Why you should talk to your GP about your mental health sooner rather than later

I’ve struggled with my mental health since the age of 13. I had counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for five years, and though it helped short-term, I’ve come to realise that long-term, it had little effect. Now that I’m nearly 21, I’ve had to face the reality that my mental health is likely always going to be something I struggle with, and that contrary to what countless relatives, doctors, and psychiatrists told me, it was never just ‘hormones’.

A few months ago I had the worst relapse I’ve ever had, and having exhausted every possible alleyway to help – various types of counselling, meditation, exercise – I realised that maybe it was time to go to my GP (General Practitioner, or in other words, your doctor at your local practice).

I was kind of nervous – I wasn’t 100% sure if I even wanted anti-depressants, or if she’d even offer them, or if she’d just look at me blankly and tell me I was emotional because I was on my period or something. I didn’t really know what to expect, but it certainly was a lot less painless than I anticipated.

And at long last, I had a formal diagnosis. Though past counsellors had gone ‘hmm, it sounds a bit like you’re depressed’, that was as far as putting a label to any of my problems went. My GP identified my problems immediately – depression and anxiety. Weirdly, I didn’t even know I was prone to anxiety. My whole life I’d been walking around presuming that random heart palpitations and sweating were normal.

She prescribed anti-depressants, and at first, I was wary. She told me they’d take months to work and that things would get worse initially. Firstly, I didn’t think I could wait a few months because things were so bad. And secondly, I really, really didn’t think I could cope with things getting worse.

She was right – they did get worse. I had the worst few weeks of my life before things began to feel slightly bearable again. But she was also right in telling me to stick with them for a few months.

I’m nearly four months in, and I honestly cannot believe I didn’t go to my GP for help sooner. I can walk around in public without feeling nervous; I can make prolonged eye contact with people; I can even say that for the first time in a while I’m ‘stable’. I haven’t felt like this in years – possibly even since before I turned 13 – and it just makes me wish that I’d been more proactive in seeking help.

This isn’t to say that you should leap onto anti-depressants without some thought, but your GP will help you come to an informed decision – you’ll only be offered anti-depressants if your GP believes it will help you. But don’t suffer in silence, even if you think you’re beyond help. There are always options, and opening a dialogue with your GP is a great place to start.

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