My name is Nicole and I am a 37-year-old mother, blogger, mental health awareness advocate, and caregiver who also happens to live with bipolar disorder. I am very happy to report that I have been healthy and well for the past three years, with few cycles into mania and depression. Those cycles that have occurred can be traced to certain medications, SAD, historical time of year for me, and even a lightbox. I still have my mood swings, but nothing like the torment that I had experienced for years before I became proactive in my care.
Next to living with the untreated symptoms of my illness, accepting my diagnosis was the hardest thing I have ever done. I followed the classic textbook ways to “manage” my illness on my own by self-medicating, denial, and putting myself in dangerous situations. My symptoms began to escalate and I lost touch with reality.
With the support of my husband and my GP, I voluntarily admitted myself to our local hospital for a stay in the psychiatric unit where I could be supervised and start a medication regime. In the psychiatric unit is where I got my first introduction into therapy. This was conducted in a group setting under the supervision of a certified mental health worker. I also spoke daily to my new psychiatrist but that was definitely not what you would consider a therapy setting.
It was here where my journey of acceptance began, not with the on-call doctors, or even the amazing psychiatric nurses, but with one social worker who really listened. After daily chats with her for about two weeks she recommended a psychologist to me. I was already seeing a psychiatrist for med reviews and to follow my progress, but the social worker explained to me how she thought this particular psychologist would be a good fit for me and that he could be beneficial in helping me accept and acknowledge that there were issues that I needed to deal with.
I had the urge to Google Dr. T. before I met with him. It turned out that he was quite esteemed in his field. He had several books published and taught as a professor of psychology at a very prestigious university. I felt like I was definitely in good hands and lucky to be able to get in with him on such short notice. His practice was booked solid and I don’t know how I ended up there; I’m just thankful that I did.
I was hesitant to meet with Dr. T. as I had no idea what to expect, but walking into his office gave me an instant sense of calm. Nothing was cluttered or out of place, but there was a homey sort of vibe going on. Dr. T. had kind eyes and I felt at ease with him right away. He started the session asking about what I would like to talk about and I had no idea. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind going first. I had previously given permission for him to access my history from my psychiatrist so that we could have a jumping-off point. I really didn’t want to rehash everything from the beginning again. He had obviously studied up on it as he hit on a few things in my charts.
He explained to me that while the psychiatrist and GP had their jobs to do, his was a bit different. He wanted us to work as a team, yet wanted to focus more on a mindfulness approach with me. He would leave the other stuff up to the “professionals,” he joked. So for an hour every week I met with Dr. T., and we talked at great length not only about my illness, but about other issues that I faced that were rooted deep down. We uncovered reasons as to why I sabotaged relationships, yet continued to crave that affection. We touched on things like abandonment issues, and other things that I never once considered but all seemed to make sense. He was very thorough and I felt a great sense of relief after every session.
Each session was devoted to something different, but if I wanted to continue a previous session the following week we could do that. He left those things up to me for the most part and worked his time around making me feel comfortable enough to be an active participant in therapy. He was adamant, though, that I hold myself accountable for my actions. Now that I was aware of some of my unhealthy behaviors that I practiced, I must learn to change those and never use them as an excuse for poor judgment.