Some types of therapy have been especially helpful for me, but I want to invite you to be open minded, because some types you may not think can work for you but might ... you don't know until you start them.
In my early adult life I was fortunate to have the most amazing GP, Dr Chapman, in Newbury, Berkshire. He was the person who saved my life literally back then, as I was in despair. Twenty five years ago, he even put down in my records 'Bipolar?', a diagnosis I wasn't to formerly have until 2017! He wouldn't have been able to formerly diagnose me with that as he was a GP and not a mental health consultant, and there were few opportunities to access serious mental health services back then unless you were taken into hospital and sectioned.
I used to book two 10 minute appointments and still run over my allotted time! I would see him twice a week and I must have been a burden, but he was so interested in the complexity of my mental health. He was definitely a 'head doctor' and I remember hearing people complain that he wasn't interested in other types of illness. He should have been a mental health specialist, as he was so good. It was him that finally, after many years of working with me towards it, supported me to meet with my toxic adoptive controlling and abusive parents and tell them I would never see them again.
A few years later and after a few weeks as a voluntary patient in a ward at a huge Victorian mental hospital in Wallingford, I had the opportunity to do some real work on myself in a Therapeutic Community (T.C). I would attend, along with about 20 other 'clients', 5 days a week from 9-4 pm for two years! It was an awesome set up. It must have been very expensive! There were specialist Dr's and nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists, art therapist, sports therapists, 1:1 counsellors, Gestalt therapists and every manner of full on all round holistic mental health support. We had to gradually come off our medications for any mental health illnesses so we could work with who we really were. I came to love, rely on and feel totally supported in that environment. I met people who have influenced my life every since, but we were all very ill people. It was a 'full-on', traumatic, challenging, distressing, fun, energetic, stressful and comforting two years. As a whole my stay there was very positive and rewarding, the main negative being that I was there in the day and age when the mental health world thought everything stemmed from being sexually abused by your father. One therapist in particular would not hear me say my adoptive father had not sexually abused me. She thought I was in denial. Over time she found out it was my adoptive mother who had been the monster!
It was here I learnt what anger was. One day one of the other clients was talking. I was shaking like a leaf. One of the therapists noticed and asked me what I was feeling. I looked at her and said 'nothing?'. She invited me to notice what my body was doing. I realised I was shaking. Through some following work I found that the shaking was my anger. Anger that I didn't recognise internally as I had been so wonderful at covering it up within myself. From then on, I noticed when I began shaking, took on board that it meant I was angry, looked within myself to acknowledge it and over the years it has levelled itself out, and now, like most people, I know the angry feeling first and then start shaking! It was a very valuable piece of work. It was at T.C I also stopped self harming. I had self harmed from a young age but as a teen and young adult, cut daily. In therapy I found other coping strategies. Art therapy was the one I enjoyed most as a group, I loved playing volleyball and I enjoyed 1:1 work. I value this time immensely. It was life changing and I believe, I only had the opportunity to attend because I was open-minded and willing to be open and talk about my feelings.
I had bits and pieces of fairly useless (as unfocused) therapeutic intervention over the years until being invited in to see a specialist in EMDR a few years ago. "Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a form of psychotherapy in which the person being treated is asked to recall distressing images while generating one type of bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movements or hand tapping." I was a little out of the normal perimeters of being given this form of intervention as it was being used, by only one therapist I believe in North Devon at this time, for PTSD. As I had complex needs, it was felt that I may have had too much to be able to specifically focus on one aspect of my trauma, however, there was one aspect that haunted me particularly, and so we set to work to see if the therapy worked for me.
I have never known anything like it! At first, sceptic that I am, I went into the therapy thinking 'how can a light moving backwards and forwards change the way I feel'. Oh boy, was I in for a shock! The therapy was incredibly intense, unlike anything I had been through before. In the space of minutes I would shock-wave through feelings of extreme anger, distress, sadness, fear, loathing and hate, like a roller-coaster. It was absolutely exhausting ... but it worked. It worked so totally that it changed my life. In a space of, I think, only about 6 or 8 sessions I was able to face one of my greatest fears, not being scared of any woman that looked like, had the expression on their face of or the temperament of my adoptive mother. Until this time I hated to look women in the face. I was petrified of women who had hard faces and looked angry, even if this was just their normal face. I avoided them like the plague, desperately feeling in fear of my life. Since this time, I have even been able to tell women that I used to be scared of women who looked like them (that makes for an interesting conversation!).
On to 2017 and I was diagnosed as having 'Bipolar Disorder', following a long drawn out manic episode which left a devastated wake behind me and led to painful relationship breakdowns, unsafe and risky behaviour, suicide bids and behaviour that I only remember from one other period in my life in that severity.
I had been attending pain management due to my M.E (Myalgic Encephalopathy) and Fibromyalgia but had come into a session in a dreadful state and a psycholgist at the clinic was asked to come in to check on me, suggesting I go to see the Crisis Team at the hospital, leading to my diagnosis. Following re-referral, for the last 7 months I have been working hard with this health psychologist, to reduce the physical pain in my body caused by my trauma.
I did not know she would offer me EMDR because I didn't know how much more widely used it is now, but it has, once again, been an amazing tool for me. You can read about my journey in my previous blog 'A letter to myself', but I want to say here, thank you to my awesome psychologist. She allowed me to feel safe to explore all parts of my history, all parts of me and was experienced and skilled enough to recognise and draw out the trauma triggers in me, equipping me with the tools I needed to be able to manage the feelings that came from those sessions. I am especially grateful that I could use EMDR. It was far more gentle than my first encounter with it, but none the less, very tiring, emotional and distressing at times, but ultimately healing.
I am embarking on another traumatic thing for me from tomorrow. "Hydrotherapy. Traumatic? Why?" you might ask. Well, it means I am forced to 'think' about my actual physical body, a discussion touched upon many times in my therapy. Sexual abuse, self harm, avoidance, comfort eating and many more difficulties are involved, but I feel ready now to move forwards on this next healing therapy with my physiotherapist.
My message to you is this. Go into any therapeutic work you are given the opportunity to have with an open mind. Go in as honestly as you can and be prepared to have to 'trust' before you will get any 'reward' from your therapy. No therapist, counsellor, Dr, psychologist or psychiatrist can do anything for you unless you are able to verbalise what you need help with. They will give you time to do this. Prepare yourself. This is YOUR opportunity. You have to do the work. Don't even start the work if you are not ready to 'move on'. What is the point of going from session to session if you are not willing to listen to their expertise and advice, use the tools they are giving you and work yourself to move forwards and learn about yourself? You may have to accept there are parts of you that are dysfunctional and do not help you to life a fulfilled life in society. Maybe you find out that not only were you bullied but you were a bully, not only abused but also an abuser, a victim of anger and violence but also a giver of anger and violence. We have to work with the things that are wrong with the way we behave and find a way that makes us happier and more content. Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Most of all, give yourself a chance to change if you get the opportunity. Grow Your Own Soul xxx