I felt nervous sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office yesterday. The questions I answered about my mental health on the new patient form made me feel vulnerable.
I’ve struggled with depression for over a decade now, without getting much help. I didn’t even know that it was depression until I did some research to find out why I felt so down.
I also had no idea that distraction, sleep and appetite problems, and lethargy were also symptoms of depression. Symptoms that I have been all too familiar with for many years.
I need help, and I’m no longer ashamed to admit it.
It’s been a long road to seeing a doctor about getting on medication. I’ve struggled for years thinking that I could just grin and bear it. And while I’m all for ways to treat depression without medication, there is no shame in getting on it.
Am I the product of a society that discourages getting help for mental health issues?
I’m not out to blame anyone for my lack of help for so long. But I’m sure going to do my best to eradicate the stigma around getting help. And the first step to doing that is getting help myself.
Unfortunately, however, I have done my part in upholding the stigma at times.
And yet, I won’t waste time blaming myself or others for my mistakes. That’s not what will help eliminate the stigma that kept me from reaching out for support.
I am getting help, and I am writing this in hopes that maybe someone out there will too. It doesn’t hurt to try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you’re afraid, let me reassure you, it’s not that bad.
I hope that by being open about the process that brought me here, I can make it easier for you to get the help you need also.
We’re not weak people when we struggle with any of the infirmities of life.
You wouldn’t look down on your friend for having a broken arm and getting in a cast. There is no need to look down on yourself for needing medication for your mental health.
The process isn’t very difficult to get started. I’ll show you what my experience has been.
What I share here is unique to me and isn’t meant to be taken as professional advice. I am not a doctor; I am just sharing my experience in the hope that it will make a difference to someone who needs help but doesn’t know it.
First, I had to admit my problem was worth doing something about
This step may have been the very hardest. I am a high achiever, type-a personality, and very optimistic. I push myself far too hard at times.
That’s why it felt really weird thinking that I would ever need medication.
But the more I studied depression, the more I noticed the symptoms in myself. I knew all of them, recognized some of them, and still waited months and even years before taking the first step.
Admitting you need help is hard, but necessary.
Sometimes depression can be masked behind a whole bunch of other struggles. You might think you don’t need medication, or that you’re not even sure if it will help. That doesn’t matter; you just have to try.
You are worth it; you deserve to get the help you need.
Next, I started talking about it
Writing and publishing about my mental health online has helped loads. It helped me to recognize, understand, and admit that I had a mental health problem that needed attention.
I was able to start working through my problems by writing about them. It felt scary at first, to be vulnerable, but it made a massive difference.
When I decided to open up, I found a confidence I never knew I had. That’s just one of the ways that writing has changed my life in general. But the help that it is to my mental health has been vital to getting help.
Because I had grown used to writing about my struggles online, I was better at talking about them in person. I was having more conversations with my wife and other Family members. Talking about how I was feeling helped me internalize that something was going on that needed attention.
I realized that nothing had to be permanent and took the first leap
The more I talked about what I was going through, the more I connected with the right people. Being more open about how I was feeling helped me notice the specific individuals that could help me.
They were always there, I just had to be prepared to notice them.
I talked with a family member in med school, and he told me a little about medication. Then I spoke with other family members who are actually on medication and what their experiences were.
The more I talked, the better I felt. I became less afraid and more willing to try something out.
I remember asking that same family member how I even could get on medication. I didn’t even know the process. Once I learned, however, that took away many of my remaining fears.
I set up an appointment with a doctor, told him everything I’ve been going through, and got a prescription for an antidepressant with little side effects.
Which, by the way, I was surprised to learn just how few side effects this drug has. Maybe part of my hesitance was thinking that getting on medication would come with all sorts of nasty issues.
It’s weird how many misconceptions there are around medication. Even if you think you just need just a little help, you can get it.
The best part is that it’s just a trial. Nothing has to be permanent. My doctor reassured me that if it wasn’t doing the trick to call him and we’d figure something else out.
Now, I’m not sure how this is going to go. I also don’t mean to make any guarantee that it will be this simple for you to get the help you need. The even longer road of figuring out just what really works may be ahead for me.
Then again, it might not.
Regardless, I am excited to see where this takes me. And I’m even more excited to be able to share my journey with you.
I hope that as I write more about what I’m experiencing that I can continue to help eliminate the stigma and improve the mental health of everyone I meet.
I am confident that we can figure this mental health thing out if we all work together. I believe in a future where we don’t see so many struggling, in fact, quite the opposite.
I see a bright future ahead for all of us.