Breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly now, I wanted to address something personally: the journey to finding help for my own mental health diagnoses.
My journey to vastly improved mental health has been, sadly, longer than it could have been. I started experiencing PTSD and anxiety as a child due to childhood sexual abuse and severe neglect, which escalated into full-blown depression by high school and a suicide attempt at 16 years old. My family didn’t really believe in seeking help for mental health concerns, telling me to “toughen up” and not to let things bother me so much. The added troubles that stack up when you stuff down legitimate health problems are myriad, but they accomplish two rather malevolent tasks: the problems worsen because you remain untreated, and you learn how to cover your health concerns. You learn to lie about your own health matters for risk of being ridiculed…or misunderstood…or persecuted…or ignored.
It makes me sad to write that to this day.
I ultimately sought help for my own mental health condition at the age of 35. After years without treatment, I finally had a full-blown nervous breakdown that incapacitated me completely for almost a year. I wound up walking to the hospital from my apartment in my pajamas, clutching a blanket and a bottle of sleeping pills. I wasn’t sure how many I’d taken, and I wanted to finish the bottle. I walked up to a woman at the Admissions desk, placed the bottle down on the counter, and wearily said, “I need to talk to a doctor because I don’t think I want to die, but I know I can’t live like this anymore.”
And that’s how it began. A decade later, and my life is vastly different, improved beyond anything I could have ever imagined. But I had to ask for help, and through the years I’ve gotten it. But I had to take that first step, and I’m hoping that by telling you my story that you (or someone you know who needs help) will take yours.
Admitting you need help — particularly if you have a history like mine, which is riddled with stories of disbelief and stigma — can feel terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When I started my journey to healing a decade ago, there were far fewer online resources for mental illness. Now, they abound. NAMI has a multitude of online resources to help you and those you love discover symptoms and assistance if you think you have a problem. The Suicide Prevention Helpline has helped me in times of extreme stress. There are recovery programs for substance abuse, and plenty of counselors who are trained and extremely happy to help you. Every mental health concern from Alzheimer’s Disease and eating disorders all the way through Depression and Anxiety have resources available, and you don’t even have to leave your bed or your couch to take the first step now. Any of those links above will help you on your way.
But take that first step. Because you’ll discover your life is worth something. You are worth something. Quite frankly, you are worth everything, even if you don’t feel that way right now. Take care of yourself. Give yourself the love, caring, and concern you need to feel better. Life is amazing on this side, and I and others like me are cheering you on.
You deserve to be happy. Ask for help. You will receive it.