The decision to seek out care for an eating disorder, substance use disorder, mood disorder or trauma can be immensely challenging. There are many fears and questions, as well as barriers that exist to accessing quality care, so that even while there is initial relief in finally making a commitment to seek help, that hope and dedication can sometimes be squelched by subsequent doubts and other circumstantial setbacks. Almost everyone, individuals and families alike, have experienced some exhaustion and exasperation when it comes to trying to assemble the right treatment team, but in the end, all find that the perseverance through the difficulties at the beginning of the process can lead to finding a truly life-saving treatment experience whose impact lasts for years to come. Here are some common fears about seeking treatment, and how to replace those fears with a healthy dose of truth.
I’m Not Sick Enough
This is a lie that the eating disorder, addiction, or voice of self-loathing speaks to preserve itself – not you, your healthy self. The comparison game begins, and the mind wanders to others you’ve seen or heard of who were sicker and you come to the conclusion you must not be at the state of acuity that warrants treatment. However, if your behaviors/symptoms are making life unbearable, destroying relationships, your health, and keep you unable to work or concentrate, that means that extra support is absolutely necessary. Mental health is individual, not just determined by a set of diagnostic criteria in the DSM-V or a number on the scale. Reach out to a medical and/or behavioral health professional who can accurately assess your state of physical and mental health or talk to your current therapist about your fears and questions about seeking a higher level of care.
Going to Therapy Makes Me Weak
In fact, it is just the opposite: reaching out for help means you are incredibly strong! Being vulnerable, admitting struggle, and committing to change take tremendous internal strength. Most people, when faced with their darkest difficulties, tend to hide, push people and help away, and thereby, increase their own pain. Reaching out instead, admitting you can’t do it on your own, and enlisting the support of qualified professionals to guide you back to a place of hope and health isn’t just the right thing to do, it demonstrates immense courage. You can be confident in that.
I’ve Been to Therapy Before – What Hope is There For Me? Shouldn’t I Have This Figured Out by Now?
Short answer – No. We change as people, each year, each day, each moment. We experience different things, good and bad, throughout the course of our lives, which impact and shape us in different ways. Every season brings new challenges, and what we struggle with, issues of behaviors, identity, addressing traumas, fears and circumstances, are all different when we are a teenager, versus when we are in our 20s, versus when we are in our 40s, versus when we are in our 60s! Every stage of life brings new challenges, revelations and sometimes, triggers, and so it is perfectly normal to need more support during different phases of life. And in a new phase, perhaps a new or different therapist or level of care is needed. Seeking out help more than once in your life, especially if you’ve struggled in the past, is normal and a healthy part of sustaining recovery over a lifetime. Therapy and treatment aren’t about “one and done,” or “being fixed.” They are about self-discovery and equipping yourself with tools to persevere through current challenges in a healthy and life-giving way. There is always hope for change, and a therapist can help hold on to and show that hope when you have a hard time locating it yourself. It is ok, and again, very commendable, to seek out extra support whenever you need it, however many times you need it. And the great news is, since you know that you’ve overcome major struggles in the past, objective evidence exists that you can do it again. That is some real hope to hang on to.
There are, of course, other barriers to care – familial, circumstantial, financial, and otherwise. Additionally, in order for any treatment to be effective, the individual has to desire to change and work with the care team. But the external barriers to care can be better addressed and overcome when the internal work is done to quiet the fears and dying gasps of the disorder and commit to the process despite perhaps feeling half-ready. Take a leap of faith and dive in.
Your healthy self, your recovery, and your beautiful life are worth it.