There is no denying that living with a chronic illness is difficult. Often anxiety and / or depression are considered comorbidities of the original diagnosis.
In 2013, after being released from the hospital due to my “nightmare crisis,” I was required to complete a psychiatric evaluation. I shall never forget how that psychiatrist validated my experiences and my subsequent terror (PTSD). I was temporarily placed on medication to help me cope. That psychiatrist encouraged me to continue treatment with the help of a psychologist and targeted therapy.
We all understood that therapy is a critical component to the larger picture that is my overall health.
Now there is a cortisol component to anxiety. Both low cortisol and high cortisol will exacerbate anxiety issues. Please work with your medical team to first validate that your disease is optimally managed. No amount of talking will address an underlying medical condition.
As someone who has been in and out of of therapy for almost a decade, I have seen a variety of psychologists, psychiatrists, and licensed professional counselors. I would like to share the following three things that I have learned over the years.
1. You might not click with every provider.
I remember my first counselor seemed determined to empower me to “embrace [my] God-given femininity to become the meek woman that God desired [me] to be.”
Had he even met me?
I am a no-nonsense, logical, technical engineer. I am thankful that gender stereo-types are becoming less of a defining factor. But sadly, they still exist. And they still existed with that first counselor.
After ever session, I left feeling like I was a failure to my gender. Never would I be able to live up to the expectations of turning into that meek woman. Years later, I confessed this failure feeling to my second therapist and he was horrified! He immediately apologized on behalf of every counselor / psychologist / psychiatrist out there.
Our session were purposefully focused on how to successfully cope with an incurable disease rather than attempting to turn me into something that I am not. He was a much better fit for me, and I am thankful I did not give up after the one mismatch.
If you do not feel like your current provider is a good match, seek out a new one.
2. Do not expect immediate results.
We live in a society that demands instant gratification. If given a choice between swallowing a pill or drastically adjusting a life-style, most people reach for the pill (Disclaimer: There IS a place for medication and there is no shame in taking medication. Having said that, there is also no magical pill that fixes all of your problem).
Proper counseling takes a large amount of effort on your part. It requires honest conversations with yourself in order to discover the true issues you are struggling with.
For example, anger is one of the recurring themes of my counseling sessions. It’s typical in the chronic disease community to hear people lament over their “old life,” before they got sick. I never had that. There was never a time in my life where I wasn’t “sick.” Therapy has helped me work through my grieving of a normal childhood that was stolen from me by my disease.
The anger was not cured after one session, or heck, after one counselor. Therapy has provided me additional tools to help me in processing through my grief and anger so that neither become all consuming. Through it, I can remain Clearly Alive.
Creating realistic expectations for therapy helps set you up for continual success.
3. There is no shame in seeking help through therapy.
Seeking out therapy is not you telling the world that you are too weak to handle life on your own.
It is you taking an active role in managing your health holistically.
Are you unsure of where to start? Many employers offer free EAP’s or emotional assistant programs that are completely confidential. Additionally, websites such as BetterHelp.com connect you with a provider from the comfort of your own home. Another option is to check with your local primary care physician to see if they maintain a list of providers.
Take an active role in managing your health so that you can remain Clearly Alive.
Dear Clearly Alive Family, do you have anything else to add to my list? Any tips or tricks or words of encouragement that you can share with others?