Know What You Need to Thrive
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When fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead in her home the summer of 2018, a family member commented to me how selfish it was for her to take her own life, if she was that depressed, she had a responsibility to her child to get help. I Paused; I tried to explain, without giving away I had experienced suicidal ideation most of my life, Kate Spade was probably not able to access the tools needed in the moment to save herself.
The truth is accessing the tools to extricate oneself from the symptoms of mental illness is often challenging. Finding a supportive, qualified counselor you resonate with and trust who takes your insurance to teach you those tools is frequently a laborious process. Emotional and mental wellbeing is subtle and searching for a counselor can be quite daunting. Revealing to a stranger your innermost secrets and fears when you already have anxiety, trust issues, or in the midst of a crisis can feel insurmountable, you worry how this person perceives you: What if they tell other people? What if they want to hospitalize me? What if they do more damage?
Outwardly most people would describe me as an optimistic, happy, perky person; unfortunately, I never felt safe enough with anyone to share the depth of my anxiety and depression. I moved 18 times throughout my twenties for a variety of reasons to different states and cities. Wherever I have lived, I tried to stay in therapy, which mostly focused on coping with my anxiety and letting go of my past, but I did not continue to see a therapist once I settled down in Massachusetts. With the development of my Steady Joy toolkit, my emotional and mental health persevered through the years of balancing caring for our three children, jobs, and aspirations, and at times we thrived. In my early forties I realized I was not able to access my toolkit and sought a therapist. In therapy we sorted more of my past and some marital issues, but we did not discuss my depression. Moving to Minnesota in 2016 for my husband's job sparked one of the darkest episodes I have experienced; with the support of my Steady Joy toolkit, I pushed off from that bottom and survived.
Up until I was 48, I did not take medication. I feel I was born with my mental challenges and the early trauma of my parents' divorce and how it was handled triggered something inside of me. I do not think my illness is curable, but it is treatable. Since I was 11, I have interacted with mental health professionals, even when I was told by my stepmother, I should be talking to a priest instead. When we moved back to Massachusetts at the end of 2018, I was unable to find relief from Melly. I white-knuckled through my anxiety and an increased sense of gloom; I felt disorientated, angry, and at times did not want to exist. I tried to hide my despair from my family and engage my Steady Joy toolkit; I did enjoy some bright spots during those difficult months: meeting a good friend in our new neighborhood, gathering with family, and setting up our home. After ten months of actively searching, I connected with a therapist who suggested I see a Psychiatric Nurse and consider medication. Although I felt confident in the research I had done and advice I had received, I was extremely hesitant to take medication. Desperate to feel relief, eventually, I went on a small dose of a generic form of Zoloft. Sertraline is an antidepressant belonging to a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Sertraline affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Over time, we increased my dosage until we found the right amount for me.
Taking Sertraline has been life-altering. I felt skeptical about embracing my consistently good mood in the beginning, and to know the stable feelings could last. I have now been on Sertraline for over a year. I see my therapist regularly and check in with the Psychiatric Nurse when needed. I am fortunate that the only side effects have been dry mouth and a little nausea. I am still me; I sometimes experience feelings of anxiety and depression. Sertraline helps me from spiraling down; I can systematically implement the strategies in my Steady Joy toolkit and make more solid decisions. Trusting myself has led to expanded confidence and increased intimacy in my relationships. My current therapist I found through a combination of information from my insurance provider and www.psychologytoday.com. I am fortunate to have Blue Cross/Blue Shield and they have an easy to navigate website. If you are new to searching, be prepared it may take a while. I heard back from several therapists that they were not accepting new patients. I also have met with therapists and immediately knew I did not wish to see them again. It is not always easy to hold on while simultaneously reaching out, but know you deserve to experience Steady Joy.
When my two oldest were toddlers, I would begin molding my writings into structured content, but then Melly would come to visit and by the time she lifted off I would lose my momentum. In 2008 I sold a Blurb workbook and an e-course on Etsy titled, Creating in the Midst: a 12 Week Guide to Sustaining Conscious Joy. The workbook I made from my collage art and featured several of the strategies currently in my Steady Joy toolkit. I ran the sold-out course twice. I was not seeing a therapist at the time. When Melly arrived, I could not sustain Joy because I was not being honest with myself about what I needed. I do not feel medication is the right choice for everyone, but for me, the perfect combination is utilizing my Steady Joy toolkit, seeing a therapist regularly, and taking medication; I need all 3 to thrive.
Here is a list of ways to find a therapist. Remember to shop around, get several names, and trust your intuition as it might take a bit to find a match. Many therapists offer appointments on the phone or over video. Persevere, good professional help can improve your quality of life.
- Websites on the internet like pschologytoday.com, webmd.com, findgrouptherapy.com.
- Your insurance company, there is usually a number on the back of your card or search for their website online.
- School resources: guidance counselor, school psychologist.
- Human Resource Department or Employee Assistant Department at your job.
- Referral from a doctor.
- Ask around friends, family, neighbors.
- Look for private groups on social media and ask for referrals.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
I wish I would have read about the different types of therapy before I began looking for a therapist. Because I have struggled with finding a therapist I just usually mold to whatever the therapist is used to. Now that I have been exposed to several different types of therapy, I have developed preferences. I encourage you to research therapies to see which one might be a good fit.
Here are is a list to start from:
- Decide on what type of therapy you need or want: individual, family, group, or a combination.
- ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
- Psychodynamic: Traditional Talk Therapy
- IFS: Internal family Systems
- DBT: Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- CBT: Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Music, Play, Light, or Art Therapy
What do you need to thrive?
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