A Beginner’s Guide to Mental Health and Healing: What I’ve Learned After Five Years in Therapy (And How It Might Help You)

Before I found a therapist I liked and could trust, I didn’t know much about mental health aside from what I’d learned in AP Psychology in high school (which was taught from an outdated nineteen-eighties textbook that had pictures that currently brings to mind murder documentaries. It essentially demonized anyone with an atypical brain or life experience and loved using language like “chemical imbalance” which is no longer a thing professionals use. I also learned a lot about mental health from movies that usually did a terrible job accurately portraying what it’s like to struggle with things like anxiety or depression. I knew next to nothing about self-care, trauma, or the symptoms of things that I actually lived with every day and had absolutely no idea what the symptoms were for things like OCD, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and a panic disorder (stuff I struggle with). Only after I was fortunate (and privileged enough) to get the help I needed, did I begin to learn about an entire world of information that would have changed my entire life if I’d had access to it when I was younger, or, if my mom or her mom had access to it because cycles are real, ya’ll.

Mental health awareness is so important and lifesaving to individuals but also crucial for building healthy communities and repairing and protecting an entire generation. The more I learned and continue to learn, the more I’m frustrated by how little the information is disseminated outside of mental health circles. That’s why I feel like I have to share my experience. These things should be common knowledge by now. So here’s a summary of some of the key things I’ve learned since my nervous breakdown and how it’s really impacted my life. And you might be thinking, “well cool, but it doesn’t apply to me because I’m fine,” and I hope that’s true but that’s exactly what I thought before my brain imploded and tried to kill me through sleep deprivation and an intense gag reflex.

From here on is a summary of what I’ve learned so far from self-help books, my therapist, my psychiatrist, online articles, wellness group, and my family doctor. How to identify trauma (physical ailments are so often the first sign), the symptoms of common mental health struggles, how to get help, what help might look like, where to get help, and what you can do if you’ve run into roadblocks like no insurance, a shithead doctor, etc. Caveat: Keep in mind that I am not an expert or a mental health professional, I’m a writer, mostly a bad one with a shit sense of humor and no basic understand of punctuation. This is just my story of my personal experience as I remember it. Here we go!

Symptoms of Trauma

Despite knowing that my upbringing was complex, colorful, completely and totally fucking deranged, I never considered myself “traumatized” or even “affected.” I love my parents, have friends, went to college, and sure, I made totally insane impulsive decisions (young people! amiright?) and randomly went through bouts of intense panic and terror but like, we all have our shit, right? It was eye-opening to learn about the symptoms of trauma and how it manifests in our minds and bodies.

Here’s a summarized basic list of the many symptoms of trauma:

Anxiety and panic attacks, fear, anger, irritability, intrusive thoughts, obsessions and compulsions, shock and disbelief, emotional numbing and detachment, unhealthy attachments like co-dependency, repeating generational trauma cycles (dating the same evil jackass repeatedly), depression, shame and guilt, extremely rigid (or porous) boundaries, fatigue, head feeling cloudy, body aches and pains, joint pain, difficulty concentrating, symptoms similar to ADHD (people with higher ACEs scores can often be misdiagnosed with ADHD), difficulty being vulnerable, stomach issues (IBS and trauma have a high correlation), auto-immune problems like arthritis.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to have so many physical symptoms that they’re convinced that they’re allergic to gluten or soy or dust or life, and spend thousands of dollars on expensive special diets that work “okay” but not entirely because their symptoms are just that: symptoms. They’re not sensitive to wheat, they’re chronically depressed but they don’t feel sad so they don’t know it’s depression.

I had symptoms for years. I was tired and felt defeated (but I was tenacious and ambitious so I didn’t think it mattered much). I felt bloated and nauseous. I was jumpy af (and still am!). I felt foggy, like my head was in the clouds and my thinking was unclear and muted. I cried a lot (puppy videos!). I’d lay in bed thinking about some tragedy I read about for weeks. I lost weight. As a kid, I had to rinse dishes before I could eat off of them (way embarrassing when at a friend’s house and also my best friend Danny still makes fun of me for this because she’s a dick). Also as a kid, If I saw something “gross” like worms I couldn’t eat spaghetti for months. None of this happened all at once, sometimes a thing would go away and another thing would start. I started to notice that maybe something was wrong when I began feeling out of control, like at any minute I could just lose it. What if I stabbed myself for no reason? What if I stabbed my dog (this horrified me, I LOVE my dog). I’d avoid knives when home alone and lock myself in the bathroom to pray. Obsession–Compulsion. Until that point, I was totally convinced that I had a wheat sensitivity. I personally tried a million things to fix my fatigue and the foggy feeling in my brain and have watched so many folks do the same, only to learn years later that all of my trauma was demanding to be dealt with my brain was grieving the sudden tragic death of my little brother.

ACEs

According to the CDC, “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. Great! Because I scored like so high. Working together, we can help create neighborhoods, communities, and a world in which every child can thrive. You can get your ACEs SCORE HERE. To learn more visit the CDC page or check out this Ted Talk by Nadine Burke Harris.

BOUNDARIES

Many of us were raised to have weak boundaries on purpose by our caregivers. Also folks with a trauma background tend to have porous boundaries because boundary violations are a part of trauma. What I’ve learned is that counter-dependence is a thing, and I do it in new friendships and in romantic relationships. If you read NAKED, me pushing my husband away for the first like year was 100% counter-dependence af. Also? It’s totally a thing to have strong boundaries and then lose them, have weak ones and then get better, and to set boundaries while being extremely nice. I’ve also learned that ethnic families tend to have NO GODDAMN BOUNDARIES (my dad and in-laws love to be so weird about shit). And just because something is part of a culture doesn’t make it healthy. Racism is a part of American culture but that doesn’t mean it’s cool to be a racist fuckstick. I honestly had no idea how much I struggle with healthy boundaries until I read Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab. Truly, it’s life-changing in so many ways. A friend of mine read it and was like, “I’m reading this book and realizing the extent of my trauma and issues.” If you want to grow as a human and ease your anxiety and improve your confidence, model awesomeness for your family, friends, or kids, improve your partnership, be happier at work, parent easier, thrive in life, you need to read/listen to this book. Yes, it’s that helpful.

THERAPISTS

Finding the best therapist for you and your needs is crucial for therapy to work. It’s not like going to the doctor to get a vaccine or stitch up a cut. It’s a longterm relationship that depends on a different level of trust and commitment because you’re going to face all of your life’s problems with them and talk about things that aren’t easy and sometimes hear stuff you don’t like. Also? Therapists are not created equal. They have different training, personalities, goals, reasons for being a therapist, and strengths and weaknesses. So there are some important things to know before you start interviewing folks (yes, interviewing). While some folks get lucky and find the perfect fit right away, most people struggle to find the right fit and this can be discouraging and frustrating. But know that it’s normal. Plan on meeting at least a couple of different people and feeling things out before you find the right one. Yes it’s exhausting to retell your stories over and over but once you find the right person? Totally worth it. Here’s some stuff you should know though.

Licensed Social Clinical Worker, Psychologist, Psychiatrist

While it might seem like potato, potato, and it doesn’t matter, it totally does. Therapists can have one of these titles and all of them point to different training. ” According to the APA, “Social workers can address the mental, behavioral or emotional health issues of clients. Psychologists, on the other hand, study human behavior and can diagnose and treat mental illness.” A Psychiatrist is an M.D. or O.D. who specializes in mental health and who are often portrayed in horrifying ways on t.v.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve had exclusively bad experiences with Psychologists and here’s why (I’m going to generalize so forgive me): They’re trained heavily in theory and pathology. Because of this, I’ve found them to be extremely focused on finding out what’s wrong with you, labeling it, and medicating you. Not because they’re evil but because that seems to be largely what they’re taught to do. Whereas social workers tend to understand things like trauma, lived experiences, community, and so on, so they’re less focused on pathology and more focused on how they can help you learn coping mechanisms, heal your trauma, and work through your issues. They feel less sterile and academic. It feels more collaborative and less “paternal” for lack of a better word. Often, if medication is needed, a LCSW will possibly refer you to a Psychiatrist for meds (mine did, she is a holistic psychiatrist and I love her). Very important: I am not a professional, however, I would not recommend getting brain meds from any doctor other than one that specializes in mental health like a Psychiatrist. My family doctor went on a rant one day about how “incredibly irresponsible” it is for family doctors or anyone who isn’t specialized to do that because they’re not trained in detail enough to do it right. I was annoyed at the time because I was like “GIVE ME SOMETHING TO SLEEP” and she was like, “NO, BECAUSE I’M RESPONSIBLE. HERE IS A REFERAL TO THE RIGHT GODDAMN DOCTOR.”

Finding the right therapist for you: There are a lot of ways to find therapists in your area. The number one way most effective way is to ask folks in your life who they see and what they like about them. If you can’t get into someone via a recommendation, you can search for therapists on Psychology Today. They have a whole database of mental health professionals near you.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF THERAPY

There is so much that we don’t talk about as a society when it comes to mental health. While we’re getting better at talking about depression and anxiety and the like, there really aren’t that many “how to therapy” resources. And here’s the thing, for therapy to be as effective as possible, there’s A LOT to it. For example, every therapist uses a different or many different types of therapy. And knowing the different types can really help you choose the right therapist. Like there are dozens of different types, dozens. But don’t worry, you don’t need to pass an exam on them or know them all, but taking a few minutes to learn a little can go a long way. Here’s a few you might have heard of:

  • EMDR
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychoanalytical therapy
  • Attachment Based Therapy
  • Etc, Etc, Etc.

PSYCHIATRISTS

Psychiatrists are terrifying. Okay, that’s not true, but historically they were kinda scary and way too many movies depict them as sociopathic for my comfort. So when my therapist was like, “You might want to consider seeing so and so to know all of your treatment options” (her nice way of saying meds because she knows how much I hate medicine), I was like uhm, no thanks, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, HELLO. But after my second week of back to back panic attacks and no sleep in 14 days (think Fight Club), I changed my tune. Look, I’m all about natural healing, but lavender oil isn’t going to cure a panic disorder (please, essential oil pyramid scheme people, do not yell at me. I use them, they’re great, but let’s be honest, they’re not a cure-all. Nobody is running for clove oil to fix a disembowelment). Since I am distrustful in general and also skeptical of everything ever, I was hesitant but then I found out that she was a holistic M.D. who studied at a very good medical school and the snob in me was like “okay hook me up.” Then I met her and she is incredible. She is what all doctors should be: Thorough af (but she’s able to be because she’s in private practice and expensive af). My first appointment was three hours long and we covered a total physical, mental, emotional history. Next, she ordered 92,000 tests. After the results were in, I was put on an elderly woman’s herb and vitamin regiment and prescribed yoga, therapy, mindfulness meditation, a balanced diet, accupuncture, and an “as needed” med to calm my nervous system. I do not like meds. My brother died from a doctor prescribed med, it’s a trauma trigger for me. And? It worked like a fucking charm. Within a year I was off of it and using the natural alternative (as directed by my psychiatrist). The med didn’t fix me, it wasn’t supposed to. It allowed me to feel fine enough to work on the root of my issues and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON

Did yall know that some folks are just born highly sensitive and it’s often pathologized because as a culture we hate feelings of any and all kinds. But it’s not a disorder, it’s a personality trait.

According to VeryWell Mind, “A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a term for those who are thought to have an increased or deeper central nervous system sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli.1 Some refer to this as having sensory processing sensitivity, or SPS for short.

While highly sensitive people are sometimes negatively described as being “too sensitive,” it is a personality trait that brings both strengths and challenges.

These terms were first coined by psychologists Elaine Aron and Arthur Aron in the mid-1990s and interest in the concept has continued to grow tremendously since then.”

What are some of the symptoms of being a HSP (Taken from VeryWell Mind)?

  • Avoiding violent movies or TV shows because they feel too intense and leave you feeling unsettled
  • Being deeply moved by beauty, either expressed in art, nature, or the human spirit, or sometimes even a good commercial
  • Being overwhelmed by sensory stimuli like noisy crowds, bright lights, or uncomfortable clothing
  • Feeling a need for downtime (not just a preference), especially when you have hectic days; needing to retreat to a dark, quiet room
  • Having a rich and complex inner life, complete with deep thoughts and strong feelings that go with it

I am reading a book about it now because a while ago my therapist was like, “I think you’re a highly sensitive person” and I was like, I AM NOT SENSITIVE I AM SO GRITTY!” And she was like, yeah, that’s not what that means and yeah, you’re shockingly resilient. And then I was very proud and slightly embarrassed for really no reason. Anyhow, if you think you might be a HSP OG like ME (Move over Dr. Seuss), you can take the highly sensitive person quiz here.

TYPES OF TRAUMA

When most of us hear the word trauma we often think about things like, “War” which is certainly traumatic but many of us don’t think about things like neglect, racism, or betrayal. Emotional neglect, physical neglect, and growing up with a parent who has untreated anxiety or depression are all types of trauma. The human brain is incredible and resilient and also deeply impacted by trauma. And trauma comes in many forms that often are overlooked and therefore people don’t seek help for them. Here is a list of the types of trauma from yourexperiencematters.com.

  • Acute trauma: Results from exposure to a single overwhelming event/experiences (car accident, natural disaster, single event of abuse or assault, sudden loss or witnessing violence).
  • Repetitive trauma: Results from exposure to multiple, chronic and/or prolonged overwhelming traumatic events (i.e., receiving regular treatment for an illness).
  • Complex trauma: Results from multiple, chronic and prolonged overwhelming traumatic events/experiences which are compromising and most often within the context of an interpersonal relationship (i.e., family violence).
  • Developmental trauma: Results from early onset exposure to ongoing or repetitive trauma (as infant, children or youth) includes neglect, abandonment, physical abuse or assault, sexual abuse or assault, emotional abuse witnessing violence or death, and/or coercion or betrayal. This often occurs within the child’s care giving system and interferes with healthy attachment and development.
  • Vicarious trauma: Creates a change in the service provider resulting from empathetic engagement with a client’s/patient’s traumatic background. It occurs when an individual who was not an immediate witness to the trauma absorbs and integrates disturbing aspects of the traumatic experience into his or her own functioning.
  • Historical trauma is a cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations emanating from massive group trauma. Examples of historical trauma include genocide, colonialism (i.e., residential schools), slavery and war.
  • Intergenerational trauma describes the psychological or emotional effects that can be experienced by people who live with people who have experienced trauma. Coping and adaptation patterns developed in response to trauma can be passed from one generation to the next.

For more resources on trauma and the different types check out:

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network–On this page you’ll find a list of resources for different types of trauma such as sexual abuse, refugee trauma, natural disaster trauma, and domestic violence.

ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, PTSD, AND OCD SYMPTOMS

I think one of the ways that a lot of experts fail the people they’re trying to help, is by assuming that folks know a hell of a lot more about mental health than most of us do. I see things all of the time that are like, “If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression” and I’m like WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE THOUGH! Because I had symptoms of Anxiety, Depression, Complex Trauma, and OCD for YEARS and I had absolutely no idea. Why? Because a lot of my symptoms had been going on for so long that they seemed just like one of my little “quirks” and also because many symptoms weren’t “typical” or what we’re taught and a lot of them were physical instead of emotional. For example, I felt cloudy and tired, not sad. I felt uninspired and pulled away from making attachments which I thought was just me being “an introvert” or in need of a more creative circle or location. I felt sure I was allergic to wheat, or dairy, and definitely thought I had a hormonal imbalance. I thought all of these things other than geez, I must be depressed. I’d read something horrifying and couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks and weeks and pictured it over and over again which I thought was because I was empathetic not because I had OCD. I would always sit with my back against a wall in restaurants because I was “smart” and “keeping myself safe” not because I was traumatized. When I met new people I’d hang back and observe them and avoid participating in the conversation until I knew exactly what to say because I was anxious. I had panic attacks off and on which I attributed to stressful situations (which was true) and not to poor coping mechanisms and rumination.

Signs and symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Trauma:

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Being easily fatigued (Wow how am I so goddamn tired always?)
  • Having difficulty concentrating, mind going blank, cloudy thinking.
  • Being irritable (Biting off people’s heads, being annoyed a lot)
  • Having muscle tension (grinding your jaw, tensing up your neck or back, etc).
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep.
  • Hyper vigilance (Jumpy, definitely convinced someone is going to break in and murder you when you’re alone)
  • Feeling of impending doom (i’m going to die)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Gagging
  • Unwanted thoughts (dark, horrible, creepy thoughts)
  • Excessive hunger
  • Loss of appetite
  • Waking too early, insomnia, waking in the night
  • Loss of interest (nothing sounds fun)
  • Crying a lot (like one puppy video and you’re sobbing)
  • Rumination (going over thoughts again and again)
  • Guilt
  • Apathy
  • Feeling worthless or self-loathing
  • Fear of being dirty
  • Doubting and having difficulty tolerating uncertainty (OMG did I lock the door? Turn off the iron?)
  • Needing things orderly and symmetrical (The house isn’t IN ORDER. The closet isn’t lined up. The towels aren’t perfectly folded).
  • Aggressive or horrific thoughts about losing control and harming yourself or others (What if I lost control and stabbed my dog for no reason?)
  • Unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects (The devil is coming for me).

BOOKS AND WORKBOOKS

If you cannot afford therapy right now or are just searching for a good fit, I highly recommend buying all of these books OR getting them at your local library. It’s a great start, or a great way to aid the therapy you’re already getting.

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron: A really interesting book on how to cope with the world as a HSP. If you take the quiz and this is you, I highly recommend the book. She also has a fantastic one for raising HS children.

The Whole Brained Child: This book is not only amazing for folks with kids, it’s just amazing for everyone to help us all understand our brains and what we need to thrive.

Set Boundaries, Find Peace: One of the best self-help books I’ve read in a long time. I’ll be honest, the audio book can get a little monotone, but the information is so vital to living a healthy and happy life. Live your life for you, amazing advice for work, relationships, family, parenting, and just existing in the world. She also has an amazing Instagram account under her name.

The Body Keeps The Score: The first book I read about trauma and the way that it impacts the body as recommended by my Psychiatrist and Therapist. If you read any book this year on mental health, make it this one.

Self Love Workbook for Women: I just got this and started it. I have a lot of confidence and solid self esteem, and I also struggle with it in some areas and am a big fan of self sabotage and imposter syndrome.

Daring Greatly: A wonderful book by the infamous Brene Brown on being vulnerable. It’s something we all need.

Big Magic: This one is for the creatives out there. Feeling too much pressure? In your head about stuff? Talking yourself out of things before you start? Read this.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: While this book leans pretty heteronormative, I’ll say this: It should be required reading before anyone gets in any kind of romantic relationship at all whatsoever. The advice is solid, actionable, and it will honestly help you to get to know your parter, I mean REALLY know them, on the next level. Married? Thinking of getting Divorced? Separated? Dating? Engaged? Thinking about becoming parents? READ THIS BOOK. We should start gifting it to people as engagement gifts.

Retrain Your Brain in 7 Weeks: This is a perfect introduction to CBT therapy for those of you struggling with anxiety, OCD, or depression. It’s also a great resource if you’re unable to afford or find a therapist that works for you right now.

PODCASTS

Are you super into podcasts and/or don’t have time to read? Here is a roundup of the best roundup lists for mental health podcasts. I’ve tried to find the most inclusive lists to cover as much as possible.

The Best Mental Health Podcasts to Take You Through the Year

Best Mental Health Podcasts

21 Mental Health Podcasts That Will Teach You Something

PARENTING (Dealing with Trauma, Triggers, and Breaking Cycles)

I’m no parenting expert or life expert or mental health expert. Shit, I’m barely a writing expert and it’s been my full time job for fifteen years (yes, it IS shocking that I get paid for producing an astonishing number of typos). I’m not here to pretend to be an expert, just to share what I’m learning and have learned on this wild ride that is growth and healing and parenting. And what I’ve learned so far from books, and my therapist is this: The best way to raise healthy and happy kids is to work on yourself. Go to therapy (truly, this is THE NUMBER ONE), read the books, take a course or two. Assume that you don’t know everything. AND THEN? Give yourself grace. Turns out that my obsession with not screwing my kid up has the potential to uhm, screw him up? How? When it comes to my little, I don’t allow myself much wiggle room. My childhood was magical and also deeply traumatic. How traumatic? Traumatic enough that my therapist once said that I have one of the most traumatic childhoods of all of her clients. Yeah. Like, I WIN the fucked up upbringing award. And when I decided to have a child I was like, under no fucking circumstances will I screw this up. I will die before I let him end up with even ONE ACEs score let alone like the 9 that are mine. So if I make a mistake like losing my temper and raising my voice, I feel horrific shame. And shame? The most toxic of all emotions and the one your kids pick up on RIGHT AWAY even if you’re not saying a goddamn thing. So right now we are working on shame resilience and my husband and I are working on saving our marriage and improving it so our little can grow up seeing a healthy relationship (something neither myself nor my husband grew up witnessing). So do the work folks, and be gentle with yourself.

You are breaking cycles, you are improving yourself one day at a time, you are doing the work, and you are amazing for all of that. We all make mistakes, nobody is perfect, and that’s totally okay (look at me practicing!). Unsure of how to kick off the healing for your tots? Read or listen to all of the books below and start the long and painful journey of finding a therapist who is a good fit for you.

The Body Keeps the Score

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

It Didn’t Start with You

The Whole Brain Child

Access

Affordable & Accessible Mental Health & Wellness

“Behavioral Health Equity is the right to access quality health care for all populations regardless of the individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or geographical location. This includes access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services for mental and substance use disorders.” -–SAMHSA

“Racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors including inaccessibility of high quality mental health care services, cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health.” –APA

Unfortunately in our country, health and wellness experts or spaces are not accessible to everyone for a plethora or reasons. Many therapists don’t accept insurance because there are risks for them when it comes to compliance and other things. Many therapists don’t work on weekends because they’re people with families of their own. Many folks don’t have insurance or disposable income for an additional expense like therapy (which is expensive af, honestly). And the list goes on and on. It’s something that has to be changed if we want healthy and thriving communities. It’s also why I’m starting a foundation and donating proceeds of my next book to it but that’s another thing. While we are a long way off from getting everyone the help they deserve, there are some free, less expensive, options.

  • Find a therapist who has a sliding scale on Psychology Today. Many therapists do offer a payment scale for folks who need it.
  • Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a non-profit nationwide network of mental health professionals dedicated to providing in-office and online mental health care—at a steeply reduced rate—to individuals, couples, children, and families in need.
  • The National Alliance in Mental Illness offers a free 24/7 helpline for emergency situations but also to find guidance on getting help locally. NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m., ET. 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org
  • Your community. Try googling “free community mental health” or “free therapy” and variations of that to find what your local area provides. I had no idea but even in my little city of Salt there is a center that offers free therapy.
  • Ask a therapist. Sometimes therapists are able to see patience pro-bono. It depends on their availability, bandwidth, and overhead, but some can manage it. If you find someone you like, reach out and ask if they would be willing to work something out with you. It can’t hurt to ask and while it might sting a bit the worst they can say is no. Which is also cringy if you have anxiety like me. But like, try it.
  • Listen to a webinar on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website or Youtube.
  • TedTalks. TedTalks are amazing and a great free resources for learning about ways to up your self-care, reduce your stress levels, and boost your self love. Check out this wellness playlist or this one on self-care on Ted Talk.
  • Books. Books like the ones I listed above are a great place to start and public libraries are totally free.
  • Apps. There are all kinds of mindfulness apps out there and some of them are free. I personally use Headspace and it works incredibly well for my depression and anxiety symptoms. But there are tons out there that are free or cheaper.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.

SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727)

Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

You’re Doing Great

And there we have it, friends. I hope that this guide helps you in some way in your own journey. I know there’s a lot missing and it’s not a complete guide, but it’s a guide made from my experience and the things I’ve learned along the way. And I’ve only been in therapy for five totally badass/difficult years so the list isn’t going to be perfect. Here’s to growing, together, right?

I’d love to hear about your experience or tips or things you’ve learned along the way, too. And remember, growth and change are hard, but you’ve totally got this. You’re doing great. And you are loved.

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