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When People Hear the Word Therapy

It can mean mixed things and typically there’s a hesitant pause before asking the dreaded question…is it working? 

This is true whether you’re going to physical therapy before trying surgery or going to a mental health therapist. I am in my own therapy program and I have been in this program for the last year and a half. In that time I have been to the hospital 4 times. The last two times weren’t that long ago and while I feel strong today and in this moment, in the next one I could feel insanely weak. 

Don’t worry I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty of my program (in this article) instead I’m going to start highlighting the things that have been working for me in the hopes that you’ll understand mental health better either for yourself or for a family member. 

Today we are living, at least in the United States, in a time of growing mental health awareness. There’s a lot of testing and questioning going on and there’s hidden truths that are coming to light that are actively changing our view of mental health. 

I had one psychologist tell me that I would be on medication for the rest of my life and I had another one encourage me to decrease the meds as much as possible based on the possible side effects and my needs. Within one health care system we can find both ends of the spectrums and which spectrum we listen to must be up to us. I know that I do not wish to spend my life popping pills into my mouth simply because a doctor told me I had to be on it. So what’s up with my head and what’s my plan?

I have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and PTSD. My plan is to actively engage in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT. I am not an expert and this is not medical advice. This is me simply sharing with the world from my own personal experience. 

Today for example is my first day at a part time job. This to me is part of my therapy program because people are one of my challenges. Verbal communication at times comes easily to me in the right situations and in others it flies out the window. My job is purposely in customer service so that I put myself in a situation where I must communicate and keep my focus. 

I am currently going to a CBT Therapist with 25 years of experience and so far I’m learning a lot from him. I’m also talking with my aunt and learning to get my sense of humor back. I’m learning to communicate as openly as possible with people in my life so that I can build a support network so that it doesn’t all just fall on Brandon’s shoulders. Brandon is my main “therapist” in the sense that he and I talk about the most stuff. He knows what I’ve been through because he has either lived it with me over these last 2 years or we’ve talked about it at some point. He is also the first one to help remind me to remind myself that I’m in control of my brain. No one else can control my thoughts and for that I remain strong. 

Even now writing this article is tough and it has taken me a while to start but I know that I’ll feel better if I just start. Not every article I write is going to be about my therapy program but, I think you’ll be able to see some of the things I’m doing in my life that are part of it. For example the photos that I shared with this article are from my photo journal series. 

I think the important thing to understand is that just like any other health condition if we treat it from a holistic perspective then we can see progress. When we start to lump people all together without seeing the individual then we have lost the right perspective. It isn’t always easy and I’ve watched this be the case while in the hospital. I’m fortunate to have found a local hospital that I will go back to as needed whereas in the past I just couldn’t form the bond of trust. 

Trust goes a long way in the mental health community just as it does elsewhere. When you can find doctors, nurses and medical staff that’s willing to form that bond of trust with you then you can really start to learn from CBT. 

On this journey I have been encouraged by a number of medical staff, friends, family and colleagues to try things like meditation, ‘I am’ affirmations and focused positive thinking. It can be a real struggle at times to pull myself out of negative loops steeped in anxiety but things like that have been working. Simply doing things like getting up and taking action on something instead of worrying about it helps me pull myself up. Sitting back and reminding myself of how much I was able to accomplish despite the struggle helps me. Loops and rounds of anxiety come and go and ebb and flow. Learning to handle each loop and round for what it is is helping me keep going. 

One last thing that I want to mention in this article is a course that I signed up for. It’s a new course from my friend Paul T called Phoenix. The purpose of the course is to help people, like me, who are in a life transition learn how to pick up the pieces and see a way forward. I’m not very far in and so far it is right on par with what the medical professionals have to teach. This helps me appreciate the information from the medical field more however, it also frees me of the healthcare system and for that I’m grateful. I will definitely be sharing some follow-up articles as I work through this course, learn and grow from it and share the benefits.

My goal is to use a variety of methods because putting your eggs all in one basket is unwise. Why not spread it around and see what is out there that can help? My goal with this series will be to continue to communicate with others about the real struggles and solutions that are out there. Think outside the box when it comes to your health because the box is limiting. It closes you in and slows you down from reaching your full potential. 

Written by: Brittany Maas
Written in: Feb. 2020
Photos: Brandon & Britt

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