If you’ve got as far as the title of this post, you’re doing great. Accepting that we are struggling and voicing it is the first, and often hardest, step to doing something about it. It can seem impossible to find somebody who understands or knows how to help you. We can be surrounded by the most loving and supportive friends and family and they can still be ‘fixers’. You know, the ones who give us a list of solutions that just add to the stress and make us think we were overreacting and shouldn’t have said anything. So who else do we turn to?
Professional support is available all around you! Most of my clients’ first stops were their GP. I can hear your moans of ‘but I can never get an appointment’ or ‘appointments last like five minutes and I never see the same doctor any more’ but if you’re lucky enough to have a GP you connect with and can see, they can help you. On the other hand, get online and google ‘[enter your area here] talking therapies service’. If you are in the UK, the NHS provides Talking Therapies services throughout England and areas of Wales. Most of them have an online or telephone self-referral system. You will be booked in for an assessment and then pointed in the direction of the appropriate services. This could be within the Talking Therapies, or IAPT, service for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Counselling, or within another service such as Eating Disorders or support for Psychosis or Dementia.
If you are in urgent need of support, your local Crisis team can aid in a much shorter time span and support you if there is a risk of self-harm or suicide.
Accessing talking therapy is a fantastic start to what can be a long journey. Many may be put off by waiting lists and the simplicity or practical side of something like CBT, and they might not be ready to go through therapy. However, these services are at your fingertips for free and can help you take control of your emotions and their impact on your life.
Medication is another option that your GP may offer you and there are many different views on this. What is important is to talk to your GP about any questions or concerns, where one tablet doesn’t suit you another may benefit you. Medication is always a personal, individual choice and there is no shame in accepting it or turning it down.
My loved ones have no idea I’m struggling, how do I tell them? What if they judge me?
Stigma is something I have mentioned frequently as it is a major roadblock for awareness and helping people to help themselves. Fear of judgment is fed by stigma and unfortunately sometimes it is confirmed by it. To fight it, we have to face our fear.
This is not to say that you have to tell anybody, but having a support network is crucial to looking after yourself. Also, therapy can be a daunting process and having a friend or family member to share your concerns and thoughts with can be really helpful. So start with this question: who do I trust?
When you know who you want to tell, find a quiet and comfortable place and allow for plenty of time to talk. The last thing you want is them to have to rush off to work or an engagement and not be able to listen. Then be as open and honest as you feel able to. Start simply and use whatever context is most comfortable. That could be informing them of your GP’s advice/prescription or outright telling them that things haven’t been easy lately. If there is a friend who already knows and they can support you in telling a parent or partner, ask them to be there. There is no right or wrong solution.
Sometimes we get news like this and have a gut reaction that can be misinterpreted; see ‘fixers’ above. So if your loved one doesn’t react in the way you had hoped, offer them more information through websites and charities like Mind. As I’ve said in previous posts, we fear what we don’t understand, and we lash out at what we fear.
If you are considering telling someone you care about that you’re having a tough time with your mental health, feel free to use this website and these posts as supportive information. I will be posting tomorrow about how best to support those who are struggling.
Please know, that by simply recognising, accepting, and facing your struggles, you are stronger that you think you are. Reaching out for help is brave, accepting it is even braver. You can do this.