Getting help is more complicated than it might seem. Firstly, what do you want help with? Or do you want help at all? Maybe it’s just other people who think you want help. That could be benign or coercive, like getting sectioned under the Mental Health Act. But then you probably wouldn’t construe that as help.
So, you recognise you probably or definitely need help. Help with what? What you think you need help with may not be realistic. There’s a lot of that, in or out of psychiatry. I happen to be familiar with the former. ‘If my nose/breasts/hair colour wasn’t so big/small/lumpy/red/sky blue pink I would be happy. Change it! ‘If the spy behind the curtain wasn’t watching me I could get on with my life. Call the police!’
In other settings you might appeal to the local witch doctor for relief. Some would say this was equivalent to seeing a psychiatrist. As you have to pay for your spell or potion, it may well be more effective. The same goes for alternative therapies. (I won’t say they don’t work but they tend to be short on science).
Realistically, you know you need help because your life has become difficult in some way and you’re not coping. But where do you get it from? In fact, do you ask at all, or just hope someone will recognise your plight and wave a magic wand, or even sort things out for you?
This was my (lack of) strategy for decades and explains why there were three times in my life when I broke down and completely ground to a halt. All were followed by hospital admission for severe depression. I was in touch with professional people of various sorts beforehand each time but had managed to disguise, unconsciously, the extent of my need. I felt the illness was something which happened to me, although somehow my fault, and I was powerless to resist. I had been brought up not to draw attention to myself or to want things.
It didn’t have to be like that. More recently I had a care coordinator who recognised my passivity and poor self esteem and worked with me to change them. This occurred over several years and involved some psychotherapy in order to practise compassion towards myself, lots of talking and an understanding of the recovery approach to mental health problems. Namely: they are part of you, you may have to keep taking medication or even tolerate persistent symptoms, but you have lots more in your life and can work on expanding your assets and fulfilling your potential. Passive it is not.
The penny dropped. I don’t have to wait until someone else notices how bad I am. I can ask for help myself first. Ironically, I haven’t needed to.
A Moodscope member.
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