Anonymous said: Do you have any advice about seeing councillors? I’ve been struggling with depression for years now and my parents are forcing me to see someone, threatening to pull me out of school. I have terrible anxiety around being alone with a stranger who expects me to talk about myself. I don’t know how to communicate my feelings and I have no idea what's put me where I am. I don’t know what to tell them. I’m frightened I won't be able say anything and I'm terrified of them thinking I’m invalid.
Hey pickle. Hey peanut. I’m sorry it took me so long to reply to this. I promise I’ve been thinking about you while I’ve been trying to collect myself.
Before we start, I just want you to know that I’m proud of you. I’m proud that you’re willing to give this a chance even though you’re so scared. You are already in a better position than I was at the beginning.
I remember being where you are, right now. I remember being that scared kid who was so sure that at any moment someone was going to call me a fake and tell me to stop wasting their time.
It’s been a long road, but every day I’m getting closer and closer to coming out the other side. It’s like slowly learning to be a human being again. (I recently learnt a new emotion! This brings my emotional range up to TWO EMOTIONS!) I can only give you advice based on my own experience, but if there is any way I can help you, I will.
A friend recently asked a similar question, so this post is largely built upon an email I sent her.
- Opening up is tough. It is the toughest part, especially when you have been working to keep it together for so long. For about a decade, my coping mechanism was to block out all emotions and never admit to having any problems at all, even when I flunked out of uni and spent a lot of time hiding in public toilets. The key thing is not trying to solve what got you there in the first place. Sometimes, that will come out of a session organically and you and your counsellor will discover what happened at the same time. Or maybe there was no cause at all. Sometimes, you just get unlucky, and your brain chemistry just doesn’t quite align the way it’s supposed to. For me, it was a combination of both. I had a predisposition to mental illness, and a couple of events in my life really triggered a massive downward spiral that brought me to the point that I could no longer cope on my own. The point is, maybe there will be no answers. But! Even if you can’t understand what happened in the past, therapy is mostly focussed on teaching you new techniques to make sure you can cope better in the future. It’s a way of building a new set of coping mechanisms to replace your old ones.
- I find that a combination of medication and therapy is the best way to keep my conditions in check. The medication stops me from wanting to kill myself, but it’s the therapy that teaches me the skills to build a future I didn’t think I would ever have.
- You may not end up with the right medication the first time. That’s okay. It took me three or four different medications before I found one that worked for me. Don’t let that dissuade you. If it doesn’t feel right, then there are heaps of other options. Just take the medication as you are told to, give it time to work, and look back on it after a month or so to see if there are any changes that you can note. It can also be helpful to have a friend monitor you to see if they note any changes in your behaviour, good or bad. This is what mump and I do for each other. That way, you have a second opinion, and you have someone to talk to openly about how things are going.
- You may find that medication alone doesn’t do the trick. You may also find that you need medication for things that you didn’t expect. I personally have found that the best way of keeping my brain on track is to use a combination of antidepressants and sessions with a psychologist. If you can’t afford a psychologist (I can’t, without a lot of help), the main technique that I have found helps with managing anxiety is mindfulness. There are a lot of youtube videos that will talk you through mastering this technique and it is well worth looking into it in conjunction with medication.
- Be as honest and as open as you can be with your doctor. Don’t censor yourself because you feel like you’re complaining. Just do your best to explain exactly what the problem is and how it is affecting you. It can be tough as balls to put it into words. You can feel stupid, you can feel like you’re complaining about nothing. But it is also the best feeling of catharsis. I cried the first time I went to my doctor and admitted that I needed help. It was awful, but also it made me feel like I had finally opened up to someone and that now I had the beginning of a support network to help me through it.
- On that note, build a support network for yourself. Start building a group of people who are aware of what is going on in your life, and what you are doing to manage your illness. For me personally, I have a doctor, a psychiatrist, a psychologist and mump. My other friends are also involved and aware of my problems, but they don’t know the details like mump does. You will find that there is nothing more comforting than having someone to bounce questions of dosage and treatment off. The best thing is having someone who understands what you mean when you’re saying that things are getting bad and that you need their support.