Geeks vs Loneliness: what it’s actually like to get help

It's all very well recommending reaching out for help - but what actually happens when you do?

Hello! This is our regular Geeks Vs Loneliness slot, where we natter about challenges, troubles, issues and grumbles that many of us go through. The aim is to try and just offer a little support, and maybe a tip or two that can help you, or someone you know.

This week, one of Den Of Geek’s regular contributors, Caroline Preece, is taking over. She asked if she could pen a piece for Geeks Vs Loneliness that talks about what it’s actually like to get help. We talk a lot about reaching out and asking for it, but she wanted to put across what it’s actually like when you do so. Without further ado, over the to the brilliant Caroline…

I wanted to write something about mental health. More specifically, my own mental health, and what it’s actually like to seek help for problems you may be experiencing.

There’s a lot of wonderful information online, and advice for those looking for it, but I’ve not found many candid accounts of what it’s actually like to deal with mental health problems from those who’ve actually gone through it. There’s a million reasons for this, but this feels like an ideal forum.

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Being specific about treatment for depression, I believe, removes some of the stigma. Those pictures of beautiful people looking out at a sunset or frolicking in a field are all well and good, but they’re not actually that helpful when it comes down to it. That said, I’m aware these words won’t apply to everyone reading.

First, a little context. I’ve had issues with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager, but always just endured and let the bad periods pass. I think this is easier when you’re younger, because things are always changing. If I was miserable, it wasn’t long before I went to university, or got a new job, or moved house.

But when you get older things tend to slow down. Worse, life often goes out of its way to kick us in the teeth, and those down days and niggling worries you used to have start to get a bit more frequent. That was my experience, anyway, but it wasn’t until just under a year ago that I decided to finally do something about it.

I am incredibly lucky. I have a roof over my head, a job, friends and family whom I adore and so many other wonderful things I should be very grateful for. But the truth is that depression is a bit of a shit, and, if you let it, will do its best to steal those good things in your life.

Beating it is just like a lot of things, in that in the end you have to take control for yourself. While none of us want to face up to this frank reality, the truth is that no one else is going to do it for you.

As much as the people in your life may want to help, it’s really you who has to make things better. Sometimes this is about changing your routine, or your job, or the people you spend time with but, other times, it’s about something as simple as booking a doctor’s appointment.

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It took me far too long to do this and, once I did, things really did start to get better. I feel a bit ridiculous now for putting it off for so long. I wanted to pass along what I’ve learned since I first spoke to someone about my problems, in the hopes of maybe helping someone who hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

First, most GPs are very nice people. I’ve not had the best experience with them in the past (which may have been one of the reasons I resisted this route for so long), but the lady I saw this time around could not have been lovelier. Since then, I’ve seen two different doctors. One was terrible, the other great. It appears to be luck.

But the outcome of that first appointment was that I’d started the ball rolling, and taken some ownership over my own health. That felt very good.

From there I was put on medication, which helped a little. After getting fed up with the side-effects (of which there are, unfortunately, many), I switched to a different drug in a different dosage. One thing that I’ve been told again and again is that the effectiveness of all treatments depends on the person. I have friends who get on very well with medication, while I’ve found that it may not necessarily be for me.

But admitting that something’s wrong, and allowing my life to reflect that, has been invaluable. Once I started to tell a few people I was struggling, I could start mending myself bit by bit. I still go to work, see friends and spend time with my family. But I know my limits now, and don’t punish myself every time I’m not feeling up for going to the pub. The world didn’t end that time I said no, and instead decided to spend some time on myself at home. Gradually, it’s become easier to find that balance.

I’ve recently made steps to start seeing a counsellor, which was even scarier for me than seeing my GP.

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There have been people who have seen my openness as oversharing, and it’s completely understandable for people to feel a little bit uncomfortable when faced with someone freely admitting they’re not quite right. Yet a lot of the posts on this site say you shouldn’t pretend to be okay if you’re not, and I reckon that’s true.

If you’re not well, tell someone. After that, maybe go to the doctors. One treatment not working for you? Ask your GP about alternatives. It’s the hardest thing in the world, but it’s also one of the most worthwhile.

And that’s why I decided to contribute this article for the site, a place that has been one of the most positive constants in my life for near-half a decade now. I’m far from fixed, and may never be. Sometimes seemingly insignificant things can set me back in an instant. But knowing other people – a surprising amount of people – have experienced the same things has helped. Hopefully it helps a couple of other people too.

Huge thanks to Caroline. And thanks, as always, for reading.