Why Is It So Hard to Ask for Help With My Mental Health?

November 26, 2010 Kate White

Asking for help is about as much fun as a tonsillectomy with a hose pipe and a pair of pliers. So, if I do get that far, try not to say things like "I know how you feel," "it can't be that bad," "aren't you over that yet?"

No. I'm pretty sure you don't, and I'm not. I have a chronic mental illness. It isn't going to go away. Ever.

Can you imagine...

Being told that at 14, 15, 16, 17 etc. etc.?

Realizing that every day of your life; you'll always have to wonder, to question yourself, and hope you have enough petrol in your pump. Then it's luck, a little elbow grease.

Knowing that you can be taking the 'right' medication but that nobody can tell you how it actually works, why it changes your mind. Especially not those glib little serotonin suckers crashing round your soul.
"Speaking of anxiety, why don't you try that public speaking course I did? It gave me the confidence to get back into things."

Well yes, I'm sure. And great! But much like telling an alcoholic they just need a good stiff drink and a lie down to feel better, in this instance.

The path of wisdom for those with anxiety disorders usually isn't to completely ignore the issue and do the things named most likely to result in a panic attack.

Even the best intentions will not cure my disease

Well-intentioned as almost all such remarks are, they've done me more harm than good. Walking away feeling misunderstood at best, doomed at worst. More than that, it denies my experience of my life, the universe and everything; Having a mental illness means I'm quite sufficiently marginalized without all the toppings.

Of course platitudes have their place but it's the fact that I've heard them under almost every conceivable circumstance, and then some. It's the fact that they're what I most commonly hear in response to any revelation from almost anyone about anything to do with mental health.

Sure it's partly how someone with a mental illness communicates that determines the reaction they'll get from the people in their lives. Just like anybody else. That's the key. Right there.

Just like anybody else wants to be seen, felt, heard for who they really are. Their experience valued. And the experience of someone with a mental health condition includes things that are going to be uncomfortable for other people. Much as hearing about someone's broken leg isn't that pleasant but it's a story you'll listen to from a friend, sister, cousin. It's a healing thing.

The story of my mental health is about more than just illness

Healing requires acceptance. It means relieving yourself of all the burdens of dis-ease and stigma: That's a two-way street.

Society, the people in the lives of those with mental illness, we ourselves each have to be willing to hear unpleasant truths, to face uncertain, ambiguous realities and come back from those -

We all need some sense of coming home, of comfort and safety, and of people willing to hear the whole story of disorder anxiety and mental health; The one that includes overcoming and relapse, joy and defeat, fear, exhaustion, realization and yes, pain.

You don't have to fix us. Maybe it seems selfish but I'd rather do that myself, thanks.

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APA Reference
White, K. (2010, November 26). Why Is It So Hard to Ask for Help With My Mental Health?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Kate White

Dr Musli Ferati
December, 3 2010 at 9:03 pm

The ability to ask for help is basic need in daily life, but very intrigant social performance. To ask for help with any health problem presents an anxious relationship experience. Whereas, when it comes to a mentally ill person, the issue becomes even more alarming. It is the unconscious fear that restrain us from mentally ill persons. While stigma and ignoring mental patients close this unfortunate social careers of individuals with mental illness.This in turn further aggravates the mental status of this category of delicate population.

November, 28 2010 at 12:14 pm

Recently, I've been working on this sort of thing with my sister. I've begun to realise that using simple words to explain, say, anxiety attacks isn't really hitting the mark. If I say, "when I get stressed out, I'm actually in pain" apparently doesn't really translate.
So now I say things like, "my stress reaction is broken and it's a form of disability. Sometimes the first thing I know about being stressed is that my heart is racing and I am in really strong physical pain - my heart actually hurts quite badly. And sometimes this racing heart and all the rest goes on all day, or even longer".
I know not everyone wants to hear it, but even getting through to a handful of people in your life exactly what's going on... well I find that makes a difference.

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