Need Help But Too Ashamed To Get It

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I need to break out of cyclic depressive problem but humiliated to seek help. I believe that I am suffering from severe depression (and the site’s test also implies this), but cannot bring myself to seek help. Any time I have sought help recently or at a similar episode in the past, I have been unable to achieve anything from those I have approached, and have ended up feeling worse in the long-term. In a breakdown recently I tried to explain my symptoms to my mother, but was so worried about upsetting her that I only managed half-truths. She reassured me that I am just very tired, not feeling well (have been suffering from fluey symptoms recently) and just feeling a bit emotional. This helped a little bit, but things were back the way they had been in the morning.

I have experienced these depressed feelings and symptoms almost like clockwork between every 1-2 years. When the depression gets really bad I start to feel as though I am on autopilot and completely detached from reality. Sometimes it gets so bad that my senses start becoming a bit warped and I feel a bit like I am in a living nightmare – I hear sounds and my vision makes things move or change sending me into a blinding panic where I know I am being irrationally afraid but my rational senses are not really reality anymore.

The depression is often triggered by something distressing like a small failure or break-up but not actually caused by it (It feels as though there is no reason why I am upset – when people ask if I am upset about something I have no answer). As I said, this is not the first time, but each time this depression has outwardly displayed itself before, I have been labeled as purely over-emotional, lazy and even weak by those around and leading me. It has made me unable to seek help as I feel humiliated and isolated. The only way I feel able to tackle the problem is by hiding it and removing myself from any social/work situation where it might become obvious to my peers. In the past this has marginally worked and I have almost managed to get back on track, although this time through I feel the problem is far worse than before and I have resorted to daily self-harm in an attempt to take my mind off things. I am beginning to lose contact with friends and my college work is rapidly deteriorating due to lack of motivation, making me feel even more worthless and hopeless.

This time last year, I had the same problem and realised that I had to seek help in order to pass my high school finals so approached my GP. He was very sympathetic but unable to help so put me into contact with some kind of pysch doctor. At our meeting (where a psych student was also present), I couldn’t relax properly or open up. The doctor asked me various routine questions in an attempt to suss out whether I was a danger to others, or myself, but when she realised I wasn’t, passed me off as only stressed out and gave me the impression that I had wasted her time. Despite my GP telling me to contact again in the event that I felt the same way, I feel too stupid and humiliated. I am starting to think that maybe there is nothing wrong with me and I am merely melodramatic, weak, attention seeking and emotional. But if that is the case then why have I had these cyclic symptoms since age 13 (and which my mother is implying started as young as 8 although much milder at that time).

My ex-boyfriend encouraged me to speak to my doctor after collapsing in the street on the way to the studio in tears and immobility, but I feel like my faith in the health system is near non-existent and can’t bring myself to be brushed off another time (I think it could be the thing this time round to push me over the edge).

Any opinion from you would be greatly welcomed – I just can’t bear feeling so confused and alone anymore. All my sincerest thanks for the time you give me.

A. You are not weak, melodramatic or attention-seeking. You seem to be a person who is legitimately suffering from depression. People who are depressed are not weak nor are they acting so they can gain attention. If you had a friend who was suffering from depression would you tell her “oh shut up you’re just weak…stop pretending…snap out of it?” I highly doubt you would. You’d probably try to help and encourage her to seek help. You would not put her down or call her names like you are doing to yourself. You’d likely be kind and supportive to a friend in need of help. You need to treat yourself in the same supportive manner that you would a good friend.

You say that you are too ashamed or humiliated to seek help again. You feel that if you sought help again and it didn’t work out it might be enough to put you “over the edge.” I understand your fear but I don’t think your past experiences should stop you from trying again. Let me explain why.

Let’s analyze your past attempts to access help. The first person you went to for help was your mother. The advice she gave you was ultimately not very useful according to your letter. The problem in this situation may have been that you didn’t tell her the whole truth about how you were feeling. She didn’t have a fair chance to help you because you withheld the truth from her. There is a chance that had you told her the truth she could have helped you. It’s also possible that had she known how you were really feeling she still wouldn’t have been able to help. The point here is that she did not have the opportunity to help you fully because you withheld facts from her.

You then went to your general practitioner (GP). He was kind and sensitive but could not offer you much help. He then referred you to a psychiatrist (I am assuming it was a psychiatrist since usually that is what people mean when they say “psych doctor”).

Your last attempt to seek help was with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist gave you the impression that she didn’t care. She also had an intern in the office. Out of fear and humiliation you never returned for a second appointment. It was these experiences that led you to decide to stop trying to get help.

With regard to your mother we already discussed the idea that you didn’t give her a fair chance to help you since you withheld the truth from her. Your GP seemed to care about your well-being but didn’t have the proper training to offer you counseling so he referred you to someone who might. You then went to one psychiatry appointment that did not go well and you never returned for another.

I can understand your hesitation to seek help based on your past experiences but in reality you’ve barely accessed the mental health system. The truth is that your interaction with the mental health system amounts to one information-gathering evaluation with a psychiatrist. You’ve never actually met with a counselor. You have yet to meet with someone who actually could help you. I usually advise people to see or talk to at least 10 counselors when they initially begin to look for help. There are good counselors available but often it takes time, patience and effort to find one you like. It’s not that you need to give this process another chance; it’s that you need to give it an initial chance.

Searching for a counselor is where you need to start looking for help. Generally psychiatrists do not offer counseling. Most psychiatrists only see individuals strictly for medication. You might benefit from medication but many people start with counseling first and then add on medicine later if it’s needed.

Your ex-boyfriend is correct to suggest that you try again to access help. Maybe he too realizes that you’ve barely given it a chance. You are suffering and without help this problem may only intensify. I commend you on your past willingness to seek help but now is not the time to give up. Giving up now would be illogical because as we’ve discovered you’ve barely begun the process of accessing help.

Lastly, you said that you’re ashamed and humiliated to seek help. You shouldn’t be. There is nothing to be ashamed of. People who seek help when they have a problem are brave, admirable and wise, not stupid, dumb or weak. If you are hurting and suffering as much as it seems that you are then why not seek help from trained professionals? Why would you choose to continue to suffer? If you had a broken leg wouldn’t you see a doctor? If you needed help with your taxes wouldn’t you see an accountant? If you wanted to lose weight and get into shape for a marathon wouldn’t you consider a personal trainer? You’d probably have no problem seeing a doctor for a broken leg, an accountant for a tax issue or a personal trainer to train for a marathon. If you’d have no problem accessing help from those specialized professionals then why would you be ashamed to seek counseling for depression? There is truly no difference. They’re all smart choices.

Meeting with a competent, qualified therapist could change your life for the better but you’ll never find one if you don’t try. Don’t give up on attempting to access help when you’ve barely started. Thanks for writing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Mar 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Need Help But Too Ashamed To Get It. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/03/23/need-help-but-too-ashamed-to-get-it/

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