Are you on verge of a breakdown?

Adhere to signs that you may need professional guidance

By Barbara Pierce

“The sun wasn’t shining. It got darker every day. It got so bad I couldn’t even get out of bed. The smallest task felt overwhelming.”

This is how “Queer Eye” star Karamo Brown described his depression on “CBS This Morning.”

Mental health issues — like Brown experienced — are real medical conditions caused by a variety of factors, usually by several overlapping causes. These conditions cause changes in a person’s mood, thinking or behavior. They may affect the person’s ability to function every day and to relate to others. Each person’s experience will be different.

Mental health issues are common. In any one year, nearly one in five people will experience some kind of mental health issue.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to get better,” said Brown. “I didn’t even know help was available.”

Help is available. “Seeing a counselor can definitely help,” said licensed clinical social worker Andre Cuda, owner and operator of Cuda Counseling in Herkimer and Rome.

“It’s helpful to speak with someone about what’s going on,” he added. “And it is confidential. Also, it helps to understand that what you’re feeling is common. So many people suffer with similar issues, yet they feel alone.”

Here are a few things that let you know that it might be time to ask for help:

— You’re falling behind in school, work or life responsibilities in general. “For me, it was falling behind in school mainly. I stopped going to classes, I didn’t study for exams and ended up failing. I’d procrastinate on everything. It got to the point where I had these overwhelming moments of stress and anxiety,” Karissa Pierce wrote describes online in terms o fwhat she went through.

— You withdraw from your family, friends and social activities. You start avoiding people and only interact with others when you must. You drop out of the activities you used to enjoy.

— You worry excessively, or feel tense and anxious most of the time.

— You feel overly sad or low. You stop enjoying life overall. Things that used to make you feel good don’t do that for you anymore. You find it hard to smile and you never laugh anymore. Everything around you just becomes dull and dark like a rain cloud is above you constantly.

— You have highs, feelings of euphoria. You’re abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired, with more energy, you’re more talkative, and aren’t sleeping well; your thoughts may be racing.

— You have frequent, strong feelings of irritability or anger. You become irritated at small things that never used to bug you.

— You’re either sleeping too much or you can’t sleep well.

— Your eating habits have changed. You’re never hungry or you have increased hunger.

— You stop taking care of yourself. You stop showering daily. You brush your teeth once a day every couple of days if that. You begin to put less effort into how you look when you go out.

— You have thoughts of suicide. You feel hopeless, can’t see any way out, and think things will never get better. You feel like you can’t go on like this; you’re just a burden to your family.

You can get better and get your life back. The first step is asking for help.

What happens when I see a counselor?

“At the first appointment, we’ll identify the problem, collect information about the problem and about you,” explained Cuda. “Before you leave the first appointment, we’ll work together to start finding solutions that will work for you.”

“How many times you would come to see me would depend on what your goals for the therapy are,” he added. The price varies depending on insurance.

Medication can be an effective tool for some; it does take time to work. If Cuda felt medication would help you, and you agreed, he would refer you to your primary care physician or a psychiatrist.

For Brown, reaching out for professional help was a turning point. He realized he could have a better life. He encourages people struggling with mental health issues to not give up and seek help that can change their lives. “You don’t have to live in this dark cloud every day; you can get help. Your life can change. I’m living proof of that,” he says.

If you do not have insurance or funds, the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 315-272-6228 or 844-732-6228. Crisis counselors are on-call to speak with individuals or members of the community.