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A Pagan Framework for Healing/Coping with Mental Illness ~ How to Help Out a Friend (Part Two)
Hi everyone, and welcome to part two. Part one can be found HERE, if you haven’t read it already. I want to thank everyone who came out and read this and offered kind words, as well as all of you who offer support to those of us in a rough patch. Keep up the love, y’all!
As always, if you see something you like here, or have an idea, let me know and drop a comment! I love chatting with people, especially about mental health.
- Help with the dishes. For people who become low-functional due to anxiety, depression, etc., dishes are often the first thing to show signs of neglect. Now, the whole place will usually also be messy/dirty. But here’s the thing -> for starters, do ONLY the dishes. Why?
- Doing too much cleaning may overwhelm your sensitive friend.
- It may humiliate them, causing them to be unwilling to reach out again.
- How do you offer this? Do NOT throw your hands in the air and declare their place a mess. In my experience, just pretend it’s all kind of normal, unless it’s a health hazard. This will make them more comfortable to have you help them with this one aspect of their life.
- Step One. Manage to get yourself invited/welcomed in for coffee/chats. Then just sort of hang around their kitchen and say something like “Hey, mind if I do the dishes?” If they say yes, just don’t comment on anything, invite them to draw up a chair and chat with you while you wash. If they say no, Step Two. “Well, I’d like to help you out. Let me do them, please.” Now, depending on how well you know the person, you may gently point out that they don’t seem so good and that you want to give them a break. If they still say no, don’t push it. Maybe they’re too overwhelmed to deal with someone cleaning. Maybe the noise and action will be too much.
- Pro tip: If you are multiple people, one person can take your sick friend out for a coffee/nature walk/sit with them in the living room while you go nuts cleaning the kitchen. Keep your sick friend as far away from the cleaning as possible. Now I say this because just watching someone else do the dishes can not only be humiliating, but as I’ve said before, stressful and overwhelming. You don’t want that. You want them to relax, have a positive experience, and poof! Clean sink. -> making it a positive experience will make it easier for them to allow you to come over and do it again.
- Extra Pro Tip: Use the dishsoap. By this I mean, those dishes are going to be gunky. They’ve been sitting there a while (longer than you want to know!). You may need X amount of soap on your own dishes, well, use 2X on theirs. Trust me, when I was really bad, people kept underestimating the filth on my dishes and I actually once had to REWASH dishes because they hadn’t washed them properly. If they’re short on dish soap, bring some. Just – make sure they’re extra clean.
- Coloring books! Are they artsy but too tired/in a flunk? Bring over some of their favourite mediums (pens, pencils, crayons, markers, etc) and grab some adult coloring books. I’m not joking, these can help. It seems all hokey to the more normal people out there, but when you’re really not feeling well, these things can be a great way to focus and calm down. Now don’t just show up and ninja chuck the coloring books at your friend/relative. Make it a recurring activity! You two can go shopping together (remember the blocking tips in part one) or shop online for them, or they can pick them out and you can go pick them up at the store. Get them involved and get them excited/looking forward to this! Make it fun! Then, once you have them, arrange a time (maximum three hours. More like one to two because longer will exhaust them) where you can sit together with nice drinks and just color. This is a good time to talk about light things as well as serious things, for coloring helps avoid eye contact and gives a fidget to do while speaking, and the act of having something to do excuses slower speaking.
- Pro tip: get coloring books that theme with their favourite hobbies or movies. There’s even supernatural (the TV show) one out there, as well as unicorn ones. Get whatever they like, no shame.
- Pro tip: use the fact it’s trendy as an excuse to do it, and their love of art as a way to bond.
- Example: “Hey, have you heard about those adult coloring books? I’ve heard they have a [favourite hobby] one! Why don’t we get some? We can sit together after class and relax with them.”
- Do some exercise with them. Exercise helps as much as an antidepressant according to some studies (I think, off the top of my head, no sources here). So do some exercise with them. If they, like me, are going to go into sensory overload at a gym, try these instead
- The aforementioned nature walk, but slightly more intense. Make it a nature hike.
- Pick out some yoga tutorials online and throw your mats down at home.
- Pick out some HIIT exercise tutorials online and try them together.
- Pick out some tai chi exercise tutorials online and try them together.
- If either of you know enough, build your own at-home exercise routine, and do it together!
- The point is, exercise at home, in a safe space, with medium level music (if any). Be encouraging. Help them clear out a space for exercise prior to the exercise (remember, mental health = messy home usually), or bring them to your place.
- Reward yourselves for the good activity. eat some fruit, buy yourselves a magazine or a song, or even just a high five and a ‘yeah, we did it!’. Be energized, and encourage them.
- Wind down with them. Make sure they’re okay after the exercise and don’t have a mood crash right after. Chill a little. Not too long, just make sure you don’t run out right after the exercises are done.
- Meditate with them. Now this one’s tricky because meditation is pretty personal. But you can try something generic, like a loving-kindness meditation. Try short sessions, like five minutes.
- Remember that meditation can sometimes cause unhappy things to surface, as well as a chance for symptoms to manifest. Be prepared for them to have a mini meltdown.
- Be prepared as well for a depressed take on the meditation. For them to not feel ‘good enough’ or like they did it ‘wrong’. Read up about the basics of meditation and how it’s just a matter of persistence.
- Steer clear of any kundalini rising meditations and energy work like that, at least at the beginning. Meditation can cause short term psychosis to manifest itself. So, in order to recognize symptoms of a breakout, avoid spiritual exercises that could also cause strange effects. Focus on your breath, or something similarly safe.
- Meditation has so many known benefits, you can use that as an excuse to breach the activity. Example: “I’ve been feeling stressed lately, want to meditate with me?” That way, you don’t focus on their illness and it makes them feel less like it’s you caring for them.
- Make it as ritualized as possible. Ring a bell beforehand, play some zen music, and use a gentle timer to ring you both out of it when the time’s up. This will help create a sense of routine, and make it easier to get into with practice.
- Pray with them. If you are of similar faiths, take a moment and help them pray. During illnesses, we depend much more upon our faith than when we weren’t ill. But sometimes the words are lacking, sometimes we don’t feel worthy enough, and sometimes we just can’t focus. Hold hands together and pray to a common deity/their favorite deity.
- Pro tip: agree upon what you’re praying for first. If you’re a writer/poet, write it down with them, then hold hands together and recite together. Or, you lead and they repeat. Or you recite/pray out loud, and they hold respectful silence.
- Don’t make it just about their illness. Draw attention to other things they care about, as a way to gently remind them that there is other things in their lives. So, pray for their garden’s good fruits, for the sea turtles that are their totem animals, for the good health of their niece.
- Hold ritual with them. Have they been able to keep up their magical hygiene lately? When I was really bad, I couldn’t lead a ritual to save my life, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to. I had all kinds of magical projects! So, offer to do a ritual with them. It could be for the upcoming sabbat, the full moon, or a healing, grounding, or crafting ritual.
- If you’ve never hosted ritual together before, start with something generic like a holy day ritual preferably. Share this space together. See what makes them comfortable. Do they want you to do everything while they sit in circle? Do you lead and they repeat after you? Find out what they’re currently able to do, and go from there. Don’t overwhelm them with chores and keep the energy down as well. Aim for something more low-key than a pumped up shamanic trance.
- From there, work up to doing more personal rituals. Helping them do healing rituals, for example. Helping them cleanse their house after a particularly bad breakdown. Whatever you do, don’t overstep your welcome into their spiritual life. Make sure to help with the physical part of the activities and the organization, but not necessarily to tell them what it means/interpret their gods for them.
- Give them a hug, if they’re comfortable with that. Some people need cuddles, too. If you’re comfortable with that, just hugging for a long time can help someone feel appreciated and balanced more. But make sure you respect everyone’s boundaries, including your own.