(Trigger warning and disclaimer: In the following blog post I will be discussing mental health in a variety of forms. If you feel like you may be triggered in any way, please do not read the article below. I understand completely. If you don’t wish to read on, but would like to talk to me about my experience with therapy or mental health in general, please do not hesitate to contact me at: Authorleea@outlook.com
Now for the disclaimer part. I am in no way a professional on the subject of mental health. The views expressed here are entirely from my own experience and my opinions based on those experiences. Mental illness manifests itself in many ways that can be different based on the individual. Do not take my experience as fact. If you are struggling, please seek help from a professional.)
With my cognitive behavioural therapy and post traumatic stress disorder therapy over, I was honestly in a great place. I felt better than I had in very long time. I felt confident in myself and my abilities. I felt happy and capable. I had clawed myself from that dark place in my mind. But there still two things that concerned me; Breaking from the routine of therapy and relapsing. I was worried that without the weekly therapy, I would forget everything that I had learned and begin to once again fall into that dark place. That place where I feel unhappy, unconfident and alone. And so, after a quick discussion about my concerns in one of my final sessions, myself and my therapist decided to spend the very last session going over relapse prevention.
The relapse prevention session began with the creation of a blueprint. This blueprint was not only to remind me of exactly what I had learned in therapy, but also to identify my personal signs of relapse. Through doing this, there would be a greater chance of me catching a problem early and give me a way to deal with it before it gets worse. You see, mental illness is a hard thing to see, even for the person experiencing. This is especially in the early phases. If we can identify the exact behaviours and feelings of when we are beginning to slide into that dark place, we can prevent it. The earlier we do this, the easier it is. For me personally, these behaviours and emotions were the following:
- Avoiding people and social events entirely.
- Isolating myself just to cry.
- Being unusually irritable.
- Feeling sad and useless for no obvious reason.
- Feeling like there was no hope.
These, of course, aren’t easy things to feel, and they are far from healthy. But a combination of all these things is how I am when my mind is in that dark place. However, with these things identified, I can recognise them early and take steps to combat them. But this isn’t an easy fight. Luckily for me, I now have the tools and weapons that I need for an edge in this battle. (Metaphorical tools and weapons, of course. I’m rolling with the combat scenario.) These tools and weapons take the form of everything that I have learned from my therapy sessions. They are the following:
- Live in the present and not ruminate on the past or worry about the future.
- Question negative thoughts and their plausibility by searching for evidence of their truth.
- Force myself into social situations and use my support network to voice my worries.
- Stop over analysing and attempting to pre-script scenarios.
- Remember that it is okay to be different because everyone is.
And so far, these things have worked. It’s been almost four weeks now since my last therapy session and I still feel great. I still look at my blueprint now and again, just to keep what I had learned fresh on my mind. I even add new beliefs and methods to my blueprint as I attempt the next chapter in my life. As far as relapse prevention goes, I believe that this is a great method. With everything written and organised in one place, I can go back to it and refresh my mind whenever I need to. I can remind my self of how possible it is for me to feel good. I can remind myself that I am capable of being in control of my mind and my life.
As for the breaking of the routine of therapy, I’m okay. The first week after was difficult. I felt somewhat lost without that sanctuary. Without that person to ramble my concerns to. But every week after gets easier. I have reminded myself that this is a new chapter and I now have what I need to succeed. Therapy was a difficult chapter, but it was a much needed one. This new chapter is going to be positive, as long as I remain positive and use everything that I learned through therapy about myself.
So, that brings my recollection of therapy to a close. I just wanted to finish this mental health awareness series with some final thoughts on my journey and tell you of some of my plans for my future.
I’m going to start this with probably the most important thought; I’m glad that I decided to get help. The support from my therapist had made a huge impact on my life. Therapy has helped me to see my world differently. I no longer feel the need to ruminate on the past, I look to the future and not worry about what it holds. My mind is no longer cluttered with negative thoughts about myself. I once again believe in myself. Before my first session of therapy, I never thought that this new state of mind was achievable. Even the concept of feeling happy for more than the odd one day a week, felt entirely out of my reach. I honestly almost didn’t go to my first session, but something within pushed me, and I’m grateful that it did. To anyone reading this that is struggling with their mental health and in doubt of therapy, please just push yourself to that first session. You won’t regret it.
I felt that there is one important thing that I forgot to mention about my PTSD therapy. I learned a very important lesson. That lesson is that I own my thoughts and memories and am free to change them at my will. Just because something traumatic happened, it doesn’t mean that I needed to remember it that way. And so, I practiced this. Now when I remember being attacked by that group, I am ten-foot-tall and indestructible. By changing the memory this way, I have become immune to the emotions attached. I remember the first time my therapist told my to do this. I probably looked at her like she was crazy. But I trusted her and did it anyway, and it honestly works for me.
Another interesting thing, that I left out, was when I told my therapist that I could still feel every punch when I listened back to the recording. I wasn’t exaggerating either. Every time that I listened to that thing, my stomach and chest would tighten, and my ribs would ache. To resolve this, my therapist asked me to go back to the worst moment in the trauma. I had to imagine those punches once more. But as I did, I was guided to feel them less and less, until they were no more. And while I was in that moment, we brought closure to the event. She asked me to imagine myself looking down upon the version of my that was being attacked.
“What would you say to the Lee that’s laying on the ground?” She asked.
“I would let him know that he survives this moment.” I said. “I would him know that it will soon be over and he will become stronger because of it.”
“And if the you now could intervene in that moment, what would you do?”
A flash of red appeared to overtake my vision as I briefly imagine tearing my opponents apart. But, after a moments thought, I realised the point of the whole thing. If I changed a thing about that moment, I might not be the person that I am today. And so, I replied. “I would do nothing. That event happened for a reason. That event crafted me into the person that I am today.”
And that, brings my mental health awareness series to a close… for now. I will of course keep everyone updated if anything changes, but right now, I feel great. I have a new set of self-beliefs and feel that I have what it takes to get through. This of course wasn’t achieved with the use of some sorcery or magic. This was achieved with guidance, willing and determination. As I keep saying, it was hard work, but it was worth it. Now a bit about the future. I feel like I owe a lot to the health professionals that helped me through this and I feel the need to help others that are suffering like I did. In the very near future, I plan on raising money for various mental health charities through out the U.K. I plan on doing this through my writing and donating full royalties. I haven’t quite decided on what exactly I’m doing yet, but it will be a project that I will keep you updated on.
Thank you all so much for your support on this series, it really means the world to me. These posts have felt like closure on that chapter of my life, I’m now ready to move onto the next and show people what I can do with my new-found confidence. Be ready for lots more fiction news, videos and general updates.
Thank you again,
Lee A. Vockins.