After 12 years of work

After 12 years of work with my therapist with no interruptions and no cancellations, I got a call today cancelling/postponing our session for this month. In all the 12 years of work, my therapist has never missed or changed an appointment.

Funny how you rely on someone being there and expect there to be no gaps. Rationally, I know at some point people do get sick and have to call in sick, but it worries me when my therapist does/did this.

I guess you could say I am confronting my dependency on her. Should I have a back-up plan for when she is ill? She is into her 70’s as is my psyche doctor. Should I be thinking about someone younger just because?

When I got the news today about the cancellation I got somewhat anxious, so I called my psyche doctor and shared the news. We agreed I would go up on my meds if things felt too stressful.

Just out of curiosity, what do you do if your therapist is sick and cannot make a session? Does it stress you out? Do you move to Plan B? What is your Plan B?

Giving Thanks…

I am not yet in the habit of giving thanks every day for my blessings. So here goes a try…..

I have a beautiful (inside and out) daughter. She is healthy, funny, smart, caring and resilient. I have a loving husband and understanding in-laws. He is non-judgmental and generally puts up with my anxiety that surfaces almost every day on some level. My in-laws also are not judgmental. I have a very good relationship with my Mom who is 83 though this has not always been the case. Now, she and I can talk pretty openly about events of the day including things that are hard emotionally or difficult because of my diagnosis. I have a solid rapport with my older sister who lives up North but continues to be a support for me every time I ask which is fairly often. I have a therapist I can trust and a doctor/ psycho-pharmacologist who I can talk to about raising or lowering meds depending on what’s going on with me. I have seen my therapist and my meds doctor since 2008 — there is little they don’t know about me and that is a blessing. I take meds that are largely therapeutic for me. I recently had a scare (this summer) with breast cancer but thankfully the mammogram, ultrasound and MRI were all benign / negative. I have strong bonds with my best friend from 1985 forward. She and I can talk to each other about everything and anything pretty much.

In writing this, I am noting that most of the things I am thankful for are relationships and health. Does any one else see a pattern in what you are thankful for?

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Rock Bottom

That said, it is not unusual for medications to become ineffective or non-therapeutic after a certain point in time.  It is also true that as a patient I have had to participate in the “laboratory rat syndrome” and try different medications by trial and error and see what works and what doesn’t.  This ‘laboratory rat syndrome” is described later in the text. 

But what is most important to convey about this time period in my life is that I made a conscious decision to be transparent to my health team including my doctor, my therapist and my family. 

It was at this time that I hit rock bottom.  As they say in many recovery programs, you don’t really ever reach sobriety or true healing until after you hit rock bottom.  This period of three to four years after my daughter’s birth is my rock bottom.  I tried several doctors.  I tried several therapists.  I tried several new types of meds.  But none of these worked. At the root of what was going on in hindsight is that I was not being honest or truthful to myself and my support team.  I would schedule doctors’ visits every three to four months as compared to once a month so as to “prove” to myself I was healthy and not in need of help.  There were times when I felt the drugs weren’t working and I stopped taking them. 

This period of sheer and utter chaos in my life finally came to a close when I decided to put my health first.  After the lengthy hospital stay, I stopped working altogether and began weekly sessions with my new therapist and monthly sessions with my new doctor.  I communicated openly to my husband James, my mother and sister Jane about my health and how I was doing.  I became transparent in my place of worship and informed my clergy of my condition.  Basically, I decided at this critical juncture in my life that I was not going to lie to myself or to any other person close to me about how I feel.  Further, I determined that I am not going to hide my condition from myself or from my support team. 

Slowly and very very slowly, after this lengthy hospitalization and move to Clozaril or Clozapine, I began to gain more stability.  This I believe is equally due to the meds, my work with my doctor, my work with my therapist and my dedication to illness transparency in my place of worship and in my family and extended family.  I do not believe the end of the rock bottom period would have occurred without any one of these four developments: meds, doctor, therapist and transparency. 

Further, the end of the rock bottom period did not occur suddenly.  There was no silver bullet toward health.  But rather, this time of reparation was marked by gradual developments in learning to express my fears for safety, learning to address these thoughts of safety before they developed into full-blown paranoia, learning how to be a mother to my child which was preceded by my developing ability to be a parent to myself.  This journey was to take not just weeks or months but years of work. 

Initially, my therapist and I met weekly to work through issues of abandonment and replacement child concerns.  But what was a complete turnaround for me was when I began to talk openly to my therapist about how I perceive the world. It was at this time that I started talking more openly about how I am drawn toward coincidences, patterns and pattern-recognition.  We talked about my fears for safety for my family, my nation and my world.   These fears continued to haunt me throughout the process of climbing out of the hole at rock bottom, but somehow just knowing that another person understood what it meant to see the world in terms of patterns was a huge relief and an even more huge release.

For the first time in my life (literally) there was a person who understood my train of thought.  I no longer felt that my thought processes were singular and inexplicable and inaccessible.  By somehow working with my therapist and my doctor on the intricacies of how my mind worked and how my feelings had been somewhat left behind in the process, the fear that had consumed me for the first three to four years of my daughter’s life was released.  Not cured however but released.

By talking about the patterns that I saw, I no longer felt isolated in my existence.   Without the isolation, the fears of safety seemed to become more and more manageable.  In those years that followed rock bottom, my therapist and I were working on releasing the fear that had been mounting for me as a person not just from the point of birth of my daughter but from a point all the way back to college days at Ivy College where I first discovered my chemical imbalance.  We talked a lot about Professor Flannigan but mostly we talked about how I was intellectually a star student but not so much in touch with my emotions.  Someone more centered in his or her emotions would have been able to tell Professor Flannigan to “go to hell.”  From here, we spent several years looking at my propensity to approach life from my head rather than from my heart.      

In addition to this work with my therapist, I developed a huge amount of trust and respect for my doctor.  We talked about the fact that for the four years’ preceding my work with him, I had not found any sort of solace in my meds.  This doctor seemed to understand that prescribing me an anti-depressant as doctors had been doing since my postpartum period was a huge problem and something to avoid.  This doctor realized that anti-depressants that had been prescribed had been catapulting me into mania off and on for four years prior. 

Perhaps in writing this book or blog, I am encountering a new aspect of the rock bottom experience.  Perhaps the chapter of my life that includes potential abuse as a six-year-old is now sitting on the desk awaiting work.  Working through these details surely will help enable my security and my feelings of security and well-being both for myself but also for my daughter and for my family in general.