We’ve talked about mental health in some of our other blogs but mostly as an encouragement to take care of yourself. Sometimes taking care of everything on your own is impossible, though, so today, I’m going to talk about the best way to improve your mental health by getting professional help.
It isn’t just for “broken” or “crazy” people
I remember the first time someone mentioned that I might need help from a professional. After my grandfather passed away, I was having a really hard time coping. It felt like my whole body jerked back, and I got kind of scared. I thought to myself over and over that I don’t need it – I’m not crazy. Therapy and meds are just for crazy people, and I’m not crazy, so I clearly don’t need them.
Then I got a little bit older. I was okay for a while, but things started getting really hard in college. My mood was all over the place, and it was hard to keep up with everything in life. School, a job, my internship, trying to work out, cooking and cleaning my apartment, taking care of a cat, keeping up with groceries, maintaining any sort of social lif. It felt overwhelming.
Even though I was struggling, I thought that was just normal though. It was normal to sleep at every opportunity and get irrationally upset at every inconvenience and feel like you need to claw your own throat out when things don’t go your way… Right? (Not right. So not right).
While I was struggling to get through every day and not flunk out of all my classes, one of my professors said something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. “When your eyes don’t quite work, you get glasses, and no one thinks badly of you for it. When you break a bone, you see a doctor and get help for that, and again, no one bats an eye. So why is it different when your brain needs help?”
Maybe that isn’t as much of a eureka moment to you as it was to me, but it made me question my own stigma against seeking help. I figured I could go to the school counselor and just see what they had to say. Discuss what I could do, and there would be no harm, no foul. Looking back, I’m happy I went. I had no idea what it would lead to, but I can’t say I regret any of it.
Your brain gets sick too
There’s nothing wrong with needing help for your mental health. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. Sometimes I wonder what would be different if I hadn’t reacted so negatively the first time someone suggested that I get help. Would I have done better in school? Would I have been happier in my darkest times?
Going too far into ‘what ifs’ is pointless, though. Instead, I just want to tell anyone hesitant to seek help that there’s no reason to deprive yourself. If there’s something wrong with your body, you go to a doctor, right? Well, this is just another kind of doctor. (Literally, if you see a psychiatrist. They’re licensed medical doctors.)
There are so many metaphors I could make comparing the chemicals in your brain to parts of your body not working properly, each one of them trying to emphasize that when there’s something wrong with any part of you, there isn’t any valid reason to ignore it and try to tough it out. When you need help, get help.
If anyone tries to stop you from getting help for your mental health, consider if they really want what is best for you. It’s not bad or wrong to get help for the things you can’t handle on your own. If you need a doctor to lighten your load, then you should see one.
Sometimes you don’t know you really need it
Often, people think trauma or mental illnesses are the only reasons to see a psychiatrist/ psychologist. That isn’t true at all, though. There are a lot of reasons that you may want to consider therapy.
The biggest push for me was when I just felt so angry all the time. I hated feeling angry and didn’t know why I felt so upset so often, which made it worse. If your mood is all over the place or you’re feeling things you don’t think you should be feeling, it might be a good time to look into counseling.
If you think you might be depressed or suffer from anxiety, if your appetite is gone, if you think you might be using some unhealthy coping mechanisms to get through each day, there are so many reasons to look into therapists. These little signs can be hard to pick up on, but if you have even an inkling that therapy can help, you should look into it.
Back in high school, one of my teachers even opened up about their experience with therapy and how it helped them unpack and process the trauma they didn’t even know they had. Repression is a powerful tool our brains use to protect us, but it doesn’t always last forever.
With my teacher, it started with weird dreams then morphed into more sleep-related issues like sleep paralysis that they didn’t understand. After seeking professional help, they realized it was all because of something that happened 30 years ago, and they were finally able to let go of the pain they didn’t know they’d been carrying.
Of course, not every experience is going to be the same as my teacher’s. I hope there aren’t many people carrying around traumatic experiences they don’t remember. The point is that sometimes we don’t even realize how badly we need help until we’re scared and overwhelmed.
It can be hard to find a perfect fit
If you’ve already tried therapy, but things didn’t work out for one reason or another, don’t give up hope just yet. Sometimes you have to shop around to find someone better suited to help you. Many people currently seeing therapists would tell you that it took them a while to find “the one”.
Don’t let one bad experience taint the whole process for you. If you can find the right person to help you, it is so worth it. Speaking from experience as someone who has been through it, the right person can help you see life in a whole new way and help you find a much healthier outlook in general.
If you’re interested in a specific therapist, don’t be afraid to do a quick phone interview. You’re going to have a bad time if you don’t mesh well with your therapist. (Been there and not doing that again). Call up their office and ask them some questions, get a feel for what they’re like and how the sessions would go. (You can also ask about their rates and availability while you’re at it.)
Not every therapist will be a good fit, and to be frank, not every therapist should even be a therapist. Shop around, find the best fit for you. You want someone you like when you’re spilling your guts on their couch, after all. I promise, if you look long enough, you’ll be able to find someone amazing and compassionate who can help.
If you’re unsure where to start looking or want to dip your toe into it online, you might want to check out Psychology Today. They have tons of licensed psychologists and counselors at affordable rates whose mission is to make therapy more accessible for everyone. If you’re worried about cost, you can also look into local practices that take your insurance.
Even if you feel fine, you probably know someone who has seen a therapist or suffers from a mental health disorder. Here are some things to avoid saying to them and just in general to be a more empathetic person. Take care of yourself, and don’t be afraid to get help when you need it.
How much do you know about therapy?