This will work as some kind of introduction of the basics. Once you think you have a mental illness, or if you’ve already been diagnosed, what’s next? Do you go into therapy? Is it worth the fuss and expenses? And what about meds, are you sure you want to go on them? They are rather intimidating, aren’t they?
When I was starting to play with the idea that I might have anxiety, it took me a quite while to gather up the courage to go see a doctor. I had no idea what I was getting into, and everything seemed so intimidating, so daunting. That step of calling a doctor felt massive, like crossing a creaky hangbridge right over a ridge with lots of big, spiky rocks. It takes a shitton of courage to admit to yourself that you might need help, and even more courage to actually ask someone for help.
I called for help pretty early on, very simply because people on the interwebs approached me and told me their mental health stories. They answered all the questions I had and reassured and encouraged me until I picked up the nerve. Without them, it would probably have taken me ages, and therefore I am eternally grateful for their kindness.
So let’s start with finding the right kind of professional help for you. First of all, there are three kinds of doctors you can go to:
- Visit a psychologist if you really need someone to talk to, someone to unload on. They will listen and try to work out any problems you may have.
- A psychotherapist does this, but is also qualified to teach you exercises, e.g. relaxation and mindfulness exercises. These can be really useful to bring you back from the brink of anxiety.
- A psychiatrist can do all of this and also prescribe medication. This is done in more extreme cases, like when your anxiety/depression/other illness gets out of hand and you can’t function properly anymore. (Note: You don’t have to be an “extreme case” – if you think you might benefit from going on meds, talk to a psychiatrist.)
For me, the choice was easy, because I’d stopped going to school, I isolated myself from my friends and the rest of the world, and got panic attacks at the mere idea of having to go outside. I knew I was going to need the big guns.
- Once you find someone that you click with, that’s it. There’s nothing better. You’ll feel safe and listened to, accepted and taken seriously.
- Doctor/patient confidentiality – meaning everything you say will not leave the room.
- These are serious professionals and will do everything in their power to help you.
- Expenses are partially paid back by health insurance.
- Waiting list can be quite long. I had to wait 4-5 weeks to see someone and I think I even got lucky.
- You might need to try out several doctors in order to find the one you connect with.
- Can be expensive.
My therapist started me on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – changing the way I think – and afterwards Exposure Therapy. I had to go outside again and make my world bigger once more. It has been extremely scary, difficult, and exhausting, but I’ve been in therapy for a year and a half now, and I’m honestly so much better. Being able to do stuff that I couldn’t do anymore has been really good for my self-confidence. I’ve really expanded my world again. I saw my grandparents after two years of not being able to visit them. I am making short trips and am taking driving lessons. I’m nowhere near the person I used to be, but I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, baby.
On to meds, which is the subject of a bit of controversy sometimes. It feels weird that you’d need to take pills just to be normal, right? Wrong. Many people think they’re weak because of it. You’re not weak. People with physical disabilities don’t feel guilty about taking their meds and neither should you. Just because your problems are invisible doesn’t mean they’re not real. If it helps, if it gives you that little extra nudge that you need, then why not go for it?
- Partially paid back by health insurance.
- They take the edge off – you no longer spend every second living in fear.
- Your depression will be a lot milder.
- I haven’t had a single panic attack since I’ve gone on meds.
- They are that little bit of extra support that I need.
- Again, expensive.
- Weight gain.
- Gnarly side effects going on and off them (so always do this under doctor supervision).
- Feeling off; feeling flat/numb (can be helped with change of dosage).
- Loss of energy.
- Might take a while to find the right type/dosage.
I was honestly so scared about going on meds, but I knew I needed them. I just felt really intimidated about the fact that I would be dependent on them and wouldn’t be able to just stop taking them. But I can honestly do so much more now that I’m on my antidepressants (which also work as my antianxiety meds). Things I used to take for granted but could no longer do are finally becoming easier. They’re not wonder pills – you’ll have to do a lot of the work yourself – but they help so much in keeping the worst of the worst at bay.
The combination of the two, the therapy exercises and the meds, have turned me into the person I am today. In just over a year and a half, I have gained so much progress and I’ve learned so much and I’m determined to keep going and broadening my horizons.
So are they worth it? Hell yes, they are. It always depends on the person, of course – no two mental illnesses are the same – but what I’m trying to say is they’re worth giving a try.