There are a number of things you can do to help your healing process. This article will discuss some that are specific to mental illness and some that are general and may help with other conditions.
In my opinion, the two most important things in healing are the desire to heal, and the belief that you can heal. When you read stories of miraculous recovery from Cancer (or any illness) the two things they all have in common are the healed person’s desire to recover and the belief that they can recover.
How do these two things affect the way we heal? When you mentally want to fight and heal, and you believe you can improve, your body will react. There are a number of theories about why this works. My belief is that this works in much the same way as the Placebo Effect. With the Placebo Effect, the mind sees the action of taking a pill and expects it to have a healing effect. In cases where the pill is a placebo, many people still see some benefit because the body simply expects to heal as a result.
By wanting to improve your condition and believing you can improve your condition, your body and mind will hopefully begin correcting problems and actually start improving your condition. The mind is the most powerful healing tool any of us have. Use yours.
Knowledge is an extremely powerful tool, it is the reason I decided to become involved with this website. By educating yourself about your disorder, you start understanding things that you can do to help mange your life. The more you learn, the more you may be able to improve your condition.
Why are you in therapy? This is the biggest question you need to answer. Are you here because you need help managing your disorder(s), or because you need help managing your life?
I thought I entered therapy to manage my disorders but there were many additional problems that I needed to work on before I could focus on my disorders. As a result of my problems, I was financially, physically, mentally, and emotionally a mess. Each of those things needed to be addressed.
Some of the questions you need to answer are:
- What are your major issues?
- What is your level of safety?
- Do you pose a danger to yourself or others?
- Where and when do you feel safe?
Each of these answers can help you and your therapist decide what you need to work on and how to go about doing that work. They can also open your eyes to other problems that may exist but aren’t as obvious.
Remember to track these issues over time. Every few months, sit down with your therapist and discuss things. Are things improving? Are there any new issues that need addressing?
Know Your Therapist
The other person involved in your therapy process is pretty important as well, so make sure you know a few things about them. Educate yourself with any literature they hand you.
- Are they licensed?
- Are they members of any professional organizations?
- What is their background?
- Where were they educated?
- Do they accept your insurance?
- How much will therapy cost you?
- Is there a way to reach them if you are in crisis?
- Can they manage/prescribe any medication you may need to take?
- What treatment methods do they use?
- What can you expect from therapy?
The list of questions goes on and on, but the big questions to ask are to yourself.
- Do I feel comfortable talking to this person?
- Will I be able to be completely honest with this person?
If the answer to either of these is a no, then start looking for a different therapist.
For more information on finding a good therapist, read Malene Comes’ article: Looking For A Therapist.
Know Your Support System
When you aren’t able to reach your therapist, whom can you call?
Start a list of close friends and family members. Just put down names, numbers and a few notes about how comfortable you feel with each of the people. How comfortable do you feel talking to them? How supportive will they be if you’re in crisis? Imagine calling them for help, how would they respond? Some people will ask “why?” Others will hop in the car and drive straight over.
This list, when you finish it, will be your crisis list. Make sure you talk to the people on it and ask them if it is ok to include them on your list. Let them know what a crisis situation might be like if you can. Find the one or two people that you trust the most and put them at the top. Make sure they know what is going on with you, don’t pull away from them or they won’t be able to support you.
The biggest thing to remember here is to call someone when you need someone.
Know Your Diagnosis
Once (or if) you have a diagnosis, ask your therapist for information about it.
The important thing is that you be involved with your therapy. This means asking questions of your therapist and your doctor. Take a look around the internet and visit a bookstore to see what information is available.
Remember, Mental Illness is just what it says, an illness. Just like Physical Illnesses, your disorder may be curable, or manageable a number of different ways. Find out some information about the treatments available. Ask your therapist and your doctor what they think may help.
The following questions may be of some use here:
- How will this illness affect your life?
- How will it affect your job?
- How will it affect your relationship?
- Is there a possibility of this illness getting worse?
- What options are there if this happens?
Almost five years ago, I was diagnosed with PTSD after about four months of nightmares, flashbacks, fear, and anxiety. By the time I was told my sister what was going on, I had not slept for nearly two weeks. Things had become so bad that I wanted to die just to be done with it.
A few weeks later, I started seeing a therapist. I was not completely honest with my therapist initially because I was too frightened to reveal that much of myself. After about two weeks of therapy, I had such an overwhelming urge to kill myself that I called a friend and broke down in tears.
It was that honesty that saved my life. If I had not had that one person to be honest with, I would not be here today. My friend had been there before and convinced me to go to the Hospital and tell them what was going on. I spent three days in the Psychiatric Unit and another two weeks in their Day Program learning about PTSD and Depression.
During that time, I began following the steps I lay out in this article. I set up my own crisis list. I began tracking my progress. I began taking and managing my medication.
I began to improve.
I still had flashbacks and nightmares, but I learned ways to manage them. I spoke with others who dealt with PTSD and learned from them. I shared my own knowledge with them as well.
After a few months, I had an increase in symptoms. My flashbacks increased in intensity and my nightmares kept me from sleeping for days at a time. I experienced a torrent of symptoms and again began to have thoughts of suicide. This time, I was honest with myself, and my therapist. I went down to the Hospital with my brother and father and checked myself in for another stay.
If I ever experience another episode like that, I’ll do the same.
Be Honest With Yourself
Honesty can literally save your life. I can’t stress this enough.
Ask yourself how you are doing. Do this on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Pay attention to the answers.
Do what you can to manage your symptoms and your illness. Some of the easiest and most effective ways are journaling and charting.
My attempt at a journal was fairly dismal. I had about 30 days of “doing good today” because writing things down didn’t work. What did work for me was charting. I tracked my flashbacks, nightmares, sleep, overall mood, and a few other things that I felt were important to keep a record of.
This record gave me something to start with in therapy. It gave me a way to see the progress I was making.
Be Honest With Your Therapist
The same honesty you give to yourself needs to be given to your therapist.
What they don’t know, can’t help you.
Tell your therapist how you are; bring in your journal or your charts. Discuss the highs and lows on your chart. How have recent events affected you? If you are in crisis, tell them. Set up additional appointments if necessary, ask for the amount of support you need.
One reason you are in therapy is to talk, so talk. Open the dark doorways inside and be honest.
Be Honest With Your Support System
You created a crisis sheet, so use it when you need to. Tell your close friends and family when you need their support. Tell them what they can do to help you. But don’t forget to tell them about the things they can’t help. They need to know what is going on in your life.
Be Honest With Your Doctor
Remember that your doctor needs to know about your condition as well. Your Mental Illness may affect how they choose to treat other ailments. The most important thing is to let your doctor and pharmacist know about any medications you are taking for your condition. Knowing your medical history means knowing your history, so fill your doctor in on the appropriate information.
Do Your Work
Continue tracking your progress, and talking to your friends and family.
Make And Keep Regular Appointments
Regular monitoring is an important part of treatment for any illness. A regular appointment can also offer needed consistency when things are difficult. Change the frequency of your appointment as needed. Also remember that you can add emergency appointments as needed.
Take Your Medications
More education here:
- What are they?
- How do they work?
- When do you take them?
- What are the side effects?
- Will they affect my work/driving/sex drive/appetite?
- Talk to your doc;
- talk to your pharmacist;
- and talk to your therapist.