Depression Q&A: Seeking Help
“Why is seeking help so damn difficult when suffering from depression and social anxiety?”
Originally posted on my Quora
As someone with lifelong depression, I know that oftentimes, trapped between the anxiety of making the phone call and the blow to our self-esteem that needing help is a weakness is a pervasive sense that we’re not worthy of being helped. And it sounds like this inside my head:
I mean, the therapist is just going to see what a useless mound of flesh we are. Or worse, they’re going to see that we’re a fraud with regards to the depth of our disease! How can they help us get better, if they know how worthless we really are? Surely they need to use their time for better patients!
What if the meds don’t work? Worse, what if they do and people like me better when I’m medicated? What if they turn me into a zombie? What if they make things worse (cos some meds do)? What if it takes longer to feel the effects? What’s the point if I’m depressed/anxious now?
The thing is depression and anxiety lie, and they know us best, so they know which buttons to push to keep us from getting better. They are trigger happy and without any qualms against their nasty tactics. But you know this, logically, when you’re not in a dark place, so remember that: Depression and anxiety lie.
If you can find someone to help, someone who is willing to navigate the social end of the problem, then ask them to make the call for you. All you have to do in that call is acknowledge that this trusted person has your authority to make this phone call.
If you can’t, then write a script for the call.
“Hello, is Dr. So-and-So taking new patients? I would like to get seen by him/her as soon as possible, as I’m having a severe depressive episode that requires help.”
Write out your address, birthdate, email address and phone number beneath this script, in case they ask. Include your health insurance information. (I find writing things out to help me not only focus but feel some semblance of control over the situation.)
- how long you’ve been feeling depressed or when symptoms worsened,
- if you have a history with medication and what worked and what didn’t (and dates, if possible),
- if you want to be medicated or just see a therapist,
- when the last time you had therapy was,
- what other medications you are on (dosage/frequency),
- family history of mental illness,
- other illnesses you have (things like thyroid issues can mimic depression and/or worsen existing depression),
- any particular symptoms you want treated (inability to sleep, eating issues, focus/brain fog, etc.).
While most of this will not be discussed over the initial phone call, you will have to know these things during intake. It’s easier, if you have social anxiety, to have it all written out beforehand, so that you can refer to the information or you can simply hand over the list. (New providers make me crazy nervous and I forget dumb things, like my husband’s name or my birthday. So giving them a piece of paper makes everything go easier initially for everyone.)
If you have questions, ask. If anything they say is unclear, even if you feel dumb, ask anyway. It’s better for you to get it clarified than to let the idiot twins in your head (depression and anxiety) try and figure it out on their own. Cos it’s always worse when you do that.
Most importantly, remember to breathe and make some time for self-care afterwards.
Before the appointment, map it out, and if you can, do a drive-by, so you can see not only where it is, but any possible obstacles, like parking garages (I hate parking garages) or parallel parking, the distance between available parking and the place you need to go. Do you need money for meters? Are there food places nearby? (Sometimes getting coffee afterwards helps me ‘come down’ from the anxiety of doing something new alone.)
You can do this. I don’t even know you, but I know you, human person, are worth the effort it will take to pull yourself out of this darkness. You’ve already done the first step — reaching out — so just keep going. Remember baby steps are still progress. I’m proud of you for wanting to get better.