Finding My Path

There are many different types of therapists but I’m not going to bore you with a description of each type, but there are ones that help workplaces and ones that study the biology behind psychiatry. There are many others. Most therapists we are used to fall under the clinical category. They work with clients and their families.

Most therapists have an office they work at and clients come in. This is probably the common way therapy is used. You go in, sit on a chair or a couch (that looks nothing like the ones you see on television and the comic section in the newspaper).

I have written a post entitled “The Truth About Therapy” which you can read here : https://notmydisabilities.com/2016/04/22/the-truth-about-therapy/

There sometimes is a path to finding the therapist you connect with. Luckily, I had a short path. My first therapist was a one time session, before I got hospitalized. After the hospital, they told me I was told that I was going to have in-home therapy. This was much more intense, than a one time every two weeks situation.

In-home therapy started with one individual therapist who I’ll call A and a family therapist who I’ll call N. A came to our house and we always did something fun and therapeutic. I thought that she was awesome. I looked forward to her visits  a couple of times a week. She took me to the SPCA and we volunteered together. She was such a nice person. Unfortunately, she had to move her job somewhere us. That left me  with N who took over as family and individual therapy.

I’ll admit., at first I ABSOLUTELY hated N. I thought she was too strict, mean, and boring. I tuned out of most of the sessions. I dreaded our first individual session. And every family session was awful. I still hate family therapy today. Then things changed

She ended up being the therapist I still see today.

N would pick me up every few days from the private college-prep school I had moved to in hopes of fewer people plus my friend went there. I was still meeting with N in-home and in the community, We would often go downtown to get something to drink, or help out at the horse barn. She even continued where A left off at the SPCA. I started seeing N as an amazing therapist and a leader in my change for the better

After a while, I stopped seeing a therapist at all.  My last session was at a tea restaurant. I thought I was stable enough to go without one. Then in ninth grade, I signed up for mostly honor’s classes, thinking I could do it. I couldn’t. I freaked out one day and was forced to leave the school due to mental health issues. The school said my parents had to disenroll me or they would kick me out. My parent disenrolled me. I had already been told to go to therapy for a few days before they would accept me back. I honestly believe that the school didn’t want to ruin their reputation by allowing students with a visible mental illness. They said I was a danger to myself and  others. Maybe myself, but others? Really? Just because I was mentally ill, I must be a crazy kid looking for someone to harm. You know who I would always pick? Myself. I was obviously not stable enough without a therapist.

I started going to see a new therapist. I don’t even remember their name.just their stupid ideas. The first time I went, I left with a list of songs drawn on a paper CD. The second time I went, I left with a trip to the Emergency Room. Ever since then, she seems to have disappeared from Earth. Her website is not available, and she never checked up on me while I was in or released from the hospital. She was not the therapist for me (or apparently anyone).

I then went back to N. for individual therapy at her office. I believe this was before they moved to the bigger, nicer office. It was great seeing a familiar face to talk to. I started trusting her more, which is a big deal for me.

I don’t remember how many times we have agreed that I was ready to end sessions. All I know is that every time that happened. I would have a breakdown.Some people might say that I am dependant on N. I would say you are halfway right, Yes, I do need her, because she is a source of stability on my life. Someday I might be stable enough to stop therapy. I’m hoping I don’t need another five years on top of what I’ve had. I’m working on helping myself. Once that happens,  I’ll go enjoy those five years and every one past that.

How Soon Is Now- The Smiths

 

My Experience With Residential 1

Sometimes things get too tough. What happens to someone depends on the risk someone is for hurting themselves or others. Hospitals are the only way to help sometimes. If you have been in a hospital, it is enough for you? Sometimes acute wards aren’t enough for a person. When that happens, it is decided if you are going to stay on acute or moved to residential behavioral health center. In my case, they decided to send me to residential.

Before I start, I’d like to say that these are my experiences, as I do not know about everything that happens in every hospital.

To be admitted I had to be at least a little bit stable, but still exhibit symptoms of a moderate or severe emotional or behavioral diagnosis. I had to have an interview over the phone with the director of the program. My parents took me there and we looked around. It was good. The first person who introduced their self to me ended up being my favorite person there. I then had to say goodbye to my parents. They then drove the three hour trip home.

The first thing I did as a patient was play with water balloons outside. It was a lot of fun and I got introduced to many other patients. I was a good first day except having to be so far from parents.

We had many types of therapies. Individual, group, dialectical behavioral  therapy (DBT), art,  and recreational therapies. We each were assigned one of four individual therapists. I got Ms. T. who I stuck with the whole stay.

The art therapist Ms. L. was outstanding, Most art sessions included telling how we were feeling that day and then having a project to tell our stories and  let out our feelings.

Recreational therapists were iffy for me. We always played games that included rules that that I couldn’t  comprehend fast enough to  play the game right away. I also asked an RT intern if he thought I had Asperger’s to which he replied “Not at all”. Guess what now? He was wrong.

The RT also planned a summer game  camp, which I absolutely despised. School in the morning, games in the afternoon. Yes, we went to school all summer but it was more fun than the regular school year.I hated it so much, because the boys were too aggressive, as were many of the girls. I am NOT competitive. My days of competitiveness started and ended at my first soccer game at five years old. One game, me and my best friend ran down the field holding hands and picking dandelions.

Animal I Have Become- Three Days Grace

 

The Mask

We all have things we want to hide from. There are little things that make us want to cover our eyes. Embarrassing moments, like slipping on the newly-waxed floor, or getting hit by a dodgeball . These are things that you  can laugh at after the problem is over.
There are also things that makes some people want to hide forever. wishing they could just disappear. Breakups. Job loss. Divorce. Miscarriage. Death of a loved one. Abuse. The list goes on and on.
Many people say they put on a mask when they are struggling. I do this to some point. Many times. I would have a meltdown in the car before going to volunteer even  if I enjoyed the place, When I finally got out of the car, I would stick on a happy face that I could smile at people asking where a book was at the library. I laughed and played with kids and did what the staff told me to in a professional manner at the children’s museum . I  led kids on horses and answered their questions and joking around at the horse barn. Sometimes you have to smile.
I don’t, however, believe in the common phrase “Fake it ’til you make it”. It okay to fake it if you need to be professional. It I is NOT okay when you are talking to your family or friends ,who need to know how you are. If you fake it,  they’ll assume all Is fine. It is NOT okay to fake it when you are with your therapist. First of all, they can tell you are lying most of time, and when they don’t see it,  your session is pointless. I’ve wasted plenty of sessions due to faking I was fine. It is NOT okay to fake it to a psychiatrist. They control your medicine and could give you the wrong one for you, or could even take you off of meds all together. Faking will not help you, and will probably take the train to where you can’t put on a happy face .Faking does not make it, but it will break you.
I remember in my very first hospital, we had art therapy. For a couple days,  we worked on paper mache  masks that we cut out pictures from magazines to mod podge them down. I cut out blue, red, and purple strips and stuck them on the mask. The finished product was a mask with red on the right side, blue on the left and  a mix of different purples in the middle. My mask was my bipolar, even though I hadn’t gotten diagnosed at that point. The 14 year old version of me knew that I couldn’t  hide my bipolar even by covering my face. My actions, words, and thoughts were not covered my a mask. It hid my face, but nothing takes the sleeping or staying up a week in a row. Nothing takes away the barely saying or word or talking nonstop.
People talk about putting on a mask when they need to change. Face the fact. Your whole body except your nose,and mouth ar  uncovered. There  are eye holes, that have bits of plaster. You see the world wrong, like you do when everything is out to get you.
I pretend that  I am okay.  I pretend that I will be fine, I also try to pretend that I have an invisible mask where people can see me but covers my whole body tos how that I am healthy. When the mask covers my whole body, I am bipolar but it’s not visible. That is not going to happen, and I am back to it, covering my face with the colors red, purple, blue and me.
The song describes the feeling of purple. It falls on your head and makes you worried about what is coming next.

The Truth About Therapy

Life is tough. This is true for anybody. For people with mental illnesses. it can be more than tough. It can be downright scary whether it is your first time feeling like it, or you have been dealing with it for years, Mental illness make things harder, even though no one can see it most of the time. Even if it is not visible, mental illnesses  It can take away happiness. hope, and the want for help,
When  a mental health crisis comes on, help is the priority. Helplessness tries to keep you away from recovery. First thing that is needed, before trying medications. is to find a therapist.
What is therapy like? ‘How do I find a therapist? What can we talk about? I’ll give you some truths about therapy as a patient of a therapist for five years and growing every sessions.
Truth 1) There are many therapists in the world. One of the first things to look for is to check their therapy style.. They might do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) or,Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). You also have to decide what views the office has. Some are Christian counselors. You do not need to be a Christian  to go, but if you are not into religion you probably shouldn’t go.
Truth 2) Do not think that clients sit on a long chair while the therapist automatically decided what is wrong with you. First of all, we sit in chairs or on a couch. Second, the therapist can not diagnose you your first sessions. In fact. most therapist can’t even diagnose you themselves. They can send information to the psychiatrist or a therapist licensed in testing, but they are not licensed. Most can’t prescribe medicine either.
Truth 3) Therapy is about talking and getting your thoughts out. The only time the therapist must break confidentiality is when you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others. Other than that, you are open to talk about ANYTHING. This includes the hard things such as pain you’ve endured in the past, self- esteem, your troubles with mental health, and relationships. You don’t have to talk about hard things the whole time. I normally start each session with all the good things I’d done that week. Then we get into the hard parts. I normally enter her office smiling and leave with with tears of pain and joy. The session might be difficult, but you will feel great after spilling what you need to.
Truth 4.) People think that therapy is just for mentally ill people. This is completely false. Anybody can go to  therapy. You might go for a short time for marriage counseling, a job loss. a death in the family, whatever you need to talk about and be heard. Good therapists will listen and help you find the answers to what you are struggling with.
Truth 5) Therapy is a beautiful thing. Many people are ashamed that the have to go to therapy. Others feel like people will judge them. First of all, people don’t need to know if you don’t want them to. There is no neon lights flashing over your head saying “This person goes to therapy”. Even if you feel this way, you will soon find out that it is helping you grow, recover, and feel better. The smile on your face will shine brighter than the neon sign that was never there.
Therapy is difficult at first, but it gets easier as you connect with your therapist. I’ve had the same therapist for the last five years, with one small break of a session I ran out on and almost got the police called on me. That is an example of a bad therapist. My therapist now is wonderful. She lets me talk as much or  as little as I want, while she listens and ask me questions, This is an example of a great therapist.
Some people think they failed because they sought help. Want to know the truth? You have won a free trip to Recovery Island (with a few stops in Psychiatrist Paradise).

Hired Help- Janet

Check out more of Janet’s writing at janetcobur.wordpress,com AND bipolarjan.wordpress.com

Check out her Facebook and Twitter at @coburn_janet

Remember when you go to a therapist, you hire him or her. She/he works for you. And if it doesn’t work out you can fire your therapist.

I hate breaking in a new therapist. I hate having to do the little tap dance that is the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of my screwed-up life. But if I have to find a new therapist, I’ll keep reciting it until I find the right one.

Of course your choices may be limited by location, finances, or other factors (EAPs, for instance). You may not have that wide a range to choose from. But the better the “fit” between you and your therapist, the more likely you’ll make some progress.

When I need a new therapist (when mine has moved away, for instance) I go through a process.

Step One: I identify my current needs. Do I need counseling for grief? Mood disorders? Anxiety?

Step Two: I do research. Most therapists have websites and most of them list what they specialize in. Start making a list of those whose practices meet my needs.

Step 3: I make a list of my preferences. For me, this is easy. By now I know I need a therapist who is not Freudian or cognitive behavioralist or comes from any particular religious approach, but does deal with women’s issues and has a sense of humor.

Step 4: I make some calls. Is the therapist taking new patients? Is there a waiting list? Does he/she take my insurance? If not, is there a sliding fee scale based on need? Is long-term therapy possible, or is it 30 days max?

Step 5: I set up an “interview” appointment. I do the even-more-condensed version of my screwed-up life, ask a few questions and, if everything “feels” pretty good, make a follow-up appointment.

I know, that’s a lot of work. But in the long run, you can save yourself a lot of grief.

I’ve been to a couples counselor who absolutely shredded me, latching on to my husband’s difficulties with me and running with them. I felt she didn’t hear anything I said, or if she did, discounted it. I felt ganged up on. It was not pleasant. More important, it was not helpful.

(I’m not saying that she should have ignored my husband’s issues, which were important and valid. But I really needed to be navigating on a two-way street.)

Another therapist I went to decided that my problems stemmed from being an innocent led astray by an older man (ten years older) who got me into practices that went against my upbringing. Which is not the way it was at all. (It was the 70s. Some experimentation with sex and drugs for a woman in her 20s was not considered total depravity then.)

She also diagnosed me with PTSD because I said I had flashbacks and dreams about the bad parts.

In both of those cases, I got the hell out.

And that’s my point. I had a choice and I exercised it. I went looking for someone else who could help me with my problems. And I found a psychotherapist who could and has, plus a psychiatrist for my meds.

I’m not saying you should ditch your therapist when the process hits uncomfortable or even painful patches. It’s pretty much got to if it’s going to help.

But you made the choice of hiring this person. You also have the choice – and the right– to leave and go looking for someone else.

(Disclaimer again: I am not a medical or psychiatric professional and my comments are based on my own experience. YMMV.)

 

Check out more of Janet’s writing at janetcobur.wordpress.com AND bipolarjan.wordpress.com

Check out her Facebook and Twitter at @coburn_janet

 

 

The Great Group Therapy Tragedy

Therapy is good for you. I’m always telling you guys that, and it’s true. I go to therapy at least every two weeks, now once a week. It helps me. I have a great therapist. It is a good support net. That is, individual  therapy.

Group therapy, on the other hand, is the root of all evil. I HATE it so so so much, It makes me want to spontaneously combust whenever I walk into the room where the group is bing held.

You’re thinking “ It’s a good thing! Why go to the trouble of spilling guts all over the floor when you can just enjoy a nice group….” NO. Do not use the words nice and group in the same sentence (unless, of course, you are saying “That’s a nice looking group of girls over there”) Group is NOT nice. It is my least favorite thing in the whole world

I have hated group since I was first admitted into a hospital. There are several reasons for that:

 

  • Hello, Asperger’s?!?!  I know it wasn’t diagnosed at the time, but the lack of social skills really made group hard. I wouldn’t speak up, I would take forever thinking of an answer or reply, or just say “I don’t know’

 

  • I have a hard time listening to people talk about their suicide attempts, or self-harm. I will       support you if you are struggling with either, but after a while, it really gets to me. In another blog post I’ll explain the failure of Our Ears Are Open.

 

  • People. Is that enough of an explanation? I think so.

 

Recently, I had an experience that made me hate group even more. After I got out of the hospital this last time, it was recommended I go to a partial hospitalization program. A PHP is basically a step down from inpatient care. In this case it was all group therapy. Welcome to my personal hell.

When I went to interview for the program. They told me there would be individual, family, and group therapy. I was excited for individual therapy, because I hadn’t gotten to see my outpatient therapist, and the inpatient therapist saw me maybe twice, for 15 minutes each time.

The next day, I started to go to the program. I looked at the schedule. It was all group. “What the heck am I getting myself into” I was probably wondering. I went up and asked the head therapist when I would be getting individual therapy. Her response? “We only have groups” .

WHAT IN SAINT ASONIA’S NAME WAS SHE TALKING ABOUT?!?! Only group? I did not sign up for that. I wanted out, and I wanted out bad.

I sat through all of the groups on the first day, nearly in tears the whole time. I never spoke, except in a sleep session. Of course, the psychiatrist had to pull me out to tell me that she wasn’t going to do anything to my medicines.  All the people talked about was romantic relationships and children. I had no interest in that. I want neither. Why did I have to listen to that?

On the second day, it all went down. I had just moved out of my dorm the day before, so I was a little moody anyway. The group leader, who happened to be the head therapist, asked who wanted to share how their day was going. I decided to tell about mine, for some stupid reason. I started out talking about moving out, but then went into a rant about how much I hate group therapy. She asked me why, and I told her one reason was I couldn’t make eye contact. She then told me to -get this- look EVERYONE in the the eyes. Every freaking one. I burst out crying and left the room. That ended up being my last day in the program.

Now, group therapy isn’t my thing. If it is your’s, then do it! If you haven’t tried it, but want to, go for it. You might find it beneficial. It just wasn’t for me,
This concludes the The Great Group Therapy Tragedy. Maybe they’ll make operas out of it.

Social Skills Screw-up

I wrote a couple of months back that I was getting tested to see if I was on the autism spectrum. What I forgot to write a few days later is that, yes, I am.

To get diagnosed, you have to do a bunch of testing. I mean, A BUNCH. I had to do some sort of block test that I was awful with, answer some questions about random subjects, talk about abstract subjects, and have my parents fill out a questionnaire.

I got diagnosed with what used to be called Asperger’s. Under the DSM 5, autism has been put into levels. It is a level system of 1-3, 3 being the most severe. Under the new system, I have between a high 1 and a low 2. The doctor said the intensity could go down once my other symptoms get better (bipolar, anxiety). The tests apparently told the doctor that I have low processing speed, and poor abstract, reasoning, and problem solving skills. The questionnaire just said the stuff we already knew, with a rating scale beside it.

When I first was referred to testing, I was excited. Am I going to have it? Am I actually going to have a name for my “quirks”? Then, after I got the results, I felt different. Sad maybe. It was sort of weird being diagnosed with something I’d only seen other people have. I was upset for a few days, but then I accepted it. I couldn’t change it.

I’m going to state here that I am very high-functioning and some might not know I have it if they saw me. I still have it, it just isn’t the main part of me (as it’s not the main part of any autistic person) .

When I was still in college, one thing that bothered me was the bus. The people I hung out with always wanted to go someplace. I’d agree (because I didn’t want to say no)  and wait for the bus. The bus was supposed to be there at 3:25. When the clock said 3:24, I’d start looking for the bus. Then at 3:25, if It wasn’t there, I’d get in an anxiety attack. One time I had a true meltdown, where I blacked out and started crying really hard. I like things to be exactly on schedule.

Another thing I hate about the bus: people. Sitting next to people I don’t know and being in the presence of that many strangers overwhelms me. Heck, being in a group of people I know overwhelms me. Bottom line: I’m not a big fan of people.

I was in  a therapy group the other day, the lady running it asked me about the group. I hate group, I told her. She asked why, and I told her that I hated talking to people and couldn’t make eye contact very well. She literally told me “Today, I want you to look everybody in the eye”. How difficult is that for a person who can only intermittently look their parents in their eyes? Needless to say, I left group in the middle and never came back.

After talking with my therapist, we have decided that I need a social skills group. Easier said than done, however. The only one for my age anywhere near me is 45 minutes away and $400. She is looking for something for me, and I have been obsessively searching social skills groups, tutors, coaches, therapists… You name it, I’ve searched it. I have found one, and she does not accept our insurance. Hopefully my therapist finds something.

An autistic spectrum disorder is stressful, no matter how high-functioning it is. I’m working to better my skills and hopefully will calm down, find some help, and be social!