Although I won’t be going to therapy for the first time, this time I’m fully committed to the entire talk therapy process. Allow me to explain.
My first experience with therapy.
I was about 14 years old– and I completely loved it! Yes, you read that right I loved my therapy experience. I went to a facility for about two weeks. Therapy felt like a vacation from life.
My therapist treated me with art and talk therapy. He recommended a few drugs to regulate my mood swings but my mother refused to allow me to take medication. I left the treatment facility feeling refreshed.
My second experience with therapy was very painful.
I was 19 years old, my son was almost two, and I was a sophomore in college. The outside of my life looked amazing. I’d made the Dean’s List, became a leader on campus, and my son was on a consistent sleep schedule. However, on the inside, I had feelings and thoughts that something horrible was happening to my son. I couldn’t sleep or focus at school.
My therapist diagnosed me with Bipolar II. I immediately went on medication and talk therapy to regulate my moods. But the medicine and therapy didn’t get rid of my feelings of panic and dread. Over the years my symptoms got progressively worse. By the time I’d planned to commit suicide I was taking nine pills daily.
My third therapy experience felt like a relief.
Instead of ending my life, I checked myself into a 72-hour hold at a nearby hospital. My doctors worked hard to determine why my drug therapy wasn’t working. While at the hospital I slept and slept and pretty much loved every single second of being away from friends, family, and responsibility.
But on the day I was scheduled to be discharged, I experienced a severe flashback from childhood. When things finally settled the therapist on call removed my Bipolar II diagnosis and recommended that I extend my stay at the hospital for another few days. He later helped me to understand that my symptoms and feelings were an indication of a condition called PTSD. I took my diagnosis rather numbly. Eventually, I returned home with the intent on maintaining talk therapy and the occasionally sleep aide to manage my PTSD.
My fourth experience with therapy was surprising.
I had just moved back to Chicago to finish graduate school. Within a few months of returning to the city, I witnessed a man get shot at my barber shop while I waited in line for a haircut. This traumatizing experience sent me reeling with anxiety so I found a therapist. My therapist and I had the right diagnosis and all the right reasons to continue treatment, but I couldn’t afford to stay in therapy long enough to completely heal my childhood wounds and witnessing a get shot. So instead I bought and read every self-help book that was relevant to my trauma experiences. Eventually, my symptoms subsided and I like most declared myself healed and went about my life. I was 24 years old.
My fifth experience with therapy has been difficult.
Now almost a decade later I am facing the same painful childhood flashbacks. Only this time my life was good. I was traveling, working, parenting, and living my life as I had always dreamed. Which made for horrible feelings initially when anxiety took over my days. By the time I had realized what was happening, my mind had regressed into full trauma responses and I was in a deep dark depression. My life had become a series of a moment by moment panic attacks. I couldn’t see clearly or think, and everything felt awful.
I willed myself to contact a therapist. I googled: Psychology Today, entered my zip code and searched for a therapist who specializes in PTSD. I called no one answered, so I left voicemails. My now therapist called me back and scheduled an appointment on the same day as our call.
I share all this for two reasons:
1. If you need help with anything right now in your life, you may need more than a blog, a book, or a coach you might need a therapist. I’ve always respected the work of therapists and believe in the information age their work is highly underestimated.
2. To show you that being gifted, called, and on purpose does not make you immune from anxiety, depression, or trauma. Scary, awful, and overwhelming things may happen in life. You are bravest when you ask for help.
3. To show you that even if you’ve tried therapy many times before I like I have, you should keep going until you feel healed. If it still hurts you have not healed.
For me, my fight time in therapy is just different because now I am ready to be healed. Not helped but healed.