It’s easy for an outsider to say “Get help!” to someone struggling with OCD or any other mental illness, but the truth of the matter is that getting help can be extremely tricky. First of all, you are often emotionally vulnerable when the need to seek outside assistance arises. Things have usually gotten pretty bad by that point, or you would likely still be thinking, “I can handle this on my own.”
The thought of reaching out to someone else and letting them (and therefore, in your mind, the world) know that you have a problem can be almost insurmountable. Emotionally, I couldn’t handle it. I knew I needed to see a psychologist or counselor or therapist or SOMEONE but I just couldn’t make the call. I thought I would cry or not be able to communicate what I needed or fail somehow. Plus, I just don’t like talking on the phone in the first place. My husband made my first appointment.
And this brings up another issue, and perhaps the most important:
Who do you go to for help? Does it matter?
YES. Yes, it matters. I’ve heard horror stories of people who have taken their mental health problems to the wrong person and it leads them even deeper into a very bad place. Some individuals are simply not qualified to deal with OCD (or other specific mental illnesses). Their training might not be up to par for your specific concerns and needs, and the advice and counsel they give you could, as a result, make things worse. The wrong person might misdiagnose you and make you feel even more depressed and hopeless. So be careful. It happens.
It’s like when you are dealing with any medical issue (or home or car issue, etc.). If you go to the wrong specialist, sure, they might try to help you out…but what they tell you to do could be the complete opposite of what you need. They might say that you have “X” problem when really your problem is “Z.” That electrician you called might be an awesome electrician but know nothing about how to fix your flooding toilet (and heaven help you if your toilet is flooding. Ugh. One of my fears).
Going to see a church leader when you have a mental illness is similarly risky. Of course we should trust our church leaders, but they are not always equipped to handle mental illness. If you need a psychologist, go see a psychologist. Don’t try to make your Bishop one. If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t ask him to set the bone and give you a cast, right? If you want a priesthood blessing, of course, ask your home teachers or whoever you trust, but don’t neglect getting the care you need because you think you should be able to handle it on your own.
The Medication-Counseling Approach
Speaking of that, some people do well simply seeing a psychologist or therapist while others (ahem, me) double up with counseling and medication. For me, the medication helps me be a little more mellow. I don’t freak out about things as dramatically, which then allows me to get that much more of a handle on life. Ideally, I will be tapering and ultimately going off my medication, and then use cognitive behavioral therapy as the main weapon in my arsenal. But for now, I use both. If you need both, don’t be ashamed. Just do what you need to do to stabilize and improve.
But how do you find this perfect miraculous help?
For medication, go see your MD or find a good psychiatrist. In regards to psychologists, trust me, it can be tricky. Using the resources from the International OCD Foundation (see link on my “Find Help” page) has been my go to when it comes to, well, finding help. You can find groups, doctors, etc. I wish there was an awesome review website for OCD psychologists (and maybe there is somewhere) but it’s so individual that a generic review would be hard to trust.
Do some research online, make calls, check out their individual websites, and if you have friends who go to a psychologist, ask them for advice. Going to a group might be a good place to start because you could ask the other attendees what psychologists or psychiatrists they recommend.
Getting help might be one of the toughest steps on the journey, but it also is one of the most important. Once you commit to change and enlist the help of a professional, you become accountable for your own recovery and that can make a world of difference.