Have you been diagnosed with a mental illness? What was that process like for you? How long did it take?
For many people, realizing you may have a mental illness is a scary prospect. My friend Shauna collected some experiences and shared them on here blog HERE. She writes:
I asked mothers from around the world to share their biggest challenge during their first year of motherhood.
This is what they had to say.
“I had nothing positive to say about being a mom for the first 3 months. The guilt was insane. I always loved her, but I did not love being a mom. It was a huge emotional toll that I wasn’t prepared for.” Melissa, The United States
Suffice it to say, mental illness can sneak up on the most seemingly “normal” people. It is often scary, and leaves you wondering what to do.
The hard part about depression is the fact that the symptoms could be so many different things. (For example, fatigue can be caused by about a billion various underlying issues.) But it is possible to get answers. Just be patient and make sure to advocate for yourself.
The process of getting a diagnosis can take time. US News outlines some first steps to take to get closer to feeing better.
Recognize your symptoms. Are you feeling sad? Irritable? Are you sleeping all day? Make a list of everything going on and be thorough. Even the littlest thing can be helpful for your doctor to get you closer to a diagnosis.
See a mental health professional. Make an appointment with a psychiatrist, and bring the list you made in the previous step. Do not be embarrassed by any of your symptoms. Remember: they have seen and heard it all!
Rule out physical causes. I also recommend scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician for a thorough exam, and some blood work. There could be some vitamin deficiencies and other physical causes contributing to your symptoms. Doesn’t hurt to double check!
Getting answers can be a lengthy process. For some it is longer than others, but it definitely does not happen overnight. Keep journaling your symptoms, and the answers will come with time.
Advocate for yourself.
If you have a bad feeling about advice you get from a doctor, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. Doctors are fallible just like we are. If someone prescribes medicine that makes you feel terrible, get a second opinion. It won’t “hurt the doctor’s feelings.” Speak up for yourself!
Break a sweat.
Try to get a 30 minute workout at least 3 days a week. Not only is this a way to periodically distract your brain from your issues but the endorphins and dopamine released during a sweat session can help minimize the symptoms of your illness.
Take your vitamins.
There might be certain vitamins you can take in the mean time that will help. I have had vitamin B, vitamin D, magnesium, and fish oil recommended to me by my therapist. Do your research into that and see if maybe one of those could help you.
Take your meds.
If your doctor prescribes meds, try them for at least 30 days as recommended to give them a fair shot. They can have side effects, and they can take a bit of time to work. Just let them do their thing and if after a month or so you are not feeling better, give your doctor a call.
Be honest with yourself.
Learn to recognize when you are not doing well. Try your best to not lose awareness. This is a skill that has helped me navigate my treatment for bipolar disorder. I know when I’m in a bad place and can ask to have my treatment adjusted accordingly.
Don’t be ashamed.
This is so critical. Having a mental health condition is nothing to be ashamed of. 1 in 4 people have symptoms of depression, according to the last article I read. Do you see how common that is? If you take you plus 11 friends, 3 of you are experiencing these symptoms. You are not alone.
Once you’re diagnosed
As you can see, getting a mental health diagnosis can take some time. It is not easy, but once you get an answer follow my advice that I outlined above. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Remember how strong and loved you are. You can survive. You got this.
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Have you been diagnosed with a mental illness? What was that experience like for you? I would love to hear about it in the comments!