Mental Health Awareness Month: When it’s hard to reach out

Experts will be the first to tell you that in order to recover from a mental illness, you need to reach out for help. For many people, reaching out for help is the biggest obstacle in getting any kind of help. I know first-hand because I’ve been there I’m still there.

For me, it’s been hard to reach out at times because I feel like I’m stuck in a pit with no way to get out. I can turn to friends for help, but those friends are few and far between.  Sometimes I feel like I’m judged for who I am because of needing help. Other times, I judge myself because I feel like I shouldn’t need help. I mean, heck, I’ve been down this road a thousand million times before. I should know exactly what I need to do in order to get myself in a better mental frame of mind. When those thoughts flood my mind of “you shouldn’t feel like this”, it makes it even harder to reach out for help because I feel like I shouldn’t say anything about how I feel. I’ve been told a few times: “You’ve been going to therapy for so long. Why aren’t you better now?”

It’s not that easy. It’s not as easy as making a to-do list and checking off things once you accomplish them. My list ends up being very circular in nature: if I do A, then I have to do B, which means that if I mess up B, then I’m back to A all over again. It feels like a wild goose chase on most days, knowing what you need, but never finding it. I wish it were as easy as someone giving me a list and saying, “Hey, if  you do all of these things in this order, then you will be fine.” Life is not linear; it’s circular, and sometimes even makes shapes that only a seasoned mathematician can label.

Helpful resources are also very scarce, which makes reaching out for help even more difficult. If you live in an urban area, then you have access to many resources, clinics, outreach programs just because of geography. I live in a rural area, and our resources are very stretched between counties. Most resources are only for those with certain income guidelines. So, for those of us who are on the border of not rich/not poor enough to qualify, we end up somewhere in the middle of finding help, or not finding help at all.

Then, you have the finances to figure out. No one said getting healthy was cheap. If you’re lucky to have health insurance that has provisions for counseling, then you have to make sure that you can afford the copayments. If you see a psychiatrist, then welcome to the world of medicine and even more copayments. Of course, there are some pharmaceutical companies that do offer patient assistance programs. You need to research and ask your psychiatrist if he/she has information on those programs.

So, is reaching out for help a laborious task? When you’re not feeling well, yes, it is. How can your loved ones help?

  • Tell them how you feel. Yes, I know earlier that I said that I get scared for being judged for how I feel. It’s my feelings. Feelings can’t and shouldn’t be judged. If you don’t say anything about how you feel, then how are your loved ones going to know?
  • Try to spend time with your loved ones without talking about your mental health issues. We are more than our mental health. We are still the same person we were before we became ill (well, at least I hope so.) Take a walk. Play a game.
  • Loved ones: When your loved one falls into that pit do not judge. I’ve said a few times in the past, “How would you like to have my brain for a day when I’m feeling like this?” Sometimes, it’s not in our control when we fall into that pit.

Living with my mental illness has made me feel very alone. Reaching out is difficult because of that stigma of “what is everyone going to think of me?” when you see how different people act around you. If more people had a supportive circle of love and support, living with a mental illness wouldn’t be so painful.