If you’ve been living with anxiety for a while, it may start to feel like you’ve learned to live with it. You have anxiety, but it’s not that bad. You can avoid triggering situations, and the ones you can’t avoid, you’ve found a way to get through. Perhaps you’ve figured out the perfect dosage of benzodiazepine to keep you alert but sedated enough to give that presentation, or get on that plane, or go to that work party.
So at what point do we decide that enough is enough?
For me, it was when my world got so small that I was no longer able to do things I previously loved to do. First, I just eliminated things that had caused a previous bad experience, but could be avoided without much consequence. For example, I had a panic attack in Costco so I no longer went to Costco. I had a panic attack at a concert so I didn’t go to concerts anymore. I had a panic attack while walking in the cold air one night so I avoided going anywhere that required walking when it was cold outside.
Then intrusive thoughts caused me to avoid more things because of the potential for a bad experience, and were a bit more inconvenient to avoid. I stopped eating foods that some people are allergic to because I thought I might be allergic to them too. I stopped taking elevators because they might break and I could be trapped inside. I stopped going to any place that I thought could possibly trigger a panic attack.
Then I started missing important events like birthday parties and weddings, or even just meeting up with a friend for lunch. I avoided all perceived threats to my safety. To face the fears I couldn’t avoid I would take Ativan or Xanax, and then I wouldn’t be able to clearly remember the event even though I was physically there. Reducing risk was perpetual and every day I felt capable of doing less and less. I wasn’t able to socialize, I wasn’t able to stay present in conversations or connect with people, I wasn’t able to use my gifts to help others, and most importantly, I wasn’t able to experience joy. This was no way to live.
Are you missing out on joy? Are you at the point where something needs to change? If your answer is yes, then it’s time to seek treatment.
What about the time commitment?
If I look back on all the time I spent ruminating, doom scrolling, going down Google rabbit holes, distracting myself with social media, crying, panicking, worrying, etc., etc., I am flabbergasted that I ever questioned whether I had time to go to treatment. Anxiety, Depression, OCD, and other mental disorders steal so much time from us when we don’t manage them properly.
It’s important to look at treatment as an investment of time. We are investing time into healing so we can regain time to do things we are missing out on due to our mental illness.
With the right mindset, treatment can actually feel like a break from the things that are exhausting us, and a time to reprioritize and focus on self-care. Reevaluating how we allocate our time and building resilience by learning healthy ways to cope with stress will set us up for success when we return to life after treatment.
There are other things to consider of course, like responsibilities (work, kids, school, etc.), and this is where utilizing your support system and asking for help will become essential. It may feel impossible to step away from your responsibilities because there’s no one to step in, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Asking for help is a valuable skill, but it’s difficult for many people to do. The reality is, if we are really struggling with our mental health, people in our lives probably have noticed and would be more than willing to lend a hand if it meant you could get the help you need to be healthy. Scheduling in treatment will be a challenge, no doubt, but it’s worth it.
It’s easy to feel guilty for taking time away from family, friends, or responsibilities. But in the end, those people will benefit greatly from your time away and your relationships will be strengthened. You will be more present, more pleasant, and more productive after your time in treatment.
What about the cost?
Cost is usually a concern for people as they consider treatment options. While everyone’s financial situations are different, nonetheless, cost will always be a factor when seeking help. Even with insurance, getting care for your mental health will cost some money out of pocket.
For me, I decided my mental health was worth the expense. With all of the things we spend money on these days, I knew I could prioritize my spending and get the help I needed and deserved. Personally, deciding to do a PHP program also had a major financial impact because I am a hairstylist, and if I’m not physically present to work on clients, I don’t make money. In the beginning, the idea of spending 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in therapy did not seem feasible. I had to figure out how I could possibly adjust my schedule and still make ends meet. I knew I couldn’t lose my business, but I also knew my business couldn’t survive if I didn’t get mentally stable. At the end of the day, even though it seemed impossible, I was able to make it work. Oftentimes obstacles look and feel insurmountable, but when the intentions are good, you utilize your support system, and you take it one step at a time, anything is possible.
Finances should never be the obstacle that keeps you from getting treatment for your mental health.
What will people think?
I say, who cares? But realistically, your mental health journey is no one’s business but those who you allow to travel it with you. You can take pride in knowing that you’re making a decision for yourself to improve your life. You get to build your support system, filled with people who will support you in healthy ways without judgment. You get to decide what you share, and with whom you deem is safe. What anyone else thinks is not important.
Surprisingly, I’ve found that sharing my mental health journey has had only a positive response. Most people struggle with mental health issues of their own or at least know someone who does, and they can relate. Having the conversation and normalizing treatment is the best way for people to feel safe and supported.
Treatment is Temporary
One of the things that helped me tremendously while I was making sacrifices for treatment was reminding myself of the reality that it is temporary. Your mental health journey will be lifelong, but it doesn’t have to be a burden forever. Investing in effective treatment now, will prepare you for more freedom, stability, and joy moving forward. When I felt the financial impact, I reminded myself, “this is temporary”. When I felt guilty for asking people to take on some of my responsibilities, I reminded myself, “this is temporary”. And here was the greatest shift when I made the decision to go to treatment: On my worst days, instead of asking, “will I feel this way forever?”, I now could confidently say, “this is temporary”.