I’ve always believed in the field of psychiatry. Reading about about how people who were mentally ill were treated through the ages was always incredibly sad. How they were believed to be possessed by demons because there was no other way to explain their behaviour at that time. How they were subjected to gruesome procedures and used as test subjects when psychiatry came about. All these things made me back modern day psychiatry because I saw the benefit it had when people were put on the correct medication.
Still today I find so many people resistant to the idea of seeking mental help. To me it’s such an easy concept. If you have the flu you go to your GP. If you have a problem with your heart you see a cardiologist. So wouldn’t it make logical sense that if you were suffering from depression etc you would go and see a psychiatrist? You would take medication to correct your heart problem so why wouldn’t you take medication if you needed it to help you if you had a mental illness? Somehow people see this as some kind of weakness. I just cannot fathom this in this day and age. You wouldn’t drive your if a major part of your car was not working properly.
So often we see murders, mass shootings and other horrific things happening because people did not get the proper mental healthcare they needed. I watched a documentary about the homeless in the US. It was incredible how many people were living on the streets because they were mentally ill and unable to take care of themselves. If only they had sought/received mental healthcare. Their life choices would be so different. In some cases it wasn’t even a choice.
I have a generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). I saw a psychiatrist for it more than 10 years ago because I felt like it was taking over my life and it was just becoming progressively worse. I knew I had to nip it in the bud because who knows how much control it would weild over my life.
I saw a psychiatrist and was prescribed medication. After a few weeks I started feeling normal again. Whatever chemical process in my brain that had gone wonky was now regulated. The progress was amazing. I lived for many years without suffering from extreme anxiety. Then things happened in my life a few years ago. Situations and events that forced me into a constant state of anxiety. The problem was that now the game had changed. This anxiety now affected my lupus. I became really ill. Seriously ill. I remember my doctor calling me in because my blood test showed that I needed a blood transfusion!
It became apparent to my doctor that the situation I was in was making me ill. I couldn’t change what people were doing or situations I was being put in. I was up to now, having to inject myself with chemo every night. He decided that it was best if I was on temporary disability to focus on getting better because at the rate I was going something like a heart attack/ stroke, irreparable damage or worse was bound to happen.
He suggested I see a psychologist. I balked at the idea. I was seeing my psychiatrist who was treating me for anxiety and depression. The meds would help. Why did I need to talk about something that would just induce panic attacks and make me relive the horror? Eventually after numerous chats that Irfaan and my rheumatologist had with me, trying to convince me, I gave in and I decided to go. This was not how I dealt with things. I put them in boxes and packed them away so that I did not have to relive them. The problem with packing things away without dealing with it first is that it would find other ways to manifest. In my case it was a physical manifestation in that my condition would become worse and I would have extreme pain flares.
I went to my first session with a psychologist who works with chronically ill people. Oh, my, God. It was awful. I didn’t feel as though she was getting what I was saying. She would say what she felt I was saying and it was so off! She kept looking at the clock which made me hyper aware of the time and confused about what was most important to say. I left feeling like I was right about this psychology crap. I was emotional and stayed that way for a few days. I promised Irfaan I would go again but if I still did not connect with her it was over. I went back and again it was awful. So awful. I was looking at the clock. Just from the things she was saying I knew she was not really hearing me. That was it for me. Point proven. I was done.
Time went by and I could not deny the effect that stress and anxiety had on my body. A stressful situation would immediately cause an extreme pain flare. These pain flares had to be treated in E.R. Eventually it was becoming so common that the E.R staff already knew me. I was afraid I would be seen as a junky coming for a fix and not be taken seriously. My neurologist suggested a psychologist that he knew. He reassured me that she was really great. I decided to try again. Something had to give. Perhaps this time it would be different. I would go to learn coping mechanisms, tap into cognitive behavioural therapy.
I went to my first appointment not expecting much, just hoping that she wouldn’t upset me. I walked into her rooms and was surprised by the quirky decor. Think Salvador Dali. I went in for my first session and so began my relationship with my psychologist. She had a great energy about her. She really listened and engaged me in discussion about the things I spoke about. This began the change in my view of talking about my feelings.
We speak openly and honestly about what is going on in my life. The value in this is getting someone to give you a different perspective of your thoughts or feelings. Unpacking why. Getting to the root of your emotions or emotional responses to things in your life. Sometimes it is really helpful to get an unbiased opinion about a situation. An outsider looking in.
You are able to speak openly knowing that what you are saying is genuinely confidential. No one is going to slip up and repeat something you told them. It gives you the space to be more honest not just with your psychologist but with yourself. It can become a safe space for you.
Coming from someone who was 100% against seeing psychologists I urge you, if you are having problems please seek help. It is important to find a psychologist you feel comfortable with and more importantly that you connect with.
I remember being a teenager and my mom sending me to one. I think this might be where some of my apprehension stems from. This guy would put the arm of his specs into his ears and wiggle it around and then stick it in his mouth! Oh that’s not all… he was balding and would smack himself on his bald spot every few minutes! I was stunned. Shock! Horror! Like what the hell was going on. I just kept my eye on the door. Poised to bolt!! I never went back again. That was some traumatic shit!
Never ever be ashamed to get help. As I said before, if you go to doctors for ailments that should include mental health. I really wish that the stigma attached to mental health would dissipate. For now if you feel you don’t want to be open about it, that’s perfectly okay but please, please get the help you need to live your best life.