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Post written by Ella Moore
Around the beginning of March this year I finally began treatment again with a new therapy careteam after a long period of time, longer than I am proud of. The last experience I had with a therapist was a good one! She specialized in Internal Family Systems therapy and this has been a helpful tool for me in my recovery, but most helpful of all she and her emotional support poodle, Olivia (Livy, for short) provided a safe space for me. At the same time, my psychiatrist provided the opposite experience.
Personally I have a lot of trauma around feeling like a burden, especially when it comes to my parents financially supporting me, so as we were looking for a new adult psychiatrist after turning 18 I was hyper-conscious of the price of the psychiatrist we chose as many of them were out of network. I am fortunate that my parents support my mental health recovery seriously and have given me no reason to believe that I should worry about the cost of a session with a psychiatrist. HOWEVER, this truth doesn’t make an impact on the narrative my trauma tells me, which meant that when my parents chose a therapist who charged over $500 for the first 40 minute session which was just to take a background.
I usually enjoy seeking treatment, it’s a sort of “sick” side of myself that I do enjoy being sick because it was a source of affection and attention when I was younger. As a result, I enjoy interacting with medical professionals. I feel put at ease knowing someone is caring for me, but in the case of this new psychiatrist I immediately felt uncomfortable in her company. I was confused and trying to grasp at a connection because the thought of her not accepting me or providing me the affirmative care I was looking for would be an unbearable rejection (this was the way I learned to get the love I needed as a child). In this first appointment with her she took my background information like normal, and other than her weird vibes nothing tangible had happened to give me pause. However the first strike came when she remarked on the age gap between my siblings and I saying, “oh, so you’re an accident then?” Not many things strike me to my core, but in that moment I have to say she hit the nail of my trauma on the head. My heart sank and all I could say was, “…yes, I guess so.”
After the initial appointment I was still trying to be optimistic, but my guard was up now. The next session I had with her she was running late from her job at the hospital, she came in a flurry of motion and beckoned me in and without taking a breath she started to ask me questions that let me know she did not remember me or my background from the previous appointment. By the end of the third or fourth appointment with her we had not covered any new ground and had not begun doing anything new with my medication plan.
I felt defeated. At this point I was still on the same medication plan as I was put on a year before when I had gone to an inpatient program at Silver Hill Hospital and I knew that it was not a long term fit for me, but the prospect of working with a psychiatrist who didn’t make me feel safe was worse. I began to be less conscientious at scheduling future appointments and eventually it tapered off. I think I had just assumed that if this psychiatrist was one of the best in my area that anyone else would be even worse than her. I figured maybe I could just stay on the same medication without the supervision of a psychiatrist, how bad could it be?
Things admittedly did stay “okay,” however for the next 3 years I was not thriving. In the back of my head I knew I should be taking a more active role to make sure my meds were still on track to help me rather than hurt me. These meds took my appetite away, gave me night sweats and terrible nightmares, but for 3 years this became my normal. I forgot that I shouldn’t have to deal with these symptoms, especially since my mental health never felt strong or fortified from this medication plan.
About a year after stopping my sessions with my psychiatrist, I tapered off my sessions with my therapist as she was taking some time off. She had been a wonderful support for me and I considered it to be extremely important to find a new therapist, but since I am able to use my parents insurance, I am also limited to the options my parents liked too. Unfortunately, time flew by and I still wasn’t under any treatment. I even started forgetting why I loved having a therapist and psychiatrist.
2020 and the pandemic rolled around and my dad’s job began offering virtual counseling for their staff and their families. He began seeing a therapist before I did and really enjoyed the experience. I was still on the fence, but with a little encouragement a year later I agreed to talk to a care navigator who was going to connect my needs to a therapist and psychiatrist. This care navigator instantly put me at ease and I started to feel more confident about restarting this process.
Around the same time as I was supposed to be restarting the treatment for my mental health I experienced a situation that triggered the preexisting trauma I had and my mental health had taken a nosedive. So, it was perfect timing to seek out some support. After 5 months in treatment with both my new therapist and psychiatrist I feel more cared for than ever.
My therapist specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and I was initially nervous that I wouldn’t like her treatment as I had never benefited from CBT before. I did not enjoy my first experience of CBT with my first therapist, who realistically was more like a motivational speaker than a therapist. I feel that I have always cognitively been rational, it is just my emotional mind that would spiral and become unhealthy. CBT focuses on reframing your thoughts so that they are more objectively truthful and eliminates any negative personal bias you may have towards yourself or others. I see this practice as parting cloudy skies to see the sunshine behind it. Lots of the time we tell ourselves a story that confirms our own biases without even knowing we aren’t seeing an unaltered reality. CBT helps to push away the self imposed suffering and reveal the objective truth which is usually extremely therapeutic. So for me, this practice is not always helpful, especially when it confirms the things I already knew.
My new therapist managed to use this reframing tool in a way that clicks with me on a fundamental level. Instead of applying CBT to the things I knew to not be true she challenges the things that I considered to be an objective truth, but she is attuned enough to know when my beliefs are incorrect or harming me. She is also experienced in the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) known as tapping. I had only ever heard of this concept before and considered it to be a little too non-scientific or placebo to take seriously. However, after being led through the exercise a few times I noticed the visceral energetic shift inside my body. I am too much of an amateur at this exercise so I am unable to explain it in any great detail, however I do know it is rooted in Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. The belief is tapping on meridian points, otherwise known as our energy hot spots, will help to balance any disrupted energy within the body, relieving any unwanted symptoms from a negative experience or emotion.
These new perspectives have been so valuable for me as I begin to re engage in therapy as it reminds me there is still a lot I don’t know about treatment. After not being in therapy for a number of years you can forget the relief that you feel knowing that you are in someone else’s capable hands. I was holding myself up for so long, teaching myself new ways of thinking and healing. I hoped I would just be able to guide myself to feeling better. This was and is a lot of work, especially if you are in a spot where you do still need to work through things internally.
At the same time as I started seeing my new therapist, I was also assigned a new psychiatrist. For all the reasons I have previously mentioned, I was wary of this psychiatrist and was unconvinced that she would be able to help me. Although, from our first appointment onward I could see that she was going to a rock on this journey. Our appointments are only 15 minutes long, but she gives me more attention and care in that time than I got in my four or five sessions with the ex psychiatrist. We immediately started on some changes, which was beyond refreshing as I was still on the same medication I had been put on inpatient about 5 years prior. She gave me her personal email to contact her about any kind of changes to my mood or affect in response to medication changes. Sure enough, I did run into some problems as we continued trying out different medications to try and put me back on the right track. I would email her at any time of the day or night that I was struggling and she would call or email me right back and either make changes right then and there or would schedule an emergency visit to reevaluate the plan. I have never felt more cared for by a mental health professional ever. I have had great experiences with supportive members of my care team over time, even with my current therapist. However, knowing that my psychiatrist is so present for my recovery, making small tweaks and changes, almost to the minute that I need them has put me so at ease. I feel safe with myself, and I feel safe knowing that I am in the right hands.
For anyone who is debating returning to treatment or even debating whether you should start treatment, I would urge you to try it. The potential positives of finding the right care team outweigh all of the potential negatives of experiencing the wrong care members. Keep searching until you find the right fit that makes you feel at ease and safe in their care.
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