Even though there are more than 7 million people on our planet, each and every person is a unique, beautiful individual. Their life experiences have shaped them to be the person that they are and will continue to shape them throughout their lives. Because each and every person is so unique it is absurd to think that there is a one size fits all treatment for any mental health issue.
For some people, they can treat their mental health issues with medication and no therapy. For others, medication may dull their senses and cause the individual to feel like they are just a shell of themselves. There is also the option of adding in therapy sessions with a counselor or a psychiatrist as often as needed.
I was lucky and it only took me about a year to find a treatment plan that worked for me. When initially meeting with my psychiatrist I knew that pharmaceutical treatment was something that I wanted to explore but I wanted to ensure that I was not on any kind of medication that had the potential to be abused. Because of my desire to avoid being on any medication that could be abused I was put on some anti-anxiety medication for two weeks to help with my immediate symptoms while I worked my dosage up on the mood stabilizer I was prescribed. After two months of taking my medicine, monthly psychiatrist visits, and a severe depressive episode, I started attending weekly counseling session with a counselor at the Counseling Center at my school and bumped my monthly psychiatrist appointments up to bi-weekly appointments.
I was used to taking prescription medication every day since I had been taking birth control since I was 17 (even before I was diagnosed with a mood disorder my hormones wreaked havoc on my daily life) so adding in an additional daily pill wasn’t very difficult; what was difficult was getting used to the side effects of my mood stabilizer and attending so many appointments. For me therapy was beneficial and an absolute necessity in my treatment plan but it was emotionally and physically draining.
The weekly therapy sessions I attended at the Counseling Center at my school were a part of a study on treatments for college students who experienced suicidal ideations. This study had strict guidelines and I had to follow them if I wanted to continue to receive treatment. The first session I attended for this study was the intake session conducted by the woman in charge of the study and she just asked me questions about my suicidal ideations. This session was by far the hardest for me and I spent two hours crying afterwards. Going back for the first of the actual therapy sessions was a difficult. I was afraid that it was going to be as emotionally draining as the intake session and I wasn’t ready to feel so vulnerable and raw again. I forced myself to attend the session because I knew that I needed to add something else besides my medication and psychiatrist meetings to my treatment plan.
I met with my counselor and we immediately clicked. She was kind and funny and listened to what I said without judgement. She didn’t make me feel guilty for my feelings or thoughts and just helped me process what I was feeling while giving me the skills to cope with the feelings and thoughts in the future. I still left the sessions feeling a little raw and vulnerable but felt like I was making progress.
After three months of these weekly therapy sessions and biweekly psychiatrist appointments I felt that I had an arsenal of skills that I could use to cope with the various symptoms of my bipolar disorder and decided to cut back on the amount of therapy and psychiatrist sessions I was attending. And after two months of reduced sessions I decided that I had done all I could at that point in time in therapy and concluded this part of my treatment. I also reduced the amount of psychiatrist appointments to every few months when I needed refills for my prescriptions.
Around the same time that I concluded my therapy sessions I began participating in mindfulness practices including meditation and yoga. It was something that was discussed in my therapy sessions and it seemed to help me cope with my feelings. I began to become more and more mindful and decided that I no longer wanted to take medications to treat my mood disorder. This was a difficult choice to make because I felt that I was doing so well on the medication, but in the end I didn’t want to worry about missing a pill and didn’t want to deal with the side effects anymore. I met with my psychiatrist and we created a plan to slowly cycle off these pills.
It has been five months since I cycled off my pills and currently my treatment plan consists of mindfulness practices and open communication with my closest loved ones. This treatment plan is perfect for where I am in my life but I know that if it would have been the first plan I tried it would have failed. It takes time to find the right plan and it will continue to evolve as the days go on since I continue to grow with each passing day.
When working on your own treatment plan try to remember the following things:
- Your health should be your number one priority – so do what works for you.
- There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. What works for one person may not work for you.
- Remember nothing is permanent and changes can be made as needed at any point in the process.
- Don’t feel guilty for deciding to use or not to use medication.
- It is a process and can take time but in the end it will all be worth it!
If you feel comfortable sharing your treatment plan or have any questions regarding my plan, please comment below! Until next time, remember you are unique and deserve to find the treatment plan that works for you.