I’ve been sick for a lot of years now. Looking back I can see mental illness as it peeked out for a while, then went away. It wasn’t until my mid-to-late-twenties that it kind of became my ever present companion.
So, you are feeling like something might not be quite right. Hell! You know something isn’t right. Your relationships have changed. The things you once enjoyed you now don’t, or things you shouldn’t enjoy in excess you now do. It’s headed to a point where you may have to, gulp, ask for help.
First off. Here is a list of things NOT to do in an effort to ask for help:
1. Cut yourself
2. Harm yourself
3. Try to kill yourself so someone will notice how badly you are hurting inside
I have done all of these things. I strongly advise against them.
Instead, do these things:
1. Create a support system to get you through this confusing, or depressing, or manic, or starving, or psychotic time. All you need is one person. One person you can call and talk to, someone who doesn’t try to tell you to shake it off or pull yourself together or that it is all in your head. Mental illness is a real, clinical illness.
2. This support system is important because this person (or people) may be the one you ask to go to your first psychiatric appointment. Your first visit in the “psych seat” isn’t easy. You don’t know how to explain what you don’t know how to explain. You may be embarrassed by your recent behavior. You may be so agitated you can’t even sit in the seat! Just know that all this is normal.
3. Your apprehension stems from society’s stigma of mental illness. You don’t want something to be “off” with your mind. You don’t want to be “crazy.” You don’t want anyone to know, but you are smarter than that. Look at you! You are going to get help. I am proud of you.
4. You can ask for a referral from your physician for a counselor/psychologist/psychiatrist or contact your insurance company to see who is in your plan’s network if you have health insurance (that is actually how I ended up with my current team that I love). If you don’t have insurance, don’t fret yet. Most communities have some type of social services which encompass psych visits. Do some digging. Contact NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) – their resources are endless. Also, many university’s with master’s programs in psychology offer services at a discounted rate or on a sliding scale (the less you make, the less you pay) to see a graduate student. (This is also how I once found a great therapist when I was uninsured).
5. BE HONEST! Are you only eating 150 calories a day? Don’t lie and say your appetite is normal. You can’t remember the last time you had enjoyable sex. Don’t lie and say you have not lost interest in activities you usually find pleasurable. Get it? I know getting your butt in that “psych seat” is hard enough, but just because you are sitting there doesn’t mean the psychiatrist can read your mind. Tell them why you wanted an appointment. Feel free to give them your theories as to what is going on, we are surprisingly insightful when it comes to our own minds.
6. FOLLOW UP!!! Psychiatry is not a one-stop shop. Don’t worry. That doesn’t mean you’ll be sitting on a therapist’s couch for the next 4 years. Relax. Just know that it will take you following up on any prescribed meds and following appointments or referrals. You usually aren’t “fixed” in one 45-minute meeting with a psychiatrist/therapist/counselor/psychologist. It is going to take a little time. Don’t let that scare you. Aren’t you worth a little self-invested time? I know you are.
7. And in the meantime, while you build up your courage to seek professional help, wander around PsychCentral.com. There are quizzes and forums and blogs and a ton of information here. (We’ve been around for 20 years. We know our stuff).
The hardest things for me to say are “I’m hurting” or “Help me.” I know it is hard. But I am alive today because I got help. Do you understand me? Without help, I would not be here. It can be that important. So don’t be scared. Be brave.
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