Do you know that old saying, “You can’t help those who won’t help themselves?” Well, that holds true for those with mental illness. In order to help a person who suffers with mental illness, the person must want, deep down in his or her heart, to reach recovery. If he or she lacks the drive to get help or fight the illness, then all you can do is listen, encourage, and show them how to get help. If he or she continues to refuse help, you may need to distance yourself from him or her so that you’re not dragged down into his or her dark hole.
I have a friend who tells everyone how miserable and depressed she is. When you give her advice and encourage her to get better, she refuses to listen. She takes herself off her antidepressants and doesn’t take them the way they are prescribed to her. She thrives on people’s sympathy and has no drive to reach recovery. I even suggested my psychiatrist to her, but she failed to listen to his instructions. She said he wasn’t helping her and she left him.
I couldn’t feel sorry for her. I tried to listen and be supportive, but she became too much and I had to distance myself. I knew it had to be her choice to get better and I had done all I could to help her. There was nothing else I could do. I had to take care of my well-being and not allow her to pull me down.
I had another friend who went to see a therapist and took her medication, but refused to do the work to reach for recovery. Medication and therapy are only part of getting well; you must also fight and work hard to change your thoughts and actions. She was too busy being depressed about all the bad stuff in her life. She dramatized everything. She blamed everyone and everything for her sadness. We were friends for many years. When we were both sick, we were a comfort to each other, but I worked hard to get better while she sat at the bottom of the hole. I tried to listen, be supportive and encourage her to reach for recovery, but she started to drag me down. Everything was about her and how awful her life was. She wouldn’t even try to change her thought pattern.
I tried to distance myself, but that only angered her. She called me names and accused me of manipulating her. I had no choice but to end the friendship. Her dramatic life was too much for me to handle. I needed to take care of myself so I could stay in recovery.
You can’t force anyone to get help or force them to help him or herself. You can show him or her how to get help, make suggestions, listen, and be supportive and encouraging. He or she must choose to reach for the light. A person who is ill can drag you down if you allow it. Sometimes you must make the decision to distance yourself until he or she gets help or if he or she is too much to handle then you may need to walk away. If the person refuses to get better then you must think about your well-being.
If you live with the person who will not help him or herself or are unable to distance yourself, you must take care of yourself. Remind yourself you are not to blame for the illness and it is not up to you to take care of the person. It might help to get counseling for yourself or turn to friends for support. Refuse to allow that person to drag you into his or her hole. It’s important to remind yourself of the positive things in your life and keep yourself healthy. It’s not easy.
When I was ill, it took me some time to reach for help, but when I finally did, I fought with all I had in me to get better. Because I was willing to fight to get well and accept the help of others, I stand bravely in the light.