Some background on me is, that I’ve been in relationships with mental health professionals since the age of seven. These relationships have been sporadic since the age of seven until my current age of 38. It wasn’t until my later 20’s that I actually was under more constant mental medical supervision of some sort. I think I can safely ascertain that when I speak of these things about myself and due to the experience I’ve obtained from working with the mental health professionals that I’m speaking objectively and obviously biased, since these are my opinions and experiences. However, my statements are also subjective because of those same experiences that happened and how they affected me mentally in my life.
My first experience with a social worker, was when I was approximately seven years old. I was pulled out of my class and felt like something was wrong and I also felt awkward because everyone’s attention was then focused on me and what was concerning me. The social worker takes me to a room and I thought I’d done something extraordinary wrong for the manner in which everything was taking place. It felt very covert and I obviously felt like all the attention was diverted to me, but in a overwhelming way.
The social worker makes an attempt to make small talk and eventually asks me if anyone had been touching me in an inappropriate way or hurting me. There were many times that I would wear pants to school to cover the welts in the warmer months and that was until my ass would start to mend and then my step-parents would switch off so I could wear the appropriate clothes for the weather. I suppose that was clever on their part.
I lied straight faced and without even having to think much over my response to the social worker’s questions. I didn’t tell the truth because I was afraid. I was afraid of where I’d be put if I was put in the foster care system and I was even more afraid of what would happen if my step-parents found out I told the truth of the sexual trauma, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse I endured day in and out. The devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you don’t. All I know is for a seven year old girl to have so much on her plate, she had to think fast and be a few steps ahead of things.
So, from that time when I was seven and until now, there’s no telling how many people know the intimate details of my life story. This is what I do know about it all now, though. From the time I started working with mental health professionals, I would have to say through my experiences, that very few individuals actually helped me make any productive head way whatsoever in my daily life.
I readily admit that I’m what any DBT therapist will describe as, “willful.” It’s entirely true to a default. I’m both a realistic and pragmatic when it comes to everything in life. If someone is hocking an idea or strategy to me that I know will not work for me, than I just discard it right away. THIS is my whole point with the mental health field. It still is medicine being practiced. New studies are being conducted constantly and nothing is truly static.
What I’ve learned for myself that works tremendously and it doesn’t require an hour long session to accomplish is, to assess your own self. You don’t have to have a degree in anything to do this. It’s something that I regularly do to figure out what is working for me in my life and what isn’t. Take for example, my relationship with my biological mother has always been a strained and rocky one. Last year, I wrote her a letter that would forever change our relationship. It contained something that happened that she needed to have knowledge of.
Her lack of response was the only indication I needed that I needed to move on in my life as she was no longer anyone to me anymore. I realize for some people, these are not easy life tasks to accomplish. Permanently severing my relationship with my biological mother was a painful process and definitely a decision that I ruminated over. But, the empowerment! If you are able in your life to make these decisions on what’s not working and only adding more stress to your life, with a clear, stable, and sober mind, than you will find that inner strength you always had to persevere through the strife.
I go to my therapist almost on a weekly basis. I don’t feel any stigma about having to deal with the mental health professionals. I know I’m a pain in the ass because they probably think I’m a know it all, that doesn’t listen to their suggestions (when they actually provide feedback ) but it’s my hour. Having multiple mental illnesses is enough combined with the physical problems I have as well. Ultimately in life, it is you that is going through and dealing with your mental illness and other problems. Your mental health professional isn’t going to be there with you when you’re stuck in a public restroom stall willing yourself to breathe because of a anxiety or panic attack.
I know all about these times. Twenty or so minutes spent trying to collect yourself so you can leave the bathroom and go pick up your prescriptions. Do the breathing exercises. Focus, distract yourself with just about any method that works for you. You know you better than anyone else. You know when you need a break. You know if a place is subject to trigger a panic attack. Take care of yourself the best way you know how. If something isn’t working, THROW IT OUT! I personally only use the strategies that work for me and everything else is background noise, because I have tried many mindful skills, and DBT skills but they don’t work for everyone.
I don’t have a little notebook of skills compiled for the panic attacks and all of my triggers. I just know. At this age, it’s second nature. Everyday is a struggle for us all. I’m just trying to learn as I go about what’s helpful and what’s not. Fight on my fellow warriors!!