Hello mental health champions, how are you doing?
I am sorry that I have been absent for a couple weeks. I have been so busy with work and school and my health first and foremost. I think things are finally getting better on the physical health front and mental health front is finally getting better after going off of Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin was a medicine I tried to take instead of the Lexapro that I was on. However, the Wellbutrin didn’t help my anxiety, made my depression way worse, and even made my stomach incredibly sick as well. So, right now, I am on no mental health medication. However, I have to admit, I think that being on Lexapro really helped me to not catastrophize everything. I think I have taken that skill with me even after being off the medication. A lot of my anxiety comes from my health. I am always worried I will have an asthma attack or stomach attack at an event. That is one of my biggest fears and so I used to be so anxious about it that I would actually end up making myself sick from worrying about it. But now, being off all mental health medication, I don’t feel like I catastrophize anything anymore, which is a huge win for me. If I am not catastrophizing things, there is less to be anxious about! I will be following up with a psychiatrist instead of just getting meds through my primary care doc. I think this will be helpful since I seem to be one of those people that gets EVERY side effect...LOL! I will keep you all updated. However, I have had anxiety since I was probably 7 or 8. I wasn’t on medication for 13 years for my anxiety and somehow managed, although my quality of life definitely suffered. I am excited for the future and I think that I may actually finally be getting better on that anxiety front.
Next up, I wanted to talk more about choosing the right therapist for you. I have noticed that when I finally had a good therapist, my progress dramatically changed. I want to share my experiences about my therapists. I first started therapy in 7th grade when I first started getting intrusive thoughts. At the time, I had no idea they were intrusive thoughts. I thought I was just a bad person and that maybe these thoughts were a manifestation of anger about trauma I had dealt with growing up. My counselor at the time was super compassionate and kind. At the time, I liked her and thought she was helpful. I think to some extent she definitely was because the intrusive thoughts did taper down after awhile. However, looking back on it, she didn’t know these were intrusive thoughts. To me, now, I feel like intrusive thoughts really are so common and so the fact that she never came to that conclusion, makes me question if she really was prepared to help me. OCD is something that manifests in many different ways. It makes me frustrated looking back at my time with her because she really wasn’t able to comfort me by giving me a diagnosis other than anxiety and panic disorder. I think she did her best but wasn’t knowledgeable about OCD.
My next counselor was in high school. I was having panic attacks after my trust was broken by someone that I loved. I was lied to for a year by someone that I trusted (more on that later if anyone is interested). I ended up having panic attacks everyday. 2-3 times/day. It was absolutely debilitating to the point I started to miss work. This was huge for me because I really valued my job. However, what was I supposed to do if I couldn’t make it through a shift without having a massive panic attack where I thought I was dying? I missed a couple days of work and would try to come home from school often. My mom knew this was a problem because I did have to try and keep living. And I knew I wasn’t going to let what someone did to me wreck me. They didn’t deserve to have that much power over me. We decided that I had to see a counselor immediately. My school also gave me a pass that I could hand my teacher in class to be excused to go lay down in the nurse’s office. Whenever I was having a panic attack, instead of going home and missing the rest of the day, I would give the pass to the teacher and head to the nurse. I would lay down and listen to calming music/meditations until I was calmed down enough to try and go to my next class. I was actually able to find a therapist that operated at my school.
Each week, I would have my therapy appointment during one of my free periods. I would actually call it “Therapy Thursdays” and it was very helpful for me. This therapist was good for what I needed at the time. At the time, I wasn’t necessarily having intrusive thoughts or outwardly having OCD compulsions. I was mainly just having extreme anxiety and panic. This therapist helped a lot with my relationships I was having in high school. I think I will do a blog post on some of those too down the road. I specifically want to share a good nugget she gave me that changed the way I allowed others to treat me. She once told me that I had to stop dating broken guys. She told me that I, myself, am broken in many ways and I need someone to take care of me. My problem was that I always took care of others in relationships and neglected myself and my needs. She told me that two broken people will never work because each person will be trying to just get their needs met. There has to be a balance where someone can help me and not just me helping every other guy until they feel good enough to leave me. I hope I summarized that well but that information really changed my type and I got myself out of the “Fixer” role that I had put myself in. I wanted to fix and help people; however, I was broken myself. I think that she really did help me that year I saw her and was suitable for what I needed at that time.
My last counselor is the one that I currently see and let me just tell you, she is definitely the best therapist I have ever had. She is specifically well versed in OCD and it is funny because I actually had never been diagnosed with OCD until my time with her. I thought my intrusive thoughts were out of anger or that I was genuinely like a psychopath. I remember my first appointment. I was so scared that they were going to admit me. I remember crying my first session and I thought I was so weak. It took us some time to figure out that I had Pure OCD. However, when I finally had that diagnosis from her, it changed my life. When I knew that the thoughts in my head weren’t something I had control of and put there, it took a huge amount of guilt away which in turn changed my life. I felt like I was shackled to these thoughts. Every thought I had was worse than the next. These thoughts would send me into panic attacks and stomach attacks. Some thoughts were so vile I would throw up at the thought of them. I genuinely thought I was the worst person to walk the Earth and deserved all the pain life could give me. I would pray bad things would happen to me as a punishment for the thoughts I had. I would pray not to wake up the next morning so I wouldn’t have to face myself again. It was as dark as I can imagine anyone ever feeling. And I genuinely think guilt is the worst emotion/feeling. When my therapist told me these three things, it was almost spiritual for me. I cried tears of joy.
She told me: You aren’t crazy, you don’t have control of these thoughts and the more you try to control them, the stronger they will get, and that these thoughts were not MY OWN thoughts-these thoughts were a manifestation from my brain chemicals being imbalanced and that was it.
I felt like a boulder was lifted off of me for the first time my entire life. I never had a diagnosis for why I had these intrusive thoughts. I genuinely just thought that I had been thinking these thoughts because I was secretly a horrific person just waiting to burst at the seams. When I finally had a diagnosis, I was able to try and heal for the first time ever. Yes OCD can flare up from time to time with stress, but I felt like for the first time I could remove some of that guilt. When I remove the guilt, I remove the anxiety that goes with it and that is debilitating. She single handedly changed my life that day giving me that diagnosis. Everything made sense. With Pure-O, for those who aren’t familiar, you have mental rituals and compulsions. So intrusive thoughts are a huge thing for Pure O patients. Then you do mental compulsions to try and relieve the anxiety from the thought. I also never noticed that I did have some physical compulsions too. When I would have a thought, I would sometimes rub my stomach, pick at my face or hair, or put my hand over my heart to try and calm the anxiety. I never even noticed these things until I finally had that diagnosis where everything made sense. This therapist also has helped me through so many other changes in life and gives me the right amount of feedback while still allowing me to rant and talk for the majority of the session.
Y’all I am telling you… find the RIGHT therapist for YOU. There is no shame in not clicking with someone. You need to find someone that you genuinely can be comfortable with. When you do find that therapist, your whole life will change for the better, I promise you that. Talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3
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