So you’ve found out you have a mental illness. Where do you go from here? Everyone’s journey is different, but here are a few important steps that apply to pretty much everyone.
(Not sure whether you have a mental illness? Check out our screening tools!)
Take time to sit with your feelings
One of the first things you’ll want to do is take a look at how this new information makes you feel. Mental illness can be very overwhelming. Everyone reacts differently. You might be feeling scared, angry, embarrassed, guilty, or confused. On the other hand, some people feel relief at finally having a name for what they’ve been experiencing. It’s okay to feel any of these things—or all of them, or none of them!
Eventually you’ll want to start working through these feelings. But for now, it’s enough to just do your best to acknowledge them. Working through your feelings about mental illness is an ongoing process and won’t happen all at once.
Why should you do this? Taking time to acknowledge your feelings can help you attend to them instead of letting this sit in your brain, overwhelming you. Having a mental illness is normal. Don’t let your brain or anyone else tell you otherwise.
“It's ok to feel this pain”
Talk to someone
Mental illness can be very lonely. Know that you’re not alone—many people experience mental illness. Finding someone to talk to about it can help you feel more supported. Start with someone you trust, like a close friend or family member. It doesn’t matter whether they’ve had the same experiences, as long as they are willing to listen.
Online support groups are a great place to find support as well. They can be less intimidating than talking to someone in person, because you can usually join them anonymously. Start with something really simple, like searching for hashtags on social media. This can help you see just how many people are going through similar things. This page contains links to several online communities focused on mental health.
If you feel ready, consider talking to a therapist as well. Many people recommend this as a first step, but it’s okay to spend some time learning more about mental illness on your own first.
There’s lots of information about mental illness online, including on this website. Part of the reason being diagnosed with a mental illness can be so overwhelming is that you don’t know much about it yet. It’s a big unknown, and you don’t know right away what it will mean for you. You don’t need to become an expert, but learning a bit about how mental illness works, what causes it, and how to treat it can help you feel empowered to do something about it.