Therapy Saved and Changed My Life

Author: Lee Formella


After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there were many emotions that ran through me immediately, and for a long time thereafter. Among these feelings were two that were hard to overcome; confusion and defeat. I was confused about what having bipolar disorder meant, about what my medication would do, about why I drank and gambled so much, about if things would or even could get better, about my limitations and possibilities.

At the same time, I felt defeated repeatedly. When I looked for answers online, they weren’t good. When the first search results revealed many symptoms, medications, and therapies could help manage the illness, my only thought was, “What does that even mean?” Nothing I found offered me much hope. I had no guidance, I was confused, and I was certain that things couldn’t get much better.

Eventually, I took more control of my recovery and finally found a therapist who worked with severe and persistent mental illnesses for over 20 years and my life changed. There was someone with experience, someone with knowledge, someone with answers. She helped me pinpoint my triggers and manage my symptoms and responses.

She told me she worked with doctors, lawyers, engineers, artists, therapists, teachers, basically any profession I could think of. It opened up a new world for me I never even knew was there!. In the short time before we moved, this therapist helped me understand what bipolar is, what it does to the mind and the body, how we could improve my episodes and symptoms greatly over time and imbued me with a sense of confidence moving forward.

After we moved, I was unable to find another therapist with significant experience treating bipolar disorder but my therapist from above left me with one last gift. She recommended therapy specifically for trauma. It turns out that all of the previous hard work laid the foundation for the next step. With an understanding of what bipolar disorder looked like for me, we could start working on skills and intense trauma work that would have previously been immensely triggering and probably impossible to do without risk of serious episodes or distress. Without knowing it, I was ready to take the next step in recovery and someone to lead me there.

As for my new therapist, luck struck twice. She is passionate about her job but understanding. It is a conversation and a team effort to build a plan. She provides skills, honest observations and shares when she is concerned or even better, when I should celebrate both small and major “wins”. She challenges me when things are good and provides support and a non-judgemental ear when I need it. Most importantly, she reaches out to my previous therapist when she doesn’t know the answer or wants a second opinion.

I’ve been extremely lucky with my last two therapists, but I even learned a couple of things from the two previously that didn’t work out. On top of it, I also gained confidence by taking control of the situation when I decided they weren’t the right fit or didn’t have enough knowledge of bipolar disorder. That’s the best part, you are in control of your own recovery, including which therapists you see.

Therapy saved my life and changed my life. It can be really hard to find one and it is really hard work, but when you find the right one, it is beyond worth all the work. . There is a lot of research confirming that a combination of medication and therapy provides the best outcomes and this is exactly my experience. Therapy alone didn’t work and neither did medication on its own. I plan to rely on both the rest of my life and that is okay. They are integral and vitally important parts of my recovery and future stability.


The content of the International Bipolar Foundation blogs is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician and never disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read in any IBPF content.
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