How to Be With Your Loved One Who is Struggling Emotionally

By Nancy Virden (c)2020

Imagine with me a five year-old boy in America, who grabs a five-foot dirt shovel out of his family garage, and drags it across the lawn. He is undaunted by the weight of it, determined to attack the earth as soon as he lands on his project site.

All three and a half feet of him manages to plant the tool into position. Squeezing with the grip of a man, or so he thinks, he strains to dig his passageway to China. Sliding to the opposite side of the world through the center of the planet is all his passion momentarily.

We fast forward. He is twenty-one, talented,  and on a path toward becoming an architectural engineer.  No one questions his work ethic as he barrels his way through every project with intense focus. He has healthy relationships with good friends and a stable family . His grades are above average, and an internship at a prestigious firm may be on the horizon.

Secretly, this ambitious young man is trying to shrug off a heaviness that has been increasingly wrapping itself around his shoulders. He feels unmotivated to be around people, even sensing a new anxiety before classes. He reasons, I’m stressed because of all the pressures. I just need to man-up and not let things get to me.

The same determination that dug a small hole as a child, now channels his emotional and mental energy toward assignments. His friends’ boisterous activity annoys and easily tires him. I just want to be alone. I hate happy people.

This irritation begins to seep out in words and body language. People respond by asking if he is ok, only they use phrases like, “What’s your problem today, man?” Advice is free, too. “Chill out!”

His mood sinks further under depression-led, self-imposed withdrawal, and perceived rejection. Irritability, anxiety, and negativity mark that this young man is not himself. Lack of motivation turns drastic when he considers dropping out of school his senior year. People suggest he is lazy, throwing his life away, and lacks good sense.

What do you think of him now? Did you like him at the beginning of the story?

Defining this young man by his present behavior is unfair, albeit easy. Staying away until he stops being a pain in the neck changes nothing for the better. He needs to be remembered for who he is when well; loved like the diligent five year-old, the jokester, the man who gave you a bear-hug last summer.

If you have relatives or friends who are not themselves this Thanksgiving or over the holidays, who worry excessively about the coronavirus or its forced changes, who show symptoms of depression, see past today. Adjust your reaction to their state of mind instead of demanding they shape up. Read my other blogs on how to approach the topics of suicide or professional help.

Your investment of patience and support is worth it. What people who struggle need is nonjudgmental acceptance and love. You know, like we all do.

Warning signs of depression by gender and age/ Warning signs of suicide

How to talk about suicide How to mention professional help

Today’s Helpful Word

Matthew 7:12

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.Jesus

I hope you have a wonderful day of gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!


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