…start saying thank you.
By this I don’t mean never apologising for anything again, but when I get anxious I find myself apologising for people acts of kindness towards me. For example, if I feel anxious or lonely and then find it in myself to reach out and tell someone I’m struggling, if they offer support I start to overthink. Even though this person has offered out of kindness, I find myself feeling like a burden and constantly apologising for what I’m tell myself is putting them out. But I’m not putting them out, they are my friend and a person with free will – they didn’t HAVE to offer, they chose to. Sometimes you might really need a friend at 3am, or someone who will pick up the phone or drive to see you, or cancel plans to be by your side. That might be inconvenient at times, but you don’t need to apologise. That person has made that choice. Similarly, if people aren’t able to rush to your side it can be easy to forget that people care and become a cycle of isolation.
I’ve been on the other side, too, and it feels quite sad when you feel good that you were able to be there for someone or support them in some way and they keep saying sorry, or apologising, when you made the choice to be with them. It feels like you’ve somehow made them feel even worse, or are a burden.
Say sorry when you need to be accountable, but I urge you to stop saying sorry when you reach out. You are incredibly brave to reach out a hand at your lowest. Sometimes it can be hard to remember people care when they can’t respond immediately. I have just started writing a diary of gratitude where I try to write down three things a day that I am grateful for. This may be spending time with someone, connecting with friends, or simply a few minutes of calm and a brew. It is helping change my way of thinking and when I feel low I can read back and be reminded of the good. It also gives me something positive to focus on daily. I never thought about safety plans until I downloaded an app called Mood Tools and it asks you to create one. Reading the gratitude book would be one of my steps to feeling better and on my safety plan. You can do this in the app or use this website to help you write one.
The first step is recognising the warning signs; start to make a list. Add coping strategies: you can learn what strategies work in different situations by writing this down. These could be a list of simple things – doodle, make a brew, go for a walk, watch a tv programme, practice yoga or meditation, for example. I would make notes on which work best for you by rating them. List reasons to live – aim for ten even if they seem small. Have a list of contacts you can reach out to just for a chat or tell them you are struggling, other numbers could be support services. List good distractions – healthy things that take your mind off of others. I was always worried distraction was bad but it can help bring clarity. The app is very helpful in describing how to carry out each stage and it’s free!
Create a plan, help yourself, reach out and stop apologising when you need or gain support!