It's hard to remember the benefits to therapy when you walk out of a session feeling beaten and broken. Touching on the scary and uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy and guilt is not an easy task. Often it seems as if my journey in therapy will never end. I'm not even sure I want it to. Sometimes it's tiring, frustrating, and almost feels hopeless. Other times it's enlightening, comforting, and refreshing. All of this may seem like too much work, but the outcome is something I never thought possible: I am taking care of myself.
From a very early age I had the notion that I had to take care of myself, but I didn't know how. As I grew, so did my frustration with trying to take care of me. At age 15 I entered the mental health system, which actually made my journey of self-care even harder. I would muster the courage to tell one of the various mental health care professionals what I thought would be good for me and I was quickly told I didn't know what I needed. I was a client not a professional with special emphasis on the lack of degree.
Finding the right fit for a therapist took four and a half years and very insightful social worker at a local inpatient unit. I still didn't understand what taking care of myself, and asking others for help, entailed but I had someone willing to help me out. Learning to take control of my life didn't mean I was crises-free. Just the opposite: crises was how I knew to communicate "I need help."
I found myself recommended to a day program my therapist is associated with and I began my "speak up and speak out" campaign. I had decided I didn't want to lie anymore to professionals and I wanted to take charge of my own care. After all, my therapist said I could! Not so simple. I refused to agree to a safety contract because my therapist trusted me enough to not require one. Also, honestly, a safety contract is something that I knew wouldn't stop me from self harming, so why lie that it would? Unfortunately, the doctor working with me saw this as an admission to planning on killing myself.
I stood up for myself, demanded my therapist be brought in (she worked on another unit at the same facility) and we all sat down to agree that I could go home, get what I needed done, and I would bring myself back the next day for evaluation. I felt great! I had stood up for myself and my therapist had stood up for me too. We get up from the meeting, my therapist asks me a few last questions and I watch as she walks off the unit, back to her regularly scheduled work day. Then I was captured.
Okay, not really, but it felt like it. I was called into the doctor's room, then escorted through locked doors to Acute Psychiatric Services (APS). I was devastated. My attempt at being honest was thwarted by a doctor lying to my face. And to make matters worse, to my therapist. I ended up spending two weeks inpatient attempting to pick up the shattered pieces of my self esteem. Suddenly all the beliefs about self care I had learnt were gone. Even in-patient the same doctor caused problems for me. Her underling (how I referred to the resident working with her) questioned my depression and insisted I should have no say over my own medications. I was alone and afraid.
How did I make the 180 and regain my sense of self care? Learning to use my support system. My therapist visited me every single day during my inpatient stay. She wouldn't let me think that she was as unethical as other staff members. With the trust in my therapist fully in tact, I began to trust myself again. It took small steps and some shaky moments, but now I'm toddling along, almost running, with my self-care knowledge.
The one thing I have learned from all of my adventures is that no matter WHAT others say or do, I deserve to stick up for myself. Even if I can't do it all the time, I can take small steps. Having resources at the ready, surrounding myself with a great support system, and taking the time I need for me. And yes, going to therapy even if I walk out feeling like a wounded warrior. In some ways I am a wounded warrior, but I know I will keep fighting. And helping others to learn that they deserve to keep fighting too!
Keeping Yourself Safe Resources:
Recover Your Life - a site for people who engage in self harm and those who support them. Distractions, information, and live chat
Reasons Not To Hurt Yourself - Author Cheryl Rainfield lists some very important reasons not to hurt yourself
Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 24 hour hotline to help those who need someone to listen. Also has links to resources for supporters.
To Write Love On Her Arms - Resources, help, and support for those dealing with mental health and self injury issues.