I have only had three different therapists since I started therapy maybe 8-10 years ago. My first therapist got laid off about 2-3 years after I started with her. That therapist didn’t believe working on past traumas and felt just trying to move past everything was the best method of treatment even though it was a lot of my past traumas that caused me to feel and act the way I did.
My second therapist that I was assigned after the first one got laid off, I had been seeing for somewhere around 3-5 years (maybe longer) until I started to feel like therapy became more stressful than helpful because me and my therapist couldn’t always see eye to eye most of the time by the end.
My last straw with her was when I told her I wanted to work on learning to love myself as I am and she told me that there was no way that I could learn to love myself until I lost some weight first. Plus, during that same session, I told her I was still getting panic attacks when I would ride in cars on the highway and she responded by saying, “Come on now, Samantha, you have just got to get over it.” Like getting over things that cause great anxiety and distress is as easy as flipping a light switch or something.
I started finally looking for new therapists outside of the mental health clinic I go to because my doctor had advised me that all their other therapists were booked and not accepting anyone new. The clinic gave me a list of alternatives and none of them had openings. I had a hard time finding a therapist that was both accepting new patients and that also took my Medicaid insurance.
When I finally found someone new (my third therapist) I had a hard time feeling comfortable and connecting with her. She spent more time talking about herself and even about her own personal sex life than I felt was appropriate for a therapist to share. I knew more about her life than she knew about mine. I only had maybe five sessions with her before I stopped scheduling appointments.
Then about two months ago I told my psych doctor at the mental health clinic that I would like to start therapy again and that I haven’t had much luck finding anyone outside of the clinic so she put in a request and then about 3 weeks ago I got a call from the second therapist that I had. She was reassigned to my case. I had two options, I could either let how our last session ended keep me from trying therapy with her again and wait months to find someone else, or I could just give it a try and see how things went.
I decided to give her another try and I restarted therapy again, after about a years lapse in treatment (if you don’t count the five or so sessions I had with the therapist who liked to talk about herself a lot), and I had my first session back this afternoon.
I was incredibly nervous and even used a little bit of my medical marijuana to ease my anxiety, which it did help a great deal. I kept wondering about what I should talk about and what’s pertinent information to share and what’s not worth sharing right now since I feel like I have had so much change since my last session with her about a year ago. I was also worried about how this therapist would react to me getting my medical marijuana card since she was against me getting it the last time I saw her. I was definitely more nervous than I needed to be.
I am honestly surprised with how well my therapy session went. I was half expecting the old tension that I used to feel towards the end of my sessions with her to be there but it wasn’t. Maybe this break I took from therapy was just what was needed to renew my relationship with this therapist. Maybe patients and therapists can get sick of each other over time just like normal people can sick of each other and end up needing a break from one another. And I wasn’t exactly always the most compliant patient either.
My therapist was very pleased with the progress I have made over the last year. She told me that I sounded more stable than before because my speech wasn’t rushed and all over the place or constantly breaking with the threat of tears. She even said that I looked much healthier than I did the last time I saw her and I was even dressed relaxed in just sweat pants and a t-shirt. She agreed that she thinks I have also finally found the right medication combo for me since I have been doing so much better with my mood swings and episodes since starting this combo a few months ago.
My therapist was even okay with me using medical marijuana as long as I continue to monitor my use and don’t let my addictive tendencies take over. I did fib a little bit because I only recently told my psych doctor about my medical marijuana card and I told a white lie and said that I just got my card instead of the truth which was that I just renewed my medical card because I have had it for almost a year now. But at least all my doctors now know about my medical marijuana use. It feels good when you don’t have to hide things from people.
I asked my therapist how often she thinks I should come in, and she asked me what I prefer so I told her biweekly. She said she wouldn’t have it go any longer than that between our sessions. My next appointment is scheduled for July 6th @ 3pm.
I am really glad that I decided to give it another go with a therapist that already knew me, and knew me well. I was really apprehensive because of how things ended but most people deserve second chances because you never know what someone is going through or what was going on in that persons life the last time you talked to them especially if things ended badly. Time changes people.
I am also really glad that I don’t have to start at the beginning and tell yet another stranger my whole life’s story so they can learn about what makes me tick and then still have to wait several sessions while discussing my past traumas before we can start to talk about the present. I have always hated when I had to start with a new doctor or therapist for mental health treatment because there is so much crap that I have been through my entire life that I feel should be mentioned in order to be able to work on current events in my life.
With my third therapist, it took four out of the five sessions I had with her to review some of my key events and traumas from my past before she even asked how I was currently doing in the present.
Every time I was a patient in an intensive partial hospitalization program for mental health treatment, I had to start from the beginning of my story each time even though it was always the same program I would attend since they would always place me with a new or different counselor. I attended this program 4-5 times (maybe more) throughout the years and I dread every time they ask me to go back because it’s always the same shit.
(They [the partial hospitalization program] have you spend 3-6 weeks in their program which consists of one-on-one therapy, endless hours of group therapy (which it always took me over 4 weeks out the 6 that I was always there for to feel comfortable enough to really open up in group therapy and by the time I started getting somewhere in group it would be time to be discharged.), and daily classes where they would teach their patients about psych meds, coping mechanisms, and whatever else they thought was helpful to learn. They would also play with my meds and change them around, even the ones that really were helping they would change. I was in my early 20s the first time I went to this program and by my early 30s, the last time I was a patient there, they hadn’t changed a single thing about their program which means that I was taught the same things over and over again without being able to learn anything new that could be helpful each and every time I had to go there. After a while, it just becomes so repetitive that you don’t even want to give it another try even when you know you could use the extra support.)
In the 20 years since I first received my bipolar diagnosis, I have only had two different psych doctors (along with only three therapists) because I stayed with my first psych doctor from the age of 14 and I followed her from practice to practice until she retired suddenly when I was in my mid-to-late 20s. I saw her for maybe a good 12 years. I really miss having her as my doctor. She knew my family and even treated some of my younger family members for a period of time.
My first psych doctor moved practices maybe 3 times when I was 14 to 18 years old, and then she settled with the mental health clinic I currently go to when I was 18. So I have been at this clinic for about 16 years now.
The next psych doctor they assigned me at the mental health clinic, I have been with since my first doctor retired. It doesn’t even feel like I have been under her care for as long as I have been. I still think of her as my new doctor and not someone I have been seeing for years already. I’m curious to know how long I have been seeing her now. She knows me well and I hope I don’t have to change doctors again until she’s ready to retire.
After being out of therapy for a year, I am ready to start on this new journey. Sometimes I just need that extra help to process and talk about the garbage that life sometimes throws my way in a safe environment where I don’t feel judged. I am going to try to be more compliant in therapy this time around and not miss any sessions unless I call to reschedule beforehand. I was kind of known to sometimes just not show up or even call to say that I wasn’t coming in. Then I would wait like a week or two to make a new appointment and by that time I usually forgot why I missed the initial appointment anyway.
I am going to also try to take my therapists suggestions seriously and be open about when I think I can’t do or try what was suggested instead of saying I’ll try everything knowing very well that I won’t even give it a second thought. Like one thing my therapist suggested today was to start going for walks again and starting with just one day a week and working my way up to two or three days.
My therapist did also say that she was proud of how much I got my sleep problems under control with continuing to use a regular wake and sleep schedule even though I am no longer working and also with how well my new night time med regimen has been helping. She said that she knows my sleep issues and insomnia used to be so bad that I would be up all hours of the night and sleep until the late afternoon to make up for going to bed so late on the nights that I was even able to sleep at all.
The last time I seen this therapist before today I was staying with my mom and sister after a breakup that my current boyfriend and I went through and on the nights I would be able to get some sleep I would only get between 3-5 hours of broken sleep and rest a night and that had gone on for months until I started to become a walking sleep-deprived mess that cried over every little thing and couldn’t deal anymore.
After today’s therapy session and hearing about how I was not doing mentally well at all just about one year ago really opened my eyes and made me see how many changes I have made that turned out to be for the best this past year and that with some hard work and effort some form of stability is actually really possible for me. Seeing where I was and hearing someone else notice that I am doing much better than I was last year makes me feel good.
Sometimes we don’t always see the progress we have made until someone else points it out to us. I am not saying that I am cured and that I never go through bipolar ups and downs anymore, but what I am saying is that the ups and downs I do go through aren’t as harsh and damaging as they used to be. My bipolar episodes don’t cycle as fast and as hard as they used to either.
I want to come up with goals for things I want to work on in therapy and I want to share that list with my therapist and see what she thinks about it. One thing that will definitely be on that list is that I want to really learn how to begin to like who I am on the inside and out so that I can find some self-love, just as I am without feeling the need to change everything about me to make others happy. People have walked all over me my whole life and put me down about various things such as my weight and looks, and I know I allow people to treat me like shit and put up with it because I don’t even like myself so I think how is anyone else supposed to like me either? I need to learn ways to make myself happy and to be able to be content with who I am.
Samantha is the author of "My Bipolar Mind: You're not alone," she is also a freelance writer, blogger, and mental health advocate who runs and manages her own mental health blog MyBipolarMind.com.