This is a post by one of my best friends, Carrie Winans. I am so proud of her and am so lucky to be able to call her one of my closest friends! She contacted me about sharing her story and I immediately said yes because I think it’s such an important story to share.
Disclaimer: Winans is not a mental health professional and has no training in mental health. The following article only serves as an example of an experience. You should always seek out proper diagnosis from a licensed professional if you are experiencing any dark feelings. If you or someone you know is thinking about ending their own life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 (800)-273-8255 and 9-1-1.
My entire life has been one of ease and pleasantries. I have never wanted for anything nor suffered at the hand of another. A bubbly blonde attached to glitter nail polish and singing while walking places, I never imagined I would find myself in the chair of a therapist office.
She handed me a card for a psychiatrist, “Carrie, you’re in shock.”
Shock, or acute stress reaction, is a psychological condition that arises in response to emotional, physical, or mental trauma. Symptoms typically last for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 4 weeks.
Everything about my life felt wrong. I had trouble describing who I was or what I liked to do. My dad talked about getting a dog for our family and I didn’t care. My mom offered to cook my favorite dish and I didn’t want it. Remembering to eat, shower, and respond to questions took a great amount of effort. I picked all my nail polish off my nails while staring out the window. The glitter had lost its shine.
Recognizing the Need for Help
I had never been to see a therapist before. Deciding that I needed additional help was not easy. I’m very used to working through my own problems and coming out on the other side. A few things helped me determine that I would not make it alone this time:
- Complete lack of appetite. Nothing could make me eat. If someone didn’t put food in front of me, I would forget entirely. I lost 8lbs in 5 days.
- No interest in passions/no strong emotions. Things I used to love faded into the background. Topics at work would come up that should have ignited my creativity. I just felt so neutral about everything; nothing mattered.
- Fear of being alone. I hid at my parents’ house for 8 nights. If someone left the room, I desperately asked where they were going and when they would be back.
- Dark thoughts. Fantasizing about my own death, my own funeral, and what people would do if I didn’t exist kept happening more and more. While these thoughts were not suicidal in nature, they were worrisome.
- Inability to properly digest food. While not the most glamorous statement, my anxiety was so bad that I was always sick to my stomach. Chronic stomach pain and terrible digestion issues left me physically weak.
Do I See A Therapist or Psychiatrist?
Deciding between a therapist and a psychiatrist was also new for me. I ultimately decided on a therapist, but encourage each individual to select the professional that can best aid on the road to recovery.
- Therapists (Licensed Mental Health Counselors) primarily focus on talking through issues and helping patients come to solutions or self-realizations. These individuals hold a master’s degree.
- Psychologists have doctoral degrees in psychology. Like therapists, they evaluate mental and emotional disorders. They are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medication.
- Psychiatrists have the ability to prescribe medication that can rebalance chemicals and alter moods. They can prevent, diagnose, and treat mental illness. All psychiatrists attend four years of medical school.
- Clinical Social Workers hold a master’s degree in social work and are able to treat mental illness. These individuals can also help map out hospitalization plans and advocate for patients.
How Do I Help Myself Now?
My therapist gave me a lot of good advice. She helped me to view the situation I was in from every angle. There are also a few tips she gave me about recovering during the coming weeks:
- Allow yourself a personal tragedy. Yes, there are bigger, horrible world issues. However, your experiences directly impact sense of self, trust of outsiders, and confidence. Give yourself permission to mourn.
- Hold yourself accountable. Whenever I am having dark thoughts, I call or text a friend or family member. I let them know what’s happening and ask for help.
- Take baby steps. My therapist told me to start by sleeping at my own apartment. It felt like an enormous step at the time, but now feels natural again.
- Call on your network. I am very thankful that I have amazing friends. No one has let me be alone and everyone assures me that it is okay to call them and tell them what I am going through. If someone offers you support and help, take them up on it.
- Be proud of little accomplishments. I remember calling my mom after drinking an entire glass of milk for dinner on my own. It didn’t sound like much, but it was a big step from the dark place I had been in.
I am still on the road to recovery, but I’m feeling stronger every day. Please prioritize your own mental health and don’t be afraid to get in touch if you need encouragement.