31 December 2009
Outpatient Therapy-Final Session
Yesterday was the last session of my group therapy program. I began this intensive program 21 October and we have met three hours/day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Yesterday marked my 30th session.
Initially, I was very phobic to these sessions. Similar to my attitude when I was involuntarily committed , and knowing I was only obligated to attend for two weeks, my original intention was to skate through those six sessions with no effort on my part. I was still pissed off at the world for how I had been treated to date; I did not want to be in therapy and I certainly did not want to get better.
You just cannot imagine the amount of rage that pulsed through my veins—think Incredible Hulk. However, as the mandatory two weeks came to a close, something was triggered inside of me. Somehow, I came up with the idea that I no longer wanted to go on feeling the way that I did. That level of rage and profound depression was eating away at me and I simply had no more energy left. I voluntarily agreed to stay in the program having no idea that it would take this long.
There was a very detailed daily check-in sheet we each had to fill out. It was basically a way for the therapist to determine and track our progress. The dynamics of the group evolved over time with old patients being discharged and new ones being admitted during my stay. While the overall group was large (in my eyes), averaging around 18-20 folks, once everyone took the 10-15 minutes to fill out the check-in sheet, we always split into two smaller groups. The groups remained split while everyone reviewed their sheets, and we all came back together as one group after the break to start the second half.
I could handle the smaller group in which we each shared what was on our sheets. Based on our input, the therapist would probe further with each of us and ask penetrating questions. The sharing half had a tendency to be somewhat tedious at times. Every so often, there would be patients that liked to hear themselves talk. Repetition is the key word here. They would go on and on about one particular issue and even talk over the therapist as if they had no interest in listening to her feedback. I could see the frustration on the therapist’s face every once and a while. As a result, sometimes the first half of the session would take a long time.
After the break, when we all gathered back together, I had a major problem. I had a rough time being around large groups of people. The noise level would always increase and sometimes everyone would talk at once. That started freaking me out. Therefore, I retreated from the large table in the room (it was actually five conference room-sized tables arranged in a large square) and sat in the chair against the door right by the back emergency exit—it was as far as I could get from the group. The emergency exit was not wired to an alarm, and when it got to be too much for me, I’d walk out the door and take a breather. Being that it was the end of autumn as winter approached, the cool, brisk breezes usually refreshed me.
The second half of the session was psycho-education [I’m sure that Alfred Hitchcock could have had valuable input here :)]. This outpatient therapy program was based on dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT). When I tried to commit suicide back in 2005, I went through a DBT program after I got out of the hospital. At that time, I thought that DBT was pure bullshit. It all centres on learning tools or coping skills to manage various stressors (depression, anger, rage, anxiety, etc). Being that I had been diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder (BP) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), everyone thought that this type of therapy would be one from which I would benefit. Back then, I thought all these coping skills were stupid. Sure, it might work for some, but I just could not imagine me taking the time to think through whatever emotion I was feeling at the time and remembering which tool would help me through that situation most effectively.
When I realised that this time around would be centred on DBT, I was quite cynical. However, after about four weeks into it, I discovered some tools that could actually serve me well (see this for a list of tools). Without a doubt, using these skills effectively requires constant practise. You cannot expect to utilise a skill and then have it at your fingertips until you practise it. Once practised, when you face an emotional obstacle, you can more readily adapt effectively.
I also realise that there is a lot of controversy around DBT. Some who have been through the training think that it is bunk as I did. I can say that I do not agree with the entire skill set. I learned what tools I knew I could use and left the others behind (there are some I still think are bullshit). All I can say is that it is up to each individual to determine what works in his or her best interests.
That being said, the first half of my last session was great. Our small group only consisted of seven patients and our small group never had the loud mouths (I am grateful that Mr. Noisy was in the other group!). I knew three of them; the rest were new patients. When I finished sharing my check-in sheet, I received wonderful feedback from the therapist. She basically said that I had done a 180˚ from the time I started the program and was extremely pleased to see the progress I had made. It had taken me all this time to see the huge steps I had made. Don’t get me wrong; I am far from being all fixed up. That is why I am going to continue with an individual therapist. BP and especially BPD can take quite some time to manage. While some professionals banter about the word recovery, I think the best I will be able to muster is to manage my BP and BPD to a tolerable level. Only time will tell.
The second half of my last session was surprisingly smooth. While Mr. Noisy was present and accounted for (as well as the other few loud mouths), the group discussion on the continuing module of assertiveness was quite ordered. It was quite appropriate that my last module would be on this topic. As I have mentioned previously, despite my butch bravado, I really could bolster this skill.
Saying goodbye was harder than I thought. All of the patients who had been around for a while (with the exception of one other patient, I had been there for the longest duration) took their time saying goodbye to me and wishing me luck for my future. As someone laughingly said, “Hope to see you at Wal-Mart should our paths ever cross again.”
Overall, I have to agree with the therapist. I have come a long way since I tried to commit suicide on 10 October. It has been a long road for me, some of it fought tooth and nail against any type of recovery. I know I still have a long way to go, but for now I will just accept the fact that I am in a better space than I was almost 12 weeks ago.©2009