Seeking help is anything but a sign of weakness — #MHAW17

This post was written for my 7 day mental health blog takeover, in support of #MHAW17.

Somewhere along the unpleasant journey of mental illness, most of us reach a similar stage of denial and avoidance.

In the Summer of 2014, I was not eating well. Gradually, anxiety and stress had begun to present different symptoms to those I was previously used to. Rather than shaky hands and difficulty breathing, I was feeling sick and scared to eat for fear of being sick. Pressure from doctors to gain weight only made my anxiety worse, and I became able to eat less and less due to my increasing levels of anxiety.

It was then that I should have asked for psychological help, but I fought against it. My doctor wanted to refer me to an eating disorder clinic, which any outsider who saw my skeletal frame would have considered a logical move. I was dead against it.

My discharge from therapy two years previously coupled with my determination to be ‘normal’ and independent left me feeling hostile towards mental health professionals. My greatest desire was to be considered a successful, high-functioning adult with the ability to achieve anything.

I did not feel at the time that being labeled with another mental illness would be a fantastic contribution to that desire.

Being jokingly referred to as anorexic throughout my childhood didn’t help, either. It was something I was programmed to continuously fight against. To this day, at a healthy BMI, I do not know whether the eating disorder service was the right place for me or whether my weight loss was just a symptom of my anxiety disorder and OCD.

In hindsight however, I do know that I delayed my recovery through wasting time rejecting help and support.

Why did I do that? For the same reasons that someone with depression might start self medicating or isolating themselves from the world rather than ringing their GP. A mixture of fear, denial and shame.

Almost everyone I have ever known with a mental illness has been reluctant to seek help with their condition. Seeking help means accepting you are unwell, and for some reason, that still equates to weakness in the eyes of many.

But why? Accepting professional help saved my life. Recovery and treatment has also been at times immensely challenging — requiring a steely determination that is anything but weak.

It’s almost become a cliche these days, but avoiding help for your mental illness really is like breaking your leg and trying to keep walking on it rather than going to A&E.

Whether it is something you have developed genetically, or through a traumatic event beyond your control, mental illness is an illness like any other. Perfectly deserving of compassion, concern and most importantly — treatment.

Attending therapy does not make you weak, and medication isn’t a cop-out. Therapy offers a unique opportunity to understand the inner workings of your mind and enhance your strongest abilities. Medication allows you to operate on a level playing field to those with healthy brains.

Those who seek help for their mental illness have not only applied logic in a terrifying situation, but they are also facing up to their greatest fears in order to better themselves. Now tell me, how on earth is that weak?

emzae x