I like Nathan’s description because I think in some way that this is all of us.
“In the ten years I’ve lived with anxiety and depression, I can confidently say I’ve improved at sharing my story and talking about my own mental health. When I think about how I got better at doing this, I kept coming back to one thought: I kept going. The first time I shared my story, I felt extremely awkward. The second time, the third time, the fourth time…same thing. But at some point, talking about this became easier. I learned the right words to use, which gave me confidence to be accurate in what I was saying. I grew more comfortable in being vulnerable, and stood stronger in my story. No matter where you are in sharing your story, I hope you have the courage to continue telling it.”
Talking about our own mental health is hard. There’s no shortcut to getting better and more comfortable with it that doesn’t involve simply doing it more often.
On the flip side, I want to take a moment to talk to the people on the other side of that conversation. Please be patient and understanding. There aren’t a lot of resources out there that teach people to talk about their mental health issues in clear, concise terms without getting too emotional.
They can’t go down to the local community college and sign up for a class where they can practice explaining all of the complexities of their mental health in simple terms. They’re experimenting with what works, what is comfortable, what is confusing, etc. Give them some space to do that and know that when they are still at this uncomfortable level they trust you to be someone they want to talk to.
Don’t ruin it for them by being dismissive or not listening. They need you to listen and they need practice in telling their stories. Be the same place for that.