I Wish I Would Have Reached Out Sooner…
I always planned to move after high school and attend a college a few hours away, until graduation came I decided this only child was too afraid to move away from mom and dad. I attended the local university for two years while dating my high school sweetheart. I found myself tired all the time, taking naps in between classes, skipping out on an occasional class.
I wasn’t really interested in the typical freshman/sophomore activities on campus. I found myself crying frequently, big huge sobs (you know the ugly kind) with an unlimited supply of tears for the tiniest reason, and sometimes no reason at all. I remember one day my parents were at work and I didn’t go to class. I started crying in the hallway uncontrollably until I just slid down the wall and sat on the floor crying for a long time…about nothing. I felt very alone, despite having a close network of family and friends. This obviously caused problems in my relationship, which only added to my emotional distress.
I finally decided to see a counselor, he reviewed my case and said I was a busy successful young adult and that I shouldn’t be ashamed to cry every once in a while, that it was no big deal. I felt completely dismissed and pushed aside. Sure those things were nice to hear, but it didn’t make me feel any different. A few months later I met with the campus counselor. Luckily I connected with her and felt comfortable. I am quite sure I told her in my first session I was NOT interested in medication (I wasn’t someone who needed that…or so I thought #stigma). We talked ….A LOT and while I learned some things about myself I didn’t feel much better. She eventually recommended medication as she felt it would help me, I wasn’t sure about it.
I remember talking to a family friend who was a therapist. I asked him his thoughts on psychiatric medications and what he told his clients. I remember him saying, “Well if you broke your leg…would you take pain pills?” He explained not all medication is taken forever and it could be helpful and effective with little to no side effects. It was the broken leg and pain killer example that caused an epiphany for me, all of sudden it just made perfect sense. I saw my PCP with the recommendation from the campus counselor and started taking anti-depressants.
I haven’t found myself in that dark place since, but the experience drives me to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness. I would have reached out sooner had it not been for my own beliefs and stigma surrounding mental health. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and lack of education surrounding the issues are, especially for those of us working in this field.