Signs It Is Time to Get Help
Is it time to get help?
Parenting is stressful, so how can you tell if your stress has crossed the line into mental illness? Feelings of guilt, inadequacy, exhaustion, and uncertainty are almost universal, so how do you know if your feelings have gone beyond what’s typical and crossed into depression or anxiety that require professional help?
In this post, I will try to give you some guidelines to help you figure out if it is time to seek professional help. This is based on my personal experience and training. I am not a health care professional. This is not intended to be professional advice. This post is not a substitute for consultation with a medical or mental health professional.
Do your own words indicate it’s time to seek professional help?
Before I went to my doctor to get help for depression, the words I said to friends and acquaintances revealed symptoms of mental illness.
- I am overwhelmed every second of every day.
- I can’t function.
- I am in hell.
- I don’t understand how anyone does this.
- Nothing I do works.
If these statements resonate, or if you’ve made similar statements, your stress has probably crossed the line into depression.
Do people who care about you think you should get help?
Having been both on both sides of this kind of conversation, I know it takes courage to suggest to someone that they seek professional help. Most people would not make this recommendation lightly. If someone has suggested seeking help, please take it seriously.
It is very awkward to tell someone they need help, so questions and comments about it are usually an indicator that someone thinks you need help. This is not a reason to be offended. If anything, it is evidence that you are loved. Listen to what people say to you.
- Have you thought about seeing a therapist?
- Have you tried medication to help with all this stress?
- I’m worried about you. I don’t want to see you get in trouble.
- Anyone in this situation would need help.
Statements and questions like these don’t come up in casual conversation without a reason. If someone who cares about you is afraid you are putting your job or your family at risk–that is a huge red flag.
Even if people aren’t suggesting that you need help, they may be hinting about it with comments like:
- You need to get away.
- Why don’t you take a break?
- I’m here if you need to talk.
- Is there anything I can do to help?
- You seem really down.
- Are you ok?
- You look really tired.
Do your thoughts go into unhealthy places?
Usually, our thoughts are the first signal that we are not coping and need to get mental health support. Thoughts can go to very dark places before our words or actions.
- My kids would be better off without me.
- I wish I would die.
Thoughts related to hurting yourself or someone else is a definite sign that you need to get mental health treatment. In particular, if you are having thoughts of hurting your child, please talk to a doctor right away.
Are your feelings getting in the way of your life?
If your feelings are making it stopping you from doing things you used to enjoy, preventing you from doing things you need to do, or otherwise causing you harm, you probably need some help to get them under control.
If you don’t enjoy the things you used to enjoy, something is probably wrong. When I was depressed, I didn’t read, watch TV, spend time with friends, or listen to music. Everything triggered emotions that I couldn’t handle. All I could handle watching were cooking shows. Cookbooks were about the only thing I could read. Song lyrics would upset me. I didn’t want to talk to my friends because I was afraid they’d ask how I was.
When basic tasks that never caused a problem before seem too hard, that’s a signal that you are dealing with more than regular stress. Going to the grocery store, getting my hair cut, and buying new clothes were overwhelming tasks.
Are you crying or having panic attacks in inappropriate places? Or are you avoiding places out of fear that you will?
Are you engaging in risky behavior?
Did you know that most child abuse cases involve mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence? Especially with younger children, untreated mental health problems can lead to an unsafe environment for children.
Mental illness can contribute to substance abuse. Lots of people use alcohol to help them relax at the end of a tough day, but this can get dangerous. If you are driving while intoxicated – including driving when you are a little tipsy, please do not rationalize this behavior. This is dangerous—especially if you are in the car with your child! If you are caring for your child alone and getting intoxicated, this is risky, even if your child is asleep. As the caregiver, you need to be able to jump into action in the event of an emergency.
It should go without saying that if you are taking illegal substances or taking prescription medication in a way that was not prescribed by your doctor, you are putting both yourself and your child at risk. You need to stop, and this may include mental health treatment.
Mental illness can lead to exhaustion and poor decision-making. Are you trying to care for your child when you are too exhausted to be safe? If you’re at risk for falling asleep while bathing your child or while driving, something needs to change. Even if you are just watching TV with your child, you need to be alert enough to keep your child safe.
Are you so desperate for help that you leave unqualified or unsafe caregivers with your children? Leaving your child in the care of an unsafe caregiver puts both you and your child at risk.
If you see yourself in these examples, I hope you will get help soon. Even if you’ve been working with a doctor, being a parent can change things, it may be time to make some changes to your treatment plan.
It is much better to get help on your own before you find yourself in a serious crisis. Modeling taking care of yourself is an important part of being a parent. Mental illness like depression can manifest itself in different ways. If you think something isn’t right with your mental health, talk to your doctor.
Many people think they need to go straight to a therapist. Your family doctor is actually a great place to start.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, or know someone who is, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
If you need help finding services in your area, try calling 211 for Essential Community Services.
Written By Deborah Maxwell. She is a parent, educator, and writer living in the Midwest. She has 15 years of teaching experience and an MA in education. You can find her at her website here.