Everything was going to be different now: a different bus, a different building, a different office, a different face. A new soul in my life, a new life beyond this one. Something different from this murky existence of no diagnosis, no treatment plan, and no understanding of what was happening to me.
The bus was late. I started to panic. I reached into my pocket and clicked my trusty floss container in perfect rhythm to a nursery rhyme, clicking my way to calmness like I always had—until I forgot where Jack Horner sat. I turned to the gentleman standing next to me. I had to ask. I couldn’t click. Where was the bus? What happens to Jack? He offered an answer and a tissue. I didn’t realize I’d been crying.
The week before, I’d called the new clinic to see if there was a cafe nearby. I needed something familiar to maintain the ritual I’d established before my previous appointments. Tea and a cookie, time to think, to be around people, pretend to be one. “Yes”, came the answer, “in the lobby of the building”. I’d be met there. I could sit in the corner. Like Jack.
My first therapist’s office was near my childhood home. The surroundings afforded a sense of ease which made opening up feel downright neighborly. But there were also times when elements of trauma found their way through the backstreets and into our sessions. The day he said it was time for me to find a new therapist, trust was replaced by starvation and fear. I went underground. Bad hygiene and no sleep. So when this new person with cat-eye glasses and a welcoming smile introduced herself to the terrified creature in the blue plastic rain coat, something clicked. Better than neighborly. A new soul in my life.
Every inch of data regarding psychotherapy tells you to ask questions and ascertain if your counselor’s going to be a good fit, but this wasn’t so much a Cinderella shoe as it was a mission. I had to hit the ground running and get her up to speed if we were ever going to work together. There was only one statement I knew I had to make. Here’s the deal. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but in the two years prior to coming under scrutiny by government agents and unseen forces, I’ve learned enough to know that I don’t know who I am or why I’m here. I need to survive. Can you help me? Can you help me find me? I’m not real anymore. But I want to be.
She understood. And we understood. Everything was going to be different now.
The stigma attached to seeing a therapist can sometimes rival the illness itself, which is unfortunate because therapy can play a vital role in a person’s treatment plan. Maybe it’s the caricature of the absentminded PhD scribbling detailed notes about your potty training. Or admitting your frailties to a New Age hippie who’s charting dilithium crystal levels in your diet. I really don’t care. I’d tell my secrets to either of those cartoon characters if it helped me find my way out of the pain of my symptoms and into a solution that worked. And yes, some people still make rude remarks when I tell them that I’m in therapy, but I can tell you this: my therapist has not only helped me make sense of my diagnosis when I couldn’t, but she’s helped save my life. More than once. And I’m grateful for that.
There’s no amount of ridicule, discrimination, or stigma that will keep me from solving the puzzle of who I am and what I live with. If someone with the credentials and experience to assist me in piecing that jigsaw together wants to be there for me, then I’m all in. I’ll take the help. Schizophrenia is nothing that I care to navigate on my own. Medicine’s fine, necessary even, and the human connection makes the circle complete.
Sometimes we need the stability of an outside influence. If we want to change, we have to be willing to change. That willingness comes from within. No one can tell you when you’re willing to be willing. No one can foresee when change will come. You alone determine that. Your therapist can track your symptoms, guide you toward solution, assist you in asking yourself and your doctor the right questions to help keep you stable and healthy, but in the end, the difference lies with you. When you make the call, you’re making yourself stronger.
It’s a long ride filled with ups and downs, just like real life. I encourage you to find the right fit, the right person to help you discover and maintain your best life. Grow with one another. Click.