And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you, please, please help me?
Asking for and receiving help when you are fighting mental illness is crucial. You simply can't win the battle on your own. Well, maybe you can but it will be a heck of a lot more painful and arduous a journey. And besides, if you had a broken leg would you set it and place it in a cast on your own?
That first call for help, perhaps to a loved one, friend or your family doctor, is often the hardest step to take. Personally, I have often hesitated. I may know that I am moving towards another depressive episode and that I can't do it alone. But I hesitate. Even after all these years and the numerous episodes that I have weathered I hesitate because I don't want to burden anyone. And sometimes I just don't want to admit that my devil is back.
But then I remember that I can't do this alone - I need help and so I ask for it. That first call is what puts the wheels in motion and brings me to the first step on the path to wellness.
I have been lucky overall when it comes to receiving help and treatment. As I have written before, I have a loving and supportive network that includes my wonderful family and friends, my colleagues, my doctor, and former psychiatrist. Aside from a poor fit with a psychologist, and a rough go at a mood disorder clinic as part of a study, I have received the treatment that I need. This is not the case for all, however.
I am part of a fabulous community of people, my fellow Partners for Mental Health (PFMH)community correspondents. We support each other by sharing each others blogs, we brainstorm advocacy ideas, and share educational opportunities. The most important thing that we do, however, is support each other through our battles with mental illness. Being able to have someone to lean on who actually understands what mental illness is really like, and the stigma attached, is invaluable.
This blog post has been born out of that support network and the discussions of our personal stories that we share amongst each other. There has been a lot of discussion recently about how challenging it can be to get the help that you need from our medical system. Now let me be clear, I am not here to complain about the Canadian health care system - it has actually been very kind to me. But it's far from perfect and it certainly is lacking in the field of mental illness. And as they say, "good enough isn't."
Yes, it is often painfully difficult to ask for help, to make the decision to not suffer alone and in silence. Now imagine that you have taken that step and the "help" that you get is harmful. We all have stories of brusque insurance companies and insensitive health care workers. Add to those the stories of meds being prescribed at a dosage high enough to raise a red flag to a pharmacist because of the Health Canada warning of dangerous side effects (thank goodness the pharmacist caught what the doctor failed to).
Or how about the psychiatrist who was "fired" by his patient but then called her numerous times until she finally answered and then badgered her to find out why she wasn't seeing him anymore?
Finally (far from it, but for the purposes of this post it will be the last example), the stories of my comrades who suffer from eating disorders as well as depression who don't seem to fit into one neat and tidy category so they get bumped around from program to health care practitioner to hospital, hoping that something will fit.
It's all rather discouraging at times. Ironically, at the times when you most need to be strong and advocate for yourself, those are the times when the strength feels as if it's in short supply. I promise you this - the strength is still there. But strength in numbers is even better. So create a support network, educate yourself on your illness (or that of a loved one fighting mental illness), and advocate for yourself.
I won't give up the fight and I hope that all my PFMH won't either. The support, affection, and guidance that they give me - the help - is an incredible gift. It's a gift that I gave myself because I asked for it. And I never regret that I asked for help.
P.S. Dedicated to my PFMH family - you inspire me each and every day!
To learn more about mental illness please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association's website.