How did you know it was time to see a therapist for depression?
Once I finally admitted that my depression was well beyond my control, I was very open about my battle with depression. I got asked recently how I knew it was time to get help. Here are my thoughts.
If you’re asking the question, it’s probably time.
I suffered about nine years longer than I needed to, thinking I could deal with it on my own. When I was thinking about which knife in the drawer would help me exit the Earth, it was time to get some help. I believed that because I wasn’t getting the knife I was doing okay. That I had it managed.
What I didn’t consider is that living with that idea in my head wasn’t something I had to do. I’m not sure I realized it for what it was – depression – though that should have been obvious. All things considered, my life was okay. I had a job I loved, friends who were awesome, and my health was okay. (Or so I thought.)
Never mind the horrible and emotionally abusive relationship I’d been in.
Or the stress from making not enough money in a very demanding job with student loans looming over me.
I just knew that I was still making it, so things were fine. I was just making too much out of them.
Consider your behaviors.
Once I started looking into depression I learned some surprising things about depressive behaviors. We all know about the apathy, loss of interest in things we once found enjoyable, and feeling of hopelessness. Every commercial for prescription pills for depression tells us that. Those commercials leave out what I consider the more important aspects of depression: behavioral changes.
People suffering from depression may experience agitation, excessive crying, irritability, restlessness, or social isolation.
Well, huh. If I’m so depressed and apathetic, why would I be agitated or irritable? That made no sense to me.
What I did see most about myself is that I was yelling at my dogs for being…dogs. For wanting to get some rubs, barking, and wanting to play. No matter what they did, I was annoyed. That felt wrong to me.
Where do you think it’s coming from?
I don’t think this distinction matters too much in terms of whether to see a therapist, but sometimes it helps to clarify what’s going on that’s got us in such a bad place. It’s all about chemicals in the brain (so I don’t see it as a “mental” illness, brain chemicals are very much a physical thing), so whether it’s from situational stuff that’s likely to change (finding a new job, moving to a new place) or a constant state of being, it’s still worth seeking help.
But, knowing which it is can help with other aspects of making life better.
Acknowledging that you’re in a toxic environment (racist boss, asshole coworkers, small town with close-minded people) goes a long way to realizing that it’s not *you* that is the issue. Sometimes we get trapped in the anxiety mindset that if we’re the only people suffering, it has to be us. That’s not always the case. People can be really shitty. People who started out like you may have transformed into someone awful because of the environment and they just can’t see it. Knowing that, and giving yourself time and space out of the environment can go a long way to easing the feelings of hopelessness and dread. Bad vibes are a real thing that can affect your emotional well-being.
For me, it’s not about the environment. It’s just my brain chemicals and makeup. I’ve lived in multiple states in the USA and in another country, and making those changes didn’t help me feel better. Changing jobs didn’t help me feel better. No matter where I am, the sensation of being trapped in a hole with no way out is with me.
Talking to someone can help you figure out what’s going to make you better.
I will be on antidepressants for the rest of my life. I have had enough periods of suicidal ideation that I have major depressive disorder. I think who I am just isn’t compatible with the world as it is now. That inspires me to change it, but to be able to do that, I have to have meds. For some people, easing the anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapy will be the ticket to wellness. For others, talk therapy to sort out and address issues from the past is the answer. Perhaps a short course of antidepressants to get space to get out of the toxic environment is the key.
I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know what it will take.
What I do know is that living that way is shit. There are ways to feel better.
Whatever it is that you need, do it. There is no reason to fight brain chemicals if you don’t have to. There is no reason to live all alone with the demons. There are enough things we have to fight every day. Don’t spend the time fighting yourself.