This morning I had therapy and I think it’s important to note the progress I may or may not have made over this past year. This might be intense so..here’s some music=
First some background..
I’ve been in some sort of therapy for 12 years. It was and still is possibly the most important and life changing decision I’ve made in my adult life. It started difficult enough. Finding a therapist that I could afford was exceedingly difficult. I was lucky enough to find a state run facility that caters to low income people.
Unfortunately this also means that the doctors were quick to prescribe medication that was in trial stages. Their immediate concern was handling the emotional crisis I arrived to them with.
The medication journey: so many pills. We started with low doses of course then increased when my needs appeared to increase. With any anti-psychotic there will be side effects. Some made me gain 20lbs. Some gave me very vivid nightmares that I would wake up screaming from. One gave me liver spots all over at age 24. Another made my body look like a flipping model but stopped my menstrual cycle…which freaked out my doctor. With another I couldn’t stop biting my lips/cheeks or clicking my teeth.
With each medication change I had to suffer thru withdrawals.. those were different for each medication too. Leg cramps, arrhythmia, chest pain, trouble breathing, muscle spasms, dizziness, nausea, more nightmares, drastic changes in appetite where I would either eat all the food or the food would rot before I thought of it. Many times I ended up with ketoacidosis to a point where jaundice would occur. Several attempts at suicidial overdose probably helped that along.
It got to a point where I felt as if the pharmacy was just a legal drug dealer forcing me to pay for poison the doctor said I needed. Our regular 15 minute interviews every 3rd month where no where near enough for a diagnosis much less proper treatment.
It didn’t matter how many times I ended up in the emergency room crying and screaming about the voices in my head. No one was caring what the voices where saying.
All that mattered were the pills.
7ish years ago? I had walked some 17 miles after screaming for hours about the divorce being my fault after not sleeping for 3 weeks or eating for nearly 2 while being a live-in-caretaker of house of 8 people. My body was covered in cuts of varying deepness. the hospital didn’t care that I didn’t remember those cuts.
No medication was helping.
I began asking for therapy. I told them I felt like an addict. I pleaded with them. The idea that the voices that were tormenting me only wanted to be heard felt so right to me that I flushed the pills down the toilet. For months. Because the doctors promised they would help. That they were campaining to get a therapist. I wasn’t the only patient who requested it.
My arguments and validations for a resident therapist were heard. A light appeared in the dark tunnel that had become the roller coaster psychosis that was destroying and ruling my life.
Hospital bills, student loans, inability to work a standard job due to mental health issues, constant intense stress with no outlet, and a medically induced pill addiction all loomed around me in a cloud of self-hate. The voices would scream for days. “only 200 calories today.” “More cuts” “clean…clean…organize.” The abyss existed and from my soul it gained it’s power. (chill out goth kid..jesus..)
We were drained.
Therapy was really very weird at first. We talked about the medications, what I knew then of my history, my living situation, the voices…
It was very informal for far too long. I began to feel like the therapist they had gotten didn’t believe in the therapy I was searching for. To so many people their job is just a paycheck to pay the bills.
But I was passionate. I still am. I devoted session after session to discussing teamwork, personal initiative, self-pride…It had in so many ways become my job to convince the therapist that while a paycheck is nice, a paycheck with accomplishment is better. Just when I felt I was making headway with her she quit.
I was terrified they would end the program but they found a new therapist rather quickly. The new one was rather quite at first. When I rehashed everything I’ve written in this post she said,” Well let’s see if we can make some progress.” I liked her spirit.
It took another year of seeing her a hour 2x a month for any kind of break thru on my part. We’d been off the medication for awhile and struggling but found it difficult to open the door on our actual healing. Still She’d ask me the standard questions, “how’re you sleeping?” “how’s your appetite?” “has anything changed?”
The voice in my head named Jennifer encouraged us, “What will it take for you to open up to her?”
At the time…The sessions felt almost like a vending machine. I’d give her the answers and walk away feeling like I’d done something just by checking in.
Which I had.
Don’t discredit a simple check in.
It built a basic trust where if I was in crisis or had been in crisis or felt crisis coming then I could say something. And when I couldn’t say anything but the answers the repetition of those questions stayed in my memory well enough were I( and the voices) began to ask them of myself outside of therapy.
Jennifer would say things like,”you’re just being cranky cause we haven’t eaten in3 days.” Or “It’s not that they don’t want to spend time with you, it’s that you’ve forgotten to shower for 3 weeks.”
A different voice would say, “Hey you made it outside today. That’s cool.” o”Doesn’t this shower feel great?” “Hey clean laundry smells so good I can’t wait to sleep in this”
The voices went from haunting and torturing me to supporting me. It wasn’t overnight but
“Every bit of progress is still progress. Celebrate it.”
“Celebrate every victory no matter how small.”
That’s how my actual therapy started. By learning the questions to ask myself when I wasn’t at therapy I was learning a thing called mindfulness. I began to be outside of my own head, the place I had retreated too that had become a world of it’s own. More and more our self-awareness thru observing the outside world began to light a fire of the initiative we had so passionately and hypocritically preached.
We began writing. We found a small app on our phone called Vent were we could anonymously post to a private diary or to the world. There were groups of people like us. Talks of systems, tips for depression, ideas of handling anorexia…any mental health problem we had we were able to find like minded people to support and receive anonymous support.
It was brilliant. I found myself writing at first just about some good food then it developed into full fledged stories from my nightmares. We were finally able to track ourselves. We would each randomly check in on each other. This built trust in our system.
Now…well…if you’re here then you’re witnessing our continuing journey. The book, this blog, the stop motion animations on youtube, the twitch streams where we’re just chilling, spotify where we’re sharing the music that’s getting us thru it all and encouraging others to share their music with us, deviantart where we’re learning traditional art…
Without therapy, if we had just stopped, we would have just stopped.
Don’t give up on yourself just because things seem dark.
The moon exists, whether that moon is therapy, art, music, helping others, find something positive to help you find value within and outside of yourself.