How and When It’s Time to Reach Out to a Professional

By Allison Clemmons Hatch

Recently there has been no shortage of advice regarding techniques for self-care in light of the COVID-19 pandemic with regard to not only our physical, but our mental health care as well.  And thank goodness for that!

You have may have discovered a gem of an article describing what one person had done to decrease anxiety or thwart an onset depressive or manic episode.  But what about when the best advice and efforts have left you still suffering?  Perhaps you are fighting insomnia due to stress, despite your best efforts to manage it on your own, and now irritability or grandiose thinking has taken control anyway.  Maybe your caregiver at home has noticed your struggle too, and has offered you some much-needed feedback regarding behaviors you haven’t even seen yourself.

If you are managing medication too, and you are still having issues, it is probably time to reach out to your mental health professional.  When you have done your part and you still need help, ASK for that help.  That is why the clinicians are there for you.

First and foremost, hopefully you or someone close to you has recognized the symptoms with which you struggle.  If you don’t have that person, maybe you have taken notes in a journal to chart what has been happening. At any rate, try to get organized before it is too late. Some thoughtful notes will be helpful when you have to make that call to the psychiatrist or other professional.  Recognizing how things have changed over time, what may have triggered the symptoms, and their progression are life-savers for me, armed with my notebook, because otherwise I would forget half of the reasons that I need help at all.

Next, making that call.  Just because it isn’t time for your three-month appointment, do not hesitate.  Don’t be afraid to reach out between appointments when things get rough.  Make the call, schedule the appointment for as early as possible, or indicate if you believe you might need even more intense, immediate treatment.  For example, if you are experiencing delusions or have suicidal thoughts, make it known to your provider that you need to be seen sooner, in the ER perhaps.

During your appointment, don’t hold anything back.  Feel comfortable sharing journals or notes you have taken with your psychiatrist, and don’t be embarrassed.  He has probably heard it all, and being transparent helps him provide you more quality treatment.  Let him know if you have been taking your meds irregularly, changed your diet, or haven’t slept in four days. Be sure to share any major life changes that you think could have triggered the episode.

Being sincere and forthcoming, looking at your provider as your ally and part of your care team, is of utmost importance.  If in any event you feel you cannot do that, then it might be time to look for a new physician.  That is a separate matter entirely.

In my experience, interim or emergency appointments have led to a simple med change, maybe stabilization and then moving forward with that.  So it is nothing to avoid or fear, and hopefully if all goes right, they will have you back together before you know it.  If it still persists, keep going back until you find the root of the problem.  Don’t give up!

In this time of uncertainty, know that there is help out there for each of us.  Unless you ask, you will continue to suffer, and inevitably get worse in many cases.  Everyone’s case is different, but no one should suffer needlessly.  If you need help, please ask for it, no matter why or when.  Someone will be there to try to see you through your storm.

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