In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness week, here are some coping strategies for when your GP is less than helpful after you’ve gone to them for mental health treatment. It’s unfortunately not an uncommon experience, and one that can be both frustrating and upsetting, but there are a number of ways in which you can move on from it and get back to concentrating on yourself and your well-being.
It’s the most irritating piece of advice in the world, but you’ve got to remember to do it. Walk out the office, close their door, and take a deep breath. Think about how ridiculous their advice sounded and how best to imitate their smug tone to your pal when you later recount the appointment. First priority should be to slow down and take some time for yourself: grab a coffee with a friend, take the scenic route for the walk home, pop into a wee shop and treat yourself on something small – you deserve it.
(2) Laugh it off
We could rant and rave until we’re blue in the face about the lack of awareness those working in our health services possess on the realities of suffering from mental illness, but how is that going to really benefit us? It’s important to get the horrible experience off your chest, whether by writing it down or telling somebody close to you, but dragging out the experience until it consumes your entire days’ worth of energy is only detrimental to yourself. So, as cheesy as it may be, hit Netflix -> comedies and go wild until the whole affair seems like a hazy memory.
(3) Find strength
It’s amazing the difference having a support system in place can make to how we cope and manage our illnesses. This network of people can come from anywhere: family, friends from home, colleagues, flatmates, classmates, group chats, Twitter mutuals, literally whoever you share a trusting and caring relationship with. It’s so valuable knowing that there are thousands of others dealing with the exact same nonsense you are every day. Just spending time with somebody who has dealt with the same problems as yourself can really help both of your moods and attitudes.
(4) Open up
There are few things more soul crushing than having worked up the courage to take the first step towards dealing with your mental illness and visit the doctor’s, only to be not taken seriously by a condescending GP. It’s easy to recede back into the defensive and continue trying to convince yourself things aren’t so bad, but we all deserve so much better than that. After taking time to calm down and look after yourself adequately, make moves to find another way of getting the help you need. It’s difficult, but you have to remember that not every doctor will have the same backwards attitude; there will be somebody who knows how to help you. It’s a massive injustice that it’s our own responsibility to find the right help and it can take a lot of time and strength, but it’s so worth it when you do.
(5) Take care
In exam season everything seems worse, but I still firmly believe that your health – mental AND physical – is more important. Contrary to popular belief, the University wants you to be well and able when sitting your exams, and it is possible to receive further support from their services. It can be hard feeling like your mental illness is worthy of such finite resources, but you have to do your very best to be objective, and remember that you are the most important thing in your life. So hit up support services, look for a nicer doctor that will write you a letter for good cause, and take care of yourself. Make time for study breaks and have a picnic in Kelvingrove or the Botanics, or free up a weekend and road trip a little further afield. No matter what it takes, what good is a degree if you’re too unwell to enjoy it?
[Katie Athwal – @kxthwl]