For most of us, living with mental illness can be a life in the shadows. We dare not divulge our secret condition for fear that the fallout might be worse than the disorder itself. I know this personally, as it has taken me well into my 50's to really "come out" with what I live with. Not that I didn't tell a certain select few friends, and of course, family...but even that was difficult as you can lose support real fast with a couple of episodes of your symptoms displaying. We are afraid to appear weak and so we moan, groan and complain, instead of asking for genuine help.
There is a huge difference when you do speak to people about what you suffer from in complaining vs. asking or seeking help. Asking for help puts us into a position of vulnerability. I know that when I asked certain friends to be my "life line" people, the ones that I could turn to if I was in a deep depressive episode or having suicidal thoughts, it made me feel weak and ashamed. When I would get to a point where I knew I had to reach out, it was very difficult for the person I called on if all I did was cry, sob, and tell them my woes. When I got to complaining and tearing myself down, telling them of my self-loathing and asking, "why did I have to go through this", they had very little patience to stay in it with me. Unfortunately, until we learn some serious skill sets through Dialectical Behavioral Training (DBT) or Cognitive Talk Therapy, we usually come across that way to our loved ones.
One of the biggest things I did, aside from getting the therapy and medication I needed to help with my condition, was to educate myself as much as possible on what I was dealing with and my symptoms. Once I was able to teach myself what needed to be done when I was in an episode, I could empower and teach my loved ones what I needed to get out of the episode. Instead of complaining (where I would just remain in the episode), I learned how to use skills to escape the mood. When we complain, we come across as victims, when we take action and do something to work ourselves out of our episode; we learn strength and self-esteem. Does it come easily? Not on your life! It has taken me years of therapy and training, education and reading, trying things that don't work and finding what does to help myself when I get in a bad spot.
We drive people away with our complaints; they don't want to hear it again. They find it hard to just sit there and listen to you sobbing on the other end of the phone. It took me awhile to get that fact. There would be a ton of silence, a "snap out of it" comment or two and then I would just hang up or walk away in total frustration that "they just don't get me". "No one understands what I am going through". I hear so many of us with mental disorders talk about how people just don't "get us"...but we must educate in order for them to understand. We have to realize that complaining about our symptoms zaps our energy and renders us ever more helpless. I get that it is extremely hard to find your way to positive during a dark, depressive episode...but I will say it again, we complain, we remain stuck.
On our website, www.searchingforgrey.com/resources, we have a section with resources for help. There are tons of books and places to go to seek answers and get you on the path to empowerment, rather than complaining. I urge you to take as much responsibility as you can to take your disorder by the tail and have you overtake it...not it overtake you! There is freedom in knowing, "ah, I know this symptom and what to do about it", rather than calling your spouse, again, sobbing on the phone. I self-talk positive ALL the time that I can. Everywhere! In the car, the shower, even grocery shopping. I talk myself along through what I have to do and how I'm going to get it done and that (for me and my faith) if God be for me, who can be against me! My husband often comes in when I'm putting my makeup on and just looks at me like I'm half-crazy while I'm talking away to myself. Well, guess what, I am half-crazy and if I don't do something about it, who will?
Take a chance on stopping the complaining and remaining. Make a commitment to YOU to do something positive to help yourself with your disorder. I know that, throughout my journey, we have spent thousands (yes thousands) of dollars on finding the right therapist, psychiatrist, books, medications, whatever it took to make me well. Guess what? If we had not done that, I would not be here now. I'd have been long gone. We have suffered greatly monetarily through those years, especially when I was unable to produce and bring money into the home. I thank God for a husband and daughter that made the commitment and stood by me to do whatever it took to keep me alive.
If you don't have support, my heart does break for you. It is so difficult not to be supported on this journey. That is why I am saying this earnestly...if you complain, you only serve to push others away and get even less support. I pray for you to start the journey to wellness today. You already have! You are reading this blog! You go for it!
One thought on “Complaining Vs. Communicating”
Debra, thank you so much for reading. I completely understand how you feel. There is this desperate desire to want to have others fix us. After all, the work it takes to dig into our own issues, hold ourselves accountable for our behavior, and make the corrections necessary for relationships to be healthy, is no easy task. Congratulations to YOU for taking ownership! Now the real WORK on mending can begin. I hope you will continue follow through, as even though it is difficult, it will make for a much better quality of life for you and those who love and care about you! With you on the Journey! Alice M. Pirola