By: Jess Lader
I’ve had the same psychotherapist for thirteen years. I chose my psychiatric practice from an insurance book of providers and got lucky on the first try. I know this is not common – but I implore anyone reading this to keep attempting until you find the right practitioner for you. Once you find a good fit and commit to the process of therapy, it can mean all the difference in living successfully with Bipolar Disorder.
I remember the initial session I had with my therapist. It was during a manic episode so I was able to speak fast enough to divulge my entire life story in only fifty minutes. This may sound strange, but when I left her office, I felt like I had thrown up my past, but in a good way. I got everything out in the open. When I met with my psychiatrist about a week later, I found out not only did I definitely have Bipolar Disorder, but also Adult Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) based on my therapists’ initial evaluation. Prior to this, I was not screened properly and misdiagnosed. For the first time in my life, there was an answer for my moods and behaviors.
I started seeing my therapist about every three weeks, sometimes more or less depending on my current circumstances. She employed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help me understand my illness and how it affects all aspects of my life. One of the things I struggled with most was the vicious cycle of negative thoughts. For example, I used to think everything that came out of my mouth sounded less than smart to whomever happened to be listening. She taught me to ask myself, “What is the evidence?” All these years later, when I start slipping into negative territory, I still remember to ask myself that question.
There was a long period of time when I didn’t see my therapist. There wasn’t much happening in my life and I had three solid years of therapy by that point. I felt like it was okay to take some time off. When I later returned to therapy, I learned that she thought she did something wrong because I stopped coming to see her. But in actuality, I thought we had mutually wrapped things up for a little while! I felt awful about it because she has been such a positive person in my life and I would never want her to think she had led me astray.
We’ve repeated ourselves a lot over the years – that’s to be expected. But when I need reminded of some wisdom she imparted on me years ago, it never feels like nagging. It is said with genuine care and concern. Her only intent is for me to be well. Like when she tells me to talk to myself in an empowering manner. I often begin my statements with, “I have to,” and she reminds me when I phrase it like that, I am giving up my power. Rather, I should say “I can” or “I will.” For example, I’m overweight. But the way I speak to myself about it can be unkind and prohibitive to progress. She has taught me how to love myself as I am and how to better adapt to these types of situations.
I don’t consider my therapist to be my friend; she is a great force in my life, though, as a mentor and teacher. She provides guidance which is supportive and effective with empathy. She has seen me at my best and worst and always provides comfort and support without judgement. For this, I am thankful.