“But pain’s like water. It finds a way to push through any seal. There’s no way to stop it. Sometimes you have to let yourself sink inside of it before you can learn how to swim to the surface.”
― Katie Kacvinsky
How much pain, anxiety, or grief can you endure before you admit it’s time to get help?
You can make strides alone. You can work to become a better person. But just because you’re getting by and doing okay, that doesn’t mean that your future is assured.
If you’ve struggled with depression or anxiety in the past, how would you handle it if the circumstances of your life suddenly changed? How would you respond if you suddenly suffered a massive setback or if you lost someone dear to you?
You might feel okay now, but if you’re walking a tightrope of happiness over a sea of depression, you might still want to ask yourself this: “do I need a little help?”
Things have been going well for me lately. I’m not in a dark place anymore. But recently, a loved one of mine had a health scare. Thankfully, she’s okay, but it made me realize something — I may be okay right now, but I’m just one tragedy away from regressing through years of personal development.
Subsequently, I’m doing something I’ve always been too afraid to do in the past — see a professional therapist.
This time, I’m not going to try to keep my head above water without a life raft. I’m going to let all that science that has created modern psychology help me.
It isn’t self-centered for you to acknowledge your limits. You need to know your limits, know yourself, and know what you can handle in life.
Sometimes, life is going to throw you such terrible burdens that it’s just simply impossible to bear them alone.
Here’s the other thing though — there are also burdens that you can’t endure with family and friends. You need professional help as well.
We all have different stories, but we all need help sometimes.
There’s no shame in seeking help with your mental health. While many of the stigmas surrounding mental illness are slowly breaking down, it’s not an overnight process.
There are so many different common troubles that people face — depression, anxiety, PTSD, and so much more.
In a recent study, the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that among those newly diagnosed with depression, only about a third get treatment. That’s not a lot of people.
How many of us are just trooping along, day by day, hanging by a thread?
This study looked at people who were diagnosed in the primary care setting. However, many primary care providers don’t screen for depression. Only some will go that extra mile. In my personal experience, not a single primary care physician I’ve ever seen has asked questions that could even loosely relate to depression.
Help won’t necessarily come to you. If you feel like you’re struggling, you have to go find it.
The hardest part is asking for help at the right time — before the worst has hit.
This is where the uniqueness of everyone’s stories makes it hard.
We’re all going through different things, but we all have a limit.
You can take quizzes online, you can read a dozen listicles about signs it’s time to see a therapist, but ultimately, you need to make the decision.
Inaction is characteristic of many mental illnesses, which makes it brutally hard to go out and seek treatment.
You’re also likely trying to convince yourself that you’re “okay” and don’t really need it.
But here’s the truth.
If you’re seriously thinking about going to see a psychiatrist or psychologist, there’s a reason for that.
There’s a reason you’re thinking about it seriously—deep down, you know you need help, but it just feels like there are too many barriers in the way.
You should go.
The sad lesson you can learn from me is to not wait to get help.
I want to motivate you and uplift you. I want to encourage you to get the help you need now or you need soon — so I’m not going to overwhelm you with details of the last time I really struggled with my mental health. I’m only going to tell you enough so that you understand why this warning comes so seriously.
I’ve struggled without professional help for years. I’ve never gone to a therapist before, so I don’t want to label what I went through unjustly. But I had severe panic attacks every time I heard someone have a breathing abnormality after losing a loved one to a lung condition.
I had every symptom of panic attacks on the medical books. The most amazing thing about this is that they were so bad I’d come close to fainting, but I kept enough of a stiff upper lip that very few people ever realized. The closest I came to being found out was one time when I was with a friend who asked if I was okay as I was having a more minor one because I heard someone wheezing and coughing badly.
I had what I truly believe was depression that lasted for well over a year before I started to turn it around with aggressive exercise, dietary changes, and general self-care. I’m going to stop the story there, because that’s enough darkness to dredge up.
Don’t make the same mistakes.
When you feel yourself starting to slip, when you’ve encountered something that you know is going to take a significant toll on you, reach out and get help.
Once you’re in the throes of just about any kind of mental illness, you are not going to want to get treatment.
For example, if you’re severely depressed, you are not going to have it in you to go to the trouble of finding a therapist who takes your insurance or trying to find a free clinic that’s close enough for you to feasibly visit.
Make the choice to get help before you’re in your darkest chapter. When you see the sun setting, go get help. Don’t wait until the middle of the night.
Be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling.
Don’t bottle everything up. Don’t say “I’m fine” so many times that you really start to believe your lie.
A year ago, I didn’t have health insurance, so looking for help was not an option. Two years ago, I had insurance, but I worked in medicine and the only facilities I could feasibly go to at lunch or after work were the ones on the premises. I was too afraid that I’d run into the doctors I frequently worked on projects with when visiting the psychiatry department. I needed help, but I told myself it was too much trouble, too risky, and might compromise my professional reputation.
Now, I’m saying it loud and clear and making it completely public by writing this. That’s a huge difference in mindset.
But that’s what happens when you realize that you need help. That’s what happens when you finally are honest to yourself about who you are, what your weaknesses are, and when you’re facing a situation that you can’t possibly endure without a little extra help.
Don’t suppress your pain or tell yourself that you’re fine when you aren’t.
Don’t dismiss whatever it is that you’re feeling.
If you’re breaking apart because a loved one is going through something, don’t say you’re fine when you’re not.
You aren’t stealing the spotlight, you aren’t being self-centered. You’re just being honest with yourself and getting the medical treatment for the problem you have.
It really is just the same as going to UrgentCare for stitches. You’re getting the help that you need and you deserve to get that help.