My old motto in life used to be “prepare for the worse, but hope for the best.” That served me well for quite a long time, but recently I realized that I needed to revise my life motto as it no longer fit my circumstances. I need to stop hoping for the best and make things happen. No longer will I wait to see if things get better, I am taking action. My new motto is “life is too short to be unhappy, do something about it today.”
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and that had me thinking about the current state of my own mental health. Lately as mentioned in my last post, I have been reverting back to unhealthy coping mechanisms. I’ve had a lot of extreme stressors and felt my depression, anxiety and anger starting to escalate. I needed to figure out if I was suffering due to physiology or if psychologically I was regressing. I tried to identify patterns and improve certain behaviors, but nothing was working to help me feel better. It was time to seek help…again.
One of the major reasons that many people do not seek treatment for the mental health concerns they have is due to the stigma surrounding mental illness. This stigma causes people to feel shame and guilt about seeking treatment. Some perceive people with mental illness as weak, incompetent, unable to take care of themselves and have an “it’s all in your head” attitude. These are very common factors that prevent people from getting the help they need. It truly surprises me how much stigma there still is considering that almost everyone has “something.” There are other factors like lack of insurance coverage, access to care, and willingness to admit there is a problem that stop people from seeking help.
Initially I didn’t realize that I was not being myself, it had to be pointed out to me. So don’t be afraid to bring up the fact that someone is not being themselves, it just might be the push they need. On the other side of that coin; if someone points out a difference, try not to get defensive or take offense and listen to what they have to say. A loving and well-meaning conversation with someone you trust about your mood or behavior might just change your life for the better.
Here are some reasons why I’m glad that that I am no longer afraid to ask for help and seek treatment when I need it.
Improvement in Quality of Life
Depending on the issues and the treatment you seek, you may or may not see immediate results. Oftentimes treatment begins with starting a medication, which helps to balance brain chemistry (occasionally this is all we need). Sometimes, just that one change can get you back on track. Calming the brain chemically allows therapy to work even better. Both counseling and medication change the brain in positive ways, and when combined, they enhance each other.
By receiving the proper treatment, you can decrease problems with your mood, energy and outlook that can make it much more manageable to deal with day to day issues. The good thing is that you may not have to be on medications forever. If you ever do want to stop taking medications, always consult with your doctor before doing so, as it is not wise to go cold turkey and depending on the medication it could be deadly.
Your overall mood can impact so many things that you might not even realize, like wanting to get out of bed, taking your kids to school and procrastination…among a myriad of other things. If your work performance has been lacking, treatment can help with that too, which in turn could improve your financial situation. Treatment can allow you to resume daily functioning in everything life and will help you to start to put the pieces back together. Ideally, once you start to address and work on your mental health you will increase your sense of joy and contentment which is the ultimate goal (or at least is should be).
Identifying Other Factors
Improving your mental health can also positively impact physical health by improving sleeping habits, the immune system and lowering pain levels. Many people do not know that fatigue and pain are signs of depression. Sometimes changing these habits themselves can correct the issues. Lack of sleep has drastic effects on your physical and mental health. By seeking treatment your doctors can figure out if there is a physical component affecting your mental health. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can be signs of physiological issues. It is wise to make a list of all the symptoms you are experiencing no matter how minute you think it is to present when seeking treatment.
Decreasing the Impact on Family
When I am suffering, my family suffers too. For kids it is scary and confusing when their parents aren’t acting the same. Sometimes they even feel isolated or alone. Your spouse may experience guilt, shame and may blame themselves for your emotional wellbeing. Your social life as a couple and physical intimacy may change for the worse. Your spouse might even start to think that the life they had imagined with you is never going to return. Starting treatment may help to start to heal any relationship issues that may have arisen during rough patches. Most of the times your family knows when you are not being yourself. When you improve your own mental health you have a stronger ability to deal with the stresses of family life. It will be easier to manage conflicts with your spouse, handle issue with your children and balance life.
By getting help earlier rather than choosing the wait an see options, you will be able to get back to “normal” quicker. Many times when your own mental health is suffering you don’t realize how it impacts your family. You don’t want to take out your issues on your kids and spouse and they don’t want you to do so either. Instead of fear, isolation and shame, there is love, connection and meaning. Seeking help can restore hope, which will replace dread and despair for all family members.
Overall by seeking help or starting treatment, you not only take care of your needs, you are empowering yourself to be the best you! Rather than waiting to see what happens, seek help immediately. Why waste precious moments feeling bad or powerless, when you can take steps today? Taking the first step is not always easy, but it will be worth it. If you want to get back to enjoying your life, being productive and being present for your family it is something you have to do.
Here are a few ways you can take that first step:
- Use Anonymous Help Lines or Crisis Lines – They can provider numerous resources in your area. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
- Consider a Support Group – Anything from Alcoholics Anonymous to Autism Society of America to Overeaters Anonymous. There is almost a group for every concern.
- Schedule an Appointment with Your Primary Care Physician or OB/GYN – They can refer you to a psychiatric provider or even start medication the same day.
- Ask for Advise From Someone You Trust
- Contact your employers Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you have one – Human Resources can direct you
- Mental Health America also provides a good tool to explore your options.