Up to this point in my life, addressing my mental health struggles and seeking recovery has been personal work, and I've never been to therapy to help with mental health conditions. I’ve learned about my illnesses and done self-reflection and soul-searching. It’s been by myself, except for a stint of attending peer support groups and being a part of online peer support groups. During all this time, I’ve wondered, would I benefit from therapy for my mental health?
Medication and Treatment
Recently, my therapist suggested that I look into how to use emotional freedom technique (EFT) tapping in recovery to see if it was something I might be interested in trying. Now, it's one of my favorite coping techniques and I think it's going to make a big difference in my trauma work. If you haven't heard of EFT tapping, it involves tapping on specific points while speaking phrases of acceptance.
Medical trauma is an underrepresented form of trauma that happens all too often to people with mental illness. For example, when I was 19, I sought treatment for what I then thought was bipolar disorder, and the reactions I got from doctors left a psychological wound that still affects me today.
Even though I've been working toward mental health recovery for years now, feeling better makes me nervous. I spent the past few months struggling harder than I have in quite a while, so I reached out to my psychiatrist, and he prescribed me a new medication. He said it should help prevent some of my suicidal ideation and give me more energy so I would be less overwhelmed by my life. There are so many things that can go wrong with new medications, but that didn't happen for me. It worked exactly like the doctor said it would. I feel much better, and that makes me nervous.
For many people with mental illness, mental health medication and recovery go hand in hand. Unfortunately, psychiatric medication comes with a lot of stigma and stress. There are a lot of people who don't understand how psychiatric medication really works or why it's so important for many people in recovery, and their stigmatized view of medication can stick in our brains long after we've heard them say something.
Psychiatric medication is a tricky topic in the world of mental health for a lot of reasons. These drugs have a dark history of being used for the convenience of doctors rather than the wellbeing of patients, the pharmaceutical industry makes a huge profit off of them, and they come with a lot of very negative mental health stigma.
Recovery from mental illness is a long, complicated path, and even though the whole point of recovery is to help us grow, it still comes with limitations, setbacks, and collateral damage. Sometimes, in the midst of all the negatives, I lose sight of the positives, lose sight of hope. And I can't help but wonder, what if I never recover from mental illness?
Let's face it: there are a lot of aspects of mental illness that can be traumatic, and mental health misdiagnosis can also be traumatic. What happens when we don't even have the mental illness we think we have? I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder six years ago, found out that diagnosis was incorrect two years ago, and now a huge part of my recovery is dealing with the fallout and trauma of that misdiagnosis.
Therapy homework differs for each therapist and each client, and many therapists don't do therapy homework at all, which begs the question: does it actually help? I've had several different therapists over the years, and only one or two of them have ever given me therapy homework. Some of my friends in therapy have lots of homework, and I always wondered if my therapists were doing something wrong by not giving me things to do outside of sessions. Now that I've had one or two therapists who do give homework, I think I understand some of the benefits and problems with therapy homework.
Therapy is one of the best ways to actively make progress toward recovery from mental illness, but, unfortunately, therapy can be difficult to access when you can't afford it. Even with insurance, sessions can cost upwards of $100. Even if you only go to therapy every other week, that's still $200 per month, which is roughly the same cost as a car payment. Many of us need that money for our actual car payment, and so we end up missing out on therapy we really need.