Trigger Warning: Talk of Mental Health, Illness, Suicide and I swear in here somewhere, I’m sure.
Everyone has depression and anxiety these days. According to some studies, people have been getting more and more anxious and depressed for the last 80 years.
Is it because more people are being diagnosed as the stigma around mental health relaxes and people are allowed to talk about how they are feeling? Or is it really on the upswing?
Do You Actually Have Anxiety or Depression, or Are You Just Moody?
Now you might actually be like millions of people who have not actually been diagnosed with depression and anxiety by a mental health professional, but you are troopering through your anxiety and depression symptoms anyways, trying to convince yourself that it isn’t that bad.
I used to be just like you, and let me tell you, you’ve got it all wrong.
Seriously, you have no idea what you are doing.
Growing up I was constantly crying – like all the time, and usually, for no reason that was obvious to my parents or teachers, or even me. They thought that was just who I was. I was emotional.
I am emotional, and that is not a bad thing. But when you combine this high level of sensitivity and emotion, and you mix it with stress, university, relationships, bills, aka. ‘Real Adult Life’, it can transform into something that is a little more than being emotional.
Where do you draw the line? A diagnosis does not all of a sudden make your pain and suffering legitimate, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek help either.
Your pain and suffering are legitimate, they are real, and you deserve help whether or not you identify with the labels ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression.’
Anxiety and Depression are Not a Character Flaws
It’s not that I didn’t think I needed help, I just felt stupid for needing help.
People had it way worse than me.
It had been ingrained in me that having anxiety and depression was somehow narcissistic and selfish, and what I really needed to do was just get a grip.
I felt like my depression, and anxiety was a character flaw, so no professionals could really help me anyways. I thought that because so many people had it so much worse than I did, that any professional would laugh me out of their office, or would be internally eye-rolling our entire session.
I was very, very wrong.
Everyone, no matter how heinous their life experience has been, seems to think they don’t deserve help because someone else has it worse. It’s just a thing we do.
We think that because people are suffering all over the world that our suffering isn’t real, or is a personality flaw rather than a medical concern. That’s just nonsense, but it took me a long time to realize it. Not feeling like your problems are big or bad enough is not an excuse to avoid seeking help.
You wouldn’t wait until all your teeth had fallen out before you went to the dentist.
If you wait, you are just prolonging your suffering, and putting yourself at risk for some serious complications. Seriously. I mean it.
Talking About Your Anxiety Aka. The Worst Thing Ever
Talking about anxiety is the worst. Truly.
Talking about your depression or horrible things you have experienced isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. It can be super hard. Even getting to the point where you decide you should probably talk to a professional about it is a nightmare.
I would know: My partner took me kicking and screaming to counselling.
I often found, when I first started therapy, that it wasn’t helping. I’d go and talk for an hour and when I left I felt raw and angry, not like I had been helped. I didn’t feel like I was making any progress. What I didn’t realize is that my counsellor was not there to fix me, she was there to listen, and help me reflect on my experiences. I was craving huge insights and changes, but most of the insights and actual changes were going to come from me.
Sometimes it would be a couple of weeks and then all of a sudden – boom, weird little insight. The point of therapy was to start talking about my experiences so that I could finally process them in my subconscious.
Talking about your anxiety will probably not be a good time, but that’s okay. Going to the dentist or going to the ER isn’t super fun either, but it is important we do it when things need to be checked out. It will also get easier; it is like going to the gym, you get stronger the more you do it.
The Final Straw: When I Finally Decided I Needed Help
So how did I know that it was time to get help? Well, quite frankly, I didn’t. My partner did.
Our relationship was very new, so it was a scary thing for both of us. I was angry at him for even suggesting it, but now I realize he had no choice. He was trying to do right by me, and I made it very, very difficult.
The moment my partner decided to take action was when I told him I hated myself and I didn’t see the point in living anymore. (Whoaaaaaa, I know, very serious, bear with me.)
I had just done a float in one of those sensory deprivation tanks for the first (and only) time. It was a two-hour float, and it was supposed to be super relaxing.
It was easily the worst two hours of my life.
I was alone with the person that I hated the most, myself. I couldn’t be nice. I was finally alone with myself with no distractions, no walls, and it got ugly. The entire time I just fought with myself and cried. I couldn’t be alone with my own thoughts – that much was clear.
I thought I would never be happy again.
I told my partner what had happened. I don’t know if I was suicidal so much as having an existential crisis, but regardless, he took it seriously, and he did the right thing.
So, what did he do?
Stay tuned – later this week I will be posting my partner’s tips on helping the one you love get help.
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the original Meltdown Guide post.
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If you or someone you know is struggling to have these conversations, please consider seeking professional help. You’re not alone, and no matter how ashamed or weird or fucked up this makes you feel, there are people trained to help you work through it and get on with your life. If you want to talk, I am a proud affiliate of TalkSpace, the most economical online therapy around. Talk to a therapist anytime, anywhere for as little as $32/week.