I want to know everything I can about what makes me tick. I’m not content to just take my diagnosis and be done with it. I want to be involved in the process of learning about my disorder. I don’t do this to garner anyone’s approval; I only want to be in control of my own mind. I want to be independent. I want to be acknowledged for the work that I do. By acknowledged I mean that I’m not being dismissed, devalued, or stigmatized, but am being treated like any other person with an invisible disability. I have a right to my own identity, even as a schizophrenic.
As of this writing, I’ve been in therapy for thirteen years, ten with the same therapist. I swore to myself that I would share with her as openly and honestly as possible to create the most benefit. However, I was unmedicated at the time. My communication was rapid-fire and disjointed then. She told me it initially perplexed her, but that over time she decided to interpret my stories as poetry, a tool which enabled her to decipher what I was saying and discover the meaning.
I didn’t hold back. I was unedited. But as easily as trust was building, it had also become a source of anxiety for me. I withdrew, choosing to dampen my communication and live a private life in my private world. I was in conflict over it, but tried to break through the façade nonetheless. Thankfully, I succeeded, and the therapeutic relationship grew.
Our sessions really benefitted from my accepting medication as a tool in my recovery. My speech is more cohesive now and my retention is vastly improved. I gather this from feedback I’ve received from my friends and therapist, both. Slowing down my hyperactive brain has helped a lot. The thoughts are still in there, but they’re individually funneled and easier to access. My concentration is better and my ability to focus on one topic at a time has increased.
It didn’t come easy, though. Initially, I had to get through the haze of amnesia I was experiencing due to the psychotic state I’d been in for four months just a couple of years prior. I also had to let the medications take hold in my system to reach the intended level of efficacy. Then I had to trust that I was speaking in a cohesive manner. I was learning to communicate all over again, despite having schizophrenia. That was a hurdle not easily conquered. It seems like all I have left to untangle is my inherent shyness. Social awkwardness doesn’t seem to be affected by medication, either. So we work on those touchpoints in therapy, as long as I’m willing to brave the self-consciousness.
I’m still bothered by my thoughts sometimes, and I address them right away in session. Many of those are vestigial thoughts left over from heavier episodes. I might see something when I’m out walking and find it attached to a random conclusion, reasonable only to my disordered thinking. The medication can’t deflect every errant thought or impulse; some things are just bound to get through. That’s when I rely on therapy to help me course correct. My therapist and I have established a sort of shorthand which aids in making those thoughts less cumbersome. That’s an advantage of seeing the same therapist for a considerable length of time; you can build a rapport that offers rewards in ways that talking with others might not.
There’s the cynical notion that a therapist is nothing more than a paid friend, but I don’t subscribe to it. I appreciate their professional position. They are like an outside mind. Together with my psychiatrist, case manager, and primary care physician, they form a hive mind, focused on keeping me alive and out of harm’s way. It’s a holistic approach to self-care, and personal growth and development.
The therapist is as important to the mind as the doctor is to the body. They both work with the patient to establish a baseline of good health, mental and physical, appropriate to the client’s individuality. The key is to take that first step in trusting your experienced caregiver. Sometimes that trust is hard won. Making the effort to contribute self-knowledge with as much clarity as possible to help your doctor or therapist get to know you better is paramount. Being open, honest, and willing can be keys to success.
When I first began my journey to understand my mental health I had no idea how long it would take or how much effort, and I’m sure milage varies from one person to the next. I just know that I gave myself over to the process and it has worked for me. I never imagined my mental health would be as stable as it is today, but I’m grateful for all that has happened in that tiny office.