A Year Of Psychotherapy – My Experience
After a long year of weekly 50 minute meetings, hours of babbling, awkward silences, extensive contemplation and empty Kleenex boxes, my current course of Psychotherapy is coming to an end. I don’t really know what to make of it.
“I’m not sure if Psychotherapy has helped me or not,” I mused anxiously during my last session. I still feel quite naive about the end result of therapy despite 2 failed courses of CBT and being tossed around in the mental health system for 6 years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I expect a non-faulty brain and a book of answers to all my never-ending questions to be gift wrapped and addressed to the new and improved me after my last session. But surely I should be able to pinpoint key factors of psychotherapy that have benefited me?
I admit sometimes I have taken therapy for granted. Some days I’ll sit there like a sulking teenager; disengaged, resentful and only able to respond with a grunt. I do feel guilty about those days, because of how long I waited for the NHS to find me treatment and how so many others who are waiting could make more use out of it than me. Other days, I’m vocally thoughtful, conclusive and more receptive to the point in therapy and what it can offer me.
It was a rocky start.
I found myself in stage 4 psychotherapy after hitting rock bottom landed me in hospital and a referral from my local crisis team. I had no idea was psychotherapy was, but as 4 years of CBT did nothing for me, I was a weird mixture of hopefulness and hopelessness that a different type of therapy may help. At first, I hated it. This was a place that had nets under staircases in case patients jumped off. I felt out of my depth but uncomfortably comfortable. (Does that make sense?) My second hurdle was that I was assigned a male psychotherapist. Don’t take it personally lads, but as someone who had been messed about by several arseholes before then, I had a difficult time trusting anyone of the opposite sex, let alone spill my soul to them.
The first few sessions involved about 80% of silence, which was super uncomfortable. Compared to previous therapy and counselling I had endured, this was completely different. The guy did not speak. Apart from a muttered hello and starting every rare sentence with ‘I wonder if…’, he offered nothing to those sessions. At first I just thought he was crap at his job and I was angry that I had waited so long on a ridiculous waiting list just to sit in a small square room listening to the clock tick.
In CBT, I was asked questions to prompt me to talk and think about my responses. This resulted in a conversation, which was quite one-sided sure, but a conversation all the same. Whereas this bloke, just sat cross-legged, looking at me and giving the occasional sigh as if he were bored – I’m sorry, have you got somewhere else to be pal?
The Hidden Meaning
I realisation of the purpose of his reserved approach hit me whilst reading Lily Bailey’s ‘Because We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought.’ There’s a paragraph in the book where she shares her first encounter with psychotherapy; and it was quite the revelation for me.
‘She ‘mmms’ a lot. She says ‘uh huh’, ‘why’s that?’ and ‘how did that make you feel?’ Her speciality is nodding. I answer her questions but she doesn’t respond.
‘Why don’t you talk? You ask me, like, ten questions a session and the rest of the time you just nod and don’t say anything.’
‘That’s how psychotherapy works. I’m trying to give you the physical space to verbalise your feelings, with no interruptions or time constraints. Silence isn’t bad. This is a much needed window of tranquillity for you.”
After reading this, I sort of understood his methods. He wasn’t being vague and unresponsive on purpose; he knew exactly what he was doing. After a while of feeling like I was somehow bad at therapy, I suddenly felt like I had the upper hand and knew a secret that I shouldn’t have found out. I know I was over thinking and psychoanalysing the situation and him. Maybe, subconsciously I was trying to avoid my own thoughts by questioning his motives. That’s something I found psychotherapy did help me with – forcing me to think for myself and finding unconscious reasons for my thoughts and actions that I had not thought of before. If you’ve read my post:- ‘Identity and Mental Health: Who Am I’, you’ll understand the sort of epiphanies I’m talking about.
Psychotherapy isn’t all rainbows and unicorns (Imagine that though!), it’s tough and I believe you need to give it your all for it to do you any good. I spent so long being negative and dismissive that psychotherapy was actually helping me, and maybe that held me back.
However, I haven’t felt so low that I haven’t been able to get out of bed or function in the last year; not that I can remember anyway. Maybe that’s not a coincidence. Psychotherapy has seemed to have turned my black cloud into a shade of dark grey instead without me even realising it. I’m not cured, far from it, but I wish I had been more receptive and open-minded throughout the year, then maybe I would have picked up on the change.
It’s obviously helped digging around in the deep depths of my past, unlocking all the hidden secrets my brain has clung onto and hid in a dark corner and confronting them in the present day. I thought my mind was corrupt with mental illness, rendering me unable to look past this brick wall in my head that stops me tuning in to my thoughts and finding answers. Psychotherapy has offered me a sledgehammer to smash away a few bricks at a time, letting me peek into this hidden world that has laid dormant in my head for so long, bullied by mental illness. It’s started to make some noise again and grow stronger; that’s not a fight I intend to miss.
What am I going to do next? I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t want to be lost on another NHS waiting list for over a year and risk getting ‘bad’ again. I think, once psychotherapy has been taken away, i’ll realise how much I needed it. I’ll suddenly crave the awkward silences and the 50 minutes of throwing up the contents of my mind. I’ll miss the eerily quiet waiting room and the little squirrel I greet most weeks in the trees by the car park. I’m worried about a delayed reaction.
I could go private, but that’s very expensive. Exposure therapy and hypnotherapy have both been suggested as good treatments for OCD, which I really want to tackle. Nothing has ever really helped it; it’s been far too stubborn. However, appearing on Channel 5’s My Extreme OCD Life has refueled my determination to raise a middle finger to this thing and take back control.
I’m grateful for my time in psychotherapy and if you are about to start treatment, I urge you to make the most of every second. It’ll be challenging and exhausting, but in the end, if you give it your best, it’ll be worth it.
What type of therapy has worked best for you? Let me know!
As always, thank you for reading and apologies for a lack of frequent posts at the moment!