How Can I Help?

How can I help?

I fulfill every majority privilege in the book: a white, 20-something male, who is educated, has a career, and no discernible mental illness to speak of.

That’s not to say I’m not aware that others do have mental illnesses, but I’m confident that I don’t. The idea of mental illness is difficult for me to wrap my brain around, not because I don’t understand what can cause it or what its effects and symptoms are, but because it’s an experience far removed from any of my own.

I date women about as often as anyone else and I have noticed a trend among those I become attached to. A lot of them suffer from a mental illness of some sort. The most common are depression followed by anxiety and issues of self-confidence. I hope there isn’t some subconscious thing that causes me to become attracted to women who suffer from these issues because 1) it makes me out to be a little shallow (maybe even a lot), and 2) I don’t know how to help.

I frequently offer solutions that pretty much only make sense to me.

“Just go do it now.”

“Go for a walk and think about what you’re gonna do and do it.”

“Make up your mind now that you’re going to get this done and get through it.”

These are all worthless pieces of advice, but I don’t know what else to do or say. I can listen to someone’s problems, but I feel compelled to offer concrete assistance. I don’t want to just listen and offer assurances—I want to create solutions and act them out. And I’ve done that before. I’ve driven to houses late at night to make sure someone wasn’t self-harming. I’ve shoved down barricaded doors to get to someone who just wanted to disappear from the world. It’s the kind of stuff that’s practical and tangible, but it doesn’t get to the core of the problem.

At the end of the day, I’m not helping them find a solution, I’m just carrying them through problems they’ll come to again.

But maybe that’s what I’m good at. Maybe I’m not the one who needs to have the answers. Maybe I just need to shove down doors and carry people around.


*The author of this piece has chosen to remain anonymous.

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