Therapy - Why it Works and When it Doesn't

     The topic of therapy is becoming less taboo by the day, but it is still something most people absolutely do now want to talk about. It seems that people either have a great outlook on the benefits, love their therapists and swear by it; or, they have such a negative view that they never tried it or went and for whatever reason despised their therapist or therapy in general. Like many topics in today's society, this is cutting out the most important conversations regarding therapy; why do we actually go, what do we look to get out of it, and who is the right therapist for me? Admittedly, I've had a very odd relationship with therapy myself, but I figured that I'd share my experiences in the hopes that someone gives it a shot for the first time or take more control of their own search and finds the right one. 

    I originally started working on this post about a month ago. I'll admit that it was probably a little too negative. Let's just say that I had been hesitant to go back to a therapist after my previous two experiences and had yet to find the one I am seeing now. This is going to be a bit lengthy (no apologies), but here is my personal odyssey with therapy. 

    My first therapist is an absolutely wonderful human who taught me a lot of new ways of thinking, how to reframe my brain to process previous traumas and how to reduce my anxiety at times. However, no matter what I did or how many times I tried to use these new tools I had, there were still so many times that life was completely overwhelming where I felt no choice but to escape through drinking and gambling. I felt better when I went and for the rest of that day, but starting that same night, the undulating emotional waves began anew, or, just continued on the path they were on before that appointment.   

    I am not blaming this therapist in any way, especially since I do not remember how honest I was at the time, but I can surmise that I wasn't overly transparent.  However, I am still surprised in retrospect that they didn't refer me to a psychiatrist or at the very least did not bring it up as an option. In total fairness, my timeline is hazy and it is possible that I presented as more stable at the time due to me being home and being in a safe space.  Eventually, I did stop going and went back intermittently for a few more years after major breakdowns with no further referral. I did go back to them for a while after my diagnosis but I felt like I was looking for something different now knowing I had bipolar. I stopped going...

    I did finally convince myself that I should get back into therapy about two years ago when I started my sojourn into the world of accountability and education with respect to bipolar and my life in general. I got a referral from my psychiatrist and called the office. To nobody's surprise, they didn't have any openings, but recommended that I see someone else in the office. I reluctantly accepted because the search and onboarding process is fucking exhausting. Lesson, this was a mistake. Ugh, I learned a little at the beginning; however any advanced or further questioning on bipolar led to very general responses and at some points, googling.  Yes, googled my questions and printed off an article. You cannot make this up.  Now, I don't necessarily blame them as much as the original therapist and center that I was referred to.  Instead of placing me on a waitlist or referring me directly to someone else with more bipolar specific experience as I requested, I was placed with someone with limited to no experience helping someone with a very serious, potentially life-threatening mental health disorder. I stopped going...  

    This experience left me with an extremely negative sentiment towards therapy.  I honestly thought my bipolar was in "relative" control and that I was better off reading as much as I could about how other people live with bipolar while relying on my girlfriend, family, constant awareness and hard work.

    Oops, if you have read my post on major depression, you know how wrong I was. I ended up feeling unbelievably great for two to three months (hypomania) and didn't see a reason to ever go back.  Then, bam, the brick wall that I didn't see coming that flattened me around this past Thanksgiving, the crying and the questions that flew around my head like a leaf in a windstorm about whether or not I would ever find that stability and happiness again. 

    I was honest with my psychiatrist and my support group around me; we all agreed that it was in my best interest to go back to therapy.  I knew I couldn't go about it the same way and go to just anyone.  Since my diagnosis I have wanted to find someone who could answer my questions about bipolar.  I wanted to know the limitations and possibilities, what my future could look like, whether I was doing the right things and how I can move forward when it seems like I am always just trying to stay afloat and off of the emotional roller coaster that is bipolar.  

    I asked my psychiatrist for a fresh round of referrals and looked for anyone who "specialized" in bipolar.  There wasn't one. Finally, I ended up opening up my search and found someone about 90 miles away who had been treating people living with bipolar for twenty years. From the minute I called their office, everything felt different, they could get me in within a week, and they were very personable and flexible.  I decided the drive was worth it to take a chance and I went for it. 

    I am so happy that I did.  I cannot over emphasize how nice it has been to talk to someone who knows more about my diagnosis than I do. They have helped thousands of people like myself. To put it bluntly, there is no way I can fool myself into thinking I am smarter than they are, that I know better than them, or that I know things they don't.  This is extremely refreshing and helpful. They have already proven the extra drive worth it and have opened up new thoughts about my future that I had not considered.  

    The biggest lesson I have learned through this journey is one that is consistent throughout this blog.  That is to take accountability and do not settle for anything but the best when it comes to my journey with bipolar. I am very lucky that I am able to take advantage of this opportunity, but more importantly, I put in the time and effort to better myself and further strengthen my foundation of my support. I did not settle and I did not give up on therapy in the moment that I wanted to the most.  Instead of seeing my depression as a sign that there was nothing I could do to make things better, I grasped for anything that could help and found a great therapist in the process.  

    As always, never give up, keep trying new things, and try like hell not to limit yourself; you never know what you mind find out. Thank you for reading!

    P.S. I think therapy can be beneficial for everyone, even neuro-typical people with every day stressors. Most of what I wrote about above applies, just think of it along the lines of an annual health check up or an extra work out, it is one more thing that can help you live an even more rewarding, confident and efficient lifestyle!


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