On Getting Help Part 2
More on mental health, with tips, resources, and a big thanks to you all.
I didn’t think I’d be writing about mental health again so soon but your overwhelming response to last week’s post on getting help has made me realize there are so many important things I left out. As always, I will never tell you what to do or how to feel while you navigate anxiety and depression. I am not a doctor, and even if I was, mental heath treatment is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Medication, CBT/DBT therapy, and exercise work for me. But so does forcing myself to socialize, making sure I have balance in my work and personal life, and sleeping when I’m tired. If I don’t have social interactions, balance, and sleep, then there’s no amount of therapy, drugs, or exercise that can make me feel better.
If you are feeling stuck and you don’t know where to start, head over to Psychology Today to find a therapist near you. It will take some work and some phone calls to figure out who takes your insurance, as the lists on health insurance websites are often out of date (and unfortunately many therapists don’t take insurance at all). You should probably call at least five different prospective therapists to get a feel for who might be a fit. Therapists don’t usually charge for a five minute phone conversation, and you can usually narrow down who you like and who you don’t like in that short of a window. It’s important to find someone who specializes in the issues you are dealing with. If you’re a woman and you want to work with a woman, the sit allows you to filter by female therapists. If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, be sure you find someone who works with others like you. Maybe you need someone older? Maybe you want someone who does EMDR? These are all valid criteria you need to identify before you begin your therapist search.
If you can’t afford therapy, I feel you. It’s an abomination that health care is tied to your job in the United States, and barbaric that it isn’t free at the point of service like it is in every other developed nation. But you can still google low cost therapy and try to find someone in your community who offers counseling on a sliding scale. If all else fails, your GP can always prescribe your antidepressants, which will probably be a lot cheaper than paying out of pocket to see a psychiatrist.
In my last newsletter on getting help I mentioned how much Max Strom’s breathing technique has helped me manage my anxiety. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even need to be having an anxiety attack to breathe this way. I do it in traffic and when I can’t fall asleep and it always helps to relax me. The best book I’ve ever read on anxiety is Hope and Help For Your Nerves by Dr. Claire Weekes. The best book I’ve read on understanding trauma is The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk.
I use Headspace for guided meditation. If you can’t afford a subscription to that service, you can always listen to Tara Brach’s talks and guided meditations. I think she is the most gifted spiritual guru alive today, and I’ve learned how to practice self-compassion by listening to her weekly talks for years.
If you are struggling with self-compassion, Kristen Neff’s work is invaluable.
The Long Game is a reader supported newsletter. There are paid and free versions. Those who want to support me and my work are encouraged to take out a paid subscription.
Finally, if you are reading this not because you are suffering but because you love someone who is, there is plenty you can do to help. I know it’s hard to understand depression or anxiety if you’ve never been through it. Trust me, I feel crazy even describing what it’s like, because it doesn’t make any sense. The first thing you can do to support a loved one going through a crisis is to remain calm. The world is very scary right now to the suffering person, and you acting like the situation is a five alarm fire will only make things worse. If your loved one is anxious, maybe they are scared to be alone. If they are depressed, maybe they need their space. It’s crucial that you ask them what they need and then react to what they say without judgment. Maybe they need to hear that things will be okay. You can give them that. Maybe they need help finding a therapist and navigating their insurance. Your brain is working properly, so you can help with that. Maybe they need to go to the hospital. You can drive them there, re-assure them that this is not an embarrassing situation but a courageous step in feeling better.
All this being said, if a loved one is battling depression or anxiety and using it as a crutch to abuse you, that’s never okay. If substance abuse is involved, please consider looking into Al-Anon or CODA meetings. These are free, virtual meetings that you can join from anywhere. Melody Beatty’s book “Co-dependent No More” is the gold standard on this topic.
On a personal note, I have to thank you all for supporting my mental wellbeing. I was not in a great situation mentally or emotionally earlier this year. Starting this venture has given me a huge lift. And none of this would be working if not for you guys. So, thank you. Thank you.