In 2010, I had a mental breakdown. In December of that year, I called the EAP at my company, totally clueless and asked them to get me an appointment with a therapist. And that started my therapy journey.
My first therapist was handed … basically a sobbing pile of goo in a blanket? I was a disaster – undiagnosed bipolar, untreated anxiety, and raging PTSD. And she slowly taught me a whole bunch of tools, many of which I still use, especially around mindfulness. We parted ways after about 2 years, because we got to the point where she was unsure how to continue, and I knew I needed things she couldn’t help with. That happens sometimes.
My second therapist was a psychologist, and she would say things like “if we can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” – which is a very hard thing for me, a religious professional, to cope with. But she got me to start treating my bipolar like something we should be curious about, and collect data about. My mood became spreadsheets, and we figured out the pattern of my mood cycles.
And then we started predicting them – and getting ahead of them. Because of her, I slowed them down from 6-7 cycles a year, to 1-2. And then to having them … when they happened, instead of on a schedule. We parted ways after my divorce, when she started encouraging me to leave my spiritual practice, because it was “imaginary thinking”. But I am so thankful for her.
My third therapist was a lesbian woman trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and I would have worked with her for years if I could. She gave me a whole new toolkit around acceptance, and that’s something I can rely on and use. We talked a lot about things like “Okay, you are experiencing X thing; how can you act in this moment that brings you closer to the life you want, and not attach to X thing as though it is the only part of your life right now?”
I can’t overstate how helpful that was. And then she left private practice to be an art teacher in an elementary school.
Therapists Four and Five aren’t really worth mentioning – one told me I couldn’t have bipolar because I was “too stable and normal”, the other refused to listen to me when I told him what I needed (and also lied about his training). After I talked about the one who said I was too stable to have bipolar, my psychiatrist had me write out her statement to keep in her files as a success story. It took me five years to be meds stable! I fired therapist five in April, because he was actively making my mental health worse.
And that takes me to yesterday.
Yesterday I had my first appointment with a new therapist. I need one, that’s without question. But my in-network therapy coverage has turned up lots of wonderful sounding people who have an 8+ week waiting list even for an intake appointment. And the first months of working with a new therapist kind of universally suck. Even so, I am at the point where I need the support.
So I found a practice, did the intake stuff, and am seeing someone out of pocket.
My first appointment was last night.
Therapist is young, cute, wears chunky glasses and flannel shirts, and has a big pillow in her office that says “SPILL THE TEA – GO TO THERAPY” on it. I’m entirely too old and boring for this office, which is a little funky and a lot hip and stylish. She’s lovely. I can’t say we had a great conversation, since last night was basically 10 minutes of setup, and 40 minutes of me laying out my entire trauma/mental health/life altering 18 months in a long, winding story that made us both laugh on a couple of occasions. But I liked her.
It was a massive adrenaline-fueled endeavor, and I was absolutely “on” (if you’ve met me, you’ve seen me pull that out of my brain – it’s similar to priest space). I was so anxious before hand, and then in the moment… just clear and myself. An hour after I got home, I crashed, but I expected that.
I have no idea how this is going to go in the future. There’s so much to unpack. I have therapists who didn’t even know I have a history of child sexual abuse, let alone some of the other stuff. Trauma is hard to talk about – I tend to default to “process life situations and feelings”. But maybe here I’ll be able to start working on that stuff. Her profile on the practice website says she’s specialized in things like that, so I’m hopeful.
She’s also said she’ll work with me on a sliding scale if I decide to stay with her, instead of bouncing to another therapist in 8 weeks or so when I can get one that my insurance covers.
So we’ll see.
Cautious optimism rules the day. And I will say? Today I feel more like myself. That might be the therapy, it might be the crying jag I had before bed. But either way, today feels better.
May that continue.