Thirty years of therapy and what I learned
I’ve been in therapy since I was 15. After 30 years and 15 therapists, I’ve called it quits. Not because I was cured because I couldn’t get the care I needed. Not all therapists are the same. And even if someone has the credentials I am looking for, doesn’t mean it will work out. I have seen social workers, psychologists (PhDs and PsyD), psychiatrists, and psych RN. The first 10 I saw within the first 10 years of starting therapy. Each therapist I saw didn’t last more than a year. One resident I saw lasted three years, till the end of her residency, but she moved on and I didn’t see her again. I tried DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), and the various psychodynamic therapies out there.
My suicidal career took up talk for the last 10 years of therapy, maybe more as it got more serious and I didn’t want to live anymore. I started researching into the different treatment options and found very little to help myself. The therapist I was seeing at the time was stuck in her ways didn’t want to adapt to what I wanted her to do in therapy to help me. It was frustrating. Then I saw a PsyD with the credentials and I thought yes! This is going to work out finally. But it didn’t because she didn’t have empathy and couldn’t give me validation when I needed it the most.
What I learned from my research into suicidology is that the person needs to tell their story of why they are suicidal. It needs to be heard by an empathic person who validates why they are suicidal. They also should appear eager to listen and to know more about the person, their pain and suffering. To find out where it hurts and to try and heal it the best they can. I can go on about things like perturbation, lethality, constriction, and psychache but those are just words no one uses anymore.
Living with pain— physical or emotional— for years is a traumatic stressor. The experience of living with pain evokes many of the same responses that being subjected to abuse or neglect does. — Dr. Glenn Patrick Doyle
I came across this quote while scrolling through Twitter. Dammit this guy always posts something when I am in the feels. He is correct. Pain does have the same responses as being abused or neglected. I have suffered physical pain consistently 24/7/365 for the past twelve years. Each time my foot or ankle flared up, I had flashbacks of when my back gave out ten years prior. I had to go through a series of checklists to make sure it wasn’t happening again, each time, nearly every single day. Once I had a diagnosis for the pain the checklist checking stopped but the feelings of the trauma didn’t.
My therapist who I just stopped seeing, asked me what I was looking for in therapy. But I didn’t have the words. As I am reading the book Building a Therapeutic Alliance with the suicidal Patient, I am figuring out what I need in therapy. I knew she wasn’t able to give me what I need. I am not really sure what I need. I know I want someone to talk to tell my story to. For them to listen, empathically and compassionately to what I have to say about why I am suicidal and why it has become my only option left to me.