You know that feeling when you’re narrating a scene from your favourite sitcom and you forget the name of a cameo character, or that moment when the answer to a question is at the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t get it out? And the sense of relief when you finally remember that one thing?
I had been contemplating seeking help for my mental health for about a year, and a couple of months ago I finally decided to see a therapist. After several meetings with my therapist and the psychiatrist, and assessments based on various psychological tests including the MCMI and MDI tests, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Honestly, it was a huge relief to finally know what was wrong and to know for sure that it could be fixed.
Having a mental illness is very confusing, because in most cases there are hardly any specific physical symptoms you can pinpoint. PTSD brings with it a lot of depression and anxiety, and I’ve been suffering on the inside for a long time - whenever I felt really low I just told myself to try harder. When anxiety kept me awake all night, I blamed it on the coffee. I would force myself to get out of my comfort zone and hoped to get used it. I had postponed seeking proper help for a long time, but the PTSD started to affect my life in a very negative way.
Due to the disorder, I deal with an overwhelming amount of anxiety, every day - I see it as being this overprotective friends that never leaves my side. She holds me hostage in my own house, pulls the curtains shut several times a day and has this obsessive need to keep checking the curtains - a paranoia of someone looking in through the cracks, but there needn’t even be a gap at for, for me to keep checking.
Most of the time when my friends call I can’t even bring myself to answer the phone; I have an anxiety attack as I sit and stare at it till the ringing stops. I can’t be a ‘normal’ 19-year-old, going to concerts or hanging out with a group of friends - I can’t even take a train full of people without completely freaking out and bursting into tears. Having a mental illness can make you truly feel utterly helpless.
People would tell me to confide in them, to talk about what I was feeling but it never really helped me because no one could really understand what I was going through, and I don’t blame them. You can’t explain the pain of a broken leg and expect someone else to know exactly how it feels and mend it. You need an expert, a professional to fix it for you.
It was when I started going for therapy that I felt a finally had sense of hope. When I would try tell people how I felt they’d respond with “only you can help yourself,” and this only made my anxiety worse because it made me feel like I had failed at everything I had done to help myself. I started questioning myself - am I not trying hard enough? I put myself in situations that I dreaded the most, try and push through but only be filled with a mind-numbing anxious feeling shackling my limbs and guts. Feeling defeated I saw no remedy to my problem, but it’s only through therapy that I’ve realised that my decision to seek help in the first place, was the biggest way I could have helped myself.
Society continues to hold a stigma when it comes to mental illness and disorders, and it’s disappointing. to say the least. It’s either completely neglected or looked down upon, termed as ‘going crazy.’ A lot of people resist any kind of help because of the fear that they would not be accepted by their peers, co-workers or their relatives. Treatment for a mental illness is as important as it is for a physical illness. And we can start helping ourselves by accepting that first.
I still am going to therapy regularly and working on getting better. For anyone who is suffering from persisting mental stress, I’d encourage you to seek professional help. I was diagnosed with PTSD and I am glad that I decided to seek help at the time. Do not get worked up, and most importantly, do not self diagnose. For instance, one may say, “I think I have migraine as my head hurts a lot” and not go to the doctor - it could be a tumor; it could be sinusitis; or something even worse, or even be nothing at all. Do not restrain yourself from seeking mental help just because you think you know yourself better. We all need help at times. Mental stress measures in varying degrees. Even if you do not necessarily suffer from a mental disorder, it is always good to talk your heart out to someone who completely understands.
Break the stigma - seek help.