Do you perceive asking for help as a sign of weakness?
Do you know how to get help when you can't sleep, haven't slept, seem to cry 'all the time', feel emotionally fragile or vulnerable to the slightest statements, even those not directed to you directly?
Have you 'copped an attitude'? - that is either expressed in reactive anger at just about anything or apathetic or not caring about people, work or things you used to?
Are you feeling physically anxious and fear that the sweating, beating heart, trouble breathing, or wanting to run from a room may result in death?
Are you having trouble with feeling worthless, hopeless, powerless, or unlovable?
Are you struggling through or just stuck in paralyzing sadness of a loss of someone, or something significant? Is the obsession keeping you from moving forward?
Are you questioning the phase of life you are in right now? Are you dealing with significant regrets, missed opportunities, bad choices, or wondering 'is this all there is'?
Are you trying to manage your way through feeling truly comfortable with being gay? Telling others? Fear of what 'the truth' may bring?
Are you feeling 'lost' -having spent doing so much for so long that you lost track of what made you really happy and satisfied in your life?
Are you in a relationship that is deteriorating, abusive, or demoralizing?
Are you doing something so often that serious negative consequences to your health, relationships, employment, finances,and/or self-esteem is battered?
All of these issues are what mental health counseling can address. Mental 'illness' is when these challenges aren't properly clarified, addressed, diagnosed and treated.
Many fear that 'treatment' means being hospitalized and drugged. Hollywood often scared us into thinking that was how we deal with depression, anxiety or severe personality disorders.
Good and effective treatment is about getting educated, getting the proper diagnosis, then working with the appropriate level of professionals to address the symptoms that cause the problems. For many, its about finding a counselor who they feel comfortable with, can share openly without resistance, can feel appropriate support and address their challenges with new insights and strategies that reduce the negative consequences that brought them to their office. A good mental health counselor will educate you first, work with you as you navigate through the changes, that may also include medications prescribed through a physician, and give you positive feedback through the entire process.
Do you feel good about yourself when someone asks YOU for help? Advice? Guidance?
When you have a problem with your finances, taxes, the legal system or physical health do you contact an Accountant? Attorney? Specialist Physician? Why not consider a counselor the same way?
When you don't ask for help you are actually 'stealing' that 'good feeling' from someone! Many don't see it that way. They're determined to fix it without help. Do it without professionals. Somehow think that they can 'figure it out' without any experience, education or practice - and therefore struggle for years, sometimes decades, on their own rather than get real help real fast. I see it almost daily when a new client starts their journey. Somehow they think it will go away on its own or that tomorrow will be 'different' or 'better' and years pass by.
In the meantime, family, friends, employers and co-workers are trying to manage you! While you're busy resisting real help they are trying to deal with the symptoms of mental illness that can make a 'normal' day impossible. Mental illness is not as hidden as many believe.
The best quote to explain depression I've heard is "There is no 'you' in depression".
The experience of depression is often so demanding that the depressed person can't get outside of themselves to understand how it affects those around them. Add apathy and they don't even care if they did. While the depressed person is just trying to get through a day, those around them are dealing with the non-stop negativity, lack of initiative, the plague of hopelessness, the over-sensitivity, the reactive anger to the smallest of slights, and the 'lost' identity of their loved one.
If the person is dealing with crippling anxiety, they have to navigate through the resistance of going places, taking on challenges, initiating new activities, learning new skills, meeting people, and hearing 'no' to the simplest of requests to visit, attend, or participate in daily and/or meaningful activities.
If the person is dealing with addiction, the family is often dealing with secret keeping, negotiating with others with excuses, shame, financial messes, legal and criminal system costs, incarceration, job losses, and daily chaos.
If the person is dealing with un-diagnosed bi-polar or attention-deficit disorder - there is the 'management' of the extremes: highs and lows that don't seem to 'make sense'. They watch as the person shifts from episodes of paralyzing depression to episodes where "Disney" visited their home with no sleep, extraordinary ideas, excited creativity, gambling losses, infidelity and 'life without brakes' that doesn't seem to make sense when the person has proven to be capable and competent in many arenas of life.
Mental 'illness' has a stigma because its often hidden, misunderstood and feared. We need to stop fearing getting HELP. We need to reach out, talk more openly, pick up the phone, research and support those who are navigating through the process of defining what is really happening. Mental 'illness' is very often treatable. It is very often managed without significant difficulty when the professionals work together to address the elements involved. Yes, many are defined as considered 'chronic' - or lasting over time - but can be treated as effectively as we have learned to treat diabetes.
When properly assessed mental 'illness' can very easily become mental health. That is our goal as Mental Health professionals. Seeing healthy clients is what makes our day rewarding but we can't help unless you ask . . .
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