Helping A Loved One When They’re Not Doing Well

I recently watched as a friend deteriorated as a result of a new medication. She was having an adverse reaction to it and within days was manic. Everyone else saw a happy-go-lucky her, while I saw the irritation building in her, as well as her frustration as she tried to deal with the growing symptoms. Within days the mania turned into depression and she became more irritable, angry and more frustrated. 

By now she was going to see her doctor but getting there wasn’t ideal. Her cognitive impairment caused her to take the wrong bus, but somehow she still made it, only to discover that her doctor’s appointment wasn’t for another week. I was able to talk to her as she faced these obstacles. She advocated for herself at the doctor’s office and was able to get a temporary medication until her doctor could come in and straighten out the other medication issues. 

We live in a house with 7 other women and everyone wasn’t able to understand what was going on with her. What I learned was what to say and what not to say when somebody is going through a crisis like this. 

What not to say:

  • What is wrong with you?
  • Why are you so moody?
  • Don’t you take medicine for that?
  • Are you using drugs?

 What to say:

  • What can I do to help?
  • Have you talked to your mental health team?
  • What can you do to deal with the symptoms right now?
  • What can I do to help you ease the symptoms?

Things that have helped me and can make a world of difference:

  • Giving me a ride to places so I can avoid the over-stimulation of the bus system or driving.
  • Letting me sleep during non-sleeping times. Sleep is often restorative.
  • Not taking my silence or irritation personally.
  • Being real about doctor’s visits and the need for medicine adjustments while being gentle.
  • Helping me talk to my employer if I have to take time off work
  • Suggesting to go with me if hospitalization is the right answer.
  • Being generally supportive and listening to what I have to say about what I need.
  • Using a gentle tone.

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