In light of recent events - the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, individuals who appeared to have their lives together with their financial success, fame and unique careers that encouraged others to follow their dreams - it's taken many by surprise. I've seen a lot of posts from friends on social media encouraging others to check in with their friends, to be kind as everyone is struggling with something. I wanted to add something to that conversation, and that is the importance of self care. I think when horrible events like this take place, people feel a lot of guilt. They think of others who have lost their lives to depression and they feel responsible, blaming themselves for not reaching out more. While I think being a good friend and a good listener is just about one of the best things you can do in this world - for someone who struggles with depression, I know the weight that comes with taking on the problems of others. I think it's incredibly important to encourage your friends and family members who struggle with depression to seek help from professionals - whether that's a one on one therapist, group therapy, or an online support group.
Finding the right therapist is an overwhelming task. By helping your loved one find the right professional with the right tools to help them live a healthier, happier life - you are being the best friend you can be. Sometimes just telling them that it's okay to need help, you're doing them an even greater service.
About 2 1/2 years ago my anxiety reached the point that I needed the help of a professional. This was not an easy decision, it was something I went back and forth about...convincing myself that I could deal on my own. I was worried about what my family would think and for a long time I didn't tell my friends because I was nervous that they would think I was crazy and not want to be friends anymore. But that wasn't the case at all. The more I was honest with those around me, the more I learned that I was not alone and that I had nothing to be ashamed of.
Talking to my therapist was one of the best things I've ever done for myself, and my husband deserves a lot of credit for the way my mental health has improved. He's never made me feel ashamed when I go to my appointments, or the fact that my brain was not an "easy fix" as I had hoped and that I've continued to see my therapist for years now. He helped me find the right therapist by sending me links to the websites of the professionals he thought could help me with my specific issues. With him doing the preliminary research it made my job of picking the right one so much less overwhelming.
I learned that I had obsessive compulsive disorder, specifically I have what is called "Pure O" which focuses mainly on the "O" in OCD; obsessive thoughts. I struggle with ruminating, which means that once a thought gets in my head, it spins around in circles until I've convinced myself the worst possible outcome will occur. Finding someone that I could talk to about my fears, who had the tools to help me overcome them has made a huge impact on my life.
One of the things my therapist has helped me with over the last two years is dealing with my greatest fears through exposure therapy.
Exposure therapy is "a psychological treatment that was developed to help people confront their fears. When people are fearful of something, they tend to avoid the feared objects, activities or situations. Although this avoidance might help reduce feelings of fear in the short term, over the long term it can make the fear become even worse. In such situations, a psychologist might recommend a program of exposure therapy in order to help break the pattern of avoidance and fear. In this form of therapy, psychologists create a safe environment in which to “expose” individuals to the things they fear and avoid. The exposure to the feared objects, activities or situations in a safe environment helps reduce fear and decrease avoidance." - American Psychological Association
This painting is a visual representation of what the experience of going through exposure therapy felt like.
I hope that by being honest and upfront about my struggles with mental illness, others will know they're not alone and that there is no shame with seeking help.
Thanks for reading along.
Hi friends! Welcome to the blog! I'm Mandy and I'm an artist, blogger & founder of the "Artists to Know" interview series. Here you'll find photos of my latest art adventures, furniture makeover projects & advice from successful artists!
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