"Resources for Mental Health" by Becca DeMent
I am not a doctor. I am not a psychologist. I am not a psychiatrist. I am a student who at age of 20 realized that I had an anxiety disorder, and needed to take some time to self reflect, make changes, and seek professional help. Today I’m happier than ever and I want to open the conversation about mental health to help other young people.
Although I’m glad I realized I had anxiety when I did, it still feels like there are years of damage and trauma I have to undo. I’m writing this article because I think more individuals in our generation experience challenges with mental health without even knowing it. If only speaking for myself, my issue with even realizing that there wasn’t something right with me was because I simply didn’t know enough about the subject to be able to see how my environment and thoughts about myself cultivated my condition. Once I did see through, realize, and accept it, I charted out the changes I needed to make. From there I started to make progress as a better, more fulfilled person. This journey has been the most difficult I have ever had to traverse, and nothing seems more important than helping you with yours.
There is a toxic stigma about mental health, the first being that it means something is wrong with you. I had to fight this thought when I first realized my own mental health. This is a way to think about it however, that is much more friendly. Understanding that I had an issue with anxiety was like meeting myself for the first time. There had been parts of me I shut away and didn’t talk to until they came banging at my door. But these parts of you aren’t monsters. Mental health isn’t a demon to hide in your closet away from your family and friends. It’s you. In its most friendly form, it's you. One by one I invited these parts of myself in and said I was sorry for neglecting them, and gave them the attention they deserved. This thought process has helped me be more compassionate and loving towards myself, and therefore heal myself. By not viewing mental health as something separate from myself and a fight, I’ve been able to see a friend within myself.
They say that at our lowest point, we are open to the most change. However, it doesn’t have to come to that point. When I realized I needed therapy, it was because I knew I had to, but if you just need a little space, an activity that reserves space just for you, or a person to really talk to, therapy is perfect. There are a lot of barriers around therapy, but as a pre-law student who loves logic, it made sense that if I wanted to know more about a subject, like my mental health, I ought to inquire with an expert. Since being in college, I’ve befriended over a dozen men and women who told me they attended therapy regularly and enjoy it. Honestly meeting these people helped normalize the process for me. More people need and enjoy therapy than you think. It is perfectly normal to need assistance with regular day life no matter your circumstances. Most of us are only kids who have been on this earth less than 30 years... we just haven’t walked the earth long enough to know the answers.
I wasn’t sure where to start with my search for a therapist because to be honest, insurance is a b*tch. If you are blessed enough to have private insurance, find out your plan. Get your provider and ID card so that you look on the website and look around. You can usually find a
place to look at the therapists within what’s called you “network”. There are a multitude of really helpful sites such as Psychology Today, where you can put in filters such as your insurance network, and or subject matter, that can help you find someone in your area. The internet is great. If you’re a student at Sonoma State University, every student is entitled to ten free individual and personal sessions with CAPS(counseling and psychological services) every academic year. Unfortunately within the CSU system, there isn’t a lot of funding for such programs, making their supply of resources more limited than the demand for the service. CAPS tends to have about two week waiting periods to get an appointment, and have what I would consider a narrow window of issues they are able to cover. When I went there in the hopes to uncover what I needed to do to understand and improve my mental health, it seemed like it wasn’t a pressing enough matter for them to prioritize. However, another friend of mine with more pressing issues, was told that her situation was too extreme. I understand they have to do this to weed out who actually has other resources and choices among those who may not. Try it, as I’m sure it does much needed wonders for many.
Among therapy there are support groups, other relationships with mentors, friends and family, medical professionals, and medicines that can significantly improve your relationship with yourself and your mental health. As much as these things grant community and normalcy, the real work is within you. I know for myself I had to overturn everything I thought to be true. The way that I had looked at life and myself in it is what was keeping me down and unhappy. Sometimes it may very well be the tools you were given to navigate life that have outlived their usefulness and need upheaval. Figuring out what to do and who to be instead is tough, and it takes a constant and conscious effort to achieve. Constant and conscious. Our brain has been conditioned since childhood what is similar and what are we used to. If we grew up in unhealthy relationships, we perceive that as our normal. That’s why unseeing these things can be extremely tough, and dedication to another way of seeing things can seem impossible. Our brain has “attractors' ' that associate what we perceive as similar because our brain is objective. It doesn’t know what is or isn’t good for us, only what we are familiar with. That’s why, if you want to change your way of thinking, you have to constantly expose these attractors to these healthier aspects of thinking and behaving. Only then will they start to realize these healthier things are similar, familiar and can start to feel normal.
Maybe all that was difficult to understand. All I know is that I wasn’t better after I realized something was wrong and I wasn’t better after my first day of therapy. When I started to feel it in my day-to-day emotions, it was after about 6-9 months of focused living. I committed myself to myself and looked up positive apps, books, videos and social media accounts to help reinforce my day-to-day goals. It didn’t work everyday, and it still doesn’t. I catch old habits, ways of thinking and feeling all the time, but I’ve had to stay focused. That is why the first and most important thing is vigilance. Reflect on yourself, watch yourself and view yourself as someone worth protecting and improving. Build your knowledge base. Do research however you can; that can lead you to more answers that you realize. And don’t be afraid. You deserve it.