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How can I help a loved one navigate a mental health flare-up?

I would like to start this by saying one, if you find yourself in this space, I am sorry for the pain you and your loved one may suffer, and I know it is very real and a very hard thing to go through. I would also add that there truly is hope and help to get to a better, healthier place. It takes some work, and the information is not always easy to find. My hope in sharing this information is that it may help someone avoid the mistakes I made and help when you don't know what to do. I am not a doctor or even a therapist. I am a fierce mom that would fight to the death to find answers for her kids and their mental health. I am a wife who so desperately wanted to see her husband get back to his healthy body and mind, and turned over every stone to find answers. I am a holistic health coach and advocate for true health and wellness from the inside out, and I believe every single human deserves this. I am also very human and along my journey I made many mistakes and I learned the hard way many times. I looked in some wrong places for answers and I found some of the right ones. Most importantly, I did my best at the time, mistakes and all, and I learned from each positive step and each failure.

I would encourage anyone facing this, if you do nothing else, be open to looking at yourself and how you might be able to do better and grow in your capacity to understand what those suffering may really need. Here are some of my thoughts and suggestions from my real life experiences.

First and foremost, be a good listener. This is so important, I could probably just end here! One of the number one mistakes I made was offering my two cents about everything someone might be going through. Do this or do that. Saying things like “I don't understand why this is happening to you, your life is literally perfect." "Why are you sad?” Or better yet, things like, “drink this smoothie, I heard it helps with brain health." I know I'm not alone, because I have heard countless people who suffer from various mental health issues tell me they were met with similar responses from loved ones. We all mean well. But yet it is the absolute wrong thing to say! Telling a depressed person that they should be happy because they have a great life, is equivalent to telling a car to run without gas. As a matter of fact, all of our remarks, rude or silly, will hurt the person further, and can really deepen their pain and suffering. To be suffering and not feel heard is almost worse than the suffering itself. So my advice and plead to you, LISTEN and listen again and truly hear them. You don't have to understand exactly what they say, but meet them with compassion, kindness, safety, and simply ask “how can I help, “ and “what do you feel like you need?” Always let them know you are there for comfort. That’s it! One of my favorite prayers of all time, The prayer of St Francis says in part “Oh divine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love…”

Another thing I found helpful was to constantly seek new information to help. Not all of the info out there is good, but just search and you will find the right things along the way. Read books, follow mental health socials, use google search, and find someone who has been through something similar. However you can, arm yourself with as much information as you can find. Pray as you go. Pray for yourself, for your loved one, and for the right information to be revealed to you. Pray for the right people and resources to be put in your path so that you can get your loved one the help they need. Unfortunately you can't do it on your own. It takes a village, and you have to have your heart and eyes open to see who this village should be.

Next, observe, track, and write down as much as you can about your perspective of what they are experiencing, saying, doing etc.. This will help you advocate well for them when you are speaking to any kind of professional on their behalf. Having some details can really help the professional easily discern what they need. This also serves as a bonus when you get to the otherside, you can look back and clearly see the progress and also recognize if certain things are flaring back up.

Now for some of the very practical things you can do. I would highly encourage finding a functional medicine doctor that will look at the big picture and root causes to what may be occurring mentally. Find someone that will do extensive labs and see what is happening inside the body from thyroid, to gut health, to hormones, liver function, and even stress or trauma that may be affecting the body's function. Many of them have virtual practices set up so even if they are not in your city you can still access this kind of care.

If it becomes inevitable that the person you are helping needs medication to use as a part of their treatment plan, again do your due diligence in finding the right Psychologist and Psychiatrist to diagnose and prescribe. Look for those that seek a more holistic approach and ones who listen well to the specifics of this individual rather than a one size fits all approach. One of the most important things you need to request is genetics testing. This testing will reveal how their body will respond to certain medications and their efficacy for that individual. This can save a lot of time and help to get the right medication and dosing the first time rather than hoping you guess right! The wrong medication can cause more damage and suffering so this is crucial!! If your loved one starts a new medication and their demeanor is a little different, be patient with that too. These drugs can often make them feel extra tired, irritable, or all types of side effects until their body gets used to it.

Should you find yourself looking for more intensive treatment at a facility, again please do your research. They are not all the same! Also, expensive does not equal good! Here are some questions I would ask:

  1. What do you offer during treatment? Is it comprehensive to include a team of specialists like Psychiatrist, Psychologist, General Medicine Physician, or Nurse Practitioner, Social Worker, Chaplin etc?

  2. Is there opportunity for connection, group therapy, sharing, socializing?

  3. Will they have time to be active, go outside, move the body, or even be creative?

  4. What are they feeding them? Are meals nourishing and nutrient dense?

  5. What specialty therapies do they offer?

Bottom line here, again, do your research and never assume it’s good based on price or popularity. Do not settle on this point. This is critical to make a good choice here and can mean life or death, healing or not.

There is a lot to cover in this space, but these are my best tips that I wish I had known early on. I have loved and helped family members through severe anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, OCD, ADD, eating disorder psychosis, and some mixtures of more than one. All can look different, be treated differently, and need different levels of intervention. But all are also equally painful and hard for the one suffering and the one watching them suffer. These things are very real and my hope is that the kind of help available can get better and more accessible for all. Some things that will always help, Not necessarily cure, but help are:

  • Diet and correct supplementation

  • Movement and sunshine

  • Connection and friendship

  • Adequate sleep and rest

Holistic treatments that may be beneficial can include:

  • Acupuncture

  • Massage

  • Yoga

Other more intense outpatient treatments that are gaining popularity are:

  • Ketamine treatments

  • Psychedelics

  • EDMR therapy

  • TMS therapy

Final thoughts, as a caregiver, do your best. Make sure you have a support system too. Take care of your health first. You are not the savior or healer. You are simply a trusted conduit to help love, guide, and navigate through this so they are not alone. Be both willing to learn and also gracious with yourself when you get it wrong. Ask for forgiveness and then keep fighting and advocating for the one you love in a way that you would want to be fought for! And as we say in our family, NEVER GIVE UP!

Do you have any great resources you'd like to share? Please comment below! We can all be better by knowing about helpful resources.

I will list and link some as well.

Always with love,

Keri :)



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