Why It's Hard to Admit We Need Help

Why It's Hard to Admit We Need Help

Why does it seem so much easier to see what other people might need than to see what we need ourselves?

I recently came across an article called, The Psychology of Realising That You Need Psychological Help, by Christian Jarrett of the British Psychological Society1. The article contains a study that concludes: “out of 9,000 patients, only one-third of people suffering from mental illness thought that psychotherapy could help them.”

Another study found that patients suffered “an average of 10.5 years before thinking that psychotherapy could help them, and participants said: the most difficult step towards starting treatment was deciding that psychotherapy might be beneficial.”

After Hugh’s accident, I was a wreck, but I managed the emergency, and I stayed “strong” for our two daughters. At least I thought I did. I could not shield them from the pain of seeing their father in a hospital bed in the ICU fighting for his life. So I told them what most parents would tell their children: “We can handle this. We’ll get through this together.”

Two years later—after three surgeries, over a year of rehab, job loss, seizures, quirky symptoms, and setbacks—we emerged from the darkest days of traumatic brain injury. Hugh’s condition was dramatically improved, and he wanted to do more. He wanted to get on his bike again; he wanted to work again. He wanted to take chances—chances that threw me into fits of panic.

It took me fifteen months of sleepless nights and a bad case of shingles to commit myself to counseling with a therapist—I’m so glad I did not wait 10.5 years! The thought of needing counseling made me uncomfortable. I truly believed that with time, I’d feel better. The opposite was true. Time made my problems worse. I became an over-protective mother, a hypervigilant wife, and my mind buzzed with anxiety every hour of the day and night.

Why did I suffer a long time before seeking help? Psychotherapy is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as the treatment of mental or emotional illness by talking about problems rather than by using medicine or drugs. But the word “psychotherapy” conjures up other images. For one thing, the first part of the word is “psycho.” Our society has all kinds of other (not so nice) words for psycho and a major motion picture devoted to the name!

Who wants to admit they have mental health problems? We’d rather say, “I’m just stressed out.”

When I finally did seek help, I was fortunate to find referrals to the right kind of Licensed Clinical Social Worker and neuropsychologist—professionals who understood traumatic brain injuries and how they affect family members.

In therapy, I learned that there were concrete words for my condition and reasons behind my dark moods, edgy feelings, and negative thoughts. Psychotherapy helped me learn:

  • What was really bothering me (ambiguous loss, loss of personal time)
  • How to shift my thought patterns
  • How to relate better to my family members
  • How to forgive myself and others and reclaim my life
  • And how to respond to my individual challenges with healthy coping skills.

Before I sought help, I didn’t want to be the person who couldn’t handle a difficult situation. I also didn’t see how talking to someone could help my situation or how I could put my feelings into words in a way that someone else could possibly understand.

When I finally did receive counseling, I realized I was wrong on all counts. My doctors and therapists helped guide my thinking in directions I could not find on my own. Learning about resources and relaxation techniques helped. Talking did help; it helped a great deal. Opening the floodgates to my grief felt like popping a giant blister—oh, what a relief!

And I came to understand that mental illness is no different than physical illness. Our mental health is part of our human condition, part of our overall health, driven by hormones, physical strain, and emotional upheaval.

My wish for every caregiver is that he or she realizes, sooner than I did, that seeking psychotherapy is not a sign of weakness but a sign of intelligence and strength, and that guidance from a professional can lead to an end to what feels like endless pain.

Don’t wait 10.5 years to feel better. You deserve to feel better today.

Comments (8)

Rosemary,

In earlier writing pertaining to this clip, I mention came back a completely different person. Night and day, you could say. Evaporated were all the mundane items of life that you may stress over. A totally new horizon had been broached. Life in a different paradigm had arrived... no idea how to deal with it but was totally "chilled" about new situation. Depressed, yes, very, but tension had been removed and relaxation was the buzzword to be remembered... You did not have this transformation, initially. It hit you much further on down the road... yes, I know this is how it operated.

Think back from your initial recognition of situation with Son. You have grown immensely spiritually and mentally. No comparison from the beginning, correct?

It happened just the way it was suppose to. No looking back, no feeling guilty... that is what dismantles the mind and subsequently, you tag along with these destructive thoughts and become less and less attached to the being that was before this seeming, calamity, struck. It didn't happen "just because."  It was to be... acceptance is a requisite for recovery... .inhale it, be it, and learn to enjoy the beast because that is what it be, initially!!!

One grows immeasurably from this seemingly disastrous occurrence. There is not good and there is no bad..........................................................all situations are just the way they are suppose to be, Just Right!!!

Art

Rosemary,

It's hard to admit we need help because there are so many variables coming at you 24/7. If you can quiet the onslaught and therefore make it manageable, serenity is upon thee. How to do it... seek outside help is one way. An outside perspective allows you to view situations differently. Also, you can kick start the process yourself by looking at things differently. Quiet difficult but a simpler proposal for someone who sustained a TBI. I'm living proof... already gone through a major transformation, why not shift the mind into another. Became quite adapt at these sort of things as travel on the road to recovery allows one to analyze situations. Plus, everything has slowed down to a crawl. A TBI person should use that to their advantage. Different for you, Rosemary. You are still processing the old way... super fast and the anxiety is ratcheting up as you get more and more involved in a process that really have no control over, at certain times. Thus, your machine, body, spirals out of control. Thankfully, you were humble enough to realize couldn't do everything. It reached the point, I'm sure, where became overwhelmed. Day after day, that feeling bore in until realized, "its got to stop." Then sought outside help for yourself. Perspective, perspective, perspective... it  is all there to be handled. No right or wrong... set the mind to the tune you wish to play... if that fails or changes, revamp perspective and tackle once more or pull back. Pulling back is a "perspective" also... draw your resources inward may be the "just right" solution for all involved. Think about that... you were humble enough to look for help outside.

TBI is a humbling experience for the sustained... likewise for the caregiver from a different perspective!!!

Art

Rosemary,

Life is a learning process as we grow older...we learn or stagnate, one or the other, in how to address situations that arise in our life. A "Traumatic Brain Injury" represents a major reclamation project from either end of the spectrum when such a situation is thrust upon oneself. You wouldn't wish it to happen to anyone, but yes, it has happened to you. How do you approach this malicious malfunction of nature placed before thee?

Search for resources is the initial move. Rely on MD's...you can but grasping the situation hands on is the best approach, in my eye's, an yours, as well.

Destiny is alive, destiny has laid barren, thou shelf, is how one can contemplate a Traumatic Brain Injury inclusion into life's path...acceptance or denial?

First get comfortable with the new reality from either perspective. This takes time. How much time? You'll know when the dragon has been slain and projections arise upward...a matter of time and perspective...it be within one an all!!!

Art

I studied counseling and psychology and if I was intentioned to go under psychotherapy I know what the questions may lead to know,I am not naive nor paranoid...I have knowledge now,but the relief comes from the person itself and the brain capacity of recovery....other things are just words

Rosemary,

This is more than a comment. I wrote something in my tablet twenty minutes ago. This is thirty-third tablet writing in. Rarely do I put writings on computer. This piece yearns to see the light of public viewing. Here it is...verbatim.!!!

12-27-15     4:19 PM         

Don't write as much as I get older. Wonder why? Not really, I know why an it's JR. I survived getting hit by a train. As I noted before in these pages, remember looking to my right an a locomotive was right before my eye's. In that instant, total relaxation circulated throughout my body and everything was behind me an I accepted it. Totally at ease as I thought existence on "this plane of thought" was no more, all behind me. I accepted that thought with "relish?"  Don't know if "relish" is the word to describe the feeling. Peacefulness may be a better word. And that "peacefulness" felt surely did transcend into the being am, for I lived. Returned upright to earthly wares a different person. Restrained by the TBI sustained, the radio frequency of operation was lowered an extreme amount.

I imagine this happens to all people who reach old age. Gradually or suddenly, at some point a person realizes he/she is slowing down. My change came in nuclear magnification. And such are the musings of a thirty-five year TBI survivor...it be JR, just right!!! Art

Rosemary,

Admitting you need help is the beginning of the end of the problem. From your perspective, extremely difficult. You can't admit to having a problem, "what about Hugh," the person you are trying to take care of and rehabilitate. In order to do this to the best of your ability, searching for help  of oneself, is a solution. Spreading yourself in to many situations is problematic, itself. You truly possess a keen eye for resolution...!!! ac

If is wonderful if you realize you need help and you go right away to get help.  That would the best!  But. don't be ashamed or afraid if you wait 10.5 years to get help.  I hid my problems from myself for a very long time.  I was 59 years old before I went for help for things that happened in my childhood.  I almost didn't go for help because I felt I was so old, and that I shouldn't be letting things still bother me.  It doesn't matter when you go for help.  If you need some support there are counselors out there to help.  

It's Obvious , at the time, that You Realized it was in Your Family's best interest also that You progressed to take this step. As Outcomes differ, it Appears as though Your decision helped turn You into the mortar that has kept Your Family concrete. The foundation of anything is only as strong as the mortar that holds it together. I Admire the Family that You have considering the Earthquake of emotions that You have Conquered.