Mental illness is not an openly talked about topic. It is typically only talked about when you are a close friend or family member but even then, many people feel embarrassed or ashamed about their illness. I am typically an “over share-er”. I will talk about almost anything with almost anyone. I tend to connect quickly and deeply. There are aspects of coping mechanisms I have used in the past that I have not shared, for example: pulling my hair out. I have done this and I have drastically reduced the amount that I do this but it creeps up when I feel “out of control”. I recognize that talking openly about mental illness is not the norm and that a lot of people are silently suffering with a mental illness. I also recognize the more I share, the most it helps other people that are silently suffering to want help but aren’t sure how to ask or how to approach the topic.
Lets chat about how to take the first step toward help.
I have people in my life that refuse to recognize that they would benefit from talking with a psychiatrist or a therapist for different reasons. I tend to the think the biggest reason is fear.
Fear of finding out what could be abnormal about themselves.
Fear about disclosing information that has been buried deep.
Fear of reliving painful memories.
Fear of looking flawed.
I have people in my life that have been addicted to drugs for a decade and do not see that their may have been underlying issues that need to be solved before you can call yourself “recovered”. I have several people in my life that exhibit many traits of narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar, anxiety, anorexia, body image distress, anger issues, depression and panic disorders. But..for some reason, they refuse to get help. I understand that some mental illnesses are part of one’s identity but for this topic, I think it is mostly fear. It comes down to fear.
Mental illness can feel isolating.
Mental illness lies to you.
Mental Illness tells you are fat, unintelligent, nobody likes you, your work is bland, your partner is cheating, you’re going to die or you have some rare condition.
Mental illness creeps into your head and tries to build a camp of lies.
I want you to ask yourself a few questions.
“Can I live a complete, normal and meaningful life the way my life is going now?”
“If some aspects of my life (depression, anxiety, bipolar) were better managed, what could I do with my time that I used to really enjoy doing?”
“What would I have to lose by just talking with someone about some of my symptoms and behaviors?
Once you’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting and spending time answering these questions, talk to someone in your life about it. Whether it is a friend, family member, coworker, or someone you’ve met through an online community, it is important to share this information with someone so that they can help you with Step 3. While you may feel embarrassed, ashamed, guilty or uncomfortable, it is so critical to your health to share it. Share it with someone you trust.
Step 3 is going to be the hardest step. Step 3 is when you and your supportive person lay out a plan to get you the help that you may need. I have found that searching for a therapist and hiring a psychiatrist can be overwhelming! Especially if you live in a larger city where there are so many options to choose from. So here is what you and your supportive person should lay out:
- WHY: Why is it important to seek help?
- WHO: Who will support me through the first few weeks of navigating this journey of seeking help?
- WHAT: What will my life look like after I seek help?
- WHEN: Why is it critical I get help now vs. later?
- HOW: How can I support myself through this? (Journaling, take time off work, reading, walking outside more, connecting with friends, chatting on the phone with your support person)
The next steps to take if you are silently suffering will be covered in Part 2 where I talk about how to interview a therapist and psychiatrist. Try these first 3 steps out today and let me know how it goes!