So… to start… The definition of therapy is: treatment intended to relieve or heal [a disorder]. The “Disorder” part can be scrapped for all I care in that definition. Everyone can use therapy of some sort.
Therapy with an actual therapist isn’t for everyone; and for others it’s the perfect remedy. I fought it for a long time. I was bound and convinced that the brief Talk Therapy moments I had with my last psychiatrist were perfectly fine. That that’s all I needed. Wrong. Upon seeing my new psychiatrist (well, 3 years new) she recommended the therapist that I am currently seeing (with no intention to switch- ever). My feelings towards full blown therapy sessions? Totally changed.
There are different types of therapy that you could work with your therapist on, but that is a subject for a different time and post. I am not saying that that therapy isn’t insanely important. Trust me when I say that JUST KNOWING I am going to be going into my therapist’s office makes me feel at a minimum of ten times better no matter how lousy I’m doing at the moment. Therapists are absolutely amazing if you find the right one. I just mean… You know how you had weekly or monthly themes in elementary school classes? Having a flashback at all? Okay. Today’s theme is OUR OWN brand of therapy. Healthy ones.
Everyone’s brand of therapy is different. What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. I totally get that. This isn’t to mention that the therapy that’s best for us won’t alter at times. I’ve painfully learned that. I hate change and am of the strong opinion that what works for one thing should automatically work for another. Why? Because if my set routine falters my world slowly falls of its axis if not caught and placed back where it belongs. With that being said, ha ha (I mean if we can’t laugh at ourselves sometimes…), I have found different things that work for me at different times.
1. Art Journaling
Art in general makes me a happy camper. I started art journaling in 2012. A friend suggested a journal after a manic episode. She has had cancer several times; and she explained how she kept one after one bout and was able to go back and look at it the next time- seeing what she could expect, etc. At the time I wasn’t really writing, but she pointed out I could use my art to do it if I wanted. So I did. The entries can be as simple or detailed as I like. I have everything from multi-page pieces to simple statements like Feel Better Moments. My therapist is a certified art therapist, so in addition to the pages I do on my own are assignments that she gives me depending on what we are working on.
2. My nieces and nephews
My favorite kiddos always make me happy. On my really bad days seeing them in person isn’t an option. I don’t want them to see me like that. Have you noticed how great smartphones are? I can look at the however many photos I have of them on my phone. FaceTime is another great thing about technology. My four year old niece, Bella, and I usually FaceTime once a week at least. She thinks it’s the greatest thing in the world. I’ve even had an art therapy assignment on being an aunt. I did a post [“Being an Aunt with a Mental Illness”] a few weeks ago if you’re interested.
3. My Faith
In this past year I have truly rediscovered my faith. This episode I am slowly recovering from was a terrifying one. I have found solace and comfort at church- and not just on Sundays. I have made it routine to go on Wednesday mornings to sit in either the sanctuary or War Room for a period of time (that varies on the given day). I have found verses to use as mantras, sermons (my church has them on the website) to listen to when my mind needs focus, books that have helped restore my desire to pray daily, and new members of my support system that I wouldn’t have had a year ago. I go on walks at night and simply talk to God. This isn’t a time when I bow my head, but when I look upward and just have a conversation with Him. I tell Him things, ask questions, make requests, and just bounce ideas around. He loves us enough to listen. Even when we don’t know what to say. That was a lesson that has take a whole lifetime, for me, to learn.
4. The written word
Where to start with this one? I LOVE words. Love, love, love them. I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I think I wrote my first short story when I was in sixth grade. Well, that isn’t totally true. My second grade teacher had her students each write a story that she had laminated and bound. I had a fanfiction story published at 15, was accepted to a creative writing camp at Bowling Green State University, and was a writer for the school newspaper. Writing is an outlet. This blog has given me a voice for my mental illness. A way to, hopefully, help others in understanding what loved ones go through, hope to those that also suffer, and whatever else someone can get out of it. I’ve even written a children’s story on Bipolar for therapy that I’m thinking about looking at publishing for.
I don’t just love writing though. I ADORE books. Don’t ask the number of works on my shelves. I will just say that they’re bowing at the moment. I’ve had a long standing love affair with the classics- Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” is an absolute favorite. Poetry has become a go to when coming down from a mania or up from a depression. Emily Dickinson to be specific. Her poetry is short- even her longest isn’t long- and I don’t have to remember what happens in one poem to understand the next. Books have always been my friends. From my beloved classics to biographies to books on my very own illness- I HIGHLY recommend Kay Redfield Jamison’s “An Unquiet Mind” for a good read on what struggling with Bipolar is like.
5. My favorite places
Your favorite places tend to be your safe places. At least they are for me. The spaces, and people that fill them, are familiar. They are places of comfort. For example, the barn. When my anxiety was at an all time high this past May I spent almost seven days a week at the barn. Yes, I hung out with my horse (even getting riding in). I also spent days doing nothing but hang out on the deck in front of the office with Debbi (owns the barn). At the barn, they have learned to tell how well I’m doing by how much they see me. If I’m having a rough go that day then I will do nothing but stay in the stall with Zoe. Sometimes I will groom and others I will just hang out with her. Debbi, and a few of the others I’m close to there, randomly walk by to check on me. Other places for me are my favorite Starbucks, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Loganberry Books (best bookstore in the world in my opinion).
These are what my brand of therapy consists of. Summing them up was tough so you know. I could go on forever about each one of these. I didn’t list Pinterest, but surfing Pinterest is great therapy… at least I think so. It is also a great source for ideas on some new therapies to try.
As I mentioned before, sometimes what works sometimes won’t work in others. The barn, for example, again. I haven’t been able to go. I just can’t. There are days that I feel horrible about it and others I just shrug my shoulders. Everyday I miss Zoe and my friends that I have there… That goes without question.
We all need therapy outside of an office setting.
The ones outside the office help the therapy in the office. My therapist knows me. She knows what makes me happy. She even told me once that, “I know there are days that Zoe is a better therapist for you than I am… and I am totally okay with that.”
In having our own brand of therapy, we also give those that care for us a reference to go to. They know what they might be able to go to in order to make us feel a little more like ourselves.
Our own brand of therapy helps us not lose us.