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“You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.”
~ César Chávez
I had a long chat with a close friend yesterday. She’s been struggling for a while – I’ve heard it in her voice, I’ve seen it in the way her usual happy disposition had given way to a furrowed brow, a tight smile, and an inability to laugh things off the way she once had. I’ve felt it in her energy.
Are you okay? I’d been asking her this year.
Yep, she’d say, shutting down the conversation. Or ‘just a bit tired’ she’d say, before moving us on to talk about something else.
She was doing all the right things – exercising, eating a great diet, getting time out for herself. But at the same time she was spiralling down into a very flat place, where every day was an effort, a place where all the joy had been sucked out of life. Each day was just another day to endure. My friend was shrinking; becoming less visible in her life, and with her friends, and becoming less and less emotionally available to the people who loved her. She didn’t have the creative drive, or the enthusiasm, or the innovative and problem-solving ideas that were a normal part of her disposition. My friend was less like herself each day.
Her life is not so different to many. She has a family member who is in need of extra attention right now. She rarely gets an unbroken night’s sleep, and hasn’t had a decent break for a long time. They have financial pressures, and their household is dealing with changed circumstances. As well as all of life’s usual stress.
Having continuously elevated levels of stress hormones is never good. They rob us of sleep and mood enhancing hormones. They diminish our libido, paint every day grey and leave us as exhausted, miserable shells of ourselves. Our digestion becomes compromised, and our immune systems. It becomes impossible to feel happy, because we lack certain hormones and chemicals that allow us to relax and operate in our usual way.
Some of us can bring ourselves back with meditation, diet, and lifestyle changes. Sometimes a therapist or support services can help. But my friend was doing all of that, and she couldn’t just hand back her family, or walk away from her life. Changing her current circumstances is not an option.
My friend found herself looking forward to that glass of wine each night. In fact she was beginning to rely on that glass of wine. No, she didn’t have a drinking problem. But she had a sleep problem. An exhaustion problem. A ground-down by life problem. She was chronically over-tired, stressed and wired.
Crunch time came when she was at the doctor for something completely different, and the kind physician asked her how my friend was coping.
My friend burst into tears.
The doctor suggested a low-dose anti-depressant. My friend was so reluctant to say yes. But in the end, out of desperation and needing to try SOMETHING to help, she did.
And it HAS helped. Finally my friend has been able to sleep better, to unload some of the tension inside her, and to go from feeling cranky or numb to a place where there is some sunshine again.
We talked about it yesterday.
It was as if my friend had a terrible secret she needed to confess.
I was just grateful she had finally found something that was working, and that could help her cope better with her life right now.
Who would ever want their friend to suffer?
My friend summed it up so well. ‘I needed to do something to make life livable again,’ she said.
As a psychic, people ‘confess’ often to me that they are on medication for stress, or depression, or anxiety. For them it has often been a last resort, after they’d tried everything else and nothing had given them relief. They are all strong people. In that strength they’d often carried on for far too long without seeking help.
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There is too often a shame, or an embarrassment with their ‘confession’. Some kind of stigma about how they may be perceived – because they weren’t ‘strong enough’ or because somehow they are flawed or weak compared to the rest of society.
They often feel that they need to get on and off the medication fast too. What if they become dependent? What if people find out?
Goodness. Why should mental health be different to any other kind of health? Some people take hormones to balance their thyroids, or to regulate ovulation. Some people take insulin to stabilise and regulate their blood sugar. Some people need blood transfusions or anti-virals or immuno-suppressants. No stigma there.
If you are stuck in a place where life isn’t working for you, you deserve to explore all of the options which could lead to a change in how you feel. Talking to someone can help. Changing your diet, exercising and using behaviour-based therapies can help. Changing your life circumstances might do the trick. And for some people, taking medications or supplements to help improve their brain chemistry and hormones works well too.
It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to seek solutions. It’s okay that one of those solutions may come in the form of a small pill which helps normalise your body’s functionality until you’re back in a place of being able to cope on your own.
You deserve to be well, to be happy and to be able to function in the world.
If you need to, ask for help.
Everybody needs help sometimes.