You’ve been struggling with your mental health, it’s been hard, you finally gather the strength to take the incredibly brave step to ask for help only to be told it’s at least a 6 month wait for therapy. What a knock back this is. I find it unbelievably frustrating as a peer support worker, and I’m sure the healthcare professionals are frustrated too (the majority I’ve spoken to are over worked, understaffed and just want to be able to provide quick, efficient support). But most importantly it can feel devastating to the person who has asked for help.
In many areas support for those who are pregnant, or who have a baby under 1 year is prioritised, so do mention this when calling or self referring for therapy. You could still be waiting some time but hopefully you will be bumped up the list.
So what can you do to help yourself while you’re waiting for therapy? Here’s five tips I’ve found can be helpful…
Find Local Peer Support
Finding like minded people can be amazing. Knowing you’re not alone, that there’s others out there feeling the same as you can help you feel less isolated. We run a group at our local Children Centre. I’m so proud of the group we have created, the mums are incredibly supportive of each other, there is zero judgement, and completely honest talk. They have such respect for each other,
even though they parent in different ways, they support and care about each other. They share their struggles, have a cry, eat cake, and also laugh a lot. It’s a safe space to vent, gain advice and friendship. We have been able to put mums in touch with other local services that could help them and provide links to local health visitors & midwives too.
Have a chat with your local children Centre, or check online to find something local to you. ( you can find a list of Safe peer support over on our friend Eve’s blog here)
If you’re unable to find anything then join online peer support via #PNDHour with @PNDandMe – it’s a wonderful online Twitter community run by the lovely Rosey.
This is a subject which can divide people. Ultimately it’s up to what you and your GP decide. However one thing I will say is don’t write off the idea of medication straight away. I had a self stigma about antidepressants. I felt that if I had to take a pill to feel happy or “normal” then I was a failure. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I had become so unwell I believed taking my life was the only option. I hit my rock bottom and decided I would do anything
to feel better again. I saw my doctor, and was prescribed citalopram, an antidepressant, and referred for therapy. After a few weeks of taking my medication I started to notice the “fog” lifting. I had a little more motivation, and most importantly I felt able to face and work on my therapy. I’m sure if I hadn’t have been taking my medication I wouldn’t have been able to make the most of my therapy and keep at it.
Also just to clarify two things I’m asked all the time –
No, I didn’t become addicted – I weaned off them with the support of my GP, not because of addiction but to slowly reduce the chemicals/hormones so they balanced out naturally rather than me crashing and feeling awful.
I didn’t become a zombie – I still felt happy, sad, angry like I would have before, it just helped to balance my emotions out, and lift me out of the pit of depression I was in.
Talk to your GP if you have any concerns or questions about medication. Remember everyone will have their own story, and different medications will work differently for each person, it might be trail and error but find out what works best for you.
I am a huge fan of self care! I use to spend every waking second doing things for everyone else, feeling guilty and selfish If I dared do anything nice for myself. But once I learnt the importance of self care, and I shook off the guilt, I realised that everyone gets a
better version of me if I’m having some time doing things I enjoy too.
It can be as basic as eating well, staying hydrated and exercise… try to get some sleep (haha I know.. sleep when you’re a parent…what is that??)
Take five minutes to have a hot cuppa, go for a walk, eat that chocolate bar, go to the gym, do some crafts, watch TV, do your housework, meditate, see friends. Whatever fills you with joy, do that.
Meditation & Mindfulness
There has been growing scientific evidence that mediation can be helpful for mental health. It can be great at relieving stress and winding down, but it can sometimes be difficult to benefit from meditation if you’re feeling very anxious. Try starting with online guided meditations, or find a local class. You can read more about mindfulness on the Mind Website here
I began my journey with mindfulness when I had therapy. It was suggested to me by my therapist, she told me to try to focus my mind only on the task I was doing at the time. For example washing up, notice the warm water, the bubbles, the sounds of
them popping, the smell of the soap. As time went on I would try to focus my mind (it takes practice, as do all therapies) I eventually found it easier and naturally progressed onto meditation. Now I regularly mediate, it helps me to clear my mind, to feel grounded and calms any anxieties. Again, it’s not for everyone, and it can feel odd, difficult even when you start but you may find it useful.
Research Self Help
There is lots of self help out there, websites, blogs and books. It can be overwhelming, so start by looking at reputable sites like Mind. Using a well know, established site like Mind ensures you are
accessing safe information. Your local health authorities may also have information or online courses you can take. Here in Essex we have Therapy For You, they provide free group therapy, one to one therapy as well as online courses.
✨Extra Tip – keep phoning / contacting the therapy service for a cancellation – in our area I know people who have phoned the local therapy teams and advised them they are willing to be flexible, take short notice appointments and requested cancellations. This may not work for everyone but a few people I know have managed to get into therapy sooner by doing this. Always worth a try!
The wait for therapy can be incredibly frustrating, but hopefully these simple tips can help during the wait. Do you have anything else you can share that helps you? I’d love to hear in the comments!