CAPABLE NOT CURED – Road to Recovery

COUNSELLING
My counsellor was based in a nearby GP’s surgery. He was mild mannered and kind.
I cried in every session but felt a small sense of catharsis when our hour was up.
He described a duality in my personality.
A desire for closeness but a tendency to push people away.
A capable and confident professional but someone with extremely low self-esteem.
A strong capacity to self-advocate and seek justice for others but intense feelings of shame and inadequacy.
We were plodding along but about halfway through the allocated 6 sessions I felt that I had hit a wall and lost my focus or any sense of where we were going with all this talk.

BABY 2
Before I could complete my counseling my gorgeous baby boy arrived in Oct 2015.
Once again I was smitten.
As a Mum to two boys the following weeks were full. I was able to push aside my problems and focus on being part of a family of four. The house was full of visiting family and friends, we took hundreds of photos of our new arrival, took long relaxing walks in the park and started to get used to night time feeds and sleep deprivation again.
I was and am so in love with my children – they are my reason to be.
As was the case with the birth of my first son there was also a renewed sense of closeness with my husband.
The arrival of a newborn child is a wonderful time. Everything feels new and shiny – we were shattered but languishing in a little bubble of love and contentment.

BACK TO REALITY
We couldn’t sustain our bubble forever and my next appointment with Dr. S soon came around. He informed me that after careful reflection he felt he needed to refer me for long term talking therapy and so the cycle was to start all over again.
I was concerned about another change but I realized that, as Dr. S himself had admitted, he was not the right person for me to with long term and that (in his words) while he was acting like a sticking plaster for my issues, he was a bit of a chocolate teapot.
He told me he would be referring me to a psychotherapist.
I challenged him on this – I sensed a reticence and I didn’t want to be endlessly be shunted from one professional to the next. This was playing into my anxiety and I was feeling rejected and strangely guilty that I was somehow wasting his time because I wasn’t ‘sick’ enough.
The truth is I was finding some comfort in having at least one familiar face. I felt I had him ‘figured out’ and I was able to use humor to deflect when I felt uncomfortable because he responded well to my dry wit and self-depreciating comments.
I challenged his decision to refer me again saying,
“You are not confident that you are sending me to the right place”
He squirmed under my scrutiny, crossed his arms, shifted in his seat, broke eye contact which only reinforced my concern. I have to admit that it made me feel like I had redressed the balance of control.
He finally admitted that yes he was confident that it was the right place for me; but ONLY if I was placed by the right therapist.

“You need a firm hand and a robust therapist…because…your pretty challenging”

I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud. What I do know is that it colored my opinion of Dr. D before I ever met him.

ANOTHER F^£KING PHONE ASSESSMENT
I cannot begin to tell you how unimpressed I was when I received a call for another phone assessment. Even worse were the forms and questionnaires I received by mail that I was supposed to complete before my first session.

DOCTOR DOLITTLE
I arrived for my psychotherapy session – without the forms completed.
I was very anxious.
I was also feeling very defensive.
I definitely wasn’t in the right frame of mind to start all over again with someone new.
Dr. D came to collect me from the waiting room with a curt nod and led me to his office. As soon as he relaxed into his chair he nodded and asked me why I was there.
The whole experience was infuriating.
I don’t know why he had me so on edge.
Having to go back to the beginning of my story was agonizing.
He didn’t so much as blink and it frustrated me that I couldn’t read his facial expression. When I paused he simply waited patiently inviting me to continue in my own time.
He was not impressed that I had not completed my paperwork and insisted that it be done for the next appointment.

DISCHARGED
I missed my next appointment.
The medication was causing a number of side-affects such as sweating and changes to my sex drive alongside confusion/lack of focus.
I received a letter asking me to rebook but I placed it to one side and promptly forgot about it as I got on with being a Mum.
Then I got a second letter telling me I was being discharged.
SHIT
I met with Dr. S for what would be the final time. He said that I had avoidance issues and that he would also be discharging me so as not to model and legitimize avoidant behavior.
He left me the option of ringing him if I needed him to intervene with Dr. D but said he wanted me to self-advocate, request that the decision to discharge me be reversed and take responsibility for my own recovery.
I probably deserved that.

NOT ENGAGING WITH THE PROCESS
I left a number of voice messages with Dr. D’s office but it was a few days before we spoke.
I felt like a school girl who had been summoned to the head teacher’s office.
He told me he wasn’t sure I was ready for therapy and that I wasn’t ‘engaging with the process’.
He reassured me that this was not a judgement but that by not doing my paperwork, missing sessions then waiting till I was discharged before taking action to rebook an appointment was not a promising picture of someone who was ready to enter into a long term therapeutic relationship.
He reluctantly agreed to see me again.
But not before making me beg a little.

BREAKTHROUGH
I arrived for my psychotherapy session – without the forms completed.
Dr. D came to collect me from the waiting room with a curt nod and led me to his office. As soon as he relaxed into his chair he simply nodded.
I sat opposite him and started to discuss not my mental health but my frustration with the process itself. I described my reticence to seek help at the outset, I explained that I was fighting a 20-year instinct to repress my feelings and confessed that I had no bond with him and that I simply didn’t trust him, yet.
Basically I didn’t want connect with another professional and feel rejected again.
But then I started to talk.
To really talk.
For a brief moment I thought I felt a change: an opportunity for personal growth nurtured by a relationship which made me deeply uncomfortable but one which removed my ability to deflect, display avoidance or to challenge and undermine.
Maybe I had met my match.
I decided that I didn’t like him.
Towards the end of the session came another kick to the stomach.
Dr. D told me I was STILL BEING ASSESSED to see if I met the criteria for treatment and to establish my suitability for the different types of treatment available. 1:1 talking therapy was an option as was group therapy. Normally only two sessions were offered to assess a patient but Dr. D wanted to see me again as he hadn’t built up a full enough picture of me due to the gap between sessions.
I admitted that I had lost the paperwork and requested another copy.
He was not impressed.

ENGAGING WITH THE PROCESS
I arrived for my psychotherapy session – with the forms completed in pain staking detail.
I spoke freely and responded as honestly as I could to Dr. D’s questions. He deduced that I have a desire to control everything, I aim for perfection and everything is in his words, ‘shiny, shiny’ but I buckle under the pressure of trying to maintain the impossible standards I set myself. He wasn’t sure where the pressure was coming from, just that I was:
“trying to be a good little girl”.
It was the most productive session since the beginning.
He agreed to put my case to his team so I could go on a waiting list for therapy.
The next morning, he called me to say that I had been approved for long term talking therapy and I needed to return to complete the final paperwork with him a week later.

FORMS, FORMS AND MORE FORMS
Dr. D sent me a crisis plan to complete. I spent a significant amount of time considering
• How I behave when I am well
• What triggers can put me into a crisis
• How I behave when I am in crisis
Etc.
Etc.
Etc.
I arrived for my psychotherapy session – with the forms completed in pain staking detail.
Dr. D seemed different. More relaxed, less stoic. It made me consider that maybe he had been putting on a façade before to intentionally get under my skin. That may of course just be my anxiety speaking.
After giving me the opportunity to ask any questions I had or raise any concerns we set about completing THE PAPERWORK.
It was pretty involved.
We started talking about diet and lifestyle. From my understanding of a balanced diet to my attitudes towards alcohol and drug use. He discussed how lifestyle bleeds into mental health and raised his concern that I am definitely overweight and may even be obese. He stressed that my tendency to indulge in sugary drinks all day and then self-medicate with red wine every evening was putting me on a chemical rollercoaster bound to add to my poor emotional health.
We discussed sexual health and risk of pregnancy, STI’s and my attitude towards risk.
Family health conditions were also underneath the microscope.
He needed to know if I regularly visited a dentist, if I considered myself to be a risk to others or myself and we discussed my mental state at that moment in time.
I was asked to get a blood screening test and have my BMI and Cholesterol checked.
I discovered that Dr. D may not be the therapist assigned to me. This was pretty devastating. He was driving me bonkers but I had resigned myself top the fact that he might actually be good for me because he managed to get under my skin and push my buttons.
He revealed that the waiting list to be placed with a therapist is about 6 months. I insisted that I wanted to be placed with a male therapist due to the apparent issues I have with dominant women in my life – this could make the wait longer.
He also offered his diagnosis.
Apparently I have a borderline personality disorder. It would appear to have started in my early teens. He told me that I have no sense of self but rather that I rely on my understanding of different roles in my life e.g. wife, mother, professional etc. and ‘perform’ accordingly. These roles are separate and distinct in my head, hence my personality, views and outlook seem dislocated and confused.

WHAT NEXT?
Currently I am on the waiting list to be placed with a therapist. For reasons discussed I hope and pray it turns out to be Dr. D.
I have enrolled on a number of free courses to help me better understand my condition including ‘Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder’ and ‘Managing intense emotions’.
My GP has ordered the blood tests to be done and confirmed that while I am overweight, that I have not yet crossed the threshold into the obese category. I have started to make small achievable changes to my diet and am doing some moderate exercise. I want to build this up gradually rather than go in all guns blazing and lose momentum.
At the point of writing, my breakdown was about 14 months ago while my struggle with depression has been raging for a staggering 17 years.
I still have ‘black days’ and the shutters come down occasionally but I am in a better place than I was. My children are happy healthy boys who are both thriving. My husband has opened up a little about how the last year has affected him and I have had ongoing support from my family. I have spoken openly to friends about how my anxiety can cause me to behave oddly and distance myself when I most need a support network. I am still working on re-connecting with friends I have neglected due to my mental health.
I still set impossible standards for myself and my failure to meet up to these expectations brings me down but I am more aware and trying to pull back and choose my battles.
I am and have always been a capable and highly functioning individual but while I am capable, it is safe to say, I am far from being cured.


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