When The Light Bulb Comes On

It just occurred to me this morning that I’ve never really talked about therapy in this blog.

Unlike most patients in the mental health system, I’m fortunate enough to have a doctor who does therapy as well as medication management…..one-stop shopping, as it were. Maybe I’m just spoiled, but I would feel awkward sharing my innermost secrets with anyone else. It’s bad enough when I have to tell him what fresh hell my brain has cooked up—I’d seriously hate to have to tell the same sad stories twice.

I don’t remember exactly when we started all this; in fact, there really never was a formal declaration of “Hey, we’re going to do therapy now”. I believe it was somewhere between the first and fourth visits, when it became clear that this would be a long-term relationship rather than just a couple of consultation appointments. At any rate, we had one thirty-minute visit a few weeks into treatment—I think it was the one during which he became 110% convinced I was bipolar—and when we got done, he announced to the front-office staff that we would ALWAYS have full 50-minute appointments from that day forward.

I have no idea what “brand” of treatment we’re doing, but it seems to be a hybrid of cognitive-behavioral and social rhythm therapies. The former assists the patient to replace maladaptive thought patterns with more positive ones, while the latter integrates the teaching of interpersonal skills with the establishment of healthy routines (hence my “curfew”).

So, given the fact that I’m still battling mood swings, what have two years of therapy accomplished? A LOT. For one thing, I no longer believe I’m a POS who doesn’t deserve to be happy. For another, I’ve come to understand that not every negative outcome is due to a personal failure. And I’ve learned that no matter how much I may wish otherwise, I am dealing with a chronic lifelong illness that will recur, even if I do absolutely everything right….and I need to let myself off the hook for it.

As a result, I’m finding that I’m able to talk things out more of the time now, instead of ACTING them out like I did before I was diagnosed. I used to go through life with my head down and my fists up; now fighting all the time seems like a colossal waste of energy. I’m not an angry person anymore; yes, I can get angry, even crazy-angry, but I don’t have screaming fits anymore (although that can probably be at least partially attributable to medication) or go for 90 MPH car rides.

I don’t even engage in political debates like I used to; when I do, it’s a reliable sign that my choo-choo is about to jump the tracks. So when I catch myself getting hot under the collar over Obamacare or some other sensitive subject, I know it’s time to step away from the keyboard and do a gut check.

I’ll be the first to admit that the process slips badly once in a while, particularly when I’m irritable or manic and my filters go missing. There are a number of people (family members for the most part) who can and would truthfully attest that there are still times when I act like a crazy woman. But overall, two years of therapy and medications have made me a much more pleasant person who doesn’t always have to start—or finish—an argument.

Yes, boys and girls, therapy can be a very good thing indeed……especially when the light bulb over your head comes on and you finally “get” a concept that’s eluded you all your life. Finding out last week that my frequent relapses are not a result of something I’m doing wrong was a HUGE breakthrough for me. And since I’ll likely be in some form of treatment for the rest of my days, I think it’s safe to say that I can look forward to many more discoveries. 🙂



Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

3 thoughts on “When The Light Bulb Comes On

  1. For those who therapy works for, at least. It doesn’t for me (and doesn’t for something like 20-30% of people, most of us who never speak up about it because the pervading attitude is that if you’re not seeing a therapist, you’re not trying). But I’ve been applying CBT to myself and picking apart my own brain since I was a kiddo, so my psych team is pretty happy with that. Well, and of course, the blogging and sharing with all you lovely folks online helps me too, hee hee — that’s definitely more my speed and style. But yesssh, breakthroughs are always edifying; I had a good little one earlier this week on something that bothered me that I’d been trying to figure out for years!


  2. I was fortunate enough to have a Dr who spent the 1/2 hour discussing the theories and breakthroughs in BP research. We had a good old time applying them to me. This was better therapy than any I found in 15 years of searching for the “right” therapist.

    Like Raeyn, I do my CBT on my own…read the book and it isn’t difficult to understand.

    I give up wasting my time looking for a good therapist and do constant soul searching, followed by self-help reading.


  3. I’ve always been pretty introspective myself; in fact, oftentimes Dr. A will confirm the conclusions I’ve already come to on my own. But it does help me a lot to have a framework, because I tend to be easily distracted and confused when there are a lot of thoughts flying around in my head, and I need structure. My mind doesn’t do well when it’s allowed to wander too far away! LOL


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