29 Oct Why asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness

We all struggle. Some struggles are physical, some spiritual, and some are psychological.  Sitting in grad school, I recall my professor sharing, “Every person alive has some symptoms of a mental disorder.”  I soon realized the truth in his statement.

My Story

Approximately 3 summers ago I experienced severe clinical depression. After consulting with my doctor, I discovered my depression was connected to a hormonal imbalance, resulting from menopause.  My symptoms were typical of depression: uncontrollable daily crying for no particular reason, no motivation or energy, feeling hopeless, without joy or purpose, feeling like life as I had known it was over.  I often slept to avoid thinking about how hopeless I felt. I had absolutely no energy or motivation to read my Bible, do housework, and could barely pray. My prayer was, “Lord, please help!”

Ironically, during this dark time, God faithfully provided His strength and wisdom to continue counseling others during this season. I could not have done it without Him! When each session ended, I would get in my car, head home, and the tears would flow again.

Fortunately, the “light” of life began to shine again, although not immediately.  With the proper medication and the faithful prayers of friends and family, the claws of depression lost their grip on me.  I discovered that God doesn’t waste our pain, but uses it to help us minister to others in their suffering. Our misery truly can become our ministry.

When should I ask for help? What will that look like?

Statistics reveal that the most common mental illnesses diagnosed in the United States are anxiety and depressive disorders. This certainly is consistent with what I see in my counseling practice, and sadly it’s appearing more frequently in young people.

Although mental illness is a legitimate health concern, it appears that people more easily seek treatment for a physical ailment than for a psychological one. In the US alone, 56% of those with a known mental illness never seek professional help. Regrettably, a stigma seems attached to mental disorders.  Some view experiencing mental struggles as a sign of weakness, or think having more faith or praying consistently will eliminate their mental illness.  Many times this is not realistic, especially when the mental struggle interferes with daily life.

Remember, we ALL struggle. Admitting we need help is a sign of strength! God did not intend for us to “do life” on our own. He provides for us in numerous ways. Sometimes that provision is through trained professionals, who can minister to us through the knowledge God has given them in their particular training.

People often need additional help, particularly if their problem has lasted more than two weeks. A wise first step is to have a thorough medical evaluation. Additionally, a psychiatric evaluation may provide a specific diagnosis, leading to the most effective treatment. Since many mental disorders include depression as a symptom, an accurate diagnosis is important. Although a primary care doctor or psychiatrist can prescribe medication to help relieve a client’s symptoms (if needed), a therapist or counselor can provide therapy to help the client cope more effectively. Research shows that counseling, combined with medication, is often the best avenue to heal or diminish the anguish that accompanies a mental disorder.

Researchers are learning that disorders of anxiety and depression run in families and have a biological basis. Although I do not push medication, there are circumstances when it is necessary. Just as a diabetic often needs insulin to balance blood sugar, a person who is clinically depressed often needs medication to obtain relief. Medication might be needed only for a season or may be something the client has to take all his life. Regardless, whatever plan leads the client to live life abundantly and feel like himself again is worth it!

Conclusion

The issue of mental health is a continuum, and people may fall anywhere on the spectrum. In addition to His Word, God has provided us with doctors, counselors, psychiatrists, and praying friends when we journey through trials. It’s His faithful way of taking care of us until we arrive in heaven.

If you or someone you know is in a state of hopelessness and is not open or emotionally able to call a counselor or trusted friend, please reach out for help.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. It’s free, confidential, and available 24/7.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)


Pam Field is a kindergarten teacher, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a big fan of McDonald’s coffee.