Everyone has an opinion on how you can lose weight, how you can handle your mental illness better, how you should dress, and so on. What those struggling with mental illness need is someone to listen, not someone to lecture them on what they should be doing and on how to change their lifestyles. It’s okay to give advice when you’re asked and give guidance when needed, but continuous lectures only make a person suffering from mental illness feel worse. Lectures can be more hurtful then helpful.
I’m overweight and I know it. Throughout my life I have struggled with my feelings about my weight and my looks. I still struggle, but not as badly. A family member lectures me continuously about my weight, about what I eat, and how much I eat. I’ve become nervous about eating in front of this person. With each lecture I feel like he is stabbing me with a knife, and I start to hate myself more. I go home and cry. Lou holds me and reassures me I am beautiful, even if I don’t feel beautiful.
I know this family member means well. He is just concerned about my health, but he’s going about it the wrong way. His lectures hurt me and don’t help me. I know I’m overweight. I know I don’t eat the healthiest and I know that I’m at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and so on. I don’t need it rubbed in my face. I have tried to eat healthy, to exercise, and to cut down on bad foods. I lose a little and I gain it back. I don’t seem to be able to keep to an exercise plan. I’m trying to learn to love myself and the way I look no matter what size I am. The lectures just reinforce my self-hate.
What I need is some encouragement, support, and advice. I need to know that I am still beautiful even though I’m heavy. I want my family member to say, “I love you no matter what.” I need a little friendly advice on some ideas for healthy meals or snacks, but not a lecture. Be willing to stand beside me in my struggles and offer me your support; that’s all I ask for.
When I was fighting my illness, I heard many lectures on what I could do differently to find happiness. They seemed to have all the answers for why I couldn’t get out of the hole. All I needed was to watch funny movies, think happy thoughts, or do something fun. I wanted to scream, “If it was that easy, I would have been cured by now.” I didn’t want to hear speeches on what I could do and what I was doing wrong. All I could ask for is support, guidance, and a shoulder to lean on.
Keep the lectures to yourself. Just be a friend, a shoulder to lean on, and a supporter of someone who is mentally ill. Leave the rest to the professionals who know how to guide him or her towards the light. Suggest to him or her to find help, but don’t give him or her your ideas on how they can find the light, especially if you don’t know much about mental illness. Lectures hurt, even if they are meant to be helpful. Stand behind your friend or loved one in his or her struggles and encourage them to seek professional help.
I wrote my family member a note explaining how his lectures hurt me and don’t help. He has backed off some. I am working on loving myself for who I am. When my family member begins to lecture, I try to change the subject and remind myself God makes all of us beautiful no matter what size we are. This is what helps me sparkle within the light.