“Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you, doesn't mean you can, should, or need to do it alone” Lisa Olivera
This post is about me sharing my personal experience seeking support for my mental health, how accepting I needed support changed my judgement on the idea of therapy and how finding the right therapist has led me to where I am today.
I have always had the mindset that I can do everything myself, that getting therapy means I am weak, I am ‘crazy’, and that I need help, all of these statements went against my own life script that ‘I am strong’ therefore I resisted therapy, purely out of fear of being put in a box and labelled as ‘crazy’. I now realise that In fact, it's ok to not always be ok, we are all humans we all have ups and downs, and getting support does not mean you are weak or crazy, it means you understand that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. When we are sick we go to the doctor, we don't think we are weak because we are sick and need medical support, and the same applies to our mental health. We are not weak or crazy for seeking therapy, it is actually the opposite.
Throughout the years I have had a sense of feeling ‘lost’, out of touch with reality and then other times feeling invincible and almost like a superwoman. My first experience seeking support was in the UK when I was around 25 years old I was referred to a psychiatrist given a prescription for medication and diagnosed as bipolar and that was it. This experience filled me with resistance to taking the medication and denying the diagnosis, I left with a bitter taste in my mouth and from that day refused to ever seek support again, and I knew best I would get better by myself and with my art. I continued ‘living’ life in a trance of uncontrollable highs and lows, as I travelled around the world distracting myself with work, continuing with my self-destructive behaviour, and denying the deterioration of my mental health.
At the start of 2019 I began my studies of mental health, at this point my ignorance to my mental health was playing catch up, I found myself being triggered and challenged by the topics discussed in class. This was the year where my mental health had enough, and I experienced my first debilitating panic attack and severe anxiety that did not shift, I struggled getting out of bed and I got progressively worse and worse. During this time I was fortunate to have a supportive partner who helped me in seeking support, he came with me to the doctor, after much resistance, I found myself back in the chair speaking to a psychiatrist. Unfortunately once again I was offered medication, and sent email attachments around bipolar, PTSD and depression, that was enough I switched a switch and was back to being invincible and of course ‘strong’, I did not need therapy.
At the end of 2019 I completed 200 hours of work placement at a homeless shelter for men in Sydney CBD, I was triggered and yet I kept on ignoring my mental health, and just like when you are sick if you ignore it, it may seem like it goes away but sometimes you just get use to the pain, and that is exactly what was happening for me I just got use to it. Upon reflection of my work placement experience I identified gaps in my knowledge and had to undertake an assessment on self-care, this is when I realised that if I want to be able to support people and achieve my own dreams of being an art therapist, first I have to look after my own mental health and this was when I got in contact with life supports counselling service.
Instead of going down the same path I had attempted twice in two different countries, I decided I wanted a counsellor and maybe that would be an entirely different experience, I called a support line, answered a few simple questions and was referred to a counsellor that was close to where I live. My first session was in december 2019, and still today in september I have regular sessions with the same counsellor and honestly I have never felt so balanced and accepting of myself. The journey at the start was challenging, confronting and I was unsure, but my counsellor empowered me, recognised my strengths and has supported me in making my own decisions in what is best for me.
I have gone through assessments, I have been recommended referrals to a psychiatrist, but I have also been told that I am not my diagnosis I am so much more than that, and my counsellor has helped me find my own inner strength that I thought I had by always having to ‘be strong’, by allowing myself to embrace my weaknesses and accept my highs and lows.
The best description my counsellor gave me was ‘imagine you are in a swimming pool and you are balancing on a beach ball, you keep trying to push it down and push it down, eventually what happens when you lose control of the beach ball? It smacks you in the face’, that was exactly how I was living through life, constantly putting on a brave face, ignoring my emotions and my problems until they all came to the surface.
As my counsellor says ‘When the pain becomes too big to ignore or the opportunity is too great to miss, that is when we make the change we need to make’.