Have you ever listened to someone talk about their struggles, or heard about someone’s struggles with mental health second hand and found yourself saying these words?
Well, if it was me, I would…
Here’s the thing. It’s not you. It’s them. They are not you, and you are not them. In fact, it’s entirely possible that the sum total of what you really know about this individual is quite small, and is most definitely not enough for you to have any understanding of what they are dealing with.Well, if it was me, I would... Here's the thing. It's not you. It's them. They are not you, and you are not them.Click To Tweet
Someone dealing with a mental health issue may, indeed, be looking for advice from someone who has been through it. They may even ask what you would do in their shoes. Then, and only then, is it appropriate to respond with those words. Most of the time though, they don’t need or want advice, they need support. They need to feel accepted, not alone in their struggles, not judged and stigmatized.
I know it’s difficult to not make every attempt to “fix” something that’s wrong. We all want to be able to do that, but too many times well-meaning advice has the opposite effect, creating a worse problem. Even some of the things that maybe worked for me, don’t work for others. Again, they are not me. I am not them. We are unique, and while we can all support one another through our shared humanity, we don’t always know what is best for everyone. We have limited knowledge of their lives, we shouldn’t assume to know what will work in all cases.
Maybe if we stopped to consider this fact before we spoke, we’d eliminate a lot of the stigma that abuse survivors, or people dealing with mental health issues, have to deal with on a daily basis. Maybe they could feel supported, and loved to the point where getting help and healing could seem possible to them.
Maybe we’d even have a better understanding of people in general and eliminate some of the hate that is ever-present too, if we just acknowledged that we don’t know everything about how everyone else should live and believe. Because they aren’t us, and we aren’t them.