Let Them Know

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         “I can’t tell them. I don’t want to bother them.” That is what I thought for so long. For over a year, as my personal mental health concerns grew and worsened, I kept them a secret. I denied my issues, and I denied there was a problem that any help could even fix. In time, I realized I was wrong, and it was well past time to tell someone I needed help. 7 years later, I still had not disclosed everything, and my path to recovery changed drastically again.

         It’s scary telling people about problems they cannot see, and it is extremely difficult to tell them everything. It may even feel like explaining it all might just make things worse, for you, and for everyone who knows you. Regardless, it is painfully necessary to let someone—anyone close, who will listen with concern, that you trust—what is really going on, and how you struggle. Whether it’s substance use, physical abuse, emotional turmoil, social difficulties, or the possibility of a mental disorder, it is better to try informing someone, than continuing, day and night, to suffer all alone.

         I was bullied from age 4 to age 18; I explored my limits with alcohol, marijuana, and intimacy; many of my relationships crumbled, and I had signs and symptoms of mental illness: but I never, truly let another person know until I was 22 years old. My recovery was overdue. At age 16 I sought help for suicidal thoughts, but didn’t say enough, and was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder for almost 6 years. Only recently, after honestly, fully informing those closest to me and my doctors, have I found accurate labels for my problems, and reliable treatment paths. And only recently, it has begun to feel 100% better. I know it feels horrible describing personal shortcomings, but it might be necessary to get better.

         In my experience and the experiences of others I have talked with, the following are key steps in asking someone for support:

·      State the problem(s)

·      List the symptoms of the problem(s)

·      Describe how the problem(s) make your life difficult

·      Let them know you want help with the problem; that you want to get better

     I have heard from others, including members of support groups, therapists, psychiatrists and other doctors, that only we—as individuals—have the power to change and improve our own lives. I resisted this overused phrase for so long, but it is true. Only you have the power to change things, and that may mean that you have to address things or take action to recover. If the problem seems unbearable, I recommend it, a lot of others in recovery recommend it, and the hardship is worth it with time when you stop fighting it alone.

Written by Nick Berreth