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therapy
  • Summer Meltdowns, Loss of Control and Missing the Hospital

    Today was one of those days. It’s been coming for a while. The type of day where I recognize my mental health is in a precarious state due to many circumstances I have zero control over and I’m all at once slowly and rapidly losing my shit to the point I miss the hospital. I want the hospital. I meet zero criteria for the hospital, but the hospital is controlled, with rhythms and routines and predictability. My life presently is not. My brain and my body are seeking it in any way possible.

    I’m not sure when I began to recognize the tides were turning. Was it when my two “best” friends turned on me inexplicably and iced me out without word? Perhaps. That wound is still bleeding from lack of understanding and closure. There are three sides to the truth. All I know is my truth is I was always kind, always there when asked, willing to lend a hand when needed, there for every child birthday party or major event invited. I am not perfect, so sometimes I was needy with my mental illness and needing someone to listen at perhaps inconvenient times. Or just needy. Maybe that’s what did it. I’ll never know. I do know that my children’s birthday party is not prioritized the way I would and one person was supposed to have a major role in the surprise twist to my children’s birthday party. But not anymore, I think they actually forgot.  BOTTOM LINE IS: take all that away, my heart hurts, I still lack closure and a major portion of my mental health support system is gone. Poof. Just like that.

    I did learn I had another support system around me, subtler, less in your face but equally precious. One that I’m grateful this ‘ice out” has given me the opportunity to grow and blossom, though not healing the wound any less. 

    Perhaps the tides were turning when we grew more and more suspicious with the behavior of one of our children. Despite extensive evaluations, our guts kept telling us it was something more than what every doctor had told us. We kept watching and tracking and adding up symptoms. No sleep. Limited food intake. Irritable aggression. Going on for over a week. My faulty genetics being passed down the line and parental guilt kicking in as I never wanted to pass this wretched disease onto one the boys. It has been and always will be my worst nightmare and my worst day as a mother: diagnosis day for my son. 

    I already feel a bit like a parental pariah with his other diagnoses, and now to add this to the pile. I can’t publicly advocate for him, loud and proud the way I do for myself. He has to understand his disorder first. Then, when he’s older, it will be his story to tell. In the meantime I need to figure out to fill up my fuel tanks for puberty for this will be a loathsome combination.

    Perhaps the tides began to turn when I did publicly advocate for my children. One in particular was subject to racial slurs two years in a row by classmates and as a family we took it public to bring about community awareness and change. Being a maven and fomenting change is exhausting and uncomfortable at times while being exhilarating at it’s best. I am confident not everyone is on board with my loud message of preaching diversity be it skin tone, mental health, or being neurotypical/atypical.

    Then we have my grade in my current class for my doctoral program. I am used to being a very high achiever. I graduated UVA with masters summa cum laude. To get punched around in a doctoral level class and be one point below a passing grade is humbling. It’s not reflective of the hours of work I put in each week and my capabilities as a student. It wears on my psyche week after week after week.

    I needed to ugly cry today. I needed to get it out. I needed to ask my husband to hospitalize me. I needed to hear from him that it wasn’t the right thing to do, that I have better choices (and days) ahead of me whether I have the ability to recognize it or not. Right now, I need stability, routine, calm, and peace. I need the chaos, lack of control, zero predictability and no sense of routine to stop. Most of all, I need to my support system is there when I need it.

  • Nevertheless, She Persisted

    From time to time, I struggle with writer’s block. I think to myself that I have nothing to say and that I have nothing to say in which people want to hear. I often view it as normal and part of the process of a writer/blogger. In the advent of a rare snow day resulting in the closure of my office, I anticipated spending the day writing and drinking tea. The reality is I spend the day binge-watching Empire and asking my husband what I should write about. He suggested politics. I laughed.

    Until I didn’t. This week, a quote making the rounds in the news has sat with me as I rolled its words and meaning around my head.

    “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” This was a statement Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in defense of his cutting off Senator Elizabeth Warren from remarks during a confirmation hearing for the position of Attorney General. Women all over have adopted this as a new rally cry in defiance of a new administration in Washington, which has been less than friendly to women’s rights. I digress however, as this is a blog about life with mental illness.

    “She was warned.”

    I was warned, sort of. I see this as more of the stinging rebuke once passed onto me by a therapist who chose to give up on me as a patient than take the time to assess if my diagnosis of postpartum depression needed to be revisited. I was deemed by the provider to still have the diagnosis, but that I was unruly, untethered, wild, and unable to be properly treated. And so, with the unruliness statement and the subsequent discharge from the practice I had my warning. I had the warning that I was too sick to manage, too sick to be treated and too sick for other providers to consider.

    “She was given an explanation.”

    In time, I was given an explanation. It took a second suicide attempt and hospitalization to get one. It was explained to my husband and I that I was bipolar. The diagnosis of postpartum depression, while once fitting, no longer applied. It was an explanation that I would need to hear over and over and over before I could really hear it. I would be hospitalized two more times before I would begin to understand what this explanation, what being diagnosed with bipolar disorder really means. This explanation still needs to be repeated to me from time to time as a refresher to best grasp the implications for my family and myself. I have an explanation no matter how many times I need to hear the words that I live with bipolar disorder.

    “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

    And how. This diagnosis, this challenge, has not kept me down. I persist due to my family. I persist due to the psychiatrist who thought “what the hell, I’ll take her on.” I persist due to my own bullish tenacity to prove others wrong. I persist to prove my old therapist wrong. I persist to prove any and all naysayers wrong. I can and did achieve a fragile state of remission. I persist to demonstrate to the attending psychiatrist during my last hospitalization that she was right. She told me I needed to get better and use my voice, my knowledge, my medical training for good rather than self-pity.

    Nevertheless, I Persist.

    And so can you.

  • Dear Former Therapist

    Dear Former Therapist, 

    When you told me I needed to leave your practice that day in 2012 because I was too surly, too out of control, I was too beyond your help, did you know how sick I was? When you left my family and myself without a safety net, could you understand the consequences your actions would later have?

    Would you realize how many therapists would turn me down, citing I was too acute to accept into their practice? Would you know once I found one willing to tackle the challenge of healing my mind, it would take over a month for me to actually be seen? Would you know that they too would find me so ill that they would demand I agree to a higher level of care first?

    Did you see the decline coming? Did you recognize what was happening, woven into the surliness you were refusing to work with? I wasn’t sleeping save a few hours with a cocktail of medications. I was drinking to self-medicate feelings away. I was a waif of a human being, frail, scared and unable to cope with sight of my own shadow. Did you understand what diagnostic clues the trail of self-destruction would lead to? Were you able to see through the muddy waters of all my symptoms and recognize I was misdiagnosed with post-partum depression?

    Could you have predicted that I would attempt to take my life on more than one occasion in the months that followed? Why did you not see, with your expertise that my diagnosis was so much more than depression? Why did you not recognize I needed a new treatment plan written for the mania I was experiencing, which we now know is bipolar 1 disorder.

    Do you understand how much anger I have held in the ensuing years since toward you? Do you understand how much pain could have been avoided with a proper diagnosis rather than a reluctance to do the work and see me – really see me – for the lost, sick individual I was?

    Today I write to not only ask you these questions, but also tell you I forgive you. I Forgive You.

    Your mistake, your failure to properly diagnose me has only made me stronger and more determined. Determined to never accept inadequate care again. Determined to always have my voice heard by my providers.

    Determined to ensure patients never feel they are alone in their journey. Determined to create partnerships with patients, for if the patient buys into their treatment, they are more likely to adhere to the plan over the long term. Determined to foster autonomy when feasible and recognize when it is not.

    I will not fit into the box you tried to place me in.

    Sincerely,

    Your Former Patient