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Overcoming Barriers to Getting Help

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

When I was in high school I was depressed. Not seriously so, just a constant hurt that wouldn’t go away. I was prescribed some medication by my doctor and was seeing a therapist once a month. Medications didn’t seem to improve anything and was eventually taken off them. Therapy continued but I felt like I was being rushed, and that I was wasting her time which she could be using to help someone worse off than I was. I was having tremendous problems opening up. Eventually I became frustrated with it and stopped going.

Over the last 15 years I have learned to live with how I feel. I’ve passed up many other opportunities to get help again, which I regret. Every time I always found a barrier to do anything. It’s always been easier to push away my emotions, pretend I am fine and not do anything. I’ve felt under control though, not happy but able to manage my life. I know this isn’t a healthy way to deal with my problems, I’ve been dealing with other medical problems in a similar way, but it’s the only tool I know.

I recently had a very vivid dream. It wasn’t frightening in any way, just a stranger unexpectedly caring for me. It’s very unusual for me to remember dreams at all but for some reason I’ve fixated on this one and am thinking about it constantly. It’s caused me to re-examine my life. I don’t feel in control anymore of my emotions right now, they are all over the map. I have anxiety like I’ve never had before. My chest is so tight it feels like it’s on fire. I feel ready to burst into tears, but I can’t. I’m having trouble falling asleep and am waking up too early in the morning.

I know I need help to change this, but I don’t have the strength to follow through. I’m scared to tell my wife how I feel. It’s not just telling her, its how she’ll react. I don’t know how this will affect my life. I’m scared to ask my doctor for help. I’ve always hoped that the worse I got the easier it would be, but logically I know this isn’t true.

How do I get past my barriers to get help for my problems? How do I not make new ones?

You have to force yourself to do what you know is right. It won’t be easy. It will be going against your long history of minimizing your problems. Asking for help will seem foreign to you. It may feel as though you’re doing something wrong but logically you must force yourself to receive the help that you should have received years ago.

Perhaps your dream will serve as an important catalyst. In many ways, it’s disrupted your life. You focus on it and it’s causing you to think about things in a different, though not necessarily healthier, way. Your life now feels chaotic and out of control but it might be what’s needed to propel you into finally receiving psychological help.

It’s time to do what you know you should have done years ago which is to receive professional help. I urge you to seek help as soon as possible.

You’re worried your wife will react negatively to your getting help. People with depression tend to perceive the world through the scope of pessimism. This makes them prone to misjudgments. When you attempted therapy in the past, you likely misjudged that situation. You concluded that you were unworthy of help and ultimately decided to quit. That type of thinking hurt you then and it’s hurting you now.

Your wife might be grateful that you finally have decided to receive help. Undoubtedly, your problems affect her and perhaps more than you know. You don’t think you would have the “strength” to follow through but I believe that you would. Help is available but you must make the choice. The choice is yours.

You tried to wait it out. You gave it a chance to go away. You’ve been patient for 15 years. It hasn’t gone away. You should get help now. Perhaps the therapist that you had long ago just wasn’t right for you. It happens.

People don’t choose to be depressed but they can choose to be helped. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle
Mental Health & Criminal Justice

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