Last year on World Mental Health Day I posted on Instagram an honest look into my experience with therapy and depression. The responses were mostly positive with some even sharing their own personal stories as well. But there were also a handful of well-meaning responses that were not so helpful.
I don’t think you need a therapist… I could pray for you. As far as I’m concerned you’re okay. I’m just trying to boost your confidence.
Please don’t think negative, just think positive, no more negative talk and thoughts.
I disagree on taking medication… just take it one day at a time.
Remember you’re a good person, don’t let nobody tell you different.
Not only do those comments show a lack of understanding about the real issue, they are actually quite harmful. This attitude fuels the stigma around mental health. And it keeps some people from seeking the help they very much need. The craziest part is that the people who posted these comments likely thought they were providing comfort.
Here is the honest truth: Depression is real. Anxiety is real. Mental illnesses are real. And no amount of being told to “just think positive” is ever going to change that.
And that is okay.
It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to realize you can no longer deal with this on your own. And it is more than okay to ask for and receive the help you need.
If you get cancer you receive treatment. If you have diabetes you use insulin. And no one looks down on you for seeking a solution to your health problem.
So why do we not extend the same common courtesy to those with mental illness?
This is why Mental Health Awareness Month and World Mental Health Day are so damn important. We need to have these tough conversations. We need to share our stories so others will not feel so alone. And we need to let people know that seeking treatment for a mental illness is no different than getting help for migraines, or high blood pressure, or bronchitis.
I first began seeing a therapist about seven and a half years ago. I had been in New York City for just over a year and was struggling mightily with the fact that I continued to be single. I just couldn’t deal with it on my own anymore.
Talking to someone was a huge relief. I was lucky that I clicked with the first therapist I tried, and we have met regularly ever since. Not everyone has that experience, and that’s okay, too. You owe it to yourself to take the time to find what form of therapy and which therapist works best for you.
After meeting weekly for about two years I realized I needed more help. After discussing it with my therapist we decided an anti-depressant might be beneficial. For that I needed a psychiatrist. So, for the last five and a half years I have had a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a prescription. It takes a village.
A few years later I would meet Marc and suddenly all of the fears I had about being single weren’t there anymore. I was feeling great about my personal life and my future and thought, do I still need this prescription?
So, under the supervision of my psychiatrist and therapist I weaned myself off the anti-depressant and went on with my life. I had just assumed that once the initial issue I had sought help for was essentially resolved then there was no reason to continue needing all of the help I was receiving.
I was wrong.
I may have had Marc by my side, but I still had challenges. My main challenge at the time was my job. At the time I had a huge amount of fear and anxiety swirling around my view of my TV career. I was convinced that at some point it would get better. I would either leave the business or things would improve. All I had to do was get through until then.
Marc understood better than anyone what I was going through and he did his best to support me in every way possible. One day I was crying uncontrollably before going into work and he was, understandably, concerned. I kept telling him through the tears that it was all going to get better at some point, we just had to wait it out. That’s when he said, maybe so, but I don’t know how much of the woman I love will be left by that point.
Here’s the thing, when you’re battling depression or moments of depression you are usually the last person to realize it. For many it is a slow progression and we acclimate to each level we sink further into that depression. But the people around us will see it sooner. They won’t necessarily know what’s going on, but they will be able to tell when you aren’t completely behaving like “yourself”.
In this particular moment, Marc regretted saying that instantly because it was far harsher than he had intended, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. In that moment I realized I needed to be on medication again. I recognized this feeling of not being able to control my emotions. I couldn’t handle these struggles by myself. My brain was not allowing me to do it alone. I needed help.
Within a few days I was back on my old anti-depressant. And I have remained on it ever since.
What I have realized is that life is too short to be unhappy. We each deserve so much more. And, thankfully, there is a way to make it happen.
I never wanted to be the person who needed an anti-depressant. Just like I’m not the person who would ever want cancer or heart disease or liver failure.
But we can’t always control the medical challenges we face in our lives. And mental illness is a medical challenge.
I have no idea how long I will be on my mild anti-depressant, and frankly, I don’t care. Because if taking a pill every day and meeting with my therapist every other week allows me to truly feel like me, then why would I ever mess with that?
I am not weak for seeking help or for experiencing depression. I am incredibly strong for understanding and acknowledging what my body and mind need to be truly healthy.
It’s okay to not be okay. It’s not okay to think you have to get through it alone.