We all have our tolerance thresholds. Tolerance for pain, patience, heat and cold are pretty easy to define and no one would fault you for defining them. I want to address that fine line no one seems to want to speak freely (when it comes to them) about: Mental Health. When is it time to seek help? When and how do you know you can’t mentally deal with the stresses of life and need professional help?
We fall and break a bone or gash our leg and without much thought, we end up in the ER getting patched up. Again, pretty clear definition that most anyone could see and understand. Mental health is a much more complicated issue that carries the added burden of societal negative connotations. No one likes to admit they need help coping mentally, even to themselves! This often leads to denial and suppression of anxiety which ultimately manifests as any number of health issues. Digestive, bowl, head and joint aches, heart, respiratory….the list is endless and even includes CANCER!
I have never been one to shy away from a good therapy session. Man it feels great to get things off my chest! Going for a walk or a drive works good too, but sometimes I need more. Sometimes I need to sit face to face and spill the beans. I chose my therapist wisely. My first visit, I interviewed him! I remember asking him what his qualifications were and I told him exactly the type of therapist I needed. I made it clear I didn’t want someone to sit there and comfort me with a pat on the back and soothing words. I don’t respond well to that. If I am being stupid, I want to be called on it! Hold me accountable! I am a bit of a control freak and he was very good at pointing out just what I had NO control over and helped me learn to accept that. It was just what I needed. This kind of help can’t come from a friend or family member. Friends and family are emotionally invested in you and often won’t tell you the truth for fear of hurting you. A therapist is paid to tell you when you’re wrong. And isn’t worried about whether or not you walk out of there liking them.
2015 was one hell of a year! Getting married, losing a brother and being diagnosed with stage 4 Leukemia in the span of 4 months’ time is beyond my tolerance threshold! Getting a Cancer diagnosis is a brush with death. Such a traumatic event could even be compared to PTSD. While I have done well staying positive (HUGE thank you to my wife who has propped me up more times than I can count) and coping with the multitude of other events piled on top of that, a step back to analyze has shown me that I need to unload this baggage before it breaks my back.
So therein lies the challenge: How to know when it’s time to seek help? While it may seem pretty obvious to the outside observer, it wasn’t obvious to me. How did I miss this? Perhaps subconsciously I knew dealing with all of this would be painful so I leaned towards denial? Emotional pain can trigger denial. Deep emotional pain can put people in a state of numbness where they can’t even recognize that which is causing them the pain! I think my support system played a part in helping me to ‘step back and analyze’. Had Robin Williams family and friends closest to him gently prodded him to open up, perhaps he’d still be here making us all laugh. He was apparently very good at hiding his issues, but I have to think that those closest to him knew but didn’t realize just how desperate the situation was. How tragic.
So I end this with more questions than answers on just how best to deal with these issues preemptively. I welcome your thoughts. Feel free to comment here or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org