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What We Don't Talk About When We Tell People to 'Seek Help'


Anyone who sees a loved one feeling depressed, anxious or manic wants them to seek help and get better. It’s understandable. Who wouldn’t? There are also tons of well-meaning phrases thrown at you.

“You’re not alone.”

“Help is out there.”

“You don’t have to live like this.”

“Reach out.”

While all of these statements have truth to them, and are likely said from a place of good intentions, they may not be so helpful. Here’s why:

First, when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, it took me months to find a decent doctor. A lot of doctors out there do not listen to you, put you in a box and love to overprescribe pills. In my case, I cannot take most medications as the side effects are too severe for me to handle. The depression is easier to cope with than the side effects. This has left me seeking alternative treatments like acupuncture, meditation and dietary changes. Not every doctor is open to this. You have to do what’s best for you, and it may not always be embraced by the medical community.

Second, the same is true for therapists. I was treated poorly by one therapist. He said inappropriate things to me, which I will not get into here. Aside from that, finding the right therapist takes time. It’s almost like dating. You have to find one who you click with, who understands your journey and is willing to work with you.

Third, taking a pill and going to therapy doesn’t always mean, “Poof! You are magically all better.” For many of us with mental illness, it is a series of stops and starts. You try one med, it works. Then, it doesn’t. You find one good doctor, and then he moves. You try a new med and a new doctor. Both end up being a bust. You’re back to square one. You research more treatments. You read books. You join support groups. You learn. You get better and then sometimes worse and then better again.

Fourth, family members and friends don’t always understand your issues. They either don’t take the time to because they don’t care or they just don’t know how to be there for you. So relationships end up being a roller coaster and are subject to strain.

So, while all of this may sound really negative, it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to combat the myth we hear so often when we encourage people to seek help for their mental health. The myth being that once you reach out, go to a therapist and state your feelings, then magically, all will be well. While it’s possible to go to one therapist and one doctor and get one pill that will make you feel almost 100 percent better, this is often not the reality for most people.

It’s a journey. It’s your individual journey. I can’t say it will be easy. It’s worth taking, though. Seek answers. Be your own advocate and keep going. When you can’t keep going, take a break. Let it all go for a while. Then, start again.

Image via Thinkstock.