Updated: Jun 9
I got a new therapist. I met with her in person this week for the first time. It was exciting and also annoying. I remember the hard parts of therapy now. I was always good at talk therapy. I like to share. But there were times in the many years that I had with my former therapist of 20 years, that I didn’t want to go. The accountability piece. I didn’t want to have to explain my actions and how they made me feel in so impulsively doing them. I wanted to eat some cheeseburgers, smoke my cigarettes, and numb myself. I was in what seemed like a never ending self-sabotage cycle in my 20s and early 30s. I would come out of it for a bit, and then do something new and healthy for a while, and then as soon as I started to feel good, I would fuck it up again and get back to self-loathing and throwing my hands up. I was self-destructive to the point where I think it frustrated many of the friends I had at the time. I gave up. I was the poster child for doing everything half-assed. I would give up. Whether I was making wrong choices with relationships, or overeating to the point of being sick, I knew better than anyone how to hold myself back.
As someone with a looming diagnosis of Bipolar 1, I forced myself to go to therapy because for me, it was life or death. The alternative could be another stay in inpatient, and another psychotic break. After my 7th hospitalization in just 5 long years, I listened to the doctor and the therapist out of fear for my life. I took Lithium and saw a therapist. I had almost killed myself on the highway while driving recklessly and completely manic. I was put in jail for driving under the influence. Only thing was that I was not under the influence of any substance at all, but my own brain. That scared me, as did the months following with no license to drive and needing to take the bus to the bank that I worked at since on hiatus from school. Trips to court. Expensive lawyers (thank God for my parents) and another setback.
I took the advice of so many doctors. I followed that recipe for 20 years. I had many difficult roller coasters in and out of self-sabotage cycles through those years, and eventually, I learned how to like myself enough to break that cycle. Meeting someone who loved me for me, and then marrying him certainly helped. Getting a great job and excelling at it. I always thought I was the dumbest, ugliest, messy, and worst person in the room. Everybody else was way better than me. I believed that in my mind. I do not have anyone to blame for those feelings. Perhaps this was my sickness, and the environment I got well in. But this was my truth. I hated myself. I would start every sentence with someone new in my life that “well, I am bipolar so….” In other words, I am a fuck up and here is my badge that proves it. Don’t put any faith in what I can do, and don’t you dare think that I have a brain. I would also let people think that I was dumb because it was easier. I was disconnected from my heart back then, and only in my beautiful and super active brain.
There is a lot of sad feelings that come up when I think about my 20s and 30s, but I truly don’t regret any of it. I know that I would not be where I am today, a person who is open and willing to learn from others, who is finally feeling and experiencing an open-hearted connection to my own soul, and to a beautiful and growing community of people of energy healers, chaplains, intuitive teachers and friends who also live from their heart spaces.
It was 23 years ago, next week, when I had my last psychotic episode. I am married, and have a great life now, and it sure as shit was not easy. It still isn’t easy. I had this great therapist for so many years and she literally saved my life multiple times because I forced myself to see her, even when I didn’t want to. Sure, plenty of times I skipped, but I showed up more than I ditched. When I stopped seeing her and my psychiatrist in 2018, they were cheering me on. They made me feel like I was some kind of rock star. I actually felt uncomfortable with their praise (I still don’t do well with that!). They were proud of how far I came, having known me from when I was newly diagnosed and a numbed out frightened woman with no connection to anything beyond how to survive each day.
Playing small still comes back to haunt me. I do it naturally due to my conditioning. This conditioning may never be fully broken, but I am happy that I am aware when I regress a bit and do that. And when I am not aware of it, having a therapist will be wonderful.
I am paraphrasing our conversation a bit but she basically said that, you don’t have to use air quotes when you talk about journeying, drumming, Reiki or how Kundalini Yoga makes you feel, and you don’t have to use words like “supposedly”, as if you need to play small, like the Spiritual life you are leading isn’t real, or it’s some kind of phony belief system that you are making light of because everyone else is freaked out about ever talking about something so provocative. You don’t have to minimize how much this work is helping you be more compassionate and open.
It is amazing all of the work I do, with teachers, shamans, energy healers, so much work and I feel my body now, and how much it is changing, and how much space I have in my brain. I don’t just run my mouth about my feelings now, I actually feel them in my body. I don’t drink or take any medication now. I do not numb and binge to the point of getting sick. I never imagined that just learning mindfulness strategies like meditation, yoga and slowing down the constant doing would make my thinking brain perceive and learn so much! I am 46 and I have never wanted to learn as much as I do now.
I like this new therapist. She is attuned to energy work. When I started going over my story, I was talking fast in the interest of time, and she actually told me to take a breath. We sat and meditated for a couple of minutes. With my history and diagnosis, I felt the need to tell her the major events. I dumped out my high level story from the first time I was hospitalized in 1994, and the subsequent major psychotic events that happened in 1996, and 1999, with a whole lot of medication adjustments, outpatient stays, depression, loss of my grandparents, and my entire connection to creativity, and spirituality that came with living mostly in safety, and how medication that saved my life, but also numbed me out.
She is going to be good for me. I left there feeling contemplative, and she is going to help me progress from where I am right now, which is in a place of newness. I feel happy that I took it upon myself to see someone again. I know that things are getting harder in my relationships because I am not necessarily the same person who likes to talk about the same things that I did even a year ago, never mind 3 years ago when I really started to open my heart and intuition with my introduction to yoga.
Mental health awareness is so much about recognizing what doesn’t sit right in your own mind and body and knowing that there are people that can help. None of us needs to walk this path alone. And we don’t have to wait until we are in crisis to seek help. This is the beautiful part about being human. Connection is always possible.
Originally published on Medium on June 2, 2022