Alright kids, let’s talk about coping mechanisms.
There are multiple kinds of coping mechanisms. Generally they can be grouped under ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy.’
Notice how I didn’t say ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
Because often a coping mechanism is developed when someone’s drowning and they’re trying to stay alive. We develop our ways to fight back, to deal, to survive, at the best of our abilities whilst trying to process and deal with our trauma.
I’m not endorsing self-harm. I’m not endorsing drug use. I’m not endorsing any of a million different unhealthy ways I’ve seen people rely on as a manner of coping.
But for fuck’s sake, do not blame a trauma survivor for how they cope with said trauma. That won’t fucking help anyone. That will make them feel nothing but shame, pain, guilt, reinforce that they’re at fault, that they’re fucked up, irremediably fucked up.
You know what you can do? Help them. Help them find better ways to cope. Suggest a therapist, and if they’re not open to the idea just then, don’t push. Try again later. Be there for them if you can. And do not, do not make them feel guilty for how they are coping. Reinforce the fact that their coping mechanisms, however unhealthy, helped them get there. Helped them make it through. Kept them alive. Try and remind them they are worth more than they can see. That they are more than the sum of their parts. Make them feel accepted, and loved no matter what they did to themselves while they tried to survive.
They survived and your job as a friend, as a support group, is not to belittle them for how they managed to do it, but to be there for them, and help them bridge the gap to a healthier way of coping, dealing, healing, and getting to a better place.
I repeat, there’s no such thing as a bad coping mechanism. You cope. That’s the point of it. If someone you love is using an unhealthy coping mechanism, be gentle; be kind; be patient. Try to show them they don’t have to do use that anymore, point them towards better ways to handle it. Allow them to be angry, and lash out, and feel righteous in their fury. Remember words can break people. Be aware of the damage you can do. Ask about triggers.
And if you can’t stick it through, that is also a prerogative of yours. Everyone needs to do what they have to do to protect themselves, and nobody should set themselves on fire to keep someone else warm. There can come a point where you need to cut someone out, especially if the person refuses help, and the relationship has become one sided, or abusive - which is why you should try, as much as you can, to help them get to a therapist, to get professional help. Friends aren’t therapists. They’re the supporting crutches, not the casts for the broken bones.
But for the love of god, don’t make a trauma survivor feel guilty for what they did to survive.
They survived. That’s accomplishment enough.