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Over the past few our hearts have been saddened by the tragic loss of Robin Williams, an incredibly strong and brave soul whose ability to make us laugh endeared him to each and every one of us.
Having spent over half my lifetime living with, investigating, battling, treating and overcoming my own struggles with mental illness in the form of anxiety and depression, I can perhaps better understand what Mr. Williams went through during his impactful life. And as we all remember his wonderful, yet adversity-filled life, some may wonder...how do I help the other Robin Williamses around me? How do I help my spouse, sibling, parent, neighbor, friend, coworker, teammate, etc.?
Here are five ways that you can help that person in your life. While I do not profess to be an expert, these come from personal experience from dear friends, teammates, girlfriends, siblings, counselors and religious leaders who have reached out when I needed help the most.
1. Be Compassionate:
In this world of Facebook statuses, selfies and this-is-my-life social outlets, most people are almost loath to open up about their everyday struggles. Now, add that societal pressure to the far too common stigma surrounding mental illness and you can see why many who struggle with mental illness hide their problems, especially men.
If you have someone in your life who you think is struggling, open your heart and be compassionate enough to ask. Oftentimes those who struggle the most put on a brave face, or in Robin Williams' case laugh the loudest. But that doesn't mean they aren't silently hoping that someone will come to their rescue and help them carry the load. So ask. And keep asking until the truth comes out. "I'm ok" is not an answer you should be satisfied with.
Also, when someone is feeling like they are in a dark place, your love may have to be the light that shows them the way. Yes, someone who is feeling anxious or depressed may not be the chipper life of the party, but they still have infinite value and worth and deserve respect, love and support. Hug them. Hold them. Write them an encouraging note. Make them cookies. Go with them to a support group. Whatever comes to mind, do it. At the most basic level, depression is a thief in the night who steals your loved one's ability to feel, love and enjoy life. So at whatever level you can, shower them with love and support.
Behold! Oh ye married people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip inside the mind of your single and midsingle friends! While they know you mean well whenever you ask about their dating lives or try to help them find true love (thank you for your efforts, by the way), here are some things that they may think on their more snarky, bitter, sick-of-dating days. When you ask these questions, here is what they say...and what they quite possibly really think.
So yes, everything written here should be taken with a grain of salt and a big side of laughter.
What we usually say: "I guess I just haven't found the right person yet."
What we are really thinking: "That mystery goes right up there with some of Steven Hawking's theories: unfathomable. You probably mean that as a compliment, but what it sounds like is that I'm doing something wrong and need to figure out what that is so I can get married, because obviously I'm not doing my best to improve myself, love my life and be open to finding that person whenever it happens. Thanks, Dr. Phil!"
I know that most people who ask this question have great intentions and want us to remember just how great they think we are. But seriously, don't ask this question. Ever. There is no good way to answer it and singles hate trying to do so.
What we usually say: "Well, I try not to be..."
What we are really thinking: "So you're saying that the solution to my single-ness is to settle and that I shouldn't wait for someone who takes my breath away, makes me smile just when they say 'hello' and that someone that I just can't stop thinking about? Oh goodie."
Ok, we all know that being too picky is a bad thing. We get that. But do us a favor: don't tell us to wait for amazing on one hand and then tell us not to be picky on the other. We're already trying to walk the fine line between being realistically optimistic and regretfully settling.