I am so glad I was fortunate enough to find my Therapist. She’s been awesome, and stuck by me through thick and thin. When I wasn’t able to pay the full fee, she lowered my rate, and for a time, didn’t charge me at all. She has been just as invested as I am in my recovery, and I am eternally grateful. She’s helped me tremendously.
But she hasn’t fixed me.
One of the things I’ve found so helpful working with my Therapist is her methodology. She doesn’t really tell me anything. She lets me talk, only asking a few questions here and there. The questions are deep; never ‘How does that make you feel’ or ‘what do you think you should have done’. Her questions are probing, and help guide the conversation without me even knowing it. Then, at some point I often come to my own realizations and epiphanies. For example, I had never thought about being OCD. We were just talking in general about my moving into a new house. It’s hard to explain, but all of a sudden, I thought ‘Oh my God. I’m OCD as hell!” Then we had something new to talk about as I worked through how this has been affecting some of my behaviors.
But it’s always my own recognition. Frankly, if she had just told me I was OCD I probably wouldn’t believe her, and she’d be left trying to convince me. But since I came up with it on my own, it was easier and quicker to accept and deal with it. Not just OCD either, and not only negative views and understandings. Often it’s an awareness that things really aren’t as bad as they seem.
Yes, she’s really been a blessing.
When I was much younger, even though I had no clue I was Bipolar (Okay… I was in denial) I knew there was something wrong. I didn’t see the mania, but the depressions couldn’t be ignored. I wanted to be fixed; just make it stop. I expected the medicines to ‘cure’ what ailed me. The Psychiatrist and Therapist didn’t make me better, and I found new ones over and over, searching for the one who had that magic bullet that would make me normal.
Surprise! I never did find anyone who could.
I think that is a common expectation that is held by anyone dealing with mental illness. That’s not a critical statement. It can be very difficult to accept that we are responsible for our own healing. And there’s the hope that someone… anyone can make it better. It’s not that we aren’t willing to do the work that is necessary, we just don’t know how. Sometimes even the best therapist can’t convey this either. I’m sure that most, if not all the therapists I went through looking for the instant cure understood that they couldn’t do it for me. I just wasn’t willing or able to see that.
I just wanted to be fixed. That’s all anybody really wants isn’t it?
It’s the same with the medications. By class they all work pretty much the same. It’s known that SSRI’s increase the amount of serotonin, which is known to resolve depressions. Welbutrin raises dopamine, which also counteracts clinical depressions. So why didn’t they work on me? Why did I have to try so many different ones, even within the same class? Just give me a pill, and make it go away Dammit! Doctors are supposed to know these things; why don’t they just prescribe the one that’s going to work?
Everybody’s body chemistry is different, and we all react in different ways. That’s why there IS more than one. If it worked for everybody, there wouldn’t be a need to develop so many different ones. And there’s no way to predict how someone is going to react, no matter how good a doctor might be. Generally, treating someone who is bipolar requires a combination of drugs too. You have to address both sides of the illness. Some of the medications can even trigger an opposing episode. Welbutrin for example is an energizer; if administered by itself that energy can easily get out of control. So you add a mood stabilizer, but how that’s going to interact is completely dependent on the individual.
But even the right combination of medications isn’t going to resolve everything.
Living with a severe mental illness is a lot more than just chemical. The effects of going through all the mood swings can exasperate personality traits and behavioral habits. As it’s hereditary, often people who are bipolar have a bipolar parent, and the growing up in that environment can leave deep scars. The stigmas that go along with any mental illness can undermine confidence and self respect. It’s also common to have other conditions in addition. There is a high incidence of OCD that goes along with bipolar illness, and there is a strong tendency to chemical or alcohol addictions.
Medications alone aren’t going to resolve this.
A successful treatment plan most often involves a combination of medicines and therapy. Even if the medication is completely effective, just dealing with normalcy can create challenges, especially if the disease has been long term. A successful treatment plan can only be successful however if there is a personal commitment and self awareness. For the longest time, I wasn’t completely honest with myself or with my Therapist. I’d ignore, or fail to disclose things that I just didn’t want to face. I was often embarrassed by my actions, and not willing to admit them, even to myself. I eventually realized however that avoiding my own truths wasn’t going to ever help me get any better.
I think that, in my own experience anyway that accepting responsibility for your own healing is the key. Nobody can make you feel anything. A change in behavior can only be done by your own actions. Decisions may be influenced, but are ultimately your own. Medications can help control the physical symptoms, and therapy can offer guidance and support. In the end, it’s completely up to the individual.
I have improved my situation tremendously over the last few years. It’s because I’ve learned that no matter what help I receive, or how good the therapy, there’s always someone I can count on to see me through.
And that someone is me.