Maybe you’ve gone to therapy before. Maybe you even went for a few sessions.
And it didn’t work. You left feeling frustrated, or maybe even worse than before.
So you decided to forgo therapy altogether, labeling it as unhelpful.
You’re not alone.
This is exactly what happened to me when I first went to therapy. And it put me off therapy for a long time.
I got matched up with someone who I didn’t get along with at all. She was the type of person who just grated on me, because that’s how our personalities interacted. And after three sessions, she told me that I didn’t need therapy anymore, and that was that.
This was so invalidating. I hadn’t even told her about the issues I was dealing with yet. How could she say we were done when I hadn’t even opened up to her about what I was struggling with?
I didn’t try therapy again for another three years. And I ended up suffering in the meantime.
In fact, I was nearly institutionalized because of how severe my mental problems became.
But it wasn’t until I started seriously looking around for a therapist that I began improving. I had to go through five therapists before I found one that worked for me. And it took me nearly a year to find the right fit.
In all honesty, you’re going to need to shop around for a therapist in order to really get the benefit out of therapy.
Now, I’ve encountered a few people who, when they hear this, want to give up because it’s too much effort or seems pointless. “Why should I shop around for a therapist, Mel? Why can’t I just go with the first one I find?”
Let me put it this way.
Committing to the first therapist you find is like agreeing to go on a blind date, and then getting married after just one date. While there are times when it can work out, more often than not, it just doesn’t.
Let’s say you try to make it work. Sometimes, you might even feel like your therapist understands where you’re coming from. But there are going to be times when you’re frustrated, or you feel like your therapist just doesn’t get it. That’s going to make it harder to open up to them in the future, and then your sessions won’t have the impact you need to recover.
Going back to our blind date analogy, most people want to date around before they decide on who they want to stay with for the rest of their life. Because it’s a long term commitment, and you could be making a big mistake by staying with someone who isn’t good for you.
Benefits of Shopping Around for a Therapist
There are a lot of reasons why shopping around for a therapist is beneficial. I can guarantee that taking some extra time to find one that works for you is going to help you in the long run.
Shopping Around Gives You Qualities to Compare
Along with the service they provide, you’re going to want to make sure your personality works well with that of the therapist you end up seeing.
For example, if you don’t deal well with confrontation, you might not work well with a no nonsense therapist. But if he’s the first person you come into contact with, you could come to the conclusion that therapy isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re the type of person who needs things put to you bluntly, this could be a great fit. It all depends on what works best for you.
Trying Different Therapists Gives You a Clear Idea of What Sorts of Therapy Styles Work Best For You
If you’ve never been to therapy before, you have no idea what to look for. You probably don’t even know what therapy is like, let alone what therapy techniques would be most helpful to you.
Going to a variety of therapists exposes you to different types of techniques. Through that exposure, you can see what types feel best for the help you’re looking for and which ones don’t seem very helpful.
You Could Save a Lot of Money
One more practical advantage of shopping around for therapists is that you could find one that helps you save money. In all honesty, there are probably a number of therapists that would work well for you. However, they don’t all charge the same amount of money. If you’re trying to decide between a couple of therapists, and can’t pick, cost can help you make the decision.
Finding a therapist is a process, and it’s one that you can’t rush. Trust me when I say that you’re going to do better overall if you take time to shop around for a therapist.
Treating symptoms is something we do in western culture a lot. It’s why we take so many medications, and a big part of why healthcare costs are so high.
Most of us don’t realize that doing this is like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing wound. It’ll stop the blood for a moment, but it won’t help you heal the wound.
I’ve been dealing with just treating “symptoms” for as long as I can remember.
It’s how I grew up. If I wasn’t feeling well, I would just take a pill for it and call it good. Never mind that the pill usually didn’t take away the symptoms. It just muffled them and made them “manageable.”
Take, for example, the stomach issues I’d had for most of my life.
I’ve had stomach aches for as long as I can remember. It started when I noticed I had severe allergies to all tree nuts. When I was 11, I believed I was lactose intolerant and just started taking the pill that was supposed to help you digest dairy.
But nearly 12 years later, I had a blood test done on me and discovered that I was actually allergic to the protein in cow’s milk. Who knows how long I had been going about with that allergy, eating it anyways because I was just treating the symptoms, instead of trying to figure out where the issues were coming from.
Because I only treated the symptoms, I now have severe digestive issues. There are over two dozen foods that I can’t eat because they cause me a lot of pain. If I had known about my allergy early on, I could have avoided it altogether and also avoided the damage I ended up doing to my digestive system. Because I had eaten food I was allergic to for so long, I now have an auto-immune condition in my digestive tract.
That’s what treating only the symptoms does. It allows the problem to build up, until it becomes so severe that it actively interferes with your life.
You don’t want it to get this far.
It’s a horrible way to live, and when you’re not hyper-vigilant, you end up spending the day in pain and have to miss out on a lot.
How You Are Putting a Band-Aid on Mental Health
How might this apply to mental health, I hear you asking?
There are a number of ways in which people do this. In fact, many of the current treatment methods, or things people do in order to deal with their issues involve just trying to treat the symptoms. You don’t have to have a mental illness in order to just be treating the symptoms of an issue.
Relying on Substances to Numb the Pain
Believe me, I know how tempting it is to turn to weed or alcohol, or any number of substances just to try to get your mind off of any number of things that could be causing you pain.
Your family is falling apart
You’re still trying to recover from childhood trauma
Your job is incredibly stressful, but you have no way out
I’ve seriously considered doing it on many occasions (even as recently as a few weeks ago).
But you know why I don’t? Because all it does is numb the pain. It doesn’t do anything to make the pain go away or do anything to treat the source of the pain. And as soon as the numbing wears off, the pain comes right back and you have to deal with it all over again.
Avoiding Going to a Therapist
There are so many reasons people don’t go to a therapist. Some of them are legitimate and troublesome, so please don’t take this as me shaming you for not going to get help.
But sometimes, you might say that you don’t need a therapist, or that going to a therapist is only for crazy people.
I feel like I have a pretty good handle on my mental illnesses now. I talk to my therapist at least once a week to make sure I stay in that good place and in order to address anything that comes up. Staying in constant contact with my therapist also helps me to catch problematic beliefs that are sabotaging the work I’m trying to do.
Going to a therapist is one of the best ways to treat your problem at the source. Their entire job is to help you identify problems, and then help you figure out ways to address them. They want to help you stop hurting, and the techniques they use are incredibly helpful at addressing the source, and stopping your issues there.
I feel like this is one of the bigger problems. People avoid looking into themselves, because they’re afraid of what they’re going to find. There’s a reason you try to push pain away or try to numb it. It’s because pain is uncomfortable, and we’re hard wired to try to avoid it at all costs.
By introspecting, or looking into yourself, you’re going to face things that cause you pain. You’re going to encounter things that make you uncomfortable, and things that you don’t want to deal with.
But you know what? You’re going to hurt anyways, and the longer you put off introspecting, the longer you’ll have to deal with pain.
Think of it like physical therapy after you’ve had an injury or a surgery. Going to physical therapy and doing your exercises hurts like hell. There are days when you don’t want to do it, and days when it hurts so bad that you can do nothing but cry.
But what happens if you don’t deal with it? You end up crippled, and you end up going through life experiencing some kind of pain all of the time. But if you keep going to physical therapy? Eventually, you won’t have to deal with the pain anymore, and you’ll be back to your normal, active self.
Trying to Push Through It
This is another form of ignoring what is going on. You know you feel bad, but you feel like you should be able to handle it. You feel like you should be able to deal with your life anyways, so you decide to just keep trying to cope with your life.
This is a bad way of going about life, because you aren’t healing. Eventually, you will break. Eventually, your feelings and problems will catch up with you, and you won’t be able to push through it anymore.
I know because I went through it, myself. After I graduated college, I kept trying to function, I kept trying to live a normal adult life.
And you know what happened?
I ended up having a mental breakdown that took nearly a year to recover from. An entire year where I couldn’t work and I couldn’t pull my own weight. I was completely dependent on my partner during that time, both emotionally and physically. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what I would have done.
It’s much easier to take some time before you break to deal with your issues, than it is to get there and recover after you’ve shattered.
Getting a Pill to Fix the Problem
This one is really common. I see it in my family all of the time. It’s why the nation has such a big opioid problem. We have this mindset that if we can just find the right pill, everything will be taken care of and we won’t have to worry about our issues anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, medication is amazing and I wouldn’t be where I am without it. My medications keep my brain chemistry stable and ensures that I can function well enough to work through other issues.
But medication is not always the right choice—and usually isn’t the first. Many don’t realize that medication is not the whole solution, either. For many people, it is part of it, but it is never the end of the road.
Medication can cause a lot of unwanted side effects. It can even make the problem worse than it was before.
You need to work through your issues AND take medication. Many people find that once they work through their issues, they don’t actually need to rely on the medication anymore.
Those who were once considered narcotic addicts often overcome their addiction without the help of going to a program like AA (many people who are dependent on narcotics will go to AA or a program like it for help). Studies have found that when people’s life improved, their addiction did as well.
What Happens When You Put a Band-Aid on Your Mental Health
Take it from someone who knows, just treating the symptoms is no way to live. You’re constantly depending on a pill or a specific treatment to make sure that you stay functioning. Meanwhile, the source of your problems is never-ending, and you’re stuck in the cycle of treatment.
Until you work on treating the source of your symptoms, they will constantly pop up. It doesn’t matter how many Band-Aids you put on it, or how many pills you take. The symptoms will still be there, and you won’t actually get better.
Trying to treat your mental health problems at the source can be anything from uncomfortable to terrifying. It could require you to confront trauma that caused your mental illness. It could require you to challenge destructive thinking patterns and change the way you look at the world. It’s almost definitely going to require a lot of hard work from you.
But think about it this way.
Would you rather spend the rest of your life trying to outrun your symptoms, forever attempting to keep one step ahead of the pain, or would you like the pain to end? Reaching that place where you are symptom free will take work. It will take a lot of work. But so will trying to patch yourself up for the rest of your life.
Isn’t it worth the effort?
I’ll tell you which one I’d rather do.
I’d rather have the problem be gone for good and not have to worry about dealing with it anymore.
But a lot of times, people don’t think about it that way. People just try to make the pain go away without figuring out where the pain is coming from, or why the pain is happening in the first place. Then they’re confused at why these problems keep coming up, and feel discouraged or like there is no end to the pain.
I think this is a big part of why people feel like their recovery isn’t successful. Because they’re just trying to make their symptoms go away instead of treating their problem from where it comes from.
And if this is how you think about recovery, it’s not going to be successful. You can’t just magic your symptoms away and avoid dealing with the root of the problem.
But if you consider recovery to be how well you’re addressing and working on the source of your problems, how well you’re doing overall at reducing where your issues come from, then it becomes something else entirely.
It’s a lot easier to see victories and progress when you have this whole perspective in mind.
What Happens When You Address the Source
Now, I know this is super uncomfortable. You’re not going to want to go through with this. It’s going to be awkward, and you’re going to want to run away.
But! I can promise you that once you do go through with this, you’ll notice a huge difference.
You’ll have a better ability to deal with the problems that face you
Let me tell you, I am nowhere near done with my recovery.
But you know what? Because of the effort I’ve taken to address my problems and deal with the source of some of my fears, I’ve been able to clear some of them out.
And that has given me a better ability to deal with the problems and the set backs that come up.
Just a few months ago, my family very suddenly was split into two parties that were fighting each other.
If this had happened even just a year ago, I would have been crippled with depression and anxiety. I would have felt like the world was ending, and that there was nothing I could do about it.
But, ever since dealing with some of the sources of my mental illness, I was able to recognize what was happening. I was able to see that what had happened wasn’t my fault, and while it was really hard, I was able to turn to my coping strategies. I used the toolbox of recovery methods I’ve been building up to make sure I was okay.
And it worked! I’ve had some mild depression, but I’ve been able to continue running my business and keeping up with social obligations. I’ve been able to continue living my life, and it’s been absolutely great.
You’ll find that the symptoms eventually stop coming up
One of the best things that will happen once you deal with the source of your problems is that your symptoms will stop coming up!
A few years ago, I was afraid of hearing a toy piano. Anytime it would come up, I would start to dissociate and disconnect from the world around me.
But, I’ve since figured out that the reason I did that was because one of my abusers would listen to music with a toy piano in it often. I helped my brain to see that the sound did not mean my abuser was coming back into my life. It was just a sound.
And with time, I was able to hear the toy piano again. Now I hear it, and I don’t even realize what I am listening to!
Remember, this will take time and it won’t happen right away. But sticking to it means that you won’t have to deal with it forever, and one day you’ll get to a point where you don’t have to deal with these symptoms anymore.
Here we go, one of the most controversial topics when it comes to mental health.
I know what you’re going to say. I’ve been there before and said it myself.
“Exercise isn’t going to fix my depression. Eating well isn’t going to make me feel any better.”
“I’m too depressed or anxious to start exercising. I don’t have the energy to try.”
And believe me, I know what that’s like.
Just a few years ago, I never would have thought I’d see benefits from nutrition and exercise for mental health.
I’ve always been worried about my health. Whenever I go into a doctor’s office and they ask what you have a family history of, 9 out of 10 boxes are checked. I grew up with a serial dieter who insisted that everyone in the house diet with him. I was 10 when he started, and he would always get mad at us when his diet went wrong, or when he didn’t stick to it.
Add to the fact that this person also psychologically abused me for most of my life, and it’s no wonder that I didn’t start off with a great relationship with health. In fact, a lot of “trying to get healthy” would make me panic. So I actually started out having a bad relationship with health and taking care of myself.
That started to change when I started having a lot of allergic reactions. I’ve been allergic to tree nuts since I was five, and I thought I was lactose intolerant starting at age 11. Before I went to college, I had a handle on both of those things.
But in 2013, I was having allergic reactions all of the time. I felt sick, with constant stomach aches and a lot of digestive issues. It got so bad that I had to quit my internship, and I couldn’t hold down a job.
I went to a ton of doctors, but they could never tell me what was wrong. I got slapped with the term “irritable bowel syndrome” which is just a fancy way of saying, we don’t know what’s wrong with you, but we know your digestive system is having a hard time.
I got tired of doctors constantly telling me that they didn’t know what was wrong with me. So I started doing some research of my own. I found out that people with IBS usually have stomach problems when they eat something they are either allergic or sensitive to.
I also discovered something called the elimination diet. Basically, you stop eating everything except for lamb, rice, and pears for four days, and then you slowly introduce things back into your diet.
And I found that a lot of things gave me grief, like onions, sweet potatoes, and wheat.
Wheat was in everything I had been eating. No wonder I felt so sick all of the time.
So I made some changes to my diet and, as I kept to those changes, I felt better. That summer was one of the greatest summers. I had energy for the first time ever, I traveled for a few weeks on my own. I even ran a 5k (and let me tell you, I hate running).
But then school started, and with the stress came not eating well again.
And with not eating well came getting sick again.
My mental health plummeted.
I nearly dropped out.
Somehow, I made it through that semester. Looking back, I seriously don’t know how. I had to drop out of everything except for school, and even with that, I could barely keep up.
For my last semester, I only took 12 credits (I was on scholarship, so I had to stay full-time and that was the minimum required). 4 of those credits were yoga and meditation classes. They brought awareness to my health, and helped me want to start exercising again. They also brought awareness to what I was eating, and remembering that staying away from trigger foods helped me feel better.
And you know what happened? I felt better. I finished out the semester strong, and my mental health improved.
Because let’s face it, when you feel physically lousy, your mental health suffers. But when you feel physically well, when you have energy and can go about your day free from pain, you do better mentally.
Even if there were no other benefits from exercise and nutrition on your mental health, that right there is HUGE.
However, there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, there’s a lot of research that shows how helpful exercise and nutrition is for good mental health. I’ve summarized some of it here.
Benefits of Good Exercise on Mental Health
Exercise helps you reduce stress because the physical activity boost the brain chemicals responsible for regulating your stress levels. It’s also a great way for you to burn off the energy that comes from being stressed. I know for a fact that when I’ve been angry or frustrated at someone, that anger seems to disappear after I’ve exercised.
Boosts Feel Good Chemicals
Endorphins can help you feel as good as some recreational drugs. Many endorphins act like painkillers in the way they bond to other chemicals in your brain. Your brain also increases production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepenephrine (which are often used in many psychological medications).
Have you ever felt so anxious that you couldn’t sleep? That anxious energy has to go somewhere, and if you don’t burn it off it can keep you from sleeping or build up over time. Exercise is a great way to address many of the physical symptoms that come up when you’re anxious.
When you’re feeling anxious, your body goes into fight or flight mode to prepare for perceived danger. This activates physical responses like sweating, racing heart, and sometimes dizziness. You’ll notice also that many of these symptoms come up when you exercise. Regular exercise helps your brain see that you’re not in danger when these symptoms come up. That in fact, you’re doing something good for your body.
You know those feel good chemicals that rush through your body when you exercise? Those endorphins are a great way to improve your memory. In fact, one study shows that endorphins help you remember specific responses to actions and help with memory retention. So if you suffer from a case of the brain fog (like many of us do) exercise can help you combat that.
Helps You Sleep
Just exercising for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, can greatly improve your sleep quality. In fact, doing so will improve your sleep quality 65%. You’re also less likely to feel sleepy during the day, and instead will feel tired when it’s time to sleep.
Getting enough sleep is a huge part of mental health. If you aren’t well rested, your brain isn’t able to function as well, which leaves you with less resources to try to tackle problematic behaviors and thinking patterns.
Studies have found that exercise can be as effective as going on anti-depressants for reducing depression symptoms. In fact, in a follow up to a study that compared anti-depressants and exercise, those who continued to exercise were less likely to relapse into depression than those who did not, regardless of if they took medication. Also, exercise doesn’t come with many of the side effects that anti-depressants carry.
Benefits of Good Nutrition on Mental Health
Exercise alone can be incredibly helpful. However, changing and improving your food is a great way to change your brain chemistry and impact your mental health.
Being deficient in vitamin B1 can lead to depression, irritability, and weakness.
Being deficient in vitamin B9 can lead to apathy, depression, fatigue, poor concentration, and poor sleep.
Good, healthy food is packed with nutrients that your body needs to function. Sometimes, mental health can be connected to a lack of nutrients. It can also be helped by adding more nutrients into your diet. Some people accomplish this with supplements, while others strive to eat a balanced diet so that they can digest all of those nutrients without relying on expensive supplements.
Folate helps reduce risk of depression. It also helps build up the cells that create healthy eyes, hair, liver, skin, and red blood cells.
You can get folate from beans, fruits, leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains. Folate also comes in a supplement, if you want to kickstart your nutrient absorption while you’re in the process of changing your diet.
Those who are vitamin D deficient have higher rates of depression. If you tend to feel more depressed as the seasons change, it’s because you’re not getting enough vitamin D.
One easy way to get enough vitamin D is to make sure you spend at least 15 minutes in the sun everyday. Going outside is generally the best way to get vitamin D, but if you really aren’t able to, you can rely on supplements to get your levels to a more normal place.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s help with mood stabilization, and can also boost the effectiveness of antidepressants.
You can get Omega-3s from oily fish like salmon and trout, as well as from walnuts, flax, and olive oil. However, if you can’t afford to eat these regularly, getting a good quality supplement is another good way to make sure you get the levels you need.
How To Start Small if You Feel Overwhelmed
You might be like, that’s great, Mel. But I can barely get out of bed. How can you expect me to exercise and start changing my nutrition?
That’s a great question.
When I first started changing my nutrition, I felt like I had to do it all at once. I felt like I had to eat perfectly right away.
And I tried to do that. And you want to know what happened? I failed within a couple of weeks and went right back to how I was before, and then some.
But, when I started making small changes, I’d get used to them. I’m just now, five years later, getting into the habit of going to the gym everyday.
So here are some ways you can start small.
Change one thing at a time
A lot of people think that in order to get healthy, they have to make all of these changes all at once. However, doing this is really counter-productive. It doesn’t help you make any lasting changes. Everything is so sudden and drastic that you can’t maintain it. Eventually, you’ll get discouraged and give up, landing you right back where you were before.
Making one change at a time makes it more likely that those changes will stick. While it won’t seem like it’s happening very quickly, the things you change will stay changed and you won’t have to go through this cycle of big change and failure over and over again.
Water is one of the best ways to improve your health. Since your body is made up of about 60% water, drinking a lot of water helps you maintain your balance of body fluid. It’s also a great way to flush out toxins, and energize your muscles.
Staying hydrated also has a huge impact on your energy levels and your brain’s ability to function. If you feel a bit tired, or are having a hard time focusing, drink a glass of water. It might not make everything better, but it’ll definitely help.
One really easy way to make sure you stay hydrated is to keep a water bottle with you at all times. I usually keep a gallon jug near me because I drink a lot, but you can keep any size bottle with you.
Go on a ten minute walk everyday
You don’t have to adopt a crazy regimen in order to enjoy the benefits of exercise. In fact, if you try to do that right away, you’re more likely to fail than if you take it slow.
Start slow. Go on a walk around the block. Just focus on getting up and getting moving. Getting yourself to start is going to be the hardest part. But once you can get up, tell yourself you only have to go for ten minutes. That seems doable, right? If that’s all you can do, great! You met your goal.
Go to bed at the same time every day
Sleeping and mental illness are not the best of friends. Believe me, I know. It takes me 1-2 hours to fall asleep every night. But even with this, going to bed at the same time has helped me quite a bit. My body won’t shut off right away, but I have noticed that I feel better rested when I get in bed at the same time each night.
Many people resist the idea that exercise and nutrition can play a large part in your mental health journey, but if you take slow, steady steps toward making good choices with exercise and nutrition, you’ll be amazed by the benefit it will have on your health—both mental and physical. I’ve experienced these benefits firsthand, and so can you.
If you want more ideas of how you can improve your mental health, download the 40 small ways to change your nutrition and exercise to improve your recovery today!
I’ve been using essential oils for a few years now. The very first oil I started using was lavender. It was fairly cheap, and I had heard it helped with anxiety. I actually started using essential oils before going on medication, because it was something I could do without going to a doctor or getting a prescription.
Much to my surprise, the lavender actually helped. It didn’t make everything go away completely, but, to be fair, there isn’t any one thing that can completely take away your mental illness. If anyone invented something like that, they would be incredibly rich!
Anyways, most of the tools I give you are things you will use as part of a toolbox.
Some people may not find certain tools useful. Others rely on certain tools more than others. My hope in providing all of these resources to you is that you can put a lot of things in your arsenal in order to be well equipped to deal with the issues you face.
Essential oils are one of those tools that is more subtle than others. It can make a big difference, but it’s hard to identify exactly what it is helping with. One of the biggest things it helps me with is soothing my mood.
It wasn’t until after I started going to therapy that I learned there were several reasons that essential oils helped with anxiety and other mental health issues.
The Science of Essential Oils
People have been using essential oils for thousands of years to heal different ailments. Indeed, essential oils have been around longer than the field of western medicine.
Here are a number of results studies have found that come from using essential oils:
How to Use Essential Oils to Improve Your Mental Health
Most of the time, people use essential oils because it helps them feel good. And an added bonus is that it smells nice too!
Have you ever gone into a room that smelled of trash and body odor? How did you feel going into that room? Did you wrinkle your nose and immediately want to leave? Chances are good that the bad smell you encountered when entering that room brought your mood down.
On the flip side, have you gone into a room to encounter a pleasant smell? Maybe you smelled brown sugar and vanilla, or a nice lemon scent? How did you feel after going in? Chances are pretty good that your mood was elevated, and you felt a little better than before.
Aromatherapy works in similar ways. It works on the idea that certain smells can activate different parts of your brain.
Look no further than your own experience to back this up.
Certain smells mark our journey through life. Remember the smell of your grandma baking cookies? If you walk by a bakery and smell that same scent, your mind brings up a memory of being with your grandma. It can make you feel happy, or maybe make you miss her if she has passed on. Scent is closely linked to memory, and that’s why associations with smell are so powerful.
Essential oils use that same principle, but aren’t necessarily tied to specific memories.
There are three ways you can use essential oil. The most common is inhaling them. When you breathe in, your nose brings the oil molecules to your brain and lungs. Afterward, those molecules travel to the limbic system, which is responsible for controlling your emotions, blood pressure, heart rate, stress, memory, and hormone balance.
You can also apply them to your skin or ingest them. Putting them on your skin can work well, but make sure you dilute the oil, as putting it on straight can cause irritation. And if you’re going to ingest them, make sure you consult an expert before doing so, as it can become unsafe if you don’t do it properly.
Symptom Specific Essential Oil Uses
It is your choice of which essential oils to use. Even though I have written this guide, if you smell an oil and decide that you don’t like it, you are under no obligation to use it. This is to help you feel better.
For instance, I can’t STAND the smell of patchouli. It gives me a headache and instantly makes me feel grumpy. However, I’ve had many people tell me to use Patchouli oil because it is very grounding. Being that I suffer from PTSD, I need things that are grounding in my life. But, I don’t use it because it doesn’t benefit me, personally.
Here’s a brief guide to some different oils that can help with mental illness and other related issues. If you want an in depth guide on using oils and how they can affect you, I strongly suggest checking out Emotional Healing with Essential Oils by Daniel Macdonald. His book has an entry on each kind of oil, the name it is commonly referred to by, the emotions it addresses, and other oils that work well with it.
Many of these oils also work well together. Here are some combinations that you can use to tackle several issues at once.
Personally, I love Barefut essential oils. They sell 100% Pure Therapeutic Essential Oils for an incredibly reasonable price. With most other oils, you have to choose between having therapeutic grade, or paying a reasonable price. But with Barefut, you can have both!
Here are some of their blends specifically made to help with mental health.
“Maybe it’s your fault so many awful people have come into your life, did you ever think about that?”
These words are some of the most harmful words I have ever heard.
And for so long, I believed them.
I believed that the awful things that people did to me were my fault. And not the fault of the people doing them.
This is wrong.
Let me tell you right now. It’s not true!!!
This is heartbreakingly common among people who have been abused.
It takes the responsibility off of the abuser and puts it on the victim. It allows the abuser to continue getting away with their horrible actions while also making the victim feel even more guilty for what is happening to them.
That’s never okay.
But if it’s not true, and it’s not okay, why is it so common?
I’m going to help you understand why.
What is Victim Shaming?
The practice described above is called victim shaming.
Anytime someone questions what the victim could have done to prevent being abused, it is a form of victim shaming.
How familiar do these phrases sound to you?
“Well, if she were wearing something different, this wouldn’t have happened to her.”
“She didn’t push him away, so it’s her fault.”
“If he was man enough, he would have been able to stand up for himself.”
Do you recognize what all of these phrases are doing? They take the blame from the abuser and place it on the victim. We don’t blame the person who did the damage, but instead we blame the person who was already harmed.
This is wrong. We need to be loving and supportive of people who have been harmed, not continue to add trauma to their trauma.
Abuse is never the fault of the victim. Abuse is always the fault of the abuser.
Let me say it again.
Abuse is never the fault of the victim!
These things happen because someone else decided it was okay to hurt someone.
Why Does Victim Shaming Happen?
There is a lot of discussion as to why victim shaming happens.
Overall, I think one of the biggest reasons this happens is that people have this innate need to explain and justify events around them. It’s easier to accept that there is something you could have done to prevent something bad than it is to accept that sometimes bad things happen and there isn’t anything you can do about it.
It is so, so tempting to think that something is wrong with you, especially if you have a history of abuse at the hands of multiple people.
I think the worst that can be said is that you attract abusive people to you. However, it is their choice to abuse you and take advantage of you. You are never responsible for their actions.
Abusive people are attracted to a certain kind of person.
Think of it like a con man.
He specifically looks for people that he knows he can pull one over on. They call them marks. These make for easy targets.
However, it is the fault of these targets that they got conned?
No. It isn’t.
They had no way of knowing that any of their characteristics would mark them as being easy to rob or con or take advantage of. Even some people who try to protect themselves from things like this can become a target.
It could just be that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The same happens with abusive people.
Abusive people are attracted to people they know won’t put up much of a fight. If they see that you are too accommodating and that they can push you around with little resistance, they’re going to target you.
You didn’t ask for it.
You don’t deserve it.
It isn’t and was never your fault.
So what can you do? How can you protect yourself so that you stop being targeted by these abusive people?
Here’s the biggest thing you can do.
STAND UP FOR YOURSELF
Let me put a disclaimer here. If you are afraid for your safety, and think you might be hurt if you do this, please do not do so. You need to do whatever you can to be safe and taken care of.
People are less likely to boss you around or try to take advantage of you if you stand up for yourself.
Now, I know you might have a hard time with this.
To be honest, I still have a hard time with it.
If I had read this a few years ago, I would have shied away. I would have said things like, “oh, but I don’t deserve to stand up for myself. I have to do what everyone else wants me to do.”
But to that, I ask you — Why?
Why do you have to be subject to everyone around you?
Asking this question has been a tremendous help to me. For so long, I believed that I had to do what everyone else wanted. But as soon as I started to question it, those beliefs fell away fairly quickly.
You have the freedom of choice. You are not obligated or required to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.
But I understand it’s not as easy as that. There are a lot of reasons you might feel like you have to do what other people expect of you and you don’t have to tolerate them abusing or manipulating you.
If someone gets mad at you because you’ve stood up for yourself, it’s because you having boundaries prevents them from getting what they want. You need to get far, far away from these people.
Trust me when I say that they will bring you nothing but pain.
1. Get away from abusive people if at all possible.
Abuse doesn’t have to be physical. In fact, some of the longest lasting abuse is mental and emotional. I know this from personal experience.
This is because we don’t always recognize it as abuse and it’s left to continue happening for a long time.
I know this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, a family member is the one who is doing the abuse and you can’t get away. But if you can cut them out of your life, please do.
I wish I had cut out the abusive people in my life way sooner than I did. If I had stuck to the first time I cut someone out of my life, and not let them back in, I would have had wayyy less trauma to process.
2. Establish boundaries and stick to them no matter what
I know it’s not always possible to cut abusive people out of your life. In an ideal world, you’d only be around people who supported and loved you.
But it isn’t an ideal world. And you still have to be around harmful people. How can you continue to protect yourself when you have to be around people like this?
Setting boundaries will help you stay safe in a world that would take everything away from you.
I know that is can be hard to set boundaries or feel like you’re allowed to take care of yourself. But believe me when I say that this is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
But my life got so much better when I started setting boundaries and sticking to them. Even with people I thought I was hurting by standing up for myself started benefiting more when I put in boundaries. We came to a better understanding of each other, and our relationship got better!
If you have a hard time sticking to boundaries, don’t fret! I created a guide just for you to help you learn how to create and stick to boundaries in your relationships. Click the button below to get started!
Victim blaming is so toxic, yet sadly it’s so prevalent. It can feel impossible to get away from the blame.
Remember that you know what is best for you. No one else has been through what you have been through. No one else can tell you how to feel, and no one else can explain what happened to you.
Repeat this to yourself the next time someone tries to blame you for what happened.
Another great thing you can do is to surround yourself with supportive people who understand. Even if you have no one else in your life, I am here. I love you, and I support you, and I will never ever blame you for the abuse you have suffered.
What do you think we can do about victim blaming? Write your answer in the comments below!
What are you hoping this therapist will help you with?
This is probably the most important question you can answer. If you don’t know the answer to this question, here are some more that can help you figure it out.
-Do you want someone you can just talk to?
-Do you want someone to help you learn skills necessary to deal with the problems you are facing?
–Do you have specific issues you want treated?
-Are you looking for a magic cure? (Don’t be afraid to admit it if you are. We all wish we could be cured instantly. While this isn’t something that’s possible, it’s still good for you to recognize that is what you’re looking for).
Be honest about what you’re hoping a therapist can do for you. This will help you determine which therapists will help you get what you need, and which ones you can do without.
What do you need help treating?
What sorts of problems are you seeking help with?
Do you need help dealing with childhood trauma?
Do you have current stressors in your life that you feel like you can’t handle?
Do you need help with your relationships?
Are you suicidal?
Are you struggling at work or school?
Do you have problems at home that you don’t know how to work through?
Whatever it is, write it out.
These can change over time, or you could have many things you need help treating. Being upfront about what you need help with is a great way to identify which therapists can help you.
Do you want to talk about medication?
Medication is scary for a lot of people. The idea of going on a pill with any number of side effects can put a lot of people off.
I didn’t start medication for almost a year after I went to therapy for exactly that reason.
However, it’s also been one of the fundamental parts of my recovery. Medication really can help you recover if your problems come from a chemical imbalance.
Even if you’re not sure you want to go on medication, consider asking about it.
Do you have a gender preference?
Some people struggle talking to someone of a specific gender. You need to feel comfortable with your therapist, and if you know you have a hard time trusting men, going to see a male therapist is not going to help you.
Not everyone has a gender preference, but if you know you’d feel more comfortable talking to a man, woman, or genderqueer therapist, make sure you note that.
Do you need an LGBTQ+ therapist?
If you identify anywhere in the LGBTQ+ spectrum like me, chances are good that you’ll need a therapist who’s familiar with your struggles. There are many therapists who are certified to treatLGBTQ+ patients.
In my state, we have an LGBTQ+ alliance therapist guild. I know that any therapist in that guild will respect me and provide me a safe place to talk about my struggles.
Many of them can also help you out if you’re looking for a gender therapist to help you transition.
What sorts of qualities do you want in a therapist?
This one is more personal. Think about people you do or don’t get along with.
Think about your closest friends.
What is it about them that makes them easy to relate to?
What do you love about them?
What makes it easy for you to trust someone?
Jot down some of those qualities as ones you’d like in a therapist. Trust me, having a therapist who feels a least a little bit like a friend will make it easier for you to open up to them.
What sorts of qualities are off the table for you?
On the flip side, think of someone you know you can’t trust.
What is it about their behavior that makes them untrustworthy?
Is there a specific action or background you’re not comfortable with? Write them down. If a potential therapist has any of these qualities, you won’t get the treatment you need.
Seeking a Therapist
Now that you know what you’re looking for in a therapist, it’s time to find one. Use the answers from this worksheet to assist you in your search. Check out these tools to find someone who matches your criteria.
1. If you have insurance, find a therapist through them
This is a great place to start, because you’re going to pay wayyyy less for a therapist your insurance covers than one they don’t.
One of the insurance companies available where I live is called BlueCross BlueShield. I’ll be using it as an example of how you can search for doctors through your insurance.
Go to Google and search for “Find a Doctor” + the name of your insurance.
In this example, I’ve used the term “find a doctor blue cross blue shield”.
Click on the url that leads to your insurance website, in this example you would click on the third result, as I am in the U.S. and this page is for doctors in my country.
When I click on that result, it takes me to this page.
There are three fields that we’re going to be using.
First, you’ll want to enter your location. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, so I would put that in the location bar.
Next I would choose the plan that you’re on. If you don’t know what your plan is, you should be able to find it on your insurance card.
On this card, the plan you have is BlueCardPPO, so we’ll put that in the plan.
This website gives you the option to enter the first three letters or numbers of your member ID. That’ll be more specific and is more likely to give you accurate results on who is covered and who isn’t.
For this example, we’re going to click on select by plan name. You can search the name of the plan, or click on options below.
Once you click on that plan, it takes you to this screen.
From here, you’ll want to look for doctors.
Some insurance companies have different names for mental health professionals. Terms I’ve commonly seen are “behavioral health”, “psychiatrist”, and “psychologist”.
Behavioral health is how insurance companies commonly refer to mental health. A psychiatrist is someone who helps you figure out mental medications, and a psychologist is the technical term for a therapist.
Here’s what comes up when you search for behavioral health. I’m going to go ahead and click on behavioral/mental health.
Many insurances will allow you to narrow your search.
In this example, if you scroll down past the map on the left side, there are many filters you can apply to try to find someone to help you with the specific issues you’re dealing with.
However, keep in mind some doctors don’t match specific filters because they haven’t filled out their profile. If you use these filters and don’t find anyone you like, try taking a few off.
You’ll also want to look for doctors who are accepting new patients. It won’t do to find someone you like, only to realize they’re not taking new patients.
Here are some of the filters that will be useful to our search.
I’m going to go ahead and click on the filter for anxiety issues. After doing that, the search narrows from over 1,000 to 25. This is a much more manageable list to deal with.
Many of the options on here allow you to see the other specialties these doctors have. If you have more than one mental illness you need help with, this list can help you find someone who can help you with everything.
Once you have a list of 3-4 therapists, you’re ready to contact them and try to set up an appointment.
Each insurance is different. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to search for doctor’s, call the member assistance number usually located on your card
Insurance is great for finding names, but they usually don’t have information about therapist qualities.
Google is a great way to find that information.
You could use it to find a therapist near you, but I’ve had better results finding specific therapists through my insurance and Psychology Today (which I’ll explain more below).
Once you have a name, start searching the web for reviews and information about them. Check out their website and look at a picture of them.
I’m going to go with the first result that came up from the insurance search we did in the last example: Steven Chen.
I’ve used my city location and added doctor to the search.
You want to use the name of your city, because there could be another doctor with the same name in a different city.
You’ll also want to add doctor so that it doesn’t pull up some random person that has nothing to do with mental health.
This Google search pulls up several options, including his Psychology Today profile, his own personal website, and several rating websites.
You’ll want to look at all of these to try to get a sense of who this person is.
Here’s his Psychology Today profile. It gives you a good sense of his personality.
He mentions helping business owners, executives and professionals. It might not be a great fit if you’re a college student with no money who’s having anxiety issues, so just that alone could tell you that you might want to find a different therapist.
But for the sake of this example, we’ll look at his other results.
Here is his website. Many people will try to make their websites into an accurate representation of themselves and the service they try to provide.
Personally, I don’t care for the vibe I get looking at this, but you could be completely different! If you like what you see here, then it might be a good idea to get in touch with him.
Here’s his health grades profile. I really like health grades, because you get to see what other patients think of this therapist.
Here’s an overview of his reviews. Looks pretty good so far!
And here are some of the comments from patients.
Personally, I find these most helpful. They give you a good insight into the personality of the therapist. From these reviews, you get the sense that he’s logical, and more soft spoken.
If you need someone who’s more likely to challenge you, these might not be great qualities. However, if that’s what you need in order to address your issues, this could be the perfect fit!
3. Psychology Today
I absolutely love Psychology Today. It’s one of my favorite services to use.
When my old therapist was retiring from his practice, I used it to find one that worked with me on the first try.
I’ll take that over having to go through another 5 therapists to find one that works for me!
Here’s how to use it to find a therapist that works for you.
Type in your location or zip code and click enter.
This will bring up a huge list of therapists near you.
What I love the most about Psychology Today is their filters. They’re incredible comprehensive.
Plus you can even search by insurance provider!
You can search using as many filters as you want to find therapists perfectly suited to what you need.
Here’s an example. I have Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. When I was searching for a therapist, I had a lot of childhood trauma I needed to work through. Because of my experience, it was incredibly difficult for me to open up to a man, especially if I perceived that he had any sort of authority over me.
So with that background, I can search for a female therapist, and here is an example of a list that comes up.
There are many options, so let’s pick one and see what her therapist page looks like.
There’s a lot of information here that can help you decide if this person is right for you.
I really love working with therapists who tailor their approach to the client they are working with.
I can also see that this therapist has experience with a lot of different methods. That means that if one of those methods doesn’t work, she has many other techniques that can help me.
There’s also an area that covers finances, so you’ll know exactly how much to expect to pay, and whether your insurance will cover them.
Finally, there’s a button right here that allows you to email the therapist right from the web page. You don’t have to go searching around for her information, you can get in contact with..
Doing this is super unhealthy, and only serves to make your depression worse!
I know how tempting this can be. I know that you feel like you have to fix your depression. I’ve been there.
Being around other people all the time used to make me feel like I had to pretend to be happy, like I had to put on a face and act like nothing was wrong, when really I was suffering inside.
When I got home, I would often start crying or just sink so low that I couldn’t do anything. Because putting up that face AND feeling depressed at the same time was so taxing that I didn’t know how to keep going.
Take it from someone who still struggles with depression, this is not the way to go.
Yes, I might seem like I have it all together. But you know what? I still have depression, diagnosed, medicated and everything.
Living with depression is similar to living with a physical disability. You are hampered in the things that you are able to do, but you can still live a complete life.
Even if your complete life looks different from a “normal” life, you can still live it. You have limitations because you have a disability, not because you’re doing anything wrong.
Whatever you can do is worthwhile.
You don’t have to “fix” yourself in order to “be normal”.
Instead, figure out how you function and what you can do, then build your life around that.
What to Do Instead of Trying to Fix Your Depression
Many people have a hard time understanding that depression is a serious mental illness. The stigma around it can make you feel like depression is something you did wrong. When in fact, study after study shows that depression is a physiological issue. It either comes about because of something that happened to you, or because of the way your body works.
There are a number of things that could cause your depression. These include any combination of the following.
Stressful life events
Your brain’s inability to regulate your mood
Depression is a mental disability that makes it difficult for you to live the way a “normal” person would live.
But those who suffer from physical disabilities can’t live the way that able bodied people live either. We cannot realistically expect someone who is missing a leg or who suffers from Parkinson’s to be able to to the same things that a healthy bodied person can.
Depression is exactly the same.
Let’s say you lost your leg in an accident.
Your life as you know it is over.
But that doesn’t mean that your life is over.
There are so many people who learn to live with just one leg. They get a wheelchair right after they lose their leg. Then they go to physical therapy to learn how to walk and function with just one leg and retrain the muscles they have to make up for what they are missing.
But they keep living. They just have to do it differently than when they had two legs. They have to relearn how to function. Sometimes it takes a while to do this, but once they’ve gone through that process, they can get back to living their life.
Depression is exactly the same.
You can’t fix depression by trying to get your brain to go back to how it was before you were depressed.
If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, you’re always going to have it. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be sad, or even that you’ll always feel depressed. But you will still have moments when the depression comes back and it consumes you.
There are certain things you are missing now that you had before the depression hit you. You’ll have to learn how to function without those things. It IS possible. It just takes time and energy and effort. That’s where therapy and other forms of recovery come in.
Instead of trying to “fix” your depression, learn how to live with it.
She was born with spina bifida, which is a disease that starts at birth where your backbone doesn’t close completely, leaving an open hole. Most people who suffer from this cannot walk.
Most people who can’t walk don’t go on to compete in races. But Tanni went on to become a wheelchair racer and compete in the Paralympics.
She couldn’t race the way that “normal” people could. But she found a way to work around her disorder and compete anyways. She went on to win 16 medals throughout her career.
She didn’t try to learn how to be “normal”. She didn’t try to “fix” her spina bifida. Instead, she figured out what her limitations were and learned how to work around them.
You can do the same with depression, and I’m going to show you how.
How to Live With Depression
I want you to take all of the energy you put into trying to get rid of your depression, or trying to hide the fact that you’re depressed, and use it to learn how to live with your depression.
Stop trying to put on the face. Stop trying to live a normal life.
You are dealing with something that “normal” people don’t have to deal with. They don’t have this huge obstacle facing them every day, preventing them from living their lives.
But you can overcome it and function. You likely won’t live a “normal” life.
But in my opinion, normal is over-rated. What’s so important about being normal anyways?
Here’s how to you can learn to live with your depression.
I created a worksheet to help you make the most of these tips.
1. Acknowledge That You Will Feel Depressed
A lot of people will say that as soon as they’re not depressed, they’ll do something. They’ll get a better job, they’ll pursue their dream. I’m guilty of this, too.
But when you’ve been diagnosed with depression, that isn’t going to happen. You’re going to be waiting for a long time.
You’ll never get around to living in your dream home.
You won’t be able to work in the job you’ve wanted since you were a kid.
You might not even be able to go to school if you wait until you’re not depressed anymore.
Take it from me. Right now, I’m going on 4 years out of college, running my own business.
People say that I’m doing so well that I can do all of these things because I’ve overcome my depression.
Well, guess what?
I still feel depressed a lot of the time.
I’ve just learned how to carry on with my life even when I feel depressed.
Those feelings don’t go away. Sometimes when I’m working my hardest, I am the most depressed.
But to be honest, I feel better when I do something, because then I’m not letting my depression take over my life. Because then I’m in control of what happens, and that feels better to me.
Let’s be real, if you’re going to be depressed anyways, which would you rather have? A day where nothing happens and you feel bad for yourself because you didn’t do anything? Or a day where you still feel depressed, but you accomplished something?
I always feel better with the latter. Even if I’ve only been able to accomplish a small amount, that’s still better than the nothing I would have accomplished if I had continued to wallow in my depression.
Now, I know what you might be thinking.
Mel, you’re just telling me to snap out of it, why would you do that?
That’s not AT ALL. What I’m saying.
Instead, what I’m saying is feel depressed and do it anyways.
You’re not going to be able to do as much as everyone around you.
You’re not even going to be able to do what you can on a bad day.
You’re going to have days where all you can do it get out of bed and move to the couch.
And that’s okay.
It doesn’t have to be your entire life.
Learn how to work around your bad days when you don’t have any energy. Then, for the days where you still feel depressed, but you can do at least a little bit of something, work with what you’ve got.
2. Learn How to Sit With Your Depression
You might not know what I mean by this. That’s okay.
Some of the most helpful exercises I have done in therapy is to learn to sit with my depression.
So instead of trying to get rid of my depression, or trying to fix it, I sit down and I feel it.
But that sounds like the worst thing ever!
I know, I know. It seems really weird at first. Depression doesn’t feel good. It’s something you want to avoid, right?
Hear me out.
When you take time to feel your depression, instead of trying to push it away, you are letting it express itself. You are learning what that feeling is like. You are creating a space for it to exist in.
Often times, I have found that doing this can ease your symptoms later on. Because no matter how much you try to ignore it, the depression will still be there. You’ll just be distracting yourself from it until it becomes so intense that you can’t ignore it anymore.
When you learn to sit with your depression, you give yourself experience in living with it. The more you do this, the easier it will be to learn how to live even when you feel like this.
Here’s an exercise I want you to do. If you can, do it right now. If not, make a few minutes later today.
Sit somewhere quiet, where you won’t be interrupted.
Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Don’t try to empty your mind of any thoughts, just focus on your breath. Notice how it comes in and out of your body. Notice how your chest rises and falls as you inhale and exhale.
Count ten breaths. With each breath, release a little bit of tension.
Once you’ve counted ten breaths, call up your depression. Tell it that you are going to sit with it for a while. Don’t make any judgments, don’t call it good or bad. Just let it exist there with you. Let it share the space with you.
As you do this, take note of what is going on in your body. Does it feel heavy? Are there any sensations that are new to you? What do you feel?
Again, don’t make any judgments about what you observe. Simply notice what is.
After you take note of everything there, thank your depression for sitting with you. Kindly ask it to leave so that you can exit the meditation.
Once the feeling has lifted, take a few moments to stretch and move around. How do you feel? Is the depression still with you? Or do you feel something else?
Taking part in this exercise regularly will make it easier for you to work with your depression when it comes up and you still have to go about your day. It will probably feel weird at first, but the more you sit with it, the easier it will be to function when you are in a period of depression.
3. Figure Out Your Symptoms
People with disabilities have some things they can’t do.
Let’s go back to Tanni.
Living with spina bifida means there are a number of symptoms she has to deal with. These include things like partial paralysis, learning issues, and bladder control problems.
However, with the advancement of medical technology, there are things she can do to treat them. It takes time and energy and money, but if she takes care of herself, she can still engage in many things that other people do. She has to work from a wheelchair, but again, there are ways to work around that.
Depression is the same way.
There are symptoms that prevent you from living life the same way that a healthy and able bodied person can do. But that doesn’t mean it has to prevent you from living your life.
Start by Identifying Your Symptoms
Another way to figure out what your handicaps are is to figure out what your symptoms are and how they impact you.
Once you’ve identified your symptoms, then you can start by figuring out how to work around them.
As nice as it would be, you can’t just skip out on work or school every time you feel depressed.
Believe me, there were days where I did not want to get out of bed. I thought there wasn’t a point in anything, and didn’t think I should keep trying. The only thing that got me to keep going to class was the thought of how much money I had already spent on tuition.
If I had skipped out of work or school every time I felt depressed, I would be homeless. It sucks. But being an adult means that there are responsibilities that you just can’t neglect.
But, there are some things that you don’t have to do.
So start by listing out what you absolutely HAVE to do.
These include things like going to school, taking a shower, medication, eating, going to work, taking care of pets and dependents. Things that you have to do in order to get by.
I know it might feel like you have to do them, but social obligations do not fall under this category. You don’t HAVE to hang out with your friends regularly in order to survive. You also don’t have to go to something someone invited you to do a week ago when you were feeling better.
All you are worried about right now is the bare minimum.
Once you’ve identified that, figure out how you are going to get them done. This is where listing your symptoms comes in handy. Once you know what you struggle with, you can figure out solutions to working around them.
Running low on energy? Find things that give you a boost so you can take a shower. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite song, getting a treat, or cuddling with your pet. Whatever makes you feel a little bit better so that you can take care of your needs.
Having a hard time seeing the point in everything? Next time you’re feeling more like yourself, write your depressed self a motivational letter. Ask them to trust you when you say this is important.
Set up little things like this that will help you do the things you need to do.
I hope that by now you can see that trying to fix your depression isn’t going to get you where you want to be. This is a mental illness that comes from a combination of factors. Even if you live the best life, there are still going to be times when you suffer depressive episodes. Recovery, medication, and improving your life will make those times happen less. But they won’t make those episodes go away forever.
Learning to live and function despite feeling depressed will help you continue living. It will help you get your needs met, and it might even help you get through your depression faster.
Online Therapy is so great because it brings with it a lot of the advantages you get from traditional talk therapy, AND it circumvents a lot of the issues that prevent people from getting help.
“But wait a second, Mel. What even is online therapy?”
It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like.
Depending on the service you use, you could be messaging, voice calls, or doing video calls with a therapist to work through your personal issues and mental illness symptoms.
Online therapy is also called e-counseling, e-therapy, and tele-counseling, but they all refer to the same thing.
There are several issues that prevent people from seeing a therapist. Online therapy is a great way to avoid these issues while still getting help. Here are the problems it can help you overcome.
1. Limited Treatment Options — Online therapy is available to you at any time, from any location, as long as you have an internet connection. You don’t even need a computer; you can use your phone to connect.
2. Not Safe to Pursue Treatment — No one has to know that you’re seeking treatment. You can even go by a nickname so that the therapy can’t be traced back to you.
3. No Affordable Options — Online therapy is offered at a fraction of the cost of traditional therapy.
4. Insurmountable Stigma — You’re completely anonymous! No one has to know you’re seeking therapy unless you want them to.
Let me talk about the benefits in more depth.
This is probably one of my favorite perks of online therapy. You don’t have to rely on therapy being available near where you live.
People who live in remote areas that have little to no options available to them can still get the help that they need. No one should be without help just because of where they live.
I know that for some people, even if you have options available to you, you have to wait for a really long time in order to see someone. Maybe you live in a somewhat remote area, or the options that are available to you are over taxed and don’t have the manpower necessary to meet demand.
Either way, those problems don’t have to prevent you from getting help anymore!
It’s also great for people who have a hard time leaving their house. Even if there are therapy options available to you, if you have severe anxiety or agoraphobia, just leaving your home can be an ordeal that you can’t get through. Or, if your depression is so bad that you can’t manage to get out of bed, that’s okay!
Online therapy makes it possible for you to message your therapist in bed, if you’re really in a bad place.
There are several options when it comes to choosing a provider for online therapy.
Plus, the unlimited messaging means that you can get more work done than you ever would in two sessions.
Cost is another huge barrier to receiving treatment. I know many people who would get therapy in a heartbeat, but they just don’t have the money for it.
Online therapy is a great way to reduce those costs.
It’s even cost effective for your therapist as well.
They don’t have to rent a space, and they can actually see more clients than they ever could in a conventional setting. Depending on the structure used, you either pay for services one month at a time, or you pay for the amount of time used. You’re never locked into a contract, and can stop any time you want.
At least at the time this article was written, most online therapy services do not accept insurance. However, even with that, I’ve found that most of these options will cost you the same as one or two sessions of therapy (sometimes even with insurance).
This is a big barrier that people have to overcome when going to therapy. There’s still this idea that going to therapy makes you weak, or that you have to be really sick to need therapy.
I’m going to write another post about why that just isn’t true. But in the mean time, even if you know that isn’t true, it’s still possible that there are other people in your life who believe that. Depending on their relationship with you, that stigma could actively be preventing you from receiving the help that you need.
But with online therapy, you can completely avoid that stigma.
Because no one has to know that you’re in therapy.
Many online therapy providers understand the need for anonymity. They often allow you to set a nickname, so your therapist can’t even track who you really are.
This provides a layer of protection that can come in handy if you need to prevent some people from figuring out that you are receiving therapeutic treatment.
I know there is a worry about security. However, the well known online therapy providers know that their clients need security.
They’ve created encryptions and protections to ensure that your information is only available to the people who need it.
I know that the mental health stigma is a HUGE barrier for people to receive help. Unfortunately, as a society, we’re not yet at a place where we understand that receiving mental help is just as important as receiving physical help.
That’s okay. This is a great way to still get help and stay safe.
Online therapy is also incredibly convenient. The unlimited messaging option allows you to talk to your therapist whenever you need. You don’t have to set aside time in your schedule in order to see them.
Also, if you’re having a panic attack or a time of intense emotion, you can message them. However, keep in mind that they are not a crisis service, so if you are in danger, please contact a crisis hotline.
BetterHelp seems to be the most popular option when it comes to online therapy, with more than 1 million users. As you sign up, you fill out a questionnaire about what you need help with. Within a couple of days, you’ll be matched with a therapist who will start exchanging messages with you. The first three months are $180 a month for unlimited sessions with your counselor. After that, your plan will go down to $145 a month. Depending on your therapist’s availability, you can schedule live calls or chats, too.
Talkspace works very similar to BetterHelp. You start with an assessment, and then choose a plan. After that, you’ll be matched with one of more than 1,000 therapists. You can access the platform through any of your internet connected devices. Plans range from exchanging messages to being able to talk to your therapist live once a month or doing couples therapy.
Amwell is a telehealth platform that connects you with therapists at any time of day. Unlike BetterHelp and Talkspace, many doctors on this platform are covered by insurance. You’ll schedule a video call visit with a therapist, and then go over the issues that you’re facing. Most visits on Amwell range from $59-99.
If you need to see a psychiatrist for medication, Amwell could be a great option for you.
Along with the ones I’ve listed here, many therapists are beginning to offer telehealth services. This means that they will see you like a normal doctor’s visit, but they will do so through video calling.
I really do think that online therapy is a great way to get the help you need. And I’m not just saying that.
In fact, I’ve been using online therapy for myself for the past three months. I use BetterHelp and I absolutely love it.
I had been seeing a therapist about twice a month. But I felt like I didn’t have time to work on all of the issues that were bothering me. We only had two hours a month to work through the years of severe trauma I experienced.
So I started using Better Help because one of my friends told me she’d had a good experience with it. They were incredibly responsive, and after I filled out the questionnaire and gave some information about what I needed, I got matched with a therapist in a couple of days. I didn’t really vibe well with him, but that was okay because I had the option to request a new therapist, no questions asked!
I’ve been talking to this therapist for the past three months. She’s been incredibly responsive and helps me see things in perspective. She lets me say as much as I need, and she sends me activities when appropriate. I’ve worked through a lot of issues with her, and I feel like I’m doing much better overall!
If you sign up through this link, you’ll get $100 off of your first month.
Now let me be clear. I only have experience with BetterHelp. My endorsement of this option does not mean that other options are not viable. I am only speaking to what I know. If you have a recommendation from someone and want to try another service out, please feel free to do so!
Before you start with online therapy, you should know if your therapist is right for you. Download this list of questions to ask your therapist to make sure the two of you are a right fit.
When I talk to people about mental health, this comes up more than anything else.
“No one understands what I’m going through.”
So many people feel this way. And so often, it prevents them from getting help.
Maybe you feel this way, too.
You think no one knows what you’re going through. You’ve heard people talk about mental illness as if people who have it are crazy and can’t be trusted.
And maybe this has stopped you from talking about it.
Meanwhile, your life is falling apart. You feel like you’re splitting at the seams trying to hold everything together. You can barely go to class or to work, and you don’t know who you can turn to. You feel isolated and alone.
You’re not alone.
When I first started trying to recover, I was convinced that no one knew what was happening to me.
I kept a lot of stuff inside of me.
And it tore me apart.
But I’ve come out the other side. I’ve found a way to deal with my mental illnesses and lead a life following my dreams.
Instead of just telling you that I understand, I want to share a little bit of my understanding with you in the form of a dream.
The dream started in a normal looking, small college classroom. There are 12 other students and a teacher at the front, lecturing.
At first, it looks to be a normal day.
Everyone had their notebooks out and were taking notes on the lecture.
We heard people walking down the hallway as the teacher speaks, and the sun was shines through the windows.
But then, without warning, several tons of sand are dumped into the room.
Everyone is drowning in sand.
I can’t breathe.
I can feel the air leaving my lungs and I panic, adrenaline coursing through me.
Immediately, my only thought is getting out of the sand.
So I start pushing upwards, to where I hope there is air.
The resistance is more than I can deal with. It compresses me, fighting my arms as I reach for the air, my lungs burning for its lack.
I won’t make it. I can’t. There is just too much sand pulling me down and no one to pull me up.
But somehow, I do. Just at the last second, I reach the surface and gasp for air. The burn of the air is almost as strong as its lack. But I can breathe.
For a moment, I don’t know where I am or what happened. But as soon as my brain catches up, I immediately start looking around to see if everyone else is okay.
A few of my other classmates have surfaced, and a couple more pop up as I scan the sand. But some of them haven’t come up. I start to worry. Are they stuck? Can they not find the surface? Do they, too, long for a hand to pull them out?
So I dive into the sand. I can feel it compressing me again, but I know that the surface is just above us. I’ve seen the light and felt the air in my lungs.
It’s not long before I feel someone.
The first girl I pull up is too short to even clear the sand. Even standing on her tiptoes, her head doesn’t clear the surface. I make sure she’s breathing as I hold her up above the neck high sand. As soon as she clears the sand from her mouth, I look around to make sure everyone else is there. All but one has made it up.
I place the short girl on a desk where she can stand above the sand and dive once more into the deep. I panic for a few seconds, because I can’t find her. She’s too far. Too deep. But I can’t give up.
I dive again.
And I have her!
She’s barely conscious and gasping hard by the time we reach the surface, harder than anyone else, and I know how close we were to losing her.
We all just stand there for a few minutes, still reeling from the shock of what had just happened. No one speaks, no one really knows what to say.
After what seems like a lifetime, the teacher asks if we can try to make it to the hallway. We all agree that that is the best plan of action.
Both girls that I had pulled up hold on to me as we trudge through the sand. What once took seconds to achieve now takes us hours. The sand is thick and clings as though to pull us back into its embrace. We have to stop several times as it takes all of our strength to move just a couple feet.
We had started class in the morning. But as we make it to the doorway, we see through the window that the sun is much lower in the sky.
The closer we get to the hallway, the more the sand starts to recede. What was once at our necks is now at chest level. This makes it easier to move through, and the two girls I had once carried can move on their own now.
The farther away we get from our classroom, the less sand there is.
I feel my body relax a little bit as I see the end in sight. Once we all cleared the doorway, we can see the end of the hall. There is only a little sand there. It is still a ways away, but we can see the end.
As we get farther into the hallway, we encounter some other people standing there.
They sneer at us, looking down their noses at our sandy faces and shanking limbs.
It is clear that they have no idea what happened to us. The sand hadn’t even covered their feet. They can’t understand what bothered us so much about a little bit of sand.
Eventually, we get to where the sand only covers our feet and collapse. We all huddle together, amazed we are alive and bound together by this life-altering experience.
When you feel like no one understands, it’s hard to open up.
I share this dream with you as a way of showing you that I’ve been where you are now.
We are classmates who have gone through the sand together. Maybe I am farther out of the sand than you are.
Maybe we are both in the same place.
But I can tell you, I have been through many stages of the sand.
I have fought tooth and nail just to surface.
I have stood there afterward, astounded by what had just happened.
I have dived back into the sand to pull people out who didn’t look like they were going to make it on their own.
I have given all of my strength and energy just to get to a point where there is less sand. Sometimes I have to stay there for a while, because I don’t have the strength to carry on.
And I’m sure you’ve been there as well.
You feel like you’re going about your business and a ton of sand is just dumped on you out of nowhere.
This sand is mental illness.
At least when it first happens, you are completely taken aback by the sudden onset.
You can’t breathe.
You think you’re going to die.
You don’t know what to do.
Reacting to mental illness isn’t normally as time sensitive as the sand. But, depending on the severity, if you don’t do something right away, then it can drown you.
Some people never make it out of the sand. They go on believing that no one understands what they are going through for their entire lives.
However, most people do make it.
You can make it.
Even when it takes so long that sometimes you think, “this is it, I’m done for.”
Eventually, you surface and start to breathe again.
Getting there was such a feat. It took so much energy that it’s easy to stop once you’ve surfaced and flounder there.
It’s okay to stop and catch your breath.
Recovery is hard and it takes a lot out of you. Sometimes you have to stop and be okay with where you are for a time. But if you stay there for too long, you risk living your entire life with your body submerged in sand.
You’re just surviving.
You’re technically alive, but everything is slowed down. Everything is so, so hard, and you feel like you can barely move.
Even if you can breathe, that doesn’t change the fact that you’re still submerged in sand.
Have you ever tried to walk in sand? That’s hard enough.
But being completely covered in it and trying to move?
That’s nearly impossible.
In my dream, we made it out because we worked together. We stopped to make sure everyone was doing okay, and we never left anyone behind.
We didn’t want anyone to be left in the sand for the rest of our lives, so we had to work together.
And we did.
It took time and effort and at times, it left us so drained that we didn’t think we could carry on.
But after we rested for a while, one of us would encourage everyone to start going again. We just needed a little help to go on.
Once we got to the point where there was less sand, we were immediately greeted with people who belittled what we had been through.
They scoffed at us, and treated us as if we were over-reacting.
Why would they do that?
Why wouldn’t they rush to try and help us? Couldn’t they see that we had just been through an ordeal?
No. They couldn’t.
Because to them, the problem was only that they got a little bit of sand in their shoes.
They did not see the sea of sand in the classroom.
They had no way of knowing that we all nearly suffocated.
They simply reacted based on what they had been through.
This happens with mental illness all the time. There are some people who might be sympathetic, or who might technically understand that having sand dumped on you and getting out is no small feat.
But they don’t know what it feels like to fear for their life.
They don’t understand the feeling of sand in their lungs, long after they’ve come up for air.
They don’t know what that fear is like.
Because they haven’t been through it.
I hear a lot of things like “I told my mom about my depression, but she shrugged it off,” and, “My friend got after me when I told them that I struggle with anxiety.”
These people in your life are reacting that way because they haven’t had the sand dumped on them.
So of course they’re going to react that way.
They only think that the sand covered your feet.
From their perspective, the sand is hard to walk through, but it’s manageable. You trudge through it until you get to a place that doesn’t have any sand. Easy enough right?
From that perspective, yes.
That doesn’t change what you’ve been through.
Just because they didn’t see what you went through doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
I’m going to say that again, because it’s important.
Just Because They Didn't See What You Went Through Doesn't Mean It Didn't Happen
You might be struggling with feeling like no one understands right now.
You’ve gone through an incredibly traumatic experience, and maybe you still are.
Maybe you start to come out of the other side, or maybe you’re just so deep you need a hand to get out but when you try to tell someone about it, they think it’s no big deal and shrug it off.
That reaction invalidates what you’ve been through.
Seeing this person, or maybe even several people, act like what you’ve been through isn’t a big deal leads to you questioning it yourself.
You might even think you’re making it up for attention, and start to belittle yourself for over-reacting.
It makes you treat something incredibly traumatic like it was nothing.
It ends up traumatizing your trauma, and makes you believe there is something wrong with you for struggling.
But that’s not true.
As a community, we need to stick together. We need to be there for each other as we all struggle to get out of the sand. As long as we encourage and support each other, we can all get to a place where the sand only comes up to our feet.
Let me help you. Let me lift you up when times are tough.
I promise you that I will never belittle what you’ve been through.
I will never tell you that you’re making it up, or that you’re over-reacting.
Because I believe you.
I believe you when you say you’ve been through hell and back.
I believe you when you say you don’t know how you’re going to make it through this.
And I’m here to give you resources and encouragement to guide you along the way.
Don’t go through this alone.
This site is more than a blog, it’s a community. It’s proof that you’re not alone. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss any resources.
Once you sign up for my newsletter, please send me an email. Let me know how I can help you through your recovery. I would love to hear from you and cheer you on.
I love seeing my thoughts come to life on the page in front of me.
And when I’m in a bad place mentally, I love knowing that I can write about anything free from the fear of how it will affect people in my life.
I’ve been journaling off and on for the past thirteen years, and more regularly the past six. There were times when I didn’t write for months, and times when I wrote multiple times a day.
When people see how many journals I have, they tell me I’m diligent and wish they had the dedication to stick to something for that long.
(Here are all of my personal journals. Keep in mind, this is over 13 years!)
I don’t do it to fulfill a goal or to show off to anyone.
I do it because it keeps me sane.
I’m able to express myself in ways that I NEED and can’t get anywhere else.
I am incredibly introverted and often need to self reflect. Being able to take time to evaluate how I’m doing and what I’m feeling helps me get to a healthy place mentally and enables me to work towards emotional stability.
I didn’t have anyone I felt safe talking to growing up, so I learned to work through my feelings and express myself through writing. Many times, I would try to suppress how I was feeling, or what I was doing. But that didn’t work. It would come out one way or another. And the longer I held it in, the more painful it was when it came out.
When it did come out and I hadn’t taken the time to journal, it usually came out in an angry or violent outburst. Living in a household with a toxic parent, these outbursts always led to punishment. I did not get the support I needed and the cycle would repeat.
So I turned to journaling.
I honestly believe that the power of journaling helped me live in such a toxic environment for 12 years. I could talk about anything and everything and not get shamed or punished for it.
Because of that trauma, I have a hard time trusting people. Especially at first, it was really hard to open up to people about what I was going through.
But I didn’t have any problem talking to my journal. It would listen to anything I had to say, and give me a safe space to express myself and work through anything and everything that came up.
Proof Journaling Helps With Mental Health
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need to see that something really works before I can do it myself. I want to see the scientific evidence supporting it so I know what to expect. Especially when it comes to my health.
There’s actually a LOT of evidence showing that journaling is incredibly effective when dealing with mental health.
Journaling is a great way to manage anxiety and cope with depression. Writing out your thoughts makes you take a step back to look at your behavior, emotions, and thoughts.
Have you ever kept so many things to yourself, only to have the littlest thing make it all come crashing down? Journaling is a great way to relieve the emotional pressure that builds up over time and prevent mental breakdowns.
Writing out your thoughts has also been shown to help you see the perspectives of others. When you’re having an argument, it’s really easy to get caught up in what you are feeling and experiencing. However, most problems are more complicated than what you know, and being able to look at it from a distance is a great way to find a solution.
How to Start Experiencing the Healing Power of Journaling Today
One of the most common questions I get from people is how to start.
Journaling doesn’t have to be hard or complicated. In fact, all you need is a pen and paper. You could even write on a napkin and you’d still receive the benefits from journaling for your health.
However, here are the steps that help me get the most out of journaling.
Find a Journal You Love
Some people will feel like they should journal and then get a specific journal to work in.
I see a lot of people with journals like this:
If you want something like this, or want to customize the cover, like these wondMelodySRV | Mental Health Healing and Recoveryerful people have done, then by all means go for something like this!
But if it doesn’t excite you, then maybe you should look at something else.
I absolutely love patterned journals. Sometimes I even work to write a bunch in a journal so that I can start a new one with a new pattern! Some of the best ones I’ve found are at Barnes & Noble.
Whatever journal you decide to go with, buy one that you’ll actually use. Some people have nice journals that they never use because they feel like they have to put something nice in it. If you think this will happen to you, that’s okay! If the only one you’ll actually use is a composition notebook, then get that!
If you don’t know where to start, you can download my free list of topics that will help you get started writing about your mental health. Click the button below to get them!
Another common question I get is what to write about. To start, I would say the best thing you can do is write like you were talking to a friend.
If you could tell your friend anything, without being afraid of what they would say or what they would think of you, what would you say?
Maybe something happened at school and you feel like you need to talk about it, but no one is available to do that right now.
Or maybe one of your friends did something that hurt you. While you want to talk to them about it, you’re worried that they’ll get mad at you for bringing it up, or that they won’t understand where you’re coming from.
You can write about all of those things in your journal!
Sometimes I will write about what happened during my day when things happen that I want to remember. But lately, life is fairly normal and I don’t have a lot of big events going on.
I do, however, have a lot of emotional pain and trauma to work through. Writing about these things helps me acknowledge and process my feelings. Many of us, feel like we need to suppress our feelings, or that we are wrong for feeling a certain way. We’ll go out of our way to avoid even thinking about our feelings, let alone acknowledging them and trying to work through them. This can do a lot of damage in the long run, but journaling can be a great way to get started with processing.
Still not sure where to start? Here are some questions you can answer to get you going:
1. How are you feeling? What event, person, or experience caused you to feel this way?
2. If you could talk to your feelings like they were a person, what would you say? Would you get mad at them? Would you be overwhelmed with everything they are going through? Would you be amazed? Would you feel proud of what they were going through? Would you feel sympathy for them? Or would you feel something else? Whatever it is, write it down!
Keep In Mind
Your journaling doesn’t have to look a certain way. If you get started with one topic, but find that your writing takes you another direction, that’s okay! In fact, I would strongly encourage you to write out whatever comes to mind.
Sometimes I find that my hand has a mind of its own, and I end up writing about things that I didn’t expect to come up. These are usually the times that I make important realizations about myself or my situation.
Make sure you find something that helps you get started and go from there! Don’t worry about getting it right. Just let whatever happens happen.