I write and ask a lot of questions!
This one is about mental health. Thanks to Zoe for inspiring this post. I hope this helps with your writers block, it certainly helped with mine!
So, questions and mental health, what’s the deal? If you’ve never experiened a mental illness, these questions might help you learn a bit about what it’s like and how to “deal” with people that have mental illnesses, and if you have, they might help you explain things. These are pretty general questions, not all apply to all illnesses so think before you ask! This is written from the perspective of talking to the person without the illness.
Firstly, maybe consider not asking about it at all most of the time. Talk about the weather, ask them out for a drink etc. But understand that sometimes they just get stuck in bed for a week, and there is nothing they can do about it.
Genuinely ask how they are. Not “how are you?” where you get a “Good Thanks, and you?” but actually have a conversation. Maybe they won’t want to talk, maybe they will. Then ask if there is anything you can do to help. Maybe it’s talking about something else, maybe it’s a hug or just sitting in silence for a while.
If they’re having a bad day, help them find something good about the day, something they achieved. They won’t see it but maybe it’s something simple as putting on clean pyjamas and grabbing a meal.
Ask what daily things have changed with their illness, ask what normal life things become harder or different. Sometimes just getting out of bed or cleaning your teeth is a major struggle, whereas if you have no illness, it’s just something you do every day.
Ask a simple, what is it like to live with?. What does it feel like? It’s sometimes hard to explain, but it might help your understanding.
See if they can give you an insight into a day when they don’t get out of bed. There’s a block there that you can’t just “get over”. Help them understand that having a day in bed doesn’t make them a failure, or lazy. It’s never laziness, it’s just sometimes physically impossible to get out of bed or leave the house.
Find out what their symptoms are, both internal and external. That way you can identify when they’re having a bad brain day and have some idea of what’s going on inside their head as well.
You may be tempted to ask what caused their illness but I’d suggest treading very carefully. Talking about it may help but it may not. It could also be very personal or embarassing for the person.
Don’t ask questions that imply things are their fault. In most cases they are not! Mental illnesses are not generally preventable or caught, they happen for a variety of reasons that are generally out of a person’s control.