For People Who Want To Help

He dwelt in an isolated house,
because he was a leper.
2 Chronicles

I don’t think it’s only me who feels that way at times, right?

So you wanna help a loved one with a mental neurobiological illness?

This is so important, I almost made the text bold. It isn’t your responsibility. You didn’t cause it. You cannot fix it. Dont invalidate us by saying it will all be ok. It might not be. You can certainly help though.

Do not let it all fuck you up and make you ill. Take good care and get help and support too.

Stick around, even when we are silent, grouchy, asleep and hell bent on isolating ourselves. Just keep reminding us that you’re there. Some of us prefer text based messages rather than visits and phone calls. Just ask. But don’t take our shit.

Educate yourself about whatever disorder it is – we appreciate that a lot. Let us waffle on and on about it, because that helps a lot too. Never, never, ever try to talk us out of allopathic treatment and medication and into some sort of shoowah hippy bollocks. Really, don’t do that. Read the science and biology of these things.

We don’t hear negatives (humans, not just us) – saying you are not inadequate is pointless, because we will just hear you are inadequate. Rather say you are whatever you want to say.

This is paraphrased by Will Schwabe in The End of Life Book Club, he got it from a book called The Etiquette of Illness – I think it applies to us too:

1. Ask: “Do you want to talk about how you’re feeling?”
2. Don’t ask if there’s anything you can do. Suggest things, or if it’s not intrusive, just do them.
3. You don’t have to talk all the time. Sometimes just being there is enough.

The other bit of advice I really love is this one:

If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.
Stephen Fry

The last sentence makes me want to weep with pain and joy at the truth and kindness of it.

Helping someone who’s got their panic/anxiety on can be simple:

Give us a snack; low blood sugar = anxiety.
Offer to get us out of whatever situation we are in, or if you have that sort of relationship, just do it.
Offer to make phone calls, drive, shop – all the practical/admin stuff that seems mildly annoying to you, but can turn people like me into a gibbering, terrified wreck.
Don’t touch us without asking first.
Never ask what caused the episode, there often isn’t a tidy situational answer to that.
Just be there, quiet can be good. But not always, so ask if they would like a natter.

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Here’s how medical professionals handle suicidal people, you can too:

Suicidal – listen, ask if there is a plan.
Suicidal + plan – time to see a medical professional.
Suicidal + plan + the equipment etc to do it – as above and hospitalisation will very likely be necessary.

This isn’t a comprehensive guide, it’s just thoughts and peeves and gratitude I’ve had over the last few decades and so it is, of course, very subjective. But then, everything is.

Lastly – thank you! Whether you get it right or wrong, thank you for giving a shit. And you are loved for it by people who are good at extreme emotions. (I almost added a smiling or winking emoticon there.)

More resources.

Published by


battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

51 thoughts on “For People Who Want To Help”

  1. Great post.

    Suspect we might disagree over traditional v alternative medicine, but it depends what you mean by “hippy bollocks”. Sometimes the simplest things are the most helpful.

    You are absolutely bang on, in my opinion, about people not judging, helping with the practical stuff which is so beyond me, and others, when we’re very ill. And being there…just being there. So important. Because, as one novelist said, it’s so very easy for people to be someplace else.

    Love your blogs. They ring so very true.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks lots. I probably should have qualified that sentence with ‘depending on severity of bipolar’ or something. Hippy bollocks: put a drop of this essential oil on the back of your neck and voila, instacure! That sort of thing. Lithium is a natural thing, after all.

      Thanks again.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I don’t believe in “insta-cure” anything, for anything.

        Strongly suspect my mania was linked to menopause. Still struggle with depression, occasional anxiety and frequent irritability. I do wonder if my mania lives on in the juggling of multiple projects – sometimes with disastrous if short lived emotional outbursts.

        These days, I find simple mindfulness – mainly, living in the now rather than the shameful past, or scary future – quite helpful. At my worst, however, I did not find relief in much of anything.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Glad to hear you’re in a good phase, long may it last. I’ve never had gaps between episodes, so it’s just always a roller coaster. And I’ve lived in the now far too much and never given a thought to the future.
          Mindfulness and balance eh? :)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The timing and intensity, for me, indicates that the mania was strongly linked to menopause. Personally, I think hot flashes would have been a lot easier to deal with. : /

            I had problems with depression from teenage years onwards…much inclined also to worry, and regret. Hence, for me, living in the now helps.

            I still take irregular, short yet hideous trips on that roller coaster. It’s shit.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Hugs for it all. I still have menopause to deal with (I’m thrilled, of course) – I will watch carefully for signs of mania, thanks for the info.


  2. Last deep depression was a couple of years ago and I”m trying to think of what I would have needed from friends or family..because all of my supports were “formal” supports and still are. I would have liked if someone asked “How best can I support you?” I would have said help me cook, do the dishes, bring my kids out to the park, remind me again(other than my kids and husband) why I should continue living. I also cringe when anyone suggests I don’t need meds and should look into more “natural” remedies.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It means SO much to me when people have wanted to help me in terms of my bipolar with either small or larger gestures……there have not been many, to be honest.

    NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has publications you can give to family members and friends about how they can best support a loved one with mental illness. (Kitt, if you’re reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong as what I’m about to write happened a few years ago when I started the DBSA chapter)

    Someone in a support group I created went through NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer training & gave me their notebook that contained the information for family and friends. I asked a very close family member to simply read some of the info.,because he wasn’t doing a damn thing to help me and he lived 15 minutes away from me and he refused. I’ll never forget how much it hurt when he said he wouldn’t lift a finger. I know he was messed up in his own life, but still, he could have done it.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Sorry – it sounding venting and whiny after I read it. Thank you so much for thinking it was okay. I love my brother (yep, that’s who it is) but wow, he really let me down when that happened with the NAMI material incident.

        I know I need to forgive him, but I’m not so great at forgiveness. We used to be close, but after my diagnosis he shut down for a number of reasons. He’s my only sibling. He works 10 minutes away from my front door. It has hurt me very much for him to turn his back on me the way he has, and that he continues to do. :(

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Nope you didn’t sound whiny. I have like…3 family members left and none of them say anything more than ‘oh dear hope you’re alright’ and the like. I really hope your bro wakes up and smells the coffee … sometimes men honestly just don’t know what to do/say.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. Blahpolar, sorry for hijacking your comment section with this reply to Dyane.

          Dy, honestly, I haven’t even given my husband material to read. I figure it’s up to him whether or not he wants to learn more. My husband supports me is by doing simple things, like picking up take-out on the way home from work. He loves me unconditionally and does not expect me to be the superwoman I once tried to be. I, in return, thank him repeatedly. I try not to overwhelm him with information or demands. We are going to the local NAMI chapter’s Tree Trimming Open House this afternoon, though. Who knows how he may benefit?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. You have a wonderful husband and I’m SO glad you do!!! I never had to ask Craig to do a thing – he wanted to learn on his own, & he bought & read Julie Fast’s book without my knowledge (Loving Someone with Bipolar”. My brother – it’s a long, complex story that I won’t use Blahpolar’s blog to explain – if I do, Blahpolar may lock me up in a closet with Lil’ Kim & K. Michelle. I hope you guys have a great time at the open house w/NAMI!!!!!! Also, I remember that the notebook I was given (with the educational info. to give to others) was from a Family-to-Family course, not Peer-to-Peer!

            Liked by 2 people

            1. So sorry your experience with your brother as been so difficult. You can message me anytime about it. NAMI Open House was fun. Good food. Good company. Brought leftovers home for our son. He was pleased with the selection we brought back (yummy).

              Liked by 2 people

  4. This is fantastic. I’m tempted to print it and try handouts…
    And I’m with you on the hippy bollocks – I had to try acupuncture to prove to a doc that I was ‘trying’ to get better, and the whole thing screamed placebo.
    Anyway, thanks for being awesome!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. just spent the day thinking of all those who have given a shit this year! Not tears of sadness – just tears!! nodding head here!! Wiping up tears..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My mum recently took her life, it’s taking a great deal to not drown in guilt. I know it’s narcissistic to feel as though one person could possibly “save” another, I don’t see myself as all important. But I still feel like if I had just spent some time with her before it happened, things could be different. She never told me she wanted to die, just that she was lonely. I was trying to create healthy boundaries, as I have my own mental health issues and was afraid of falling to pieces if I raced over to her each time she needed me. I tried organising “outings” with her before it happened, each time she would cancel at the last minute. She just wanted me to visit her at her home where she felt safe, but that idea made me feel anxious. I wish I could have just put my own shit aside and simply sit with her, even if it was in silence. I feel like I did so many “wrong” things, after reading what you’ve written.

    To the point though, thank you for sharing your life. I need to keep reading and soaking in this: “It isn’t your responsibility. You didn’t cause it. You cannot fix it.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Nope, not at all. The only reason I didn’t respond earlier is that I’d left my phone at home and gone out. Please feel free to say whatever you want, whenever you want. I mean it.


    1. Hugs – and it’s not narcissism, it’s love and compassion and human nature. A good dream, even if oprah etc tell us not to dream it. I have horrible guilt about my mother’s death too, no matter what anyone says.

      And it’s true, it truly isn’t your responsibility at all, you definitely didn’t cause it and sadly, no matter how strong the wish and love, you would never, ever have been able to fix it either.

      Hugs. Just remember your beautiful mom as much as possible, rather than the ill one. We are just not ourselves when we are that dark and doom laden.

      Be gentle with yourself, please.


      1. Oh I wasn’t expecting an instant reply, I only apologised because I felt awkward about how much I went on and on. But thank you so much for your warm response. I do my best to remember her in her lighter moments, because she was so often the person who loved to make you laugh and smile. But I found her after she (her illness) made the fateful decision and so it’s a daily battle royale between morbid visions and the attempt to concentrate on happier times. But like you said, we aren’t ourselves (I say “we” because I have mental health problems too) when those clouds descend. So if I can remind myself it wasn’t fully her, it ought to help some.

        Thank you again for your caring reply, be gentle with yourself too. It’s admirable that you’re taking such care in keeping track of your moods in this way.

        Liked by 1 person

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