Finding The Right Kind Of Help

One of the things I’ve found the most helpful in my road to living with mental illness is the importance of finding the right mental health professional. Over the years on and off I’ve seen numerous counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and sought help in many other ways. It started with a counsellor in high school and went from there.

Until the last 5 or so years ago, my attempts at getting help were sporadic and short lived. Previously I’d go through a really bad time – see my GP, get prescribed anti depressants and get referred to a counsellor or psychologist. I’d see the therapist for a few weeks, and get fed up with the way it was going, make excuses and stop going.

It was always the same thing that did it. These people all wanted to delve into my past – find some childhood or adolescent trauma that made me the way I am. Was I abused? Did I have a loving childhood? They always wanted to try and find the point of origin. And they always has some kind of condescending advice to give to help me “snap out of it” and tell me that things “will get better” all the usual bullshit people think you want to hear.

It wasn’t until I was at the end of my rope that I finally found my current psychiatrist. And my word has she been the best for me. She has helped me to see that there is no beginning cause to my mental illness to speak of and it’s pointless to try to look for one. I don’t need a why or a when – none of those are helpful. I just need a how and a what. How can I manage my mental illness? What can I do to make my life easier?

She doesn’t give me shitty useless advice – she helps me to unlock the answers I hold in my own mind. She asks me questions that help me draw my own conclusions. I have the control to change my life. She puts me firmly in the drivers seat, and just offers me a road map every now and again.

What I want to say to anyone who needs help coping with their mental illness is this: don’t give up on looking for the right person to help you. It mights take 5, 10, 15 different practitioners over as many years until you find the mental health professional that helps you in the way you need help. But don’t give up looking. If one doesn’t suit, move on to the next one, and the next, and the next, until you find the one that you click with and that genuinely helps you to help yourself.

Don’t stick with someone who doesn’t take a proper interest in your health, or you don’t feel comfortable with, or who gives you condescending advice, or you just don’t gel with. Keep looking until you find the one. It’s like a relationship – don’t settle for second best. Likewise with your mental health don’t settle for a sub par therapist.

I know costs can make finding the perfect help prohibitive, but keep looking until you find the one that is right for you and doesn’t make you bankrupt. Don’t give up. You are important, your mental wellbeing is important. You deserve to have a balanced and happy life.

Don’t ever give up.

With a Snap of the Band

I have experienced different ways of (not) coping with my illness and the times where my dark thoughts overtake me. As I’ve said before I have locked myself in the cupboard for hours and hours. I’ve spent days in bed not moving. I’ve deliberately injured myself by scratching, hair pulling, hitting, cutting etc. I’ve even taken too many pills when I just wanted to make the pain stop.

Clearly these methods are not ways to cope, but just ways to escape. And I know they are very shitty ways to do it.

My current method of coping sounds a little counter productive (as it is sort of self harm) however it has been exceptionally successful. When I feel like I am losing control, when my thoughts are racing at light speed, and I feel like I am going to crumble I know I have to snap myself out of it.

I do this literally with an elastic band around my wrist. I pull it taut and let it snap against my wrist. I keep snapping it against my wrist as I try to get myself back under control. The sharp sting pulls my attention away from my thoughts, and brings me out of the downward spiral. Sometimes it only takes a couple of snaps, sometimes it takes a lot more. Sometimes I end up with bruising, but that’s only when the darkness has consumed me and I’m drowning in it.

Yes, I’m a little masochistic because I like the pain (I won’t lie, I’m also into a little B&D).

Yes, I know it’s dangerous to potentially give strength to the dark part of me that is convinced I deserve to feel nothing but pain.

But the stinging sensation, and the almighty snapping sound, grounds me and brings me back to reality. If I didn’t snap myself out of it with a physical reminder there is no way that I would be able to pull myself out of the blackhole of my thoughts. It’s especially helpful if I time each snap with a breath. I can control my breathing, and then my anxiety, and I regain control over my mind.

When there isn’t anxiety, only the depression, I write.

I’ve kept private journals since I was 13 years old. In them I write my thoughts and feelings – things that I cannot and will not ever share with the outside world. Getting my thoughts out on paper where I can arrange them into something that makes sense is a huge outlet for me. I generally only write in a journal when I am unhappy, or something is really bothering me.There are very few entries of things that I’d actually WANT to remember.

From time to time I’ve read back through my journals – and it’s very hard. Seeing all the dark places I’ve been to in my mind makes me really sad. But at the same time it’s actually therapeutic to see how much I’ve grown, and how much more rationally I cope with the dark times. There are far fewer entries of wanting to “end it all”. There is still a lot of self-hatred, and emotional self-abuse, and wanting to escape. However, the journal entries are spaced further apart – I don’t get as bad as I used to.

It’s not perfect, but I accepted long ago that it never would be.