6 Signs It’s Time to Find a New Therapist

Therapy can be hard, but your relationship with your therapist shouldn’t be difficult. It takes courage to start therapy and let yourself be vulnerable, so you should have a therapist you trust.

If you don’t feel like your current therapist is working out, don’t give up. There are many reasons a therapist may not be a good fit, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a therapist out there for you.

Here are six signs you might want to go shopping for a new therapist:

You feel judged.

Therapy is supposed to be a safe space where you can talk freely about what’s bothering you. You shouldn’t feel judged or shamed. If they “shut you down,” it’s probably time to find a new therapist.

With that being said, your therapist may be trying to introduce a new perspective that you haven’t considered. If you feel comfortable enough, explain why you felt judged or shamed. There could have been a misunderstanding, and if that’s a case, a good therapist will address that empathetically.

Other times, a therapist is just bad. They judge you, and it’s definitely not a misunderstanding. If you’re made to feel ashamed of your body, sexuality, religion, etc., it’s definitely time to find a new therapist.

You’re not seeing improvement.

This one may not be easy to spot. Therapy doesn’t work overnight, and a lot of improvement is subtle.

For me, I noticed changes around the three-month mark when I began seeing a therapist that was a good fit. That’s a long time, but therapy takes time.

Give it some time, but also know that therapy with any therapist won’t work if you don’t put in the work as well.

You just don’t “click” with them.

Rapport with a therapist is a major factor in whether or not therapy is successful.

Your therapist may even notice if the match isn’t good before you do. They might ask if you think you’d see more improvement with a different therapist or approach.

Not clicking with a therapist doesn’t mean you or the therapist did anything wrong. Sometimes the connection isn’t there, but maybe give it a few sessions before you decide it isn’t a good match.

I had one therapist who really wanted to focus on the bipolar aspect of my life. Everything we talked about was connected back to bipolar or a symptom, so her questions were all related to symptoms. Of course, my mental illness will play a part in therapy, but it’s one aspect of my life. I prefer a more well-rounded approach.

They’re constantly running late or canceling.

Many therapist’s offices have “no-show fees,” meaning if you don’t let them know in advance you’re canceling an appointment, they may charge you a fee.

As clients, we can’t charge therapists for lost time, but our time is just as important as theirs. If your therapist is frequently canceling your appointments or running late, they’re not valuing your time. And they’re certainly not worth your money.

Like anyone else, therapists have things that come up and cause a disruption in scheduling. If it’s a constant issue, though, it’s time to look for someone new.

If your therapist is chronically running late, bring it up in session. It’s your time. Most therapy hours are 50 minutes long. It’s a pet peeve of mine when a therapist starts 10 minutes late but expects our session to still end at the original stop time.

They don’t incorporate your feedback.

If you don’t feel like you’re getting much out of the current treatment plan or framework, let your therapist know. If they aren’t open to trying a different approach or taking your thoughts into consideration, it’s time to say goodbye.

I was in a heavily structured therapy program, and while I found the group portion insightful, the individual therapy didn’t help. It actually made me feel worse when I was already severely depressed. There was no room for me to bring up what I actually wanted to talk about. When I mentioned this in therapy, it was pushed aside because it didn’t fit in the structure.

They don’t respect boundaries.

This can mean a lot of things. A relationship with a therapist is a little weird. They know intimate and vulnerable information about you, but you aren’t friends or family. There’s a professional boundary that has to be respected. Neither you or the therapist should cross that.

You may not be ready to talk about something in particular. Though a therapist may encourage you to talk about it, they shouldn’t be pressuring you to the point you’re uncomfortable with them.


Starting therapy isn’t always simple. Some things have to be sussed out, but if you give it time, there’s a possibility you’ll see improvement. At the very least, you’ll feel heard and supported (if it’s a good therapist).

Advertisements

What to Expect at Your First Therapy Appointment

For nearly four years, I’ve been in and out of therapy. I’ve seen ten different therapists, which is way more than I would have liked. Some moved away. Others didn’t work out or weren’t available for more than 12 sessions (looking at you university counseling centers).

While it’s taken a while to find consistency with therapists, I’ve become somewhat of a regular with first sessions. Each therapist has had a different approach to the first appointment, but there have been some similarities.

If you’re anxious about your first appointment, here are a few things you can do and expect to feel more prepared:

Paperwork

Like any doctor’s office, you’ll have paperwork to fill out. Some places also request you print off the intake forms before your first appointment. I’ve seen a wide variety of paperwork and forms at each therapist’s office I’ve been to.

Some take 25 minutes to fill out. Others take five. You’ll give your general information such as your insurance details and address.

They may ask about your relationships and other social factors of your life. They might ask about your family history. You’ll also list any diagnoses you may already have, and if you’ve been to therapy before.

Some offices may provide you a checklist of concerns that may have brought you in. They may give you an open-ended question of “What brings you in today?”

Some places may give you questionnaires like the PHQ-9 where you rate the frequency of your symptoms. On a scale of “not at all” to “nearly every day,” you’ll rate your experience of nine signs of depression.

When it comes to paperwork, each office varies widely in what they want. The best approach is to be as honest and thorough as possible. It may feel weird to write down vulnerable information, especially if it’s your first time. Though I’d recommend still writing everything down, you will get a chance to bring it up during your first appointment.

You’ll also fill out confidentiality agreements. What you discuss with your therapist is confidential, but there are a few caveats to that. A therapist can break confidentiality if they believe you may harm yourself or others. They can also break it if they suspect ongoing child abuse.

Common Questions You’ll Hear

Even though you have spent time filling out paperwork, be prepared to answer some of the same questions in person. Your therapist needs to get an idea of why you decided to come in, and it’ll give you a chance to elaborate on what you wrote.

Your first appointment won’t really be a therapy session. It’ll be more of a “get to know you” session.

They’ll ask why you came in. For some people, it’s a vague question. You might not be able to put a lot of what you’re going through into words. Try your best, and if needed, write down your concerns/symptoms before coming in.

For others, the question may seem like there’s too much to put into a succinct answer. That’s OK. Therapy is your time, so feel free to say as much as you can.

A therapist may refer to your paperwork to get an idea of what needs to be assessed. They may ask you to elaborate on something in particular. This isn’t a time to clam up about something. If it’s hard to discuss, especially before establishing a rapport with the therapist, feel free to answer as much as possible and then let the therapist know it might be a topic to discuss later down the road when you feel more ready.

Another question you’ll probably hear is, “What do you want to get out of therapy?” When I first started therapy, I hated this question. How was I supposed to know when I’d never been through therapy before?

The question is not meant to be that serious. You’re not expected to come up with a treatment plan. Your therapist just needs to know what you’re expecting. In the beginning, my answer was a vague “to feel better.”

Maybe you’re looking for better coping skills for stress or depression. Maybe you’re wanting help regulating anger. Maybe you’re interested in building better relationships. It doesn’t need to be specific. Your therapist will work with you over time to establish the best treatment plan.

Questions to Ask a Therapist

You can ask your therapist what type of therapy they see using with you. Every therapist is different, and there are many approaches to therapy. In my experience, many therapists work with a combination of approaches. A therapist may use a cognitive-behavioral approach but could also utilize aspects of dialectical behavior therapy.

You can also ask what you can expect from therapy. Ask if your therapist assigns homework. I prefer therapy with more structure and homework. I feel like I get more out of it, but not everyone feels that way.

Ask about the frequency of therapy. They may ask you what you think would work, but they may recommend coming in once a week or every other week. Ask what’s the best way to contact them. Some therapists will prefer you email or call them directly. Others may prefer you to work with the front desk depending on how large the practice is.

The Intake Therapist May Not Be Your Actual Therapist

A couple of the practices I’ve been to have had “intake” therapists. It’s typically another therapist who works in the office. Their job is to figure out which therapist in the office may be the best fit for you. The rapport between a therapist and a client is a key component of successful therapy.

You may end up working with your intake therapist if it seems like a good fit. There’s also scheduling to consider. This setup usually happens in larger practices.


Seeking therapy can be nerve-wracking, but having an idea of what to expect may help you. You may not find a therapist that’s a good fit right away, but that’s OK. It takes strength to reach out, but scheduling your first appointment is a great first step.

5 (More) Lessons Therapy Taught Me

Nearly nine months ago, I published a piece about five hard lessons therapy has taught me. I figured it was a good time to mention a few more lessons I’ve learned recently.

I’ve been in therapy off and on since Feb. 2016. I’ve taken breaks during periods of wellness. I’ve also been unable to attend therapy due to long wait periods, financial issues, etc.

Since my last post, I’ve had to change therapists due to one moving away. I was happy with my previous one, so I was worried I wouldn’t do well with a new one. Turns out, I’ve done pretty well with my current one, though it took months for me to really feel improvement.

I can’t blame my therapist for that, though. That’s kind of how therapy has always worked for me. Improvement and effort move at a snail’s pace, but it’s still movement in the right direction. Therapy takes time, so don’t worry if you don’t see changes right away. And if you feel like you’re not clicking with a therapist, look for a new one! Not every therapist will be the right fit, and any therapist worth your time will understand that.

Here are five more lessons I’ve learned while in therapy:

1. I can’t control everything about my depression.

I have bipolar 2 disorder, and my main issue is depression. I’m not currently in a depressive episode (knock on wood), but a big fear of mine is getting stuck in one again. My last depressive episode lasted three weeks, which is quite short for me. They usually last months.

My therapist gave me a metaphor to explain “control” with depression. She told me depression is like a hurricane. You can prepare the best you can, but we can’t prevent it altogether or stop it from hitting hard.

I can find strength in what I can control. There will most likely be days when the depression is overwhelming. I can’t control that.

But I can control what I do on the better days to help prevent worse days. I can take my medications, go to therapy and my support group, etc. When my depression is severe, I can decide if I need more intensive care. No matter how bad it gets, there will be some aspect I can control, even if it’s just choosing to open my eyes in the morning or take deep breaths.

2. The fear of depression can be worse than the depression.

The operative phrase being “can be.” Depression is a horrific monster I still struggle to put into words. There’s no doubting how hard and painful depression is, but it isn’t always a severe episode.

I can have mild episodes or episodes that only last a few weeks. But I’ll spend months terrified of an impending episode. I explained this to my therapist as tiptoeing when I feel good because I don’t want to wake the giant.

I don’t trust stability or good moods because of my mood shifts. Fearing depression prevents me from taking risks or truly enjoying the good moments. I’m always waiting for the ironclad shoe of depression to drop and squish the life I have.

I’m working on not fearing the worst. I want to live my life without worrying my next depressive episode could take it all away. I might not be able to control everything about depression, but I can work on not giving it any more of my time than needed.

3. No one is made to be on top of our game 24/7.

I used to work for a media company, and I became accustomed to working 60+ hours a week. I felt guilty if I actually signed off at 6 p.m., and I rarely took a day off.

I did this for over a year, and it completely burned me out. The burnout was a major reason I experienced a seven-month depressive episode.

I still have feelings of guilt and shame that I couldn’t handle my work schedule. I feel guilty for not continuing to perform my best, though I know it is impossible for anyone to work the way I did for as long as I did.

I felt guilty my bipolar disorder was getting in the way of my work, which is ridiculous because it’s a mental illness, not a personal shortcoming. I can try to prevent mood shifts and prepare the best I can, but there’s only so much I can do.

4. Look for another perspective.

This is one of the main points of therapy. We’re told to put ourselves in another person’s shoes to gain insight into someone else’s perspective. We aren’t taught how to change the perspective of ourselves and our thoughts.

For instance, I recently increased one of my medications. I had rapid cycled for over a month, and it was clear I needed something more than therapy to get ahold of it.

I experience side effects anytime I change the dosage of this medication. I get a dry mouth, which I combat with lots of water and gum. The worst side effect, though, is how shoddy my memory becomes.

As I explained my frustration with my memory to my therapist, she had another way of looking at it. Yes, my memory wasn’t great, but my mind wasn’t spiraling downward as much. I wasn’t experiencing as many negative thoughts, and I wasn’t ruminating on them.

The medication seemed to slow my mind down. While that ruined my memory, my mind was more peaceful. I could only see the negative aspects of the med increase, but she showed me another perspective. Eventually, the memory issues outweighed the benefit of the slowed mind. I’m working on a better solution.

5. I’m where I need to be in life right now.

I have a bad habit of comparing myself to my previous selves. I’m not able to handle a job in my preferred career path right now. I don’t feel like I’m going somewhere. I was a determined kid who always thought ahead. When I had to take a break from journalism, I felt like I was somehow failing.

I’m not used to living without striving for something greater. I know this is common among my generation. A lot of us aren’t taught to work 9–5 and leave work at work. We’re always striving to move up or do better. There’s nothing wrong with this, but a lot of us have trouble with not working ourselves into the ground.

I’m meeting myself where I am instead of fighting for something more. I can handle my current responsibilities, and my mental health is improving. This doesn’t mean I’ll never push myself to do more. It simply means I’m listening to my mind and body.

If we’re constantly striving for the next thing, we’re never going to enjoy what we have.

Reading Children’s Books Brought Back My Passion for Reading

I’ve been a reader since the day I read my first book Green Eggs and Ham. There was no stopping me with my LeapFrog and Scooby-Doo mysteries. Then it was the Junie B. Jones series and so on.

By high school, I was reading a mix of young adult and adult fiction. I read books on top of my school-assigned reading list. I spent way too much money in Borders (RIP) and Barnes and Noble. I fangirled over Jodi Picoult when I traveled to Chicago from Kansas City to hear her read an excerpt from her latest novel Lone Wolf.

My reading time dwindled in college as I juggled my course load, but I made up for it over school breaks. When I became depressed during my junior year, reading anything seemed insurmountable.

I can count the number of books I’ve read in three years with my hands. Some of those were for school or work. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve picked up books only to drop them halfway through.

It wasn’t until now that I’ve broken this pattern. A part of my income is working as a nanny and tutor for two fourth graders. Earlier in the school year, they began reading Because of Winn-Dixie. I remembered reading it at their age and falling in love with that scruffy dog.

As the kids have started reading books of their choice for a project, I decided I’d read the books as well, so they could discuss the storyline with me.

I laughed as a read Ben Franklin’s in My Bathroom. I finished it in a day, and while it was an easy read, I felt just as accomplished for finally finishing a book. A silly book about a time machine bringing Ben Franklin to present-day ignited a passion I hadn’t felt in ages.

Then, it was time to read the other fourth grader’s book, Annie’s Life in Lists. I became intrigued as to the real reason Annie’s family moved from Brooklyn to a tiny town. I related to both awkward 10-year-old Annie and to her parents, worrying about money and life.

The other night I perused my neglected books in my apartment. As much as I had stopped reading, I still bought books. Old habits die hard.

I settled on the adult fiction book Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown. Months earlier I had read the first few chapters but lost the motivation to keep going. Now I’m passed where I had stopped, and I have no intention of putting this one down. I don’t understand how I could’ve stopped reading such a compelling mystery of the disappearance of Olive’s mom.

Reading is a skill I neglected for so long. I needed to start small to get back to my previous momentum.Also, children’s books are pretty good, so I can’t wait to read my next one.

5 Signs You’re Resilient Even When You Feel Weak

Resilience isn’t something I typically associate with having a mental illness. Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from stressors. It’s how well you handle difficult situations with your thoughts and behaviors, according to the American Psychological Association.

While some people may have a natural high resilience, many of us have to work at it. There’s no shame in that.

I certainly didn’t feel resilient when my mental health took a deep dive into depression. A year and a half was spent just surviving. I felt weak and hopeless. I certainly wasn’t “bouncing back” from anything.

It’s taken three years for me to call myself resilient. The funny thing is, I was resilient in my deepest depression.

If you’re struggling with your mental health or are feeling vulnerable against what’s happening in your life, here are 5 signs you’re still resilient.

1. You’re surviving.

When your mental and emotional pain is unbearable but you choose to keep living, you’re resilient as hell. It’s easy to feel like you’re weak when you seem like you’re only hanging on by a thread. But the opposite is true. You are strong. Living despite your mind telling you to die is arguably the strongest thing someone can do.

This isn’t to say those who attempt suicide or die by suicide are weak. I attempted suicide in 2016, and I occasionally still deal with suicidal thoughts. My past experience has made me more resilient in the face of those thoughts.

Surviving can be exhausting, and sometimes we reach our breaking point. If we can hold on for just a little longer, we may surprise ourselves with what we can handle.

Breathing is resilience.

2. You’re looking for ways to feel better.

Searching for ways to handle your depression or other mental health issue shows an effort to move forward.

This could mean medication, therapy, meditation, exercise — anything you’re using to manage your mental health or illness. They don’t have to be traditional ways of coping or recovering. It’s about the motivation to keep going.

Bonus resilient points for looking for ways when you’d really rather curl up in a ball.

3. You’re reaching out for support.

This may include therapy but could also include confiding in a friend or family member.

You don’t have to handle depression on your own, even when you feel isolated. If you have someone in your life who is supportive, try to let them in. If you don’t have anyone you feel close enough to, you could look into a support group.

Resilience may be individualized, but that doesn’t mean it’s cultivated without others.

4. You’re accepting where you’re at in life.

If there’s one thing I have fought, it’s accepting how I’m feeling instead of desperately and impulsively trying to change it.

This is different from looking for ways to feel better. When I refuse to accept my current situation or mood, I’m prone to turning to unhealthy and impulsive coping skills. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to accept changes in my mood and use healthier coping skills instead of running away from myself.

Change is going to happen, and if we can accept that and work through it instead of against it, we’re practicing resilience.

5. You’re handling hardships better than you have in the past.

This is the primary reason I believe I’m resilient now. I don’t turn to unhealthy coping skills as much as I used to. I utilize therapy, meds, support group, and the people in my life to work through the rough patches. This isn’t a fool-proof system, of course. But I’ve come a long way in the last three years.

I’ve realized that my lows aren’t more shallow than they’ve been in the past. I’m the one who has changed. While there are moments I want to abandon all I’ve worked for because it’s so damn hard sometimes, I don’t.

Think about what you’ve experienced or felt in the past. You made it passed that, albeit probably with some scrapes and bruises. With time and practice, you might realize you’re doing better than you think. One thing that seemed insurmountable before, isn’t anymore.


I used to believe I wasn’t resilient because I still experienced depression. I thought a mood episode meant I lost what little strength I had. I was wrong. My mental illness doesn’t negate my resiliency. If anything bipolar disorder has made me more resilient.

While I may not have had much resilience innately, I’ve cultivated it. And I’m damn proud of that.

5 ‘Affirmations’ I Use as Someone With Bipolar Disorder

I’m too much of a pessimistic realist to believe affirmations like “I am happy.” OK. I can tell myself that all day long, but it’s not going to change the fact I’m really effin’ depressed.

My affirmations are less about the end goal and more about the process. They are somewhat of a fancy way of identifying where I need to incorporate coping skills and better emotion regulation.

These are “baby” affirmations. Right now, they’re what I’m working on, but down the road, they’ll likely change.

I like to learn to be content. (1)

When I mentioned this one in therapy, it was “I’d like to learn how to be happy.” My therapist helped me change it to “content.” Happy is an emotion, and emotions are not forever. I may experience more depression than others, but no one can hold on to happiness. If you spend your time striving for “happy,” you’ll be let down.

Contentment is much more attainable. One of the things I’m learning to do is not judge or overthink my emotions. It’s more “neutral” than happy, though it’s in the same wheelhouse as happiness. I don’t feel the need to hold onto or worry about losing contentment as much as happiness.

Of course, life happens, and we can’t always feel content. But, by using coping skills and self-care, I’m able to learn how to feel more content when stressors come up.

My therapist called it “finding contentment in the face of resentment.”There are things I’d like to change in my life, but those changes are not possible at the moment. The trick is to find ways to feel content in the present despite the factors in life you’d like to change.

I like to learn to be content. 2.jpg

I used to write as a full-time job. I loved it, but depression likes to take away the things I love the most. This affirmation is quite vague. That’s on purpose. I didn’t set a specific goal of how much I need to write in a given week. My only goal is to “write more.” I’m not looking for my affirmations to add extra pressure to my life.

What this affirmation does, however, is remind me of what I want and know I can do. I’d like to write more again, and I am doing that. It’s not as much as I’d like, but I’m getting there.

This affirmation also fights self-deprecating thoughts that tell me I’m no good. I’m trying to find confidence in writing again, and this one helps with that.

I like to learn to be content. 3.jpg

This one is a bit cliche. Who doesn’t have parts of their past they’d rather forget?

Mental illness itself can be traumatic. My experience with undertreated bipolar disorder wrecked many aspects of my life. Whenever I feel down, I spiral into believing I’ll be back where I started three years ago. That severe depression and mixed state terrify me.

When I experience a depressive episode now, it’s easy to think I haven’t grown or become more resilient. But I have. My past is not who I am now.

I can learn to process my past and identify how I’ve grown without feeling sucked into it.

I like to learn to be content. 4.jpg

Depression makes me a pessimist. My entire thought process and state of mind changes. I believe that nothing will ever get better. I believe nothing (meds, therapy, other skills) is helping. It’s like I become engulfed in bipolar disorder and forget I can do things to gain back control. All coping goes out of the window, and I shut out all means of help. I become hopeless.

This affirmation helps cancel out some of my pessimism. I can learn how to manage my symptoms to minimize the risk of a severe episode. I can’t control everything that happens with my mood, but I can arm myself with tools to help. Learning how to manage my symptoms is best done when I’m feeling “stable.”

I like to learn to be content. 5.jpg

This one goes with writing more again. I am definitely passionate about writing but also learning and helping others. This is why I fell in love with journalism. It allows you to learn something new through every story, interview, and research article. I’ve always been a curious and determined person.

A part of depression is a loss of interest. When my mental illness became severe, I was stripped of the very characteristics and passions I prided myself on.

I remember what it felt like to be passionate and excited about life and my work. I haven’t been able to get back there in a while. With this affirmation, I’m not focusing on feeling passionate, but rather doing things I know I (used to) enjoy.

I’m still that person who wanted to double major in journalism and psychology— which I did—and minor in history and economics—which I thankfully didn’t do.

 


My plan is to print these affirmations off on Cardstock. On the back, I’ll write ways I’m implementing that affirmation in my life. For instance, I’d write that I’ve started attending a support group on the back of my “managing symptoms” better affirmation.

My Wackiest Mental Health Coping Skills

We all do things to destress. Some of them are common — like getting more sleep or taking a bath. Others are unique to each of us.

I use coping skills to manage my bipolar disorder, specifically my depressive episodes. I try to find things that comfort or distract me in the harder moments. Coping skills are also good for preventing an episode from getting worse.

Truthfully, coping can be annoying. When you struggle with mental illness, it can feel like you’re just coping through life because you have no other choice. I experience this, but I also know that eventually, I won’t need something to help me “cope” from moment to moment.

These three coping skills are activities I also enjoy when I’m not in need of a way to cope. If we look at things we enjoy, they can become coping mechanisms for when we struggle.

Here are three ways I cope that might seem weird to others:

I sleep on an air mattress.

I don’t know why people knock air mattresses. Have you ever slept on a really good air mattress? Heck. I even love the cheap ones that gently swallow you throughout the night as air lets out.

I don’t sleep on one often, but I do have one just in case. College friends recently visited, and I stopped one of them from deflating it before they left. I used it for about a week before I realized my back needed the relief of a real bed.

There’s something about blowing up an air mattress in my living room to watch movies that brings me back to childhood. It’s comforting and it’s comfortable — for a while.

I also find changing my environment, even if it’s just sleeping in my living room instead of my bedroom, helps with late-night restlessness. I often wake up in the middle of the night and move to my couch. If I don’t, I’ll spend hours tossing and turning in my bed.

Sometimes coping mechanisms are finding comfort and joy in small things — like sleeping on an air mattress instead of your perfectly good bed.

I take a cold shower.

I can’t take credit for this one because I learned about it in therapy. I use this one multiple times a week. It helps with everything from stress to anxiety and near-crisis moments.

Changing your body’s temperature sort of “resets” your body and mind. If I find that my head is spinning with negative thoughts, a cold shower brings me back to the present. If I can’t stop crying or calm down, the temperature helps my body do what my brain can’t.

I also live in Florida, so hot showers rarely sound appealing. What I usually do is put the shower on warm to bathe, and then turn it to cold. The initial shock is the same as if I were to jump into a pool. I focus on the sensation on my skin, and when I get out, I feel energized but calmer.

I look at real estate in other cities.

Anyone who knows me knows I. Do. Not. Like. Florida. I can’t really change where I live at the moment, but I can think about where I’d like to be.

Right now, I look at houses in Seattle. Buying a house in Seattle is a pipe dream because I’m a “millennial” (and apparently we don’t buy houses) and also because housing prices there are astronomical (which is why millennials don’t buy houses).

I grew up moving a lot, but I always enjoyed searching for a new house with my parents. Also, I watched a lot of HGTV with my mom growing up, so yes, I enjoy jumping on Zillow and looking at the craftsman houses in Seattle.

I’ve put in work to figure out what helps me with my mental illness. While some things may seem weird, they work for now. That’s all that matters.

The Wilting Flower

The wilting flower sits forgotten,

Unkempt.

The yellow petals droop in surrender,

edging closer to the undusted table.

The sun is no more.

The water has run dry.

It’s winter inside,

but summer is just beyond her window.

Warmth she will never know again.

The unkempt flower survived for so long,

weakened from the weeds in her carer’s mind.

She does not blame her carer,

for she knows how hard it is to survive,

when it’s winter inside.

What to Say Instead of ‘It Gets Better’

It’s often hard to know how to support someone who’s struggling with their mental health. You may worry you’ll say the wrong thing or be unable to help.

I’ve been on both sides of the conversation — the one needing support and the one giving it. I’m more sympathetic because of my experience with mental health issues, but I don’t always know how to help.

When I’ve needed support, it helped to have people by my side who were there to listen to me. There wasn’t much they could do aside from showing me they care and being there when I needed a distraction.

Support doesn’t have to be incredible insight or advice. It can simply mean being there. It may be hard to know how to be there, though.

A lot of people have heard the phrase, “It gets better.” It seems like a hopeful sentiment, but many in the mental health community, myself included, do not care for this phrase.

“It gets better” shrugs off the current pain and issues. While the phrase may be true, you’re not addressing the person’s concerns and troubles at the moment. Telling someone their issues may lessen in an arbitrary time frame means nothing.

For me, it was frustrating to hear this phrase because I had tried to feel better for years. I felt ignored when someone would tell me “it gets better” or to “wait it out.” That doesn’t validate the very real pain I experienced. It’s like telling someone to shut up because you don’t want to hear about their problems.

People don’t use the phrase to be invalidating. They don’t realize there are much better ways to support someone.

Here are some tips for helping a friend struggling with their mental health:

Validate their concerns and emotions. Let them tell you what’s going on. You don’t need to offer solutions or advice. Get on their level and let them know you understand. Sometimes people just need someone to listen. Here are some alternative phrases to “It Gets Better” that are actually validating:

“I understand you’re feeling _____. You have every right to feel that way.”

“That’s really hard to go through, so it makes sense that you would be struggling.”

“You don’t have to be OK all the time. It’s also OK to feel hurt or upset.”

What you say depends on the situation, of course. Validation may seem disingenuous when you actively use it but in my experience, I’m never trying to say the “right” thing. I’ve become more sympathetic, and I listen intently. I want to validate someone’s feelings because I care and believe them.

Let them know you’re there for them. Now and in the future. It takes a lot to open up to others. If you let someone know you’ll be there for them, you become a “safe” person. A safe person is someone whom they can trust or lean on when needed.

While it’s nice to provide support for others, make sure it’s not at the expense of your wellbeing. Your mental health is important, too. It’s one thing to put someone’s needs before yours in a moment of crisis or hardship. It’s another to constantly put another person’s needs before yours.

Ask them if you can do anything to help. They may not need anything from you (aside from being there). Asking is another way to show you care.

Check up on them. It’s a good idea to reach out to your friend, even if they haven’t reached out to you. Ask them how they’re doing, honestly. You don’t need to hound them, but people can pull away when they need support the most. Sometimes you may need to take the initiative.

Offer to help them find resources or help if needed. You can offer to look into resources if they decide to get professional help. Sometimes people aren’t ready to reach out, but if there’s a concern, you could ask them if they’d be willing to try. Don’t force treatment but make sure they know it’s an option.

Ask them if they’re thinking about suicide. This may seem extreme, but if you’re worried, it’s better to ask than to ignore your concerns. It shows you care, and you can help them find the resources they need.

At the end of the day, showing you care is more important than the words you choose. Don’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from helping someone.

What They Don’t Tell You About Surviving a Suicide Attempt

Content Warning: If you need support, you can reach out to the lifeline at 1–800–273–8255.

A few months prior to my attempt, my therapist told me that people who attempt suicide typically have tunnel vision. Suicide seems like the only viable option at the moment.

She said that most people who attempt suicide regret their decision. This is true. There are a number of suicide attempt survivors who have shared their regret, most notedly Kevin Hines, who survived jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Hines has said he felt instant regret as soon as he left the bridge.

What no one actually tells you about surviving a suicide attempt is that you can experience regret at not dying.

It’s irresponsible to push a narrative about surviving suicide without addressing the fact that many who do attempt still struggle. They may even attempt again. Forty percent of those who do die by suicide had a previous attempt.

While there were (and are) days I’m appreciative to still be here, there are days I regret being alive. Many times we hear survivor stories about gratitude. They share how they’ve since gotten better and no longer find themselves in that dark place.

This may be true for some, but it isn’t true for me or many others who attempt suicide. A previous suicide attempt is the “single most important risk factor for suicide,” according to the World Health Organization.

My attempt was three years ago today. May 16, 2016, was supposed to be the first day of summer break. Instead, I was finally giving into my thoughts and overwhelming emotions I couldn’t fight anymore.

The last five months of my junior year in college were hell as I juggled school and crippling depression. I thought things would get better as soon as I finished the semester. It was the reason I held out all semester, holding onto the last sliver of hope that I could get better.

When I didn’t feel better, I became completely hopeless. My friend/neighbor came over that day and found me distraught on the bathroom floor. (I will not detail the method I used because it’s proven to be dangerous to people at risk for suicide.)

Days after the initial numbness and shock of my attempt, I had moments where I realized the magnitude of the situation. I found myself grateful for dogs and mundane parts of life. This appreciation for life has come and gone over the last three years. I’ve cried thinking of how grateful I am.

But that’s half of the story, and the other half is just as important.

I’m not always appreciative. I think about all the pain I could have avoided had I died. My disorder is cyclical, so depressive episodes will be a part of my life forever. I still have suicidal thoughts, though not presently and not nearly as intense as they used to be.

This anniversary is both a blessing and a curse. I am stronger now than I was then, partly because of my experience. I can see how far I’ve come. It is a reminder, though, of emotions and worries I’d rather forget most days.

Thoughts of regret are just another version of suicidal thoughts, which I’ve learned to handle over the years. They come and go, which is why I know I can beat it. While one day may be tough, the next day might be better. The better days are worth it, and they will come. I hope you stick around to experience them.