The 5 Steps I Took To Pursue Help for My Mental Health
This post is for people who know they need to get professional help but have no idea where to start--this is exactly the kind of post I would have appreciated when I first started my healing journey. So, for my past self, and for those of you who are seeking help, I'm writing the 5 steps I took (and am currently still taking) in pursuit of healing peace in all areas of my life.
Step #1--Talking to My Parents
This step was by far the hardest part for me, because it was the first one, yes, but also because having this conversation with my parents (who I'm currently living with due to COVID) would make the terror of everything going on in my mind, real. I would be actually acknowledging that I have a problem, which goes against my tendency of avoiding all conflict in my life. And let's not forget how PAINFUL it can be to talk about your feelings. I was scared of the pain I would cause myself, and my parents as well. I honestly didn't know if I could take it.
There were actually a few little steps that even brought me to telling my parents in the first place: I called a friend, talked to my sister, and talked to my boyfriend. They all assured me that my parents would understand and would want to do what's best for me to get help. Deep down inside I knew all of these things, but mental illness can cover up the things you know to be true and fill you with lies.
My anxiety and fear over this conversation that I knew needed to happen was so bad that I couldn't even tell my parents I wanted to talk to them in person--I just sent them a text message asking to talk to them about my mental health the following night.
As the conversation with my parents grew nearer, I grew more and more anxious. I mentally went through the conversation in my head over and over and over again.
I then found myself sitting in front of my parents, feeling like I could throw-up and preparing for the tears to fall as soon as I started talking.
We all ended up crying together and it was one of the best conversations I've ever had with them. They fully supported my want and need of seeking professional help, and like the loving, God-fearing parents they are, they sealed our time with a prayer for God's help in my healing process.
I will never forget that.
Step #2--Seeing My Family Doctor About Medication
The following day I drove by myself to the local clinic and talked to my family doctor about my anxiety and nightmares. This was a win for me for 2 reasons:
Ever since my panic attack, I was afraid to go anywhere by myself, in fear that I would have another and have no one there to help me through it.
Talking about my mental health is really difficult for me, and I did it in front of the doctor by myself without even shedding a tear.
My doctor probably spent about an hour with me. He listened, sympathized, analyzed, and enlightened me on ways I could heal. I left feeling seen, heard, and hopeful about the treatment plan I would be starting. He prescribed me medications for my anxiety and nightmares, and I am still on a medication treatment plan to this day.
Step #3--Calling Local Therapists Offices About Counseling Openings
My mom did some research in our area and began calling around to see if there were any openings for counseling sessions. I really appreciate my mom taking initiative to make these calls for me, as I was in no state of mind to be talking to strangers (hello, panic attack caused by social anxiety).
This leads me to one of the most ironic things about mental illness:
You might know you need help, but if you need help are you really in an ideal condition to be talking to strangers and reaching out and researching and investigating to find the best options for you? No! You are reaching out because you're not in a healthy mental state in the first place.
I'm so incredibly thankful that I have a healthy support system and my hope is that if you're reading this, you have people to support you on your mental health journey as well.
We found an opening in a counseling office in a nearby town and I began attending therapy sessions. After a few sessions, my therapist diagnosed me with adjustment disorder, anxiety, and depression, and I still continue to see him a few times a month.
I quickly realized that I really knew nothing about mental health. It was all very basic knowledge--knowledge that wouldn't be helpful enough if I wanted to recover.
So, I went to the internet of course, and wow I have learned so much in a short amount of time. I read medical journals, articles, you name it (with everything you research in life, make sure your sources are reputable of course).
One source that surprised me was Pinterest. I'm already a Pinterest addict, but when I began searching it for mental health, I was shocked with the amount of content out there. The great thing about Pinterest is that it can lead you to tons of mental health blogs where the writers tell you about their own personal struggles. In a way, I felt like I found my own little community (if you're curious, you can find my mental health board here).
Step #5--Changing My Daily Routines/Habits
I learned quickly that healing is a lifestyle. If I really wanted to get better, I had to change the daily happenings of my life, because living my old life was not conducive to healing the trauma that was going on in my mind.
This definitely is a work in progress, and to an extent always will be! Because finding ways to live life in the most beautiful ways possible is a life-long journey.
Here is a list of changes I implemented (and still continuing to implement) in my daily life:
- No sugar/processed foods/simple carbs (studies show they trigger anxiety/depression)(according to studies I should also give up my coffee addiction but I haven't been able to get myself to do that yet...)
- Creating this blog :)
- Meditating before bed
- Bedtime yoga
- Starting an anxiety journal
- Starting a dream journal with rewriting my nightmares
- Topical use of essential oils throughout the day
- Sprinkling lavender on my pillow at night
- No scary/violent TV shows, movies, or books
- Listening to soft worship music while I sleep
- Completely changing my prayer/devotional routine
- Daily hot bubble/bath salts baths after work
- Drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed
- Using a self-care app to keep track of my new self-care goals
- Declaring my room a sacred place in the name of Jesus Christ to renounce any spiritual warfare before sleeping
I made this list of steps brief, knowing I would likely be expanding on many of the things I'm talking about here in future posts. I also want to be clear that I'm not saying the way I did things is the way you should go about your own journey. Everyone's stories and situations are different, but it might be helpful just to see how another person's healing process started out, right from square one.