Mental illness and taking that first step to recovery
We've all had that time in our lives where we say "I should really make a doctors appointment" at least three times, over a period of time, before we actually pick up the phone to do it. For some reason, when it comes to mental health we tend to put it off for even longer, even though it is a priority.
Sometimes we think "well it's just the way I am" or "it's probably just a difficult month" when really we know it's been going on for a lot longer than that.
Why is it so difficult to accept that we have a mental illness that needs treating?
I myself have suffered, undiagnosed, with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, but only went to see a doctor about it in the last 6 months.
I put it off for so long for many reasons I was worrying about, including; - not knowing how to explain how I'm feeling - not thinking my symptoms were bad enough for it to 'count' - worried about it being brushed off as 'probably just PMS' or 'just being a bit down' - because it comes in waves, what if I feel fine that day and can't remember what the bad days feel like?
When I finally plucked up the courage to make that appointment, I worried about which doctor I would see and how each one might react to what I had to say. I worried about what I was even going to say! I worried about going alone. I worried about being told to go on antidepressants or being told that it wasn't depression, that I was just being sensitive. Having anxiety as well, I'm sure you can imagine the state I was in the morning of my appointment.
But the thing is, I needn't have worried at all. My younger sister came in with me at my request. The doctor I saw was a lady who I had never met before, and she was lovely! Her voice reminded me of Sharon Osbourne which oddly put me at ease as I made a mental note to point out the comparison to my sister afterward - we're so in-sync, I know she'd have noticed as well so we'd laugh about it later! The doctor listened to me as I struggled to find the right words, she was patient and attentive. Then she asked me some questions, which helped me to express myself better. They were personal questions but the way she asked them didn't make me feel like I was being interrogated. At the end of the questions, she said that it definitely sounded like depression and anxiety, and that talking therapy is a good place to start. She asked if I'd like to discuss medication, which at that point I felt I didn't, so she finished my referral to the local psychology services and told me that if they didn't get in touch within a week, or if I feel like I need to, make another doctors appointment.
I left that room feeling amazing. It's odd how much difference having that initial appointment can make! I felt like I had been listened to, respected, believed and I was reassured that I wasn't just being sensitive - I knew myself and I knew that I hadn't been that person for a long time. I was also really proud of myself for managing to face my anxiety and go to that appointment, despite all the things I was worried about that made me want to turn around and run back home.
That doctors appointment was in July, and after a few phone conversations with the mental health services team to discuss which route to take (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or counselling), I have just received confirmation of my first one-to-one CBT appointment for next week! (That's why I am celebrating with a cup of tea!)
Is it weird to feel excited?
I think I'm looking forward to it because I know that I've needed something for so long, and I'm finally getting some help.
I wish that there wasn't a barrier for people to get through to ask for help with their mental health. Hopefully, the more people talk about their experiences of getting help, the more it will pass on some confidence to do so. Because I don't believe the statistic of 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental health issues at some point in their life. I think it is so much more than that! But there are so many suffering in silence.
We have to change this.
If you feel like you are struggling with a mental illness, feel free to message me for a chat. I am not a counsellor but I am happy to share my experience with you or to just listen to you. Please don't hesitate, there is no judgement here.