!

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