I remember when I was young my aunt said to me that anyone who gets the opportunity to do therapy should take it, I did not understand this at first and still don’t know if I believe her, I have had mixed experiences with therapy.
The First Time
So the very first time I went to therapy I was 14 and I had cut my wrist in an attempt to hurt and potentially kill myself during one of my first ever depressive/mixed episodes. I had slowly started self-harming with small cuts, I can’t remember how it started but I remember it felt good to be distracted by physical pain for a while. It’s a bit like when your leg hurts and your mate thinks he’s hilarious telling you he can punch you to make you forget about it, but self-harm is no joke. I regretted my action and went to a teacher I trusted who informed my parents and they referred me to therapy.
It was a really uncomfortable experience at first, I didn’t know where to really start with the conversation. It started off with filling in surveys that asked how frequently you felt hopeless, guilty, unwanted etc. and I scored incredibly low. We spoke about the point in life, I really couldn’t see much of a point to anything I was so heavily depressed. The therapy didn’t really help me much but I did stop self-harming, it acted as a kind of AA meeting type of check-up I felt obliged to stop and I am glad that I did now but at the time I felt no different until the depression episode lifted.
The Second Time
Like most my teenage years were rough and I had a strenuous relationship with my parents. I experienced a manic episode where I displayed a number of negative behaviours including drink and drug use, hyper sexuality, throwing crazy parties and always being off getting myself in trouble. Then I crashed, I stopped living at home for a short while at 16 working two part time jobs around school to support myself, this caused me to become incredibly stressed which triggered another depression episode. I started oversleeping and underperforming at school and they referred me to their councillor to support me.
I had a similar start to the sessions filling in the same forms and scoring incredibly low. This time we spoke about my relationship with my patents, a touchy subject. It was difficult but I was able to open up to the woman and addressed a number of underlying issues which had arisen from these relationships. It helped my significantly to get myself out of the depression episode.
The background to this is complicated. During the time mentioned above I lived with a guy I had an on and off relationship with for 3 years, and another woman he claimed he hadn’t slept with. He lied, he had and with me in the house so we broke up and he begged me to attend counselling to fix our issues.
This time is very different there were no forms to begin with as I was more of a guest to my boyfriend’s therapy sessions. I explained my perspectives and feelings on the whole situation that I had basically waited too long for him and was no longer interested. The counsellor sympathised with my position and was extremely validating, it felt quite nice to have someone agree with my opinions and understand my perspectives. However due to this my boyfriend didn’t get what he had hoped for out of it, we didn’t fix the relationship but we did drag it out for a further year not forgiving either person for things they had done. Not healthy!
Following this therapy during this unhealthy relationship we moved to a new city which probably wasn’t the best idea, we became completely dependent on one another with no family, friends or work commitments to keep us occupied. Again the pressure of supporting two people financially and the loneliness of the new city triggered a depression episode, I just felt like a failure, like I was incapable of building a life for myself. I referred myself to therapy at the time I was considering leaving my ex, which was what we mostly spoke about. It helped me to clear my thoughts and talk them through made better sense of it all until I reached the decision to leave him finally. The therapy definitely helped me by providing me an outlet when I felt I had nowhere else to go.
Anxiety and being signed off Work
Following the break up from this relationship I was accepted on to a sponsored degree program which meant I was commuting an hour to work plus studying full time for a degree. The environment at work was bitchy and horrible and led me to develop anxiety, I had only a couple of work friends and struggled to fit in well to the team. The stress of the degree plus this anxiety led me to be signed off from work for 3 months, during this time they referred me for telephone therapy. I found this incredibly difficult as talking on the phone was a struggle for me with anxiety due to project conference calls for the degree knocking my confidence on the phone all together. They quickly referred me to face to face counselling.
During the face to face counselling I spoke constantly about the stress and pressure of work and failed to address the underlying perfectionism and anxiety that was really causing the stress in the first place. The whole thing was a complete waste of time and I knew during the sessions that I was stalling, I wasn’t ready to admit that I was causing these problems for myself. My degree and job gave me an excuse and it was easier to blame that then to really reflect.
Diagnosis and Mis-Diagnosis
Following receiving the miss-diagnosis of BPD I referred myself to the therapist who conducted the couples counselling sessions years before to attempt to make sense of the diagnosis, accept it and work on my issues. This time he was useless, he had no prior knowledge of the condition and spent the majority of the time talking about his own anxiety in an attempt to connect where he just couldn’t. This was the therapist that after I opened up about psychosis told me I was possessed by evil spirits.
As you can tell I have had good and bad experiences of therapy and counselling however on the whole I would recommend it, I feel you have nothing to lose but the potential to gain from it. There are a few things you can do to make the most of your sessions
- Research your therapist. If you have been diagnosed with a specific condition it would be extremely more beneficial to talk to a specialist in that area than to see someone who hasn’t got a clue. Otherwise you end up teaching them and there is little they can do to help you.
- Discuss what matters. Don’t do what I did and complain the whole time about work and other commitments making you stressed, instead focus on discussing the underlying issues that have led you to feel overwhelmed and you will benefit in many areas of your life from it.
- Come Prepared. It is useful to think beforehand what you may want to discuss and even write these down to ensure your conversations stay on track and are the most beneficial to you.
- Try Different Therapists. Sometimes you just don’t click with someone and in therapy the relationship between you both is very important to the success of the sessions. If this is the case it may be worth trying different people until you find someone you think can really help you.
- Stick With It. Things are not going to change overnight, if it was that simple you would more than likely figured it out on your own. The key to successful therapy is being consistent with your sessions and staying on track with what you need to focus on.