Category Archives: talk therapy

My Story

I had no idea what was going on with me.  I was 10 and sad.  But I wasn’t just sad.  I was really sad.

I was 11 and I wanted to die.  I planned on how to die.  Our school was taking a trip to Six Flags and I wrote out my suicide note, and I put it in my backpack and I was going to kill myself at the park.  My mom found it though, she asked me if she needed to keep me home.  I said I was fine and went to catch my bus.  It was never talked about again.

I was 13 and still really sad.  Suicide still ran rampant in my head.  My art teacher found out.  He found out about my home life.  I trusted him. I thought he would help me.  He said he was going to.  But he took advantage of me.  He made me do things to him.  He did things to me.  He verbally abused me.  He sexually abused me.  He hurt me.  I believed all his lies. He molested me and hurt me and fucked me up so bad.  I wanted to die more than ever before.

I was 14 and moved to a new city. Life was worse than ever before.  A new school and no friends. My school counselor found out about what my teacher did.  Chaos broke out.  I didn’t want to deal with it.  I began cutting. I did not tell the police everything. He was never charged. My depression became more severe. I became sick from stress. I missed more than half the school year and stayed home because I was “sick.”

I was 15 and 16 and 17 and high school happened. My depression trapped me.  I faked my smiles and I wore my mask.  I immersed myself in school work.  I tried to pretend like I was happy and make myself believe I was. Deep down I was choking, I could barely breathe. Every day I planned my death. I didn’t even believe I would make it to graduation. Surely I would do something before then.

Graduation came and went. I was 18. College was a new start. Surely life could start over now. I was raped. My mental health went down hill. For the first time in my life I was put into counseling. I couldn’t talk though. I didn’t know how to express myself. I isolated more than ever. I cried more than ever.

Therapy continued and I made no progress, but I just kept going.  I kept my emotions in for so long that I just avoided everything. I turned 21 and my life went upside down. My arm was paralyzed. I lost control. Again. The molestation. The rape. My arm.  I had lost control again. I needed to die now. My depression consumed me.  The year was 2009.

Trigger Warning –  the next paragraph mentions a suicide attempt


 

I had many suicide attempts.  My worst was in May 2012 though.  I had strategically overdosed on Tylenol.  After being given the antidote (Mucomyst) and Reglan, both of which I had reactions to, I was transported to the ICU where I spent 4 days before being sent to the psychiatric hospital.  This was not my first time in the ICU but it was the worst attempt I had.  And it was also somewhat of a wake up call. It was my last attempt, but not my last visit to the psych hospital.

Between January 2011, my first psychiatric hospitalization, and October 2012 – I had 15 psychiatric hospitalizations and ended up with three diagnosis (bipolar, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder). On that last hospitalization I was committed for 6 months to the state hospital.  I was terrified, but at the same time, I was so frustrated and sick of life, I really didn’t care what happened to me.  I was so sure that I would kill myself no matter what anyone did and that I had no future, that it didn’t matter to me.  The state hospital was the best thing that happened to me though.

On Halloween of October 2012 I went to the state hospital via the backseat of a Sherriff’s car. It was a two hour drive and it took me to a life changing experience.  I had the best psychiatrist, psychologist, nurses, rec therapist, music therapist, group therapists, psych techs, dietician, and other support staff possible.  They were all determined to get me and others back on the right track. I left the hospital in April 2013 more stable than I had been in a long time.  On the correct combo of meds and with coping skills that I actually felt comfortable using.

Today, in 2014, I still struggle.  I have been hospitalized since being out of the state hospital.  But in no way am I in and out like I was two years ago.  I take my medication and I acknowledge that I need it.  I accept that I have a mental illness and I try to educate myself about them.  I attend therapy and participate in it actively.  I am working through my PTSD which has been a huge factor in my hatred of myself and life.  I am always working on improving and finding new coping skills.  I continue to attend my support groups.

I know I can continue to fight.  I know I don’t have to let it consume me anymore.  I don’t have to let it win. It still knocks me down sometimes.  I just have to make sure I keep getting back up.

Lack of Mental Health Resources

There is such a lack of mental health services and even if there are resources available access to them is quite hard.  For example, I live in a larger city (Tampa, FL), and there are quite a few psychiatrists and therapists around.  Many of them do not accept insurance at all (only self pay), many only take a few insurance plans, and those that do accept most insurance plans have long waiting periods to even get an appointment (3-6 months to get an intake).

What are you supposed to do when you need medication but you cannot get in to see your doctor?  Go to a hospital?  You aren’t suicidal and you don’t have insurance – but the only way to get your medication is by getting admitted to a psych hospital?  And in some areas, they do not even have enough psychiatric beds in hospitals even if you are suicidal, so they simply send you home when you are in danger (sadly, this does happen).

I was lucky enough to live in a town in Indiana for 6 years where I obtained great services.  I unfortunately was not functioning well enough to get much help from them, but they provided therapy 2x a week, case management 3x a week, psychiatry 1x a month, a clubhouse that was open 7:30am-3pm, and on call services 24 hours a day.  They had their own hospital affiliated with their clinic.  When I had insurance they accepted it.  When I didn’t have insurance they worked with me for a reduced rate ($11/apt).   This was completely unavailable when I moved to Florida though.  I left the state hospital in Indiana and moved to Florida with absolutely no services for the most part.  I had a 3 month wait for the psychiatrist (luckily it was set up while I was still in the hospital, but I still had 1 month after I moved here).  This office was horrible though.  My appointment would be at 1pm, but I wouldn’t see the psychiatrist til 5 or 6pm.  And this was a regular occurrence – I wouldn’t actually see the psychiatrist until 4-6 hours after my schedule appointment time.  I couldn’t handle it and finally scheduled an appointment with another psychiatrist, but it took a 3 month weight, and of course, this one didn’t take my insurance so I am self pay.

There are just far too few mental healthcare professionals today.  They are one of the lowest paid specialties in the medical field.  With the high cost of medical school, few people choose to go into the field.  In many areas, there are only private practices as well and not community mental health clinics.  Private practice clinics do not offer many of the services that a community mental health clinic can offer such as case managers, medication management, and most importantly a reduced/sliding scale fee that many people may need.

More attention needs to be focused on increasing resources geared towards mental health.  Not simply just creating awareness, but actually doing something about it.  Fixing the system.  Adding more healthcare providers.  Getting people more inspired to go into the field.  Adding more psychiatric nurse practioner programs to help aid reducing the time patients have to wait to see someone.  Increasing funding for hospitals so that patients are not turned away.  If someone goes to a hospital for help, they should not be told that they cannot get it.

This lack of mental health resources needs to be addressed.

 

Denial and Learning Acceptance

Last night at my NAMI support group meeting we started talking about how many of us were in denial when we were first diagnosed.  It made me think about when I was first diagnosed.

In one way, I was very relieved.  My whole life I had been suffering with immense emotional pain.  I had been severely depressed and had suicidal thoughts since I was about 10 years old.  I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what and I didn’t want to be different, especially as a kid and teenager.  So when I finally got my diagnosis, it was a huge relief – it was a medical issue, there was a name for it, I could take medicine!

But then – it hit me.  There WAS something wrong with me, I had to take medicine for it, people thought that “people like me” were not normal and that we could just snap out of it – not that it was a medical problem. I didn’t want people to judge me.  I was already judging me.  What would others think of me?  I didn’t want to take medications for the rest of me life.

Denial caused me a lot of harm.  I would start the medication and I would stop the medication.  I would start it and then just not want to take it.  I hate taking meds, so that would be one reason.  Then I would just end up back in the hospital.  Or, I would start the medication and it would actually make me feel better!!! And so I would quit taking it, because of course, I thought I didn’t need it anymore – I was fine, why was I on meds in the first place?  Then, the downhill spiral would occur once I was off and I was back in the hospital.  For me, meds are needed.  As I have mentioned in some posts before, not everyone needs them and some can function fine without them.  But for me, I need them, so when I was in denial, and felt I didn’t need the meds, it just caused my mental illness to get completely out of control.

It wasn’t until I hit completely rock bottom.  It wasn’t after my first suicide attempt, my second suicide attempt, or even my 7th or 8th suicide attempt.  It was after I was finally admitted to the state hospital, and 3 months into that admission when they decided to get the court order to extend the commitment another 3 months because I was not progressing, that I realized I did have a problem.  I realized I NEEDED to accept that I had mental illness.  I needed to learn about my bipolar, my PTSD, my borderline personality disorder.  I am still learning about all of them.  I needed to learn to cope with them.  I needed to learn to take my medications as prescribed and not be more own doctor.

When we are first diagnosed, it can be a relief but it can also be scary.  Education and a good support system is the best thing we can do and have.  It is hard to accept our illnesses at first, especially when there is a stigma attached to it.  I have learned to open up to those around me, even if they are not willing to accept the diagnosis.  I will continue to educate those around me as much or as little as they are open and willing to learn.  Just as I slowly had to open up my own mind to learning, those around us will do the same.  Attending the NAMI support groups and the MHA support groups really helped me to gain the acceptance, support, understanding, and education about my illness.  With the help of others with mental illness as well as my long term hospitalization, I have really come to terms with what I will, most likely, be dealing with the rest of my life.  But, I know I will be able to face it head on, and I am ready for it now!

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Having PTSD has made my life extremely hard. Waking up from nightmares, going into panic attacks in the middle of the day, suddenly having a flashback, having horrible social anxiety as if people can just tell about my past and are judging me, guilt about things that happened, and even the awful thoughts about suicide.

While many tend to relate PTSD to veterans that have come back from war, often PTSD is related to other traumas that civilians have experienced – such as childhood abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, natural disasters, or violent crime (anything that might have caused physical harm or the threat of physical harm).

There are three stages of PTSD. You can experience one stage at a time or multiple stages at a time:

1: Re-experiencing
-Nightmares
-Flashbacks

2. Avoidance
-Staying away from places, events, things that are reminders
-Numbing your emotions
-Having trouble remembering the event

3. Hyperarousal
-Being easily startled
-Being on edge

I did not understand how I easily got through life from 8th grade – 12th grade without having any problems despite being sexually abused and then suddenly fell apart after my rape and other issues in college. Upon talking to my therapist I realized I had been in the avoidance stage at those times and so I had numbed myself and avoided things that reminded me of the situation so I wouldn’t have to face it.

Children will deal with PTSD in similar stages, but they will also have slightly different symptoms as well. Bedwetting, acting out, and being clingy might also occur.

There are different treatments for PTSD:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Talk Therapy

Group Therapy

Family Therapy

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I currently am working with a therapist at a crisis center that specialized in trauma therapy. We are doing talk therapy at the moment, but focusing on different techniques to help me process through the trauma – rewind techniques, collages, etc. I couldn’t talk at first, but slowly as I have begun to trust her more, I have opened up more. It has been extremely hard, but I know that it is for the best.

As easy as it might be to try and forget that it never happened, eventually the trauma might come up and haunt you eventually. Some people can work through it on their own, but many cannot. It is always good to work with a trained professional and talk through it with them. Let them help you process through your thoughts and feelings about what happened and how you are dealing with it. Having a good support system will also help you out a lot. I did not have therapy as a child and I avoided talking about my traumas with anyone until I completely broke down. Twelve years after my first trauma and 8 years after my second trauma, I am finally facing them. Even though it has been incredibly hard, I know it is the best decision I have ever made because it is going to pay off in the long run for my mental health.