Will Therapy Ever End?

Our current therapist made a comment recently that made my heart sink. They said they thought we’re likely to need, at least, some supportive counselling for the rest of our lives.

The body is in it’s early thirties. If we make it to even eighty, that’s another fifty or so years of therapy. Maybe not weekly like now, but perhaps monthly.

Our current therapist will also be retiring in the near future. We’re trying not to worry too much about that, and trying to focus on getting as much DID focussed work done as possible in the time we have left.

That’s one of the hardest parts about having DID. Finding a therapist who has enough knowledge and experience to actually be helpful to us. In the last eight years we’ve just been lucky to come across therapists who are excellent at working with trauma and dissociation.

We’ve recently spent several weeks in hospital. None of us regret the admission. We got a lot of work done, and nearly all of us were able to talk to our therapist. No easy feat when there’s eighteen of us!

Our therapist is confident that we’ll have the majority of our trauma and DID based work done before they retire. I’m not sure how realistic that is. As much as ongoing therapy (for the rest of my life) makes my heart sink, I also can’t imagine our life without regular therapy or hospital admissions.

Does therapy ever end when you’ve experienced chronic childhood trauma?

Running From The Quiet

Do you ever just sit? Just sit, nothing else. No screens, no book, no conversation, just sitting. Letting your mind wander, noticing what you can see, and hear around you.

I don’t do it very often. Actually, I’m an expert at avoiding and distracting. Avoidance is rarely helpful, but distractions aren’t that bad, right? It’s good to distract yourself, isn’t it?  Unless you’re distracting yourself in order to avoid, even if that’s unconsciously.

I keep my mind so busy that it doesn’t have time to wander, ramble, and explore. When it comes to bedtime and there are, finally, no distractions I end up feeling utterly overwhelmed by all the thoughts and feelings that come up. Not necessarily trauma related either. Thoughts about the day, about things from ten years ago, about something I need to do tomorrow, about plans next week.

Keeping my mind busy and distracted all day usually means it hasn’t had time to sit and ponder things. I find I need time to just sit and think. I’m quite organised, so none of that needs doing, but my mind seems to need time to go over the day, and the past, and the future.

Journal writing is usually how I think, but I’ve been finding that too structured. I find myself needing a few hours throughout the day to just let my mind wander. This means no phone, no laptop, no TV. No constant distractions.

Today I spent my time on the train with my phone in my bag. I didn’t look at it except to check the time when I got off the train. I sat. I sat and noticed the other people on the train. I noticed the buildings we passed, the stations we went through. I noticed my mind wander to all sorts of things. It was oddly peaceful.

I needed that time away from constantly distracting myself to just be. I sat in silence on the train and just watched where my mind wandered.

Now, at the end of the day, I’m feeling more content and relaxed than usual. I feel like I have space in my head to deal with day-to-day tasks. It’s not bedtime yet, but I think my mediation before bed tonight will be easier as my mind has had time to wander.

Conversation inside is much easier as well. With my mind less cluttered I can hear and talk to nearly everyone inside.

I think taking a break from constantly distracting needs to be a change we make longterm. With just one day having noticeable benefits, I wonder what impact it will have on our mental health longterm.

Adjusting

We’re home from hospital, and as excited as I was, it’s hard. I’ve been through this process before, and it takes time to adjust to being at home, but this time it feels harder.

Gone is the highly structured and enforced routine. Several weeks in hospital and nearly every day went like this:

7:30am – 9am: Breakfast

8am – 9am: Morning medication

9am: Community meeting

9:30am – 10am: Anxiety management group

10am – 11am: Morning tea

11am – 12pm: Morning group

12pm – 1pm: Lunch (and brief visiting hours)

1pm – 1:15pm: Lunchtime medication (if you have any)

1:30pm – 2:30pm: Afternoon group

2pm – 3pm: Afternoon tea

4pm: Walk/yoga/other group

5pm – 6:15pm: Dinner

5pm – 9pm: Visiting hours

8:45pm – 9:30pm Nighttime medication

10:30pm: Second round of nighttime medication for those who go to bed late (not me!)

All of that routine is gone. I didn’t participate in all of the groups because of my physical health issues, but there was still plenty to do. I also saw my doctor six days a week for what was often an intense therapy session. Plus chatting to my nurse in the morning and afternoon. Then throw in tidying my hospital room, washing my clothes, showering, and other self-care. Very little free time!

Now I’m home it’s really hard to keep any routine going. I can sleep when I want, for as long as I want. I can take medication when I want, eat when I want. Complete freedom.

Admittedly I was craving my freedom a couple of weeks in. Desperate to be able to have more down time, and time for Netflix. My focus was therapy though, so Netflix had to wait. Now I can watch as much as I want, but I’m finding myself bored with it already.

The hardest part? Loneliness. I’m an absolute introvert. I need time to myself to process my day, recharge, and plan for the next day. That doesn’t mean I don’t like socialising though.

In hospital it was easy. If I was feeling sociable I could sit in communal areas and chat with other patients. I could participate more in groups. I could stay longer in the dining room and chat with other patients after finishing my meal.

At home I’m almost always alone. My housemate is physically well and able, and is out a lot. It’s almost like living alone. It’s such a huge difference to being in hospital. In time I’ll adjust to spending more time alone, but for now it’s hard.

I wasn’t anxious about returning home, I was excited! I always am, and I think that makes me forget how hard the adjustment can be. Going suddenly from being surrounded by people, talking to multiple people multiple times a day to seeing one person, chatting briefly, then being alone all day is really difficult.

I feel so lonely. So isolated and alone. I’m working on it though. I’m not giving up and sitting in despair. I’ve got a couple of things planned with close friends and family. I just need to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to feel lonely. It’s okay to feel whatever I feel, but I need to remember that there’s something I can do about it too.

Onwards and upwards! More posts to come about the work we did in hospital.

The Stigma Of Treatment

All the important people in my life know I struggle with my mental health. That’s old news. I’m not even overly anxious about sharing some of my struggles with the right people at the right time.

On the other hand sharing what treatment I’m receiving for my mental health is so much more anxiety provoking and worrisome.

I’m on three psychotropic drugs, and there’s plenty of judgement and stigma from people about that. I need these medications to function, if anyone has a problem with that, they can get lost.

I’m seeing a therapist weekly. At this point in time the therapist is a psychiatrist. In the past they’ve been psychologists, clinical psychologists, and counsellors. Therapy is a really good way to help me manage my mental health. Again, if people have a problem with that, they can get lost.

Then there’s the inpatient psychiatric admissions. Five in the last two years. Most of them for about three weeks. Not all in times of crisis, but of great stress, and with multiple crappy coping strategies being used.

I’m heading for my seventh admission with the same doctor at the same hospital. I trust my doctor, and I trust the nursing staff. I know the admission will be helpful, they always are, but I’m scared to tell anyone.

I worry so much more about what people might think about me being in a psychiatric hospital, than being on medication, or in therapy.

Is it really that bad that I need to be in hospital?
Yes. Doing the same amount of work in therapy outpatient is impossible. Plus I’m stuck, again. DID chaos, and multiple shit storms brewing beneath the surface. That doesn’t even cover the issues I’ve had with mood (both hypomania and depression in the last month). It is that bad.

Can’t I just get over it? Isn’t therapy enough? Can’t they give you medication?
I’m doing the therapy, and taking the meds. I’m still struggling. As for getting over it? Get lost.

I know hospital is a safe place to crash land. I can be a mess, be emotional, struggle in any kind of way and it’s okay. I don’t have to keep it together. I don’t have to keep smiling. Staff are kind and supportive. I have time and space to unleash the chaos, work through it, and put myself back together again.

I’ve still only told a few people. I’m so fearful of their reaction to, and judgement of inpatient treatment that I stay silent.

I think the stigma associated with psychiatric or psychological treatment can often be so much worse than the stigma associated with a diagnosis.

It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s even more okay to get whatever help you need to be okay again.

This Is What Depression Can Look Like

Depression.

Depressed.

Someone curled up in bed, hidden under the covers. Sunlight peeking in through the drawn curtains. Phone calls and voicemails ignored. Text messages unread. A dirty plate, and empty, coffee stained mug on the bedside table.

That sounds like fairly stereotypical depression, right? It is. The trouble is, not everyone with depression struggles like that.

What about the person who smiles, and chats happily to friends and family. Who cleans the house, keeps up with chores, and pays all the bills. The dishes are done, there’s food and leftovers from a home cooked meal in the fridge, and the fruit basket is full.

Is that person depressed? If that person is me, then right now, yes. It’s just so well hidden.

I smile and chat with family and friends because I adore them, but I also don’t want to burden them with my sucky (technical term!) mental health. I busily keep up with chores  so I have less time to think about how much I detest myself, my life, and everything about me. Keeping busy keeps me safe. Leftovers in the fridge are from a meal I cooked when I felt like eating. I swing between having no appetite and comfort eating.

No one sees the tears that slip out when I’m finally alone, or on the way home from visiting friends and family.

No one sees the self-hatred, pain, hopelessness, and defeat that flood my mind when I finally stop doing chores.

No one sees the torment that fills my mind over needing to eat, having no food, then ordering groceries, and not wanting to eat.

I usually manage to function until I’m extremely depressed and suicidal. On the way down into that pit of doom very few people know or see that I’m struggling.

Not being able to see it doesn’t mean that I’m not depressed.
Not being able to see it doesn’t mean that I’m not struggling.

Depression looks like many things for many people. Ask before you pass judgement on whether someone is depressed, or how depressed they are.