Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us. — David Richo
Upon receiving my bipolar diagnosis, I viewed my future as a road to recovery. My life going forward was learning how to live differently than I had in my past. I knew I had to change most of my habits, reassess my values, and start a treatment plan. One of the most important parts of this was establishing a relationship with a suitable therapist.
My first therapist (practicing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) initially made me a bit uncomfortable. She was direct, almost cold. She seemed uncaring. Told it to me straight. Didn’t sugar coat anything. But she asked all kinds of questions, and pulled information out of me I’d never shared with anyone before. She was tough. She made me think. And think some more. I was exhausted, and at first I didn’t think we’d be a good fit. But I gave her an honest effort, and found that I was ready for this. This was the kind of work I had been needing for so long. She made me go to places that really hurt inside. But by doing so, she helped me to let go. Forgive. Learn. Grow. And heal. I owe her my life.
She helped me navigate through 20 plus years of pain and mistakes, to understand how my childhood shaped me, and what things in my adult life were triggering my depressions and manias. She taught me how to restructure my thinking, set boundaries in my relationships, and how to finally stand up for myself and what I believed in. Truthfully, the therapist that worked with me after my diagnosis, and my current therapist, are nothing shy of amazing.
Now. I’m asking you: can you say this of your therapist? If not, change. Find a new one. Don’t keep going every week with the feeling you really aren’t getting much out of the visits. Each time you go it should be hard work. There should be a revalation, or at least something to ponder, and even possibly some homework for the week. You should be making gains, feeling better equipped to manage not just your moods, but the decisions required in your daily living.
The goal of therapy is to build you into a better, healthier version of yourself. You should find you are becoming more be educated, empowered, and establishing new tools to handle all the stuff that life throws at you. This includes training your brain, rerouting your thought patterns, learning new patterns of behavior, making better decisions, avoiding situations that cause triggers, and so on.
None of the other therapists I had seen in the past could hold a candle to my recovery therapist and my current therapist. I had been in and out of therapy with four others, and sometimes thought I was making progress, only to find myself in depressions and manias time and time again. And I kept living the same patterns, making the same mistakes. Part of the issue was that I was simply diagnosed with depression, not Bipolar. Funny thing is, for as qualified as these therapists were, no one ever asked the right questions. (In hindsight, it’s really not all that funny, as I was still riding the mood roller coaster from hell.) I’ll repeat that — they never asked the right questions. Don’t let this be the case with you.
Finding a good therapist is hard. Even if you have to visit three or four before you find “the one”, do it. Once you find a good fit, you’ll be thrilled to be making gains. Remember, the whole point of therapy isn’t to be going every week for the rest of your life. Your goal is to grow so that you can stand strong, have your maintenance tools at hand and know how to use them effectively, and gradually reduce your visits. Then you and your therapist can determine how often you will need to continue to see them.
The reality is that we will (most likely) never be totally free from therapy. But I look at it like this: we take our car in for maintenance and tune ups, and we visit our doctors when we get sick or need a well person exam. We should do the same for our brain. We owe it to that sensitive grey matter in our head. We must nurture the mind to maintain optimal performance. It runs the whole show. And just knowing that makes me look forward to my next therapy visit.