*Please be aware that this post has content about self harm, and may be sensitive to in nature to read.
So – As you may or may not know, I’ve been clinically diagnosed with Major Depressive Mood Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Predominantly Inattentive Type), Social Anxiety Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and most recently – Bipolar Depression II.
That was a mouthful.
Now, I had always felt that I was different ever since I was a little girl. Little did I know, was that a gumbo of mental illness was stewing in me, that would later show to be the reason for my irrational fear of being around a crowd of unfamiliar faces. Or literally being completely content one minute, to crying uncontrollably the next. I had no doubt been experiencing depression as early as 10 years old, but I didn’t quite understand the whirlwind of intense emotions or what to do about it – so I did the only thing I thought I had control over, which was inflicting pain unto myself until I had enough. This spiral of depression and self harm continued on and off throughout my life, but the latter had been under control for the better part of 4 years, or so I thought…
Fast forward to November 9th when I went to an appointment with a new psychiatrist, and she immediately intervened and recommended that I go to the partial hospitalization program (PHP). Her concern was due to fact that I was sitting in her office with bloody wrists, tears in my eyes, sadness in my heart, and confusion in my mind. In short: I was a hot mess and in desperate need of help. My doctor informed me that the program would teach me coping mechanisms, much better than the destructive ones I was currently using. The only “catch” was that the program was structured in that of a group therapy program. So that meant I had to interact with complete strangers about my emotions, and personal issues. Not to mention my mental issues…”I don’t know about this doc”.
The program would involve both CBT and DBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectal Behavior Therapy. CBT is learning how our thoughts about an experience or an event affects our emotional, behavioral and physical responses, and how to respond accordingly. During these sessions, the therapist would lead the group in various exercises that slowly taught us how to identify and change the way we feel, by first learning how to change the way we think. Sounds simple enough if you have any common sense, right? But when you suffer from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, you often time have to deal with various thought distortions, which can make it difficult to respond to situations appropriately. CBT also taught me how to be more mindful and in the moment, instead of focusing and ultimately stressing over things that haven’t even came to pass yet. Mindfulness was practiced in PHP with yoga, meditation and other exercises.
DBT focuses on strengthening ones’ ability to handle distress without acting destructively or losing control. These groups were led by practicing vital skills such as distress tolerance, interpersonal skills and emotion regulation. All things needed to have effective and constructive relationships in the world. In essence – I was relearning how to assess my emotions, and develop healthy habits and communication skills. After the intense 5 week program came to an end, I can honestly say that I checked out stronger, wiser and definitely more confidant than I’d ever felt in my LIFE. During my stay at the program, I would also meet with my psychiatrist about twice a week to adjust my various meds as I was starting to feel better. Everything was so organized and detailed, the staff provided a safe haven for broken people looking pick up the pieces and start again. The PHP gave me the tools needed to better understand my mental illnesses, and how to cope appropriately when I feel trapped inside my own mind. The road to recovery for me starts now.