This post was originally published at CPTSDFoundation.org
Asking For Help Doesn’t Make You Weak
If you’re reading my blog, I assume you’ve survived your fair share. If that’s the case, you’re also probably stronger for it. So why does it feel so hard sometimes? Oftentimes we think that we’re strong enough to survive the mundanities of life and feel resistant to getting help due to our past experiences with more extreme events. Many people think therapy and meds aren’t for them, that they’re for ‘other people’. And they are for other people, but they might be for you too. We all need help once in a while. So let’s talk about help and the resistance we often feel toward it.
This is a big one. In our society, we construct a chasm between “normal people” and the “mentally ill,” which makes us terrified of being thrown into the latter category—terrified of not being seen as a full person, of being fundamentally “other” than the rest of humanity. This otherworldliness brings a sense of rejection, along with the terrifying thought of being a freak. I know I was that way. A big reason I refused help was that I didn’t want a professional to throw me out of the normal category. I mean, I never really fit into that, but a guy can dream. I was so afraid of what I’d be, of having my identity ripped away from me. Then I got diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and CPTSD, and guess what happened to me? Nothing. Having a few bunches of letters thrown into my file didn’t change who I was one bit, but in fact, helped me find the path to self-actualization and a semblance of peace.
Pills Are Scary
Maybe you’re afraid of getting help because medications are uncharted territory, or you’ve had a negative experience in the past, and I totally get that. There are tons of pills out there that do a plethora of different things to your mind and body. Who knows what will happen to you? The answer, unfortunately, is nobody does. Your depression and anxiety could worsen, you can get brain fog, weight gain is a possibility, and you could suffer fatigue. Those are things that, when brought to the attention of your mental health providers, can be sorted through and addressed. The first round of meds could be rough at first and then improve your life. They may continue to affect you negatively after you’ve adjusted. They might be exactly what you were looking for and help you gain the stability and calm you’ve been after. There’s only one way to find out, but it’s worth the effort. I am currently on four different medications, and they work great for me. It wasn’t always like this, though. I’ll admit that I had a rough time for a while as finding the right meds and dosages is very much a process of trial and error and not a fun experience, but it’s worth it in the long run. The first thing prescribed to me when I got back to America curbed my nightmares, and it made my nights substantially better, but I was given antidepressants that did next to nothing for me. I was on pills that made me more anxious, depressed, and flashback prone, but now my meds have enabled me to go days without crying and panicking. Thanks to the four pills I currently take, daily life has become more manageable.
Mental Hospitals Are Not Scary
The mere thought of checking yourself into a mental hospital may be terrifying. And I get it; I’ve seen the same movies as you. It’s never portrayed in a positive light, nor is it talked about in the most respectable of ways. The lack of freedom, the mental states of the residents, and what it would say about you if you went are all things people worry about. People have told me they’d rather die than check themselves in. I used to say I’d do anything to get better but rejected the prospect of hospitalization. But there’s a point where many of us need to come to terms with the fact that things may not get better on our own, and we need to try everything we can.
Mental hospitals are safe environments generally for the stabilization of people who are simply struggling in their daily lives. Personally, my hospitalization was quite a relief. I got a break from all of my stressors and had the opportunity to focus on nothing but my mental wellbeing. The other patients were mostly suffering from suicidal thoughts and posed no danger to anyone. Furthermore, they were a fantastic, empathic community. We watched movies at night and played cards during the day. We had no sleep schedule, the faculty treated us with respect, had comfortable beds, and had all of our needs met. There was nothing scary about it. It was safe and calm.
We Can’t “Just Suck it Up”
Ever hear that? Has anyone ever told you to just deal with it, and you’d be fine? Well, they’re wrong. Broken bones need to be set, a ruptured appendix requires surgery, and mental health needs a combination of treatments. Severe medical conditions need doctors. If someone tells you to suck up a heart arrhythmia, they’d sound ridiculous. Your mind is not something that can be changed by sheer willpower—your mindset is, but your mind is not. And that’s perfectly okay! It’s okay that you need help. I have never come across someone who was humiliated by an asthma attack. Getting the professional help that you need isn’t something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s actually a sign of strength in the face of all of the stigmas surrounding mental health.
It’s Just a Little Baggage
People can say and think what they want but it will never change the reality. The truth is, the mentally ill are “normal” people who carry some unusual baggage. And what’s a normal person, anyway? Everyone has their unique problems and mental wellbeing is a spectrum. People move up and down along the spectrum but at the end of the day that doesn’t change their value as human beings. And you can move in the right direction with the right help, and that is in no way a strange or shameful thing to do. When you think about it, it’s more problematic to not want to get better. Stigmas are harmful, but they’re just that: stigmas. Don’t let the fear of diagnoses and labels guide your life. You are you, and nothing is going to change that.