“Therapy, for me, has always been there to catch me.”
Q: When did you first enter therapy?
I was in my early teens. My mom is a therapist. She wasn’t a therapist at the time, but back in the day there was a guy named John Bradshaw, and he did Family Systems work. And she had his VHS tapes, so she would watch all these workshops and videos that he did. So, my mom was always really into therapy, which is why I’ve done lots of it. That’s why I’m in this industry as well, it’s because of my mom.
Q: What was your first experience with therapy like in adulthood?
So, when I was 18, my friends were concerned about my drinking. So, being the perfect people pleaser that I am, I quit drinking. And when that happened, I had a psychotic break. It was a complete break from reality. The radio, the TV, everything was talking to me. It was as if the whole world was mine. I would look at the letters on license plates and they would spell out a message to me. Billboards were messages to me. I called a bunch of people that I worked with, and I just destroyed friendships, I just wreaked havoc on my life. So, I went to a mental institution and then got a psychiatrist there, and obviously had to go to therapy at the institution. So that was my next experience with therapy.
Q: What was your experience in the institution? Did you feel safe, or did you not know what was going on?
Yeah, I didn’t know what was going on. Evidently, I put other people’s clothes on – because don’t forget, the world was mine. There was nothing that did not belong to me or revolve around me. I was originally in an institution that over-medicated me, so my mom took me out of there and took me to a different institution. When I came out of the medication haze, I was able to participate in groups.
I don’t think that I felt unsafe during any of these breaks because I was so out of it. And of course, when you go from being that manic – because I’m Bipolar 1 – to coming down, you have to grieve. I had a suicide attempt the second time that this happened, so I had to grieve that I was alive, I had to grieve that the world didn’t revolve around me. And I think that therapy was always beneficial because I had support in making that transition. From being essentially the king of the world to being nobody.
Q: Did you continue outpatient treatment after you left the program?
I think they just let me out. I kept seeing a psychiatrist, and everybody was supportive of me being in AA. So, I had a sponsor, I had a home group, and I had a lot of support there. Because I was still on my mom’s insurance, I could still get my medication. When that stopped, I had to go to a community mental health center to get meds, and they make you do therapy. They won’t let you just do meds. Demand was a lot less back then, so it was easy for me to just go in, show them my pay stubs, pay them five dollars, see my therapist, and see my psychiatrist.
Q: How did you feel about therapy when you were going to a community mental health center to get care?
I remember that I was going to therapy because I knew that without my meds, I would have a psychotic break again. Therapy, for me, has always been there to catch me. I think that is partially due to the history of my illness. I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar since I was 19 years old, so it comes with me wherever I go, right? So, wherever I am – community mental health centers, insurance companies, any of that – wherever I am, my diagnosis comes with me.
Q: What was the first time that you went looking for therapy? Have you ever gone looking for a new kind of care that you had never tried before?
Yeah – I started seeing an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapist. And it’s a script. So, the therapist doesn’t have to be good. I loved my therapist, but it was my first experience with therapy where I was like “If I don’t like you, it’s fine.” I loved her, but EMDR operates with a script.
Q: I know a little bit about EMDR, but what was that experience like for you? Did you feel like it was helpful?
Yes. So helpful. I went in because of road rage. I am a maniac on the road. I get so mad, it’s a miracle my wrist has not broken with the way I honk my horn. So, I started sessions with an EMDR therapist. And I think that EMDR really looks at nervous system regulation, only with trauma included. So, within two weeks – I still honk, I still get pissed – I still get angry, but I’m not activated or elevated all the time. I just get in my car, and I’ll take a deep breath. I was in nine car accidents, and my brother was hit on his motorcycle, so I have a lot of trauma regarding driving. And we would just go in and clear those targets.
Q: It sounds like EMDR was useful for you.
My understanding of it – how it figures for me, how it fits together – is that I have me, right now, and then I have my higher self, and then I have this sixteen-year-old that got into a car accident months after she got her driver’s license. And we’re all working together. So, I feel like your higher self is dictating where your other self goes. But you have to make sense of it with your now-self. So, the higher self recognizes that this thing happened, and it’s connected to this specific neural pathway. The higher self is the only self that’s going to know that this car accident is really tied to your poverty mentality. So, let’s go and try to clear that. You know? That’s how it worked for me. And I’m pretty imaginative, which is why Somatics works as well, because I can really imagine things happening that aren’t really happening, for my healing.
“I’ve always been fragmented. My soul, my mind, my body, everything has been fragmented. I’ve had trauma here, depression here, mania here. And it’s all stored in my body, and all I want to do is get it out, all I want to do is push it away.”
Q: Can you tell me about how you found Somatic therapy?
So, I took a workshop; it was a four-month workshop that started in November and ended in February. And now I see a Somatics guide. They don’t call themselves a therapist, but they are a therapist. Because they say, “What does it feel like in your body, when was the last time you felt that way?” You know? It definitely moves into emotions, programming, deprogramming, and regulating your nervous system.
Q: What has your experience been like with Somatic therapy?
I have to tell you that I am at fight or flight when I’m sleeping. I am always at fight or flight. So, I was on Buspar for anxiety, and I went off it while doing Somatic therapy. Now, I don’t take anxiety medication. Nothing else has made feeling better so easy. So, in Somatic therapy, there are 8 principles. “Pause and Notice,” where you just pause and notice what’s going on with your body. And then you get curious about that, so you follow that. Then we have: “There’s nothing to fix.” Another one is: “Master, not mastering,” which is where you don’t do anything, you just feel your feelings. “I have all the time I need” – that one I’ve struggled with, because I’m old. But “I’m already whole” is one of them, too.
I’ve always been fragmented. My soul, my mind, my body, everything has been fragmented. I’ve had trauma here, I’ve had depression here, and I’ve had mania here. And it’s all stored in my body, and all I want to do is get it out, all I want to do is push it away. So, for me, Somatic therapy brought it all together in one system, where everything is okay. It’s okay that I’m in fight or flight. All of this is okay. There’s nothing to fix. It just gets better. It’s like magic. It just gets better. I had a session on Saturday, and I’ve felt really good since then. I have anxiety, and it’s a scale from 1 to 10. Right? So, I usually operate around a 5 or a 6, but it’s now at a 2 or a 3. I don’t operate at the higher levels anymore.
Q: Would you recommend EMDR and Somatic therapy to others?
Yeah. And I think it’s unfortunate how it’s not access-easy. It was $130 an hour with the EMDR therapist. People can’t do that, you know? The people who really need that cannot afford it. Right? At a community mental health center, you’ll probably have one EMDR therapist for everybody that needs that service. And same with Somatic therapy.
Q: It’s frustrating how these really healing forms of therapy are seen as too much of an investment. I know a lot of people that have been helped immensely through EMDR and other types of body-centric therapy. We live in a world that isn’t perfect, and cost matters, but I would love to live in a world in which these kinds of therapies are accessible to those who need them.
There’s probably a lot of hard processing that happens in these therapies, too, but you do that with CBT. The therapist I have now, she just listens. We’ve worked together for over a year, and we’re really close. She’s the best, but she just listens. Which is something that a lot of people cannot do. Just having somebody to listen is so important.
We’re a fixing culture. We want to fix everything. And that’s just making it worse. We’re not fixing anything. There’s a principle in Somatic therapy that we either resource, or we cope. Most people cope. Most people turn on the TV and numb out. Right? But some people resource. Some people watch TV and actually relax and feel good in their systems when they’re doing that. So, for me, I resource when I walk – walking is a resource. And then there are days where it is a coping skill, I need to get the hell out of my space, and out of my skin somehow. Are we resourcing or are we coping? I think most people are always just coping.
Q: What have you learned in this journey of finding the right care for you?
I’ve learned that it’s all me. That nobody else does anything. I’ve learned not to try so hard. With everything, right? Don’t try so hard to get people to like you, don’t try so hard to feel better, don’t try so hard to solve a problem… just relax. And my journey right now is learning to slow down. I have not learned that yet. But it is part of my journey now. I really learned not to force it.
Q: Thank you so much for sharing your story and being vulnerable with me. It gives me hope that care is out there for everyone who needs it. We don’t have to force anything. We can just let life happen to us.
Yes! Exactly. I have to go write that down.