I have had various kinds of therapy multiple times since I was fourteen but it never really worked for me, until now. Over the years I always had to change therapists and psychiatrists so I found it very hard to develop a solid relationship with any of them. It didn’t help that- for many years- I was misdiagnosed with clinical depression, but when I was 21 I found a brilliant psychiatrist who finally diagnosed me with bipolar II. He was by far the best psychiatrist I ever had but unfortunately he was not a trained therapist. For six years I got by on medication alone and I had no idea of the real benefits of decent psychotherapy.
I moved out here, to Greece, in April 2016 and I have been finding it incredibly hard to adjust to the new environment ever since. When I first got here I went through severe withdrawals from a drug called Quetiapine without any medical supervision and it was hell. Eventually, on the advice of my previous GP back in England, I started on a drug I had been on before called Olanzapine.
However I just couldn’t get stable, nor find my feet in Athens. I soon started drinking again and struggled with the reality of that after almost four and a half years of sobriety. I suffered terribly with daily panic attacks and mood swings and I didn’t know how to cope.
My boyfriend had suggested going to therapy here a few times but it just seemed too expensive (especially considering it’s free in the UK).
One day I ran out of my medication and went to see a friend of a friend who happened to be a psychiatrist. I told him a little about my situation and my diagnoses and he strongly suggested that I find myself a regular therapist, and so he referred me to my current one and I have been seeing him ever since.
When therapy is really going to work, it’s hard. You discover truths about yourself and your subconscious you never even knew existed. Much of our sessions centre around the past and that can be cruel and painful.
We talk about my vivid dreams, about my relationship, my parents and childhood, why I so often get out of control when I drink, why I can’t sleep without medication, why I have panic attacks and my ongoing struggles with stress and anxiety.
Sometimes I disagree with my therapist; sometimes he says things that don’t make any sense to me, but most of the time he can dig deeper into my mind than even I can. Much of the time it hurts hearing what he has to say, and the things he notices about me that I was otherwise unaware of.
Through my current therapy, I have discovered that I fear people, the outside world, any kind of relationship, I punish myself constantly, I drink because I don’t know how else to relax, I can’t sleep because I start thinking and worrying the second there is an element of silence, I regularly starve myself because I don’t want to feel pain, I hate myself instead of hating those that hurt me, I’m addictively self-destructive, I live in the past too much, I become entirely speechless when I’m overwhelmed and I’m petrified of living a normal life and being a normal person.
I have come to the conclusion (and hope) that it is possible for people (including myself) with debilitating mental illnesses to survive on a small amount of medication if the correct amount of therapy is in place. At the moment my goal is to get down to one type of medication, while currently I am on five different types. In my opinion and experience, medication is not the cure; it just masks the problem and sedates you, whereas therapy attacks the problem head-on.
Now that I have it in my life consistently, twice a week, I can’t imagine being able to cope with my everyday life without therapy and my therapist’s influence. Although I always feel anxious about what we might dig up in each session, it has come to be my safe place.