Every time we turn around, it seems, we are faced with the loss of those who have succumbed to the fight they have faced with mental illness. The ones that we hear about publicly are those who seem to have found their calling. To the rest of the world, it looked like they had their shit together. They found what they loved to do, and got to share their love with those around them, every single day.
But to them, it didn’t feel that way.
These losses always hit me so hard, and here’s why. I started this blog to help others through challenging times. To remember that we have to find the small moments to remember who we are and what we need, in order to be able to share ourselves with those we love. It’s all about putting our mask on first before we help someone else with theirs.
But what about when we can’t reach our mask in time.
The importance of recognizing when you need help, and being able to access the proper resources is so important.
I suffer from anxiety. I have since I was young. When I was in high school, it exhibited as unexplained, constant stomach problems that were often debilitating. As I got older it changed. I used to love airplanes as a kid. As an adult, I am white-knuckled during takeoff and landing, and I keep myself as distracted as possible throughout the flight. As I had kids, it changed again. The “what-ifs” crept in and there is a constant fear of what may happen to our kids, to us, to our kids if something happens to us. As our life changes, our fears change.
We all have the things in our life that scare the shit out of us.
I have also always been a believer in therapy and support. That support can be personal (friends and family), it can be professional, it can be medicinal. In fact, the first is essential. The second supports the first, and the third can help hold everything together.
I know that we have all seen posts saying that people need to start treating mental illness as an illness and not a weakness. One of my favourite quotes is “Crying isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of having tried too hard to be strong for too long.” (I can’t seem to find the origin of this quote, so if anyone knows where it’s from, help me out.)
One of the first steps towards doing that is putting yourself first and recognizing that something doesn’t feel right.
See your family doctor
If you don’t have a family doctor, go to a clinic. Tell them how you are feeling, honestly. Anxiety and depression can make us question our own perception. “Maybe they won’t take me seriously.” “Maybe I just need more sleep.” “Maybe I’m blowing things out of proportion.”
See a doctor. Let the doctor make that call. If the doctor doesn’t feel like they “get” you, find another doctor.
Get recommendations for a psychologist
These recommendations can come from those around you, from your doctor, or do some online research.
If medication is needed, consult a psychiatrist
While psychologists can listen and help you with strategies to deal with the challenges you are facing, psychiatrists are medical doctors who have vast experience in medications that with help with anxiety, depression and many other mental illnesses.
Remember, if you were physically ill and required medication you wouldn’t hesitate in taking it. Why should mental illness be any different? For many, medication can often make the difference between well and unwell.
Psychiatrists specialize in how the medications work on your brain and your body. You don’t want to screw around with that type of stuff. Go to the pros and let them manage meds.
If someone can’t seek help themselves, offer to help
All the suggestions before this one count on one very important factor. They assume that you are capable of asking for help. Sometimes you are at a point where you are frozen, unable to manage even the smallest first step.
Knowing this, if you should see someone in that position, don’t ask how you can help. Just get up and help.
Sheila O’Malley, a writer and film critic, posted on Twitter about her struggle with depression after her father passed away. The amazing thing about her post was how one of her friends recognized her need and stepped in. He realized that she was not able to ask for the help she needed, so he got a group of friends together and just helped. You can read the entire thread here.
What do I want you to get out of this post? If you suffer from anxiety or depression, and you think you need help, please don’t suffer alone. Call a friend, make an appointment with your doctor, call a helpline. I have prepared a Anxiety and Depression Resources Canada. Please feel free to share it with anyone you feel may benefit.
And if you need to reach out, please do.
Shoshana Teichman says
A really important blog post, Chaviva. If we don’t take the time to care for ourselves, it is almost impossible to take care of others. Even if it just half an hour a day to take a walk, read, plug in a favorite song or talk to someone who makes you laugh. Thank you for this wonderful and important post.
Chaviva Lifson says
So true, Shosh!
Thanks so much for your comment.