Somehow, I find myself without a therapist, without my studies and at a loss as to what happens next.
Without someone professional whom I trust, to help me unpack my thoughts and feelings how will I manage? I feel like I burden my nearest and dearest enough with my problems and that I am now left with this blog as my only way of understanding myself and my place in the world. So please forgive my rambles if you choose to read on.
Since I have become open about my struggles with my mental health/illness, many people approach me to talk about their own mental health. I originally went back to uni to understand more about how going through something difficult and growing through it, despite it, because of it, can be used to help others in similar situations.
To now be reporting that I have made a difficult decision to interrupt my masters degree and that I may not indeed finish it, is really hard to write. I have been finding it harder and harder to maintain momentum and contain the panic I feel about the kind of work I feel drawn to.
I had been attempting to research recovery from mental illness and how positive psychology concepts and practice fits in, but it has again become too emotionally challenging to read about something that feels so close to home.
Like with most of my experience in employment to date, I find myself in in a Catch 22 situation, doing the work leads me towards anxiety, panic and illness yet without work to channel my excess obsessive energies I am concerned that I will now drift into depression and hopelessness. Will this become something else I have not been able to do?
I wish I could put my finger on what scares me the most. I am not afraid of hard work (I don’t think) but I am afraid of losing control because of the anxiety that insists on permeating my mind, body and soul. Of the nausea I sometimes feel from dawn til dusk which has no other cause. Of what usually over time turns into either meltdown…or shutdown. Of the impact this has on my health and also on the wellbeing of my family.
I feel I have fundamentally lost the meaning I used to find in working on ideas to help those in recovery, like me. That’s the crux of it really…I think that I used to find enough to care about and motivate me, so I could withstand the stress of doing it.
So why on earth have I, all in one week, seemed yet again to find myself on a path with no destination or milestones? I have not only called a halt to my studies, I also discontinued therapy with my therapist of over 3 years at what feels like a crucial time in my life’s journey.
I don’t feel able to go into too many details about the latter, the main consequence is that I am left without support when I feel I continue to need it. Suffice to say that something happened to the relationship and trust has been lost. I was not ready to end therapy and I resent the fact that I felt cornered into ending it due to what I believe was an avoidable set of circumstances. I felt I had been placed in a position where I not only felt over-exposed (common enough in therapy) but was then being told (like I have been my whole life) not to get over-emotional or read too much into it.
As a result of what happened, I have been left feeling judged as someone whose decisions were still being guided by avoidance, fear and ego. This has affected how I see my illness, my recovery and my work and I still am trying to find the bright side of this one.
Trying to step back a bit, in ending psychotherapy I do believe that I am ow doing the thing I actually do fear the most; going it alone for a while and trusting myself. The situation perhaps showed me that I value my own opinion about my health and my illness; of course I am going to react like anyone else when my belief in someone and something is threatened. My psychological defences, those I have left after a decade of therapy, are part of who I am and who I want and need to be.
I am going to continue to compare myself to others, I am going to relearn the compassion that gets lost (for myself and others) every time this happens and I am going to try and get better at this and build the best in myself. Positive psychology has shown me that it is possible to build the best even when still working on the worst.
This challenging situation with therapy ending and my decision to interrupt my studies seemed at first inextricably linked, both felt like they arose from an almost complete loss of belief in myself, my purpose and my abilities. My uncertainty about myself seemed for a while neatly had replaced by the certainty of failure.
Gradually over the weeks since I have been able to separate the two and see them as separate challenges. I’ve learned that I need to trust myself in my choice of who and what is allowed to influence my life, where I can control it, and that this decision is hardly ever straight forward when it comes to a therapeutic relationship or a calling.
I have no idea where this all leads me, as I say. If I look at what I am able to sustain and what drives me it is probably sharing my lived experience of illness and building wellbeing as a result of and in spite of illness and growing and maintaining supportive relationships.
At the moment volunteering for SHOUT, Rethink and Time to Change is helping me do those things and so is my family, so this is where I have decided to place my energy and attention for the time being.
And as discussed with a good friend recently, it’s enough for now to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, thinking of the next hour at a time, rather than fixing a path and rushing to get to that final destination.