Right now in my life and journey to healing, I’m doing very very well. I’ve gotten to a place where symptoms are manageable and I can see and look forward to the future. I’m figuring out what it means to love myself and who I am. Getting to this place was far from easy. It took a lot of patience, a lot of work, and a lot of therapy. But I’m here and I’m still moving forward.
Today’s blog is about hope. It’s about how you can find it even when it seems impossible. It’s about who/what you can turn to. It’s about being realistic. There is no “cure” for mental illness. There is no “getting over it” or “conquering/overcoming”. There is living with it. There is learning how to manage symptoms, how to accept who you are with the illness as a part of you–not defining you, not an enemy. It’s about learning resilience.
There’s hope for you.
I’m not just throwing that out there to make myself feel better by offering some platitude. I am the person who was convinced there was nothing beyond the darkness. I was the person convinced hope was a load of crap. That there was no way out of the pit I kept falling deeply into. That same person who didn’t believe the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel existed is telling you it does. As long as you don’t understand that the light isn’t a goal, or a final destination. I once explained to my therapist that I felt like I could see the finish line, but I just couldn’t get there. She responded to me that the finish line will just keep moving, I’ll never “get there”. She was very right. There is no “there”. There is only here. Hope in the future is allowing yourself to accept where you are right now, warts and all. It’s realizing that your emotions do not define you. It’s learning how to cope with the emptiness and keep moving. It’s about consciously working toward rewiring your brain.
Changing the way you think requires flipping around a lifetime of neuronal pathways. This takes a lot of time and a lot of work. Which leads me to resources that you can…and should…turn to.
The Dreaded Therapy
Therapy took me years to finally convince myself to do. It took both my physician and husband to tell me that it was more than necessary or I was going to keep stumbling back into that pit. I knew it was true, but the idea sickened me. The thought of opening up all of those old wounds with a stranger was terrifying.
“What could they possibly teach me that I don’t already know?”
I was very fortunate that the first therapist I found was my therapist “soulmate”. This is not always the case. I tell people that it’s an awful lot like dating. Sometimes you have to date a few people before you find “the one”. But once you do, it’s completely worth it. Each therapist has a different style and you’ll respond best to certain personalities and therapy modalities. Keep trying. You’ll find the person who will be able to guide you into healing. I’ve been seeing mine for 3 years and she’s helped me completely change my life.
Types of Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is very commonly used and works well short term. It helps identify unhealthy thought processes and the behaviors they lead to and teaches you how to manage and intercept those thoughts. However, this doesn’t work to find the cause of the thoughts/behaviors in the first place so it’s very easy to fall back into old habits.
Psychoanalysis gets a bad rap. Think Freud. Analysis focuses on consciousness and unconsciousness. Finding the root of the wounds and reworking those moments to find healing within them. This can be difficult to do as it requires remembering painful moments, but the work is worth it. It can bring about healing in places you never thought possible.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is fairly new, but is quickly becoming the mainline treatment for many disorders, specifically Borderline Personality Disorder. DBT combines components of CBT with the idea of mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. DBT is most often done in groups, but can be used in individual therapy.
Most likely your therapist prefers a certain modality, but will often use a personal approach that best fits your relationship. Personally, I believe that the best approach is combining components of all of them. I have a special place in my heart for DBT because I know first hand how effective it is.
There are likely many support groups near you that you can connect with as most therapy clinics provide some sort of support groups. NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) also provides support groups such as Peer to Peer or Family to Family which allow you to connect to others facing mental health issues or other family members supporting someone with a mental health diagnoses. Support groups can be a great way to identify and connect with people who have experienced similar life events and responses as you have. You fell much less alone.
211 Helpline (South Dakota based)
The Helpline offers online and over the phone support 24/7. Just dial 211. What they offer:
- Volunteer Services
- Child Care Resources
- Suicide and Crisis Support
- Military and Family Support
Which leads me to Volunteering. Often volunteering for organizations like NAMI, support groups, or local crisis lines can be very healing. Helping others can allow you to reach places where you can help yourself.
Finally, your loved ones. This is probably the most difficult than reaching out any other place. People often tell you they are here for you, but it’s difficult to navigate if they really are and if you’re in a place to reach out. People often don’t know what to say/may say the wrong things, but most people are well intended and come from a place of love. If you can find at least two people you trust and know you can reach out to, please talk to them and let them know you may need to lean on them. I know it’s easy to feel like your bothering them or a burden, but remember how you would respond if the tables were turned. You know you would be there in a second if one of them turned to you for support. It is no different on the other side. I have found a couple friends I know I can talk to when I’m in a crisis or very low point. They love me and understand me through those moments. They don’t have expectations of me. They’re just there. They meet me where I am.
If you’re wanting to be one of those people for someone else, please remember this. You can’t fix it. You cannot change how the person is feeling no matter what you say or do. You cannot take the pain away and you won’t make them suddenly have a different perspective. It’s best to not give advice, they don’t need it. Don’t have expectations of them or try to take away their pain. Just love them. Just be there. I know it can be uncomfortable to sit with those difficult emotions, but being there for someone is not about your comfort. You may not understand where they are coming from, you may have no place of reference, but how they are feeling doesn’t require your understanding. Your ability to understand or relate has no impact on the validity of their feelings. Again, it’s not about you. Just meet them where they are. Just hold them in that place. Just love them. That’s all the need. That’s all we need.
There is hope. I promise. You can get through this, you are worth it. You are beautiful and there is nothing wrong with you. We are all the same kind of different. We all experience life uniquely. We all have different perspectives. Keep pushing. Hope does rise.