If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve been doing several different things to treat and manage my depression and anxiety lately – TMS, DBT, meeting with my wonderful case manager and therapist regularly, and seeing my rockin’ psychiatrist (pdoc).
I’ve been doing so well, I’ve made some changes to all that.
After consulting with Dr. Nelson (my pdoc), I decided to stop doing TMS after only ten sessions (a routine course is twenty to thirty sessions). I can always go back for more if needed, and he will continue to see me every month to check in with me and for medication management.
I finished DBT in the middle of June.
I’m also only seeing my therapist, Kim, once a month now and will stop seeing her by the end of the year (barring any unforeseen crises).
And I’m seeing Brianna, my fantastic case manager, on a less-regular basis – weaning off her, if you will (and even if you won’t!).
WHAT THE HELL, LAURA?
I know, right?
I made all of these decisions within about a week. And each of my “team members” is completely supporting my decisions, which is awesome, as it helps me believe I’m on the right path.
Even though these decisions were made without the usual lengthy over analysis I tend to do, I talked each one out with the respective professional. I do not ever recommend simply taking your mental health treatment into your own hands, especially quitting (almost) everything all at once.
I have had moments of slight panic when I realized what I was doing. Cutting off most of my professional support system is a very scary thing for someone who has been in the system most of her life.
But I’m not really cutting myself off. After I am finished with therapy and case management, I can always call and start up again if needed (I asked). A responsible mental health professional should never, in my opinion, say that you can never come back. Shit happens.
Knowing that they will still be there is paramount. It lets me know (1) that they care, and (2) that I will still have a safety net, even if it’s not visible all the time.
But, Laura, why fix it if it ain’t broke?
That’s a fair question.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit and realized something about myself: for the last thirty-plus years, I have considered myself, well, broken. And sick (depression is a disease of the brain, after all, and so is addiction).
Once you’re in the mental health system (or any system, for that matter), it can become easy to get entrenched in it, to feel like that’s where you belong.
That’s a tricky place to be.
What do I mean? It has become too easy to say to myself, I must really need all this help – all the time. I can’t make it on my own. What would I do without all these people helping me??
Sure, I have needed various types and amounts of help at different points in my life. It takes a village, right?
But I found that I was hanging on to these people like they were my lifeline, even though I have gained some confidence in my abilities, learned how to take better care of my mental health, and feel like a real person again.
In essence, I’ve grown (with their help). People who work in mental health and other social service-type jobs often say that their goal is to “work themselves out of a job”. In other words, they want their clients/patients to get better, to grow wings and fly. They want everyone to feel better, have confidence, and be able to move on toward happy, fulfilling lives – not feel so crappy that they don’t believe they can do anything on their own.
My first job out of college was as a substance abuse counselor. (This was way back in the early ‘90s, before you even needed to become accredited to do that work!) I would often say that same phrase.
I wanted the best for my clients, as we all did, and I hoped that substance abuse and addiction – along with the multitude of environmental and organic factors that contribute to it – would be eradicated. Thus, the dream fantasy was to “work myself out of my job”.
But regarding my own mental health treatment over the last umpteen years, I had become dependent on the mental health system. It was like a revolving door, and I kept getting stuck in it.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
Easy. I had such little self-confidence and such low self-esteem ever since I can remember that I believed all the shitty things the sick parts of my brain told me. I became convinced:
- That I was damaged, broken, beyond repair;
- That my battles (my illnesses) defined me;
- That I was destined to feel like shit;
- That it was simply my fate to fight for my life and my sanity every day;
- That my redeeming qualities were overshadowed by the negatives;
- That no one gave a shit, anyway;
- That I could not help myself.
I would often say that “I endure life, I don’t enjoy life”, and that was exactly how I felt for a very long time.
I now fully comprehend the theory (and scientific proof) that I have a couple brain diseases, and that they are out to kill me.
I am not defective.
I am not less than (even though I still feel like that sometimes).
I have worth as a human being (I’ll keep telling myself that).
And I deserve to live a long, healthy, happy life.
Lucky for me, I was also born with common sense. And common sense says that I should not be afraid to ask for help when I need it.
There’s no question that all the professionals I’ve worked with over the years, all the groups I’ve been a part of, all the hospitalizations, all the treatment and care I’ve received, have saved my life. Countless times.
I will be forever grateful to the professionals who have worked to get me back to positive mental health (except that one pdoc with the God complex – he should have his license revoked).
I just feel that now is my time to fly.
It’s like my wings have been repaired and now it’s time to strike out on my own, so to speak. 🙂
Haha, that is the question, isn’t it?!
Now I move on. I move on from thinking of myself as someone who needs treatment for mental illness to someone who has survived and is ready for bigger things.
I used to say, as many people do, that I “suffer” from depression and anxiety. But that makes me feel weak. It makes me feel like there’s nothing I can do about it, that that’s just my lot in life – to suffer.
So now I say I “live with” depression and anxiety and am in recovery from addiction. That phrase is so much more validating, so much more active.
I am now open for business as a freelance copywriter and content creator, specializing in mental health (of course), addiction, LGBTQ issues, and non-profits. I haven’t had any clients yet, but I’m working on it! I even have a website: TheMentalHealthWriter.com. Feel free to check it out. And hey, if you know anyone who needs this kind of work done, send ‘em my way! (Thanks! 🙂 )
Plus, I like to write fiction. I have several personal essays I plan on publishing as a collection someday, a handful of short stories that I occasionally try to get published in anthologies, and – yes – I’m working on a book. It’s a thriller, and it’s going to be awesome.
I’ve got that going for me, and that’s good.
One of these days, I’ll write a post about self-discipline and structure. If I want to actually achieve my goals, I need an abundance of both. Right now, it’s a struggle to get my butt in the chair and actually write on a regular basis – instead of reading about writing!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Have you ever been able to change the way you look at yourself? Do you struggle with self-defeating thoughts (and believing them)? What helps you?
As always, thanks for reading. I’ll see you on the flipside!