How to Know If You Need Professional Help
I can be a very stubborn person.
It took me years to be able to admit that I was wrong about something. I would try to say it, but mentally something blocked my mouth from voicing the words. It was an extremely weird feeling — like trying to break through a brick wall that my mind had erected right in front of my mouth.
The three hardest things I’ve had to deal with, and ultimately with professional help, have been my addiction, my issues with eating, and my mental health.
I didn’t jump on the therapy bandwagon or immediately check myself into rehab; I finally reached a point where I couldn’t fix the problem and I realized if I couldn’t fix it, someone else would have to help me. Knowing what I know now, I’m more likely to get help earlier than later, but it took awhile for me to get to that point.
Certainly not everyone needs professional help, but if it’s a thought that’s ever crossed your mind, take a look at the following points and see if you can identify with them.
1. The problem is persistent
I finally went to therapy because Neil and I were having the same issues and it had reached a point where we didn’t know what to do anymore. I went to therapy as an individual and with him as a couple. It was through therapy that I identified my long battle with depression and anxiety (and owned it) and dealt with a lot of the things that I was trying to reason away or deal with on my own.
Once Neil and I decided not to separate, I still continued therapy for a time. Life is going pretty well, but I know that as soon as something comes up I can’t handle, I have a place to go. Starting medication showed me that these issues had been permeating much of my life and shaping a lot of my thoughts and behaviors. It was no longer a struggle every day to get up and complete normal adult activities.
If you’re constantly experiencing the same negative issues and unable to resolve them on your own, ask yourself what your next step should be.
2. You can’t stop the behavior
The issue where this is the most glaring is my addiction. Obviously I knew that it was a problem and that I physically couldn’t stop, but it took me a long time to admit that I didn’t have things under control. Prior to one of my court dates, I quit cold turkey because I knew that there was a chance I could be drug tested when I arrived. I made it about three days and then the night before I was supposed to be in court, I frantically tracked down drugs, even knowing that everything was on the line.
I’m a smart person. It was obvious that this was something I couldn’t stop on my own and although I was 95% sure that I needed professional help, it took a little more beating up for me to actually seek it out.
If you’re struggling with anything that you want to stop but can’t, this is a big indication that you might need someone outside yourself to help you in that process.
3. It’s making your life unmanageable
My issues with food slowly started to take over my life and my thoughts. I denied myself anything sweet and even stopped eating dried fruit when Neil harmlessly commented on the amount of sugar they had. I read food menus before going out to make sure I could eat something healthy. I was sad at night when I couldn’t eat any more snacks. I was exercising more than was necessary for the amount of food I was eating. Everything surrounding food and exercise was warped and took away from enjoying life.
I realized that being sad about not eating in the evening wasn’t normal behavior. I reached out to people who I knew would be able to help me and simply talking about the issue helped me work on resolving it. Ask yourself how life is going. If you feel things are starting to get unmanageable, it may be time to reach out.
4. Others have shown concern
Concern can come from anywhere — work, friends, family, or your significant other. Have you received more than one comment about how you’re doing or concern for your appearance or behavior? One off-handed comment may not be a reason for concern, but if you start hearing the same things, it might be an indication that something is wrong.
Towards the end of my addiction I had almost completely isolated myself. Comments from my friends when we would hang out and drink had become so regular that in order to avoid them, I avoided the people altogether. Don’t dismiss feedback you get from outside sources — it just might be the thing you need to hear to get some help.
Not every issue is as catastrophic as addiction or suicidal thoughts; I simply used examples I was familiar with. Involving a professional in getting through a situation or dealing with an issue doesn’t have to be scary. It can seem that way if you’re like I was with a brick wall in front of your mouth and unable to say three simple words, but you’re going to have to find a way to either knock it down or crawl over in order to get better.
I love therapy. I think it is magical. I don’t understand the hesitance to have someone help you get better instead of sitting in suffering. Maybe it’s because now I can admit when I’m wrong (kind of) or because I broke myself down so far that there was literally no way to stand up without someone else helping me. I think it’s an incredible service and I wish that everyone would take advantage of it much more than they do.
Don’t be proud. Don’t be stubborn. In the end, the only person this hurts is you. It’s ok to admit that you can’t do everything on your own and you need some help. Once you let go of that control, life becomes a lot easier.
- National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Al-Anon (for familes)
- National Eating Disorders
- Mental Health America
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- If you’ve had professional help (and want to share), what was your experience?
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.