One of the biggest challenges of mental illnesses is seeking help. Why is it so important yet so hard to do?
The inner battle of mental illness
How many of you have at some stage struggled with an incessant voice that tells you reaching out is weak? How many of you have ever felt like needing help somehow reflects on your capability as a person?
You’re not alone.
These negative thoughts are really common with mental illness. Unfortunately they create a really toxic echo chamber that causes a vicious cycle of negativity. The more you think something, the more it is amplified in your head and this can be really hard to interrupt!
Why you shouldn’t do it alone
Learning how to combat a critical internal voice is incredibly difficult. I struggled for years with it! I somehow believed that seeking help meant I was a failure.
Remember that people have gone to school for years to learn how to tackle what you are experiencing. Expecting yourself to magically know how to change it without that training is a lot pressure to put on yourself.
If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t just try and stitch it up yourself and feel bad about yourself if you couldn’t do it. You would go to someone with training to do it for you! Your mental health deserves that same treatment.
Why seeking help is important
Seeking help is not about needing someone to fix you, or a reflection on your own inability to do so. Seeking help is about giving you the tools you need to manage your mental illness.
Trying to manage your mental illness with no tools is like going into an exam without a pencil and subsequently being unable to write. It’s not that you’re a failure, it’s that you haven’t got the tool you need to do the job.
These tools may include coping mechanisms, distraction techniques, medication or many other things. None of these things indicate failure. They are just tools you can use to help you manage.
This is what a professional is trained for. They will work with you to figure out your underlying issues and how to address and treat them. No one is exactly the same and it is important to work with someone to find what works for you.
The misinformation and stigma
There seems to be this weird expectation that if you go to therapy, you’ll have to go for the rest of your life. This isn’t necessarily true! However much help you need, depends on you and what works for you. There is no shame either way!
Another big one, is around medication. So many people believe that to rely on medication somehow makes you an addict or a failure. Some people also believe that it’s a cop-out to mask symptoms.
This is completely false! Medication isn’t a magic pill, it’s just a tool to give you some breathing room to better manage your mental health better. It does not make you a failure.
If the idea of medication concerns you, this does not mean you shouldn’t reach out for help. There are other treatment options. Always do what works for you and don’t worry about other opinions.
I spent years trying to handle my mental illnesses myself. I had the opinion that to admit that something was wrong was to admit that I was somehow faulty.
Even after I recognised something was wrong, I was so sure that to reach out or admit there was an issue was nothing more than weakness. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t strong enough to do it on my own! I felt like a failure.
Seeking help felt like admitting defeat. Little did I realise that not helping myself was defeat.
My life changed when I started accepting help. I got the tools I needed to help myself succeed. Trying to do it alone was setting myself up for failure, and I didn’t realise that at first.
It is hard and it is scary but it is also very worth it. Look after yourself and take that first step, and you won’t regret it.
If you’re in a dark place and need help now, please find a list of resources here.