Before I get into this, please note that I am not a medical professional. My thoughts and advice come from my experiences, careful internet research, and discussions with others also suffering from/coping with anxiety and depression. This post will probably be the first of many on the subject of mental health.
I would first like to say some things that I see around a lot but cannot reiterate enough:
- You are not alone. Many people suffer from mental health issues, and it’s okay. There are people out there who can/will/want to help you get through this. There are people out there who will listen to you, give you advice, and try to be there for you in whatever capacity you need them to.
- There are people out there who are assholes. They’ll tell you that taking medicine makes you weak, that you’re not great to be around because you’re sad all the time; they’ll make you feel like a burden for needing help. They are wrong. Do not listen to them. (The voice at the back of your mind that says those things? Don’t listen to it, either.)
- Your feelings (or lack of feelings if you happen to go through stages of apathy, a common sign/symptom of depression) are valid and important.
- MEDICATIONS ARE NORMAL. GOOD. HELPFUL. NECESSARY. Having a headache? Take a painkiller. Sinus infection? Antibiotics. Feeling anxious? Take your meds. Depressed? Meds. Some people don’t need medications. Some people can get by on nature walks and spa days. Good for them. Sincerely. If you’re not one of those people, that’s okay.
I seem to see those points being made all over the internet. I scroll through Facebook a few times a day and see at least three text images with encouraging words to break the stigma around mental health. However, I rarely see the following “handy things to know” for people who are new to dealing with their poor mental health. So, I have some points to add to the discussion/awareness:
- You can see your Primary Care Physician or General Practitioner for some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. You do not need to see a specialist or a psychiatrist. However, once you’ve tried the low dosages/the list of medications your PCP/GP can prescribe to you, you’ll need to see a psychiatrist for further diagnosing and prescribing. This is fine and normal. Don’t be freaked out!
- Both paths — medication and therapy — take time. Lots of time. Most medications take 2+ weeks to have any effect, and most people don’t stick with the first one they try. Medications react differently with different people. Sometimes you need a higher dosage, sometimes you need something else entirely.
- Sometimes a medication will affect you differently if you take it at night instead of the morning. Take it at the same time every day. Ask your doctor about switching the time of day, and they’ll tell you the best way to do this to avoid taking too much or too little.
- Last detail about medications: Many antidepressants double as anti-anxiety medications. Some meds are “depression first, anxiety second”; others are the opposite. In your trials with medications, keep this in mind and talk to your doctor about it. I have found that some PCPs/GPs don’t seem to bring this up right away, but it’s important to know! You may need a medication that actually targets your anxiety first, or one that targets both simultaneously. Meds are weird, okay.
- Please, please, please see a therapist (or psychiatrist) through your journey! Whether you decide to try medications or not, I cannot stress the importance of mental health doctors enough. If you meet with someone and they don’t fit, try someone else. It’s a process! (Again, I CANNOT STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS ENOUGH. They are there to help you work out the war in your mind. Stop tiring yourself out and giving yourself a headache by fighting the battle alone.)
- Do not quit your medication cold turkey. Wean yourself off. Talk to your doctor about this. Quitting your medication abruptly can severely harm your mental health.
- Melatonin. Take it at the same time every night, about an hour before you want to sleep. Like antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications, Melatonin can take 2ish weeks to work. It is not a sleeping pill! It’s a natural supplement to help you regulate your sleeping pattern. You can buy it at your local drugstore/supermarket. I take 10mg every night. I have a hard time falling asleep (thanks, anxiety) and have suffered awful sleeping patterns for most of my life. Melatonin helps keep me regular, which helps with my anxiety and depression.
I have struggled with and suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my lifetime. I’ve tried medications and therapy and Melatonin. I’ve switched between night and day, dosages, medication brands — I’ve tried meditating, nature sounds, exercising, changing my diet, fighting with myself. Some non-medicinal approaches help a little bit for a few moments (trying something new feels productive, which distracts me from what’s going on in my head). I’ll probably go into more detail about all of that later.
For now, I got into this post because a good friend of mine is beginning her mental health ~healing journey~ and these points have been on my mind. They have been helpful for her, I think, and I hope they’re helpful for you. Feel free to hit me up with any questions! I try to be open about my own experiences, failures, and successes with mental health.
I also got into this post after reading DGGYLT’s post on anxiety and panic attacks. (Everyone — all 3 of you, whom I love very much — go read her post if you haven’t already.) I went to comment with a few additions and realized my comment would be way too long. Thus, a post was born.