Mental Health Stigma Suicide

Therapy for the Therapist

I did a couple years of therapy when I was getting my master’s in psychiatry. It was helpful. Then I felt rather done with it. My therapist agreed. We had done a lot of work and covered a lot of ground and I was much better after I graduated and started working in mental health and out of the emergency department.

I’m generally quite open with my own clients about my therapy experience- not the actual content- but the process; especially when trying to talk people into therapy who are reluctant. Essentially I relate that I found it helpful, ┬áthat it can be time limited, and it’s important to find some one you vibe with and it may take a few tries to find that “right fit”. My first therapist was nuts- I didn’t see her for very long.

My second one was awesome. I actually sent him a birth announcement when I had the boys with a little note thanking him for all the work we did together as I felt I would not have made it through the fertility treatments without having gone into it in the best mental state of my life.

After my Dad died last April and I was coping with significant stressors at work I started feeling like I didn’t get to grieve my Dad. I also felt like I was becoming generally more depressed and less motivated. I knew the cause was the death of my Dad and generally watching his decline over the last two years.

I also knew it was time for me to go back to therapy. The issue became finding a therapist who could see some one in a Queer marriage, because trust me heterosexual therapists just are not the same. I say that with love for all the straight therapists out there. It’s just easier for me to talk to some one who is Queer because they get it.

So Queer competent at the least and some one I didn’t share a ton of patient’s with and who takes my insurance and who could accommodate my schedule. Yeah. That task was daunting to me. I talked to a couple of my therapist friends and got some recommendations. Waited a few months. Talked to them again. Got different recommendations.

Then made the call. It’s always good for me to do something like this because it makes me appreciate how nervous clients must be when they are calling me for an intake. I went to the intake, and am super happy with my decision to go back to therapy.

I forgot how nice it is to have a space to break down. I needed to break down. I needed to grieve and discuss my grief with a neutral third party. It’s been incredibly validating and empowering. I also needed to talk to some one who didn’t know my Dad so I could tell stories about him and describe him in detail.

After three or four sessions I felt great. I was thinking, I think I’m done with therapy. Then the non-crazy side of my brain was like, uh no. You don’t fix two years of watching your Dad decline and die after four sessions. We were just scratching the surface.

I also knew of my own clients who felt like they were “done” with therapy, who really weren’t, and who needed to go out and suffer and realize they weren’t done and call a month later for an appointment.

I’ve been open with my family and friends about going back to therapy as I work in mental health and want to #stopthestigma.

I’m not crazy. I was mildly dysregulated due to unresolved and unprocessed grief. I’m working on it. I told my therapist about my impulse to stop coming when I felt so much better and then the reality check I gave myself about it. He laughed and agreed that it’s a thing. People feel better initially and drop out of treatment too early before getting to the real issues.

He also agreed I don’t need to be in therapy forever. But likely a 3-6 more months is realistic. For an hour a week I get to take up space in a way that allows me to be vulnerable and process the death of my Dad. It’s important that I do this work. Unresolved grief can lead to many other sequelae none of which I want to experience.

I also feel it’s important that I practice what I preach. If I’m struggling I need to recognize that and seek treatment. I tell clients every day that they need therapy. I also always say it’s not going to be life long but it takes time to work through complex emotional issues.

I’m giving myself that time. I’m making myself and my feelings a priority.

At the intake he asked me what was the tipping point that made me schedule an appointment. I told him that I now have two extended family members who committed suicide. One was a teenager several years ago, and one was a grown adult earlier this year. Both very different scenarios and both highly functional people one with a bright future snuffed out too soon, and one with a very successful career and family.

I told him that I have been touched by suicide. That I don’t feel suicidal or depressed to that degree at all, but that if I didn’t intervene for my emotional health now I didn’t want to wait until I was at the point of either of these relatives. I’ve seen the worst possible outcomes of untreated mental illness in my own extended family. I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want that to be anyone else in my family or among my clients so I have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

I didn’t say it quite that cogently in fact I said it through tears because I feel a deep pain for these family members who took their own lives.

I am a mental health professional and I am in therapy for the second time in my life. I am working out grief related to the loss of my Dad.

I hope any one struggling with mental illness in any way shape or form has the strength and ability to reach out for help when you need it. I hope no one else I know ever commits suicide again. I hope for a future without stigma for my clients and for myself.

I hope if you’re reading this you feel empowered to reach out for the help you need.

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255