The importance of the holistic approach: dealing with some residual emotions by doing my own therapy
Updated: Aug 1
I have decided to revert to writing about some less controversial topics relating to mental health/well-being this week, rather than focusing on the more complicated and contentious issues surrounding mental illness.
I'm doing this because some of the topics that I discuss on here often rake up too many horrors from the past, so I have to be acutely aware of that and always remember to prioritse my own mental health above everything else!
But having said that, I received so many messages after last weeks series on antipsychotics that it has highlighted the importance of opening up a conversation around treatment and medications in my future posts.
I’m definitely not going to become a ‘fluff post’ blogger that only talks about mindfulness and mental ‘health’, so I won’t be shying away from any area of psychiatry/mental illness, even if I do find it difficult to discuss sometimes.
Dealing with pent up emotions
In recent weeks, several friends have mentioned how hard they have found moving forward from an episode (or lifetime) of mental illness – even when they have ‘fully’ recovered.
This is something that isn’t really appreciated by the psychiatrists, and I think there needs to be far more in the way of support and aftercare when it comes to treating those in ‘remission’ from mental illness.
The truth is that if you’ve been through years of brutal suffering as I have, you are not going to be able to just parachute back into your old life as soon as your condition stabilises.
There’s far too much destruction that accompanies a serious bout of mental illness for that to ever be possible; it’s very hard to just reconcile with all the upset, put it all behind you, and move on with your life again once you've recovered.
I have been mulling this over since last week when my friend Andrew (who very kindly and courageously shared his story) expressed that he was experiencing a release of pent-up emotion after deciding to share his experience of bipolar disorder.
I relate so completely to what he said because the same thing happened to me when I first started to post on this new blog and there have been numerous occasions when I found myself crying and releasing emotions that I didn’t even know were in there!
The importance of a holistic approach
These recent experiences have highlighted the importance of an all-round approach to psychiatric care rather than just focusing on one area.
The route to full mental wellness has got to incorporate many different aspects, some of which only relate to that particular individual; it’s never as simple as taking a pill and everything being hunky dory because there’s always psychological crap that goes with any period of deep and/or prolonged suffering.
There are so many pieces of the jigsaw that need to be considered and put into place when it comes to achieving full stability, mental wellness and (dare I say it) contentment and even happiness.
This means that all aspects of your physical and emotional well-being must be considered as a whole, rather than treating particular symptoms separately. This is what is known as a 'holistic approach'.
I looked up the definition of the word ‘holistic’ yesterday and this is what it came up with;
“Characterised by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.”
“Characterised by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.”
Letting go and letting it out!
The delayed emotions that I’m currently experiencing are hard to comprehend because during the course of the illness, I hardly ever cried at all, even though I so often felt like it.
The thing to realise is that severe depression and mixed state blunt your emotions so entirely that although you are experiencing deep inner unrest, pain, and suffering, you actually can’t express it in emotion or feeling and let it out in the appropriate way – bipolar disorder is bloody cruel like that!
The result of this is that you never really deal with emotion on a visceral level – it just resides within you like a dormant volcano that never gets the chance to erupt.
It’s also a mixture of other things too such as: grief (mourning for the life you could have had without the illness), relief (I’m not in brutal suffering anymore), delayed emotion (the illness was brutal and I couldn’t cry at the time), and sadness for the lost opportunity (career, relationships, holidays, friends, general life).
Understanding all of this through self-analysis is really helping me to attribute my recent feelings to some sort of a cause, and I hope that in time, all of these residual emotions will dissipate and leave me forever!
Therapy – weighing up a few pros and cons
With all of this pent-up emotion I am beginning to think that some kind of therapy would probably be useful for people like myself to have access to when in recovery and ongoing remission.
The problem is that after several bodged attempts at therapy over the years, I am now very reluctant to try again!
I realised, very early on in my illness, that there was no way I was going to be able to ‘talk my way out of it’ and I was proved right in the end because once I’d had my thyroid medicated, I was back to the authentic version of myself and haven’t needed to talk about the illness side of things since.
The problem is that there are still some residual emotions trapped in there, and perhaps therapy would therefore prove useful in this regard?
For future reference - this is definitely something to consider for future patients anyway!
Doing my own therapy
I’ve done so many years of trial and error with medical professionals that I’m unwilling to go through any more crap quite frankly!
So instead, I’ve been working on a few things myself to bolster my confidence and iron out some of the residual upset. Here are a few points I’ve been deliberating:
I want to move forward now
Unfortunately, an episode of mental illness is always accompanied by loss and upset because it completely disrupts your progress and has an impact on your career, relationships, dreams, and ambitions.
I’ve had to consciously stop myself from dwelling on this ‘loss’ because the progress I’d made in terms of regaining my independence (the icing on the cake for full mental wellness) has been thwarted in recent weeks and it’s rocked the proverbial boat somewhat.
Anyway, I’ve avoided a crisis by reminding myself of a ’statement of truth’ that I used during my recovery which helped me to negate the inner critic. It says that:
“All past experiences are learning experiences.”
Repeat, repeat. This has helped a lot this past week!
I want to be my own person – and I am…
Because my journey has been so disrupted by illness, I have not been on anything like the same path as my friends.
They’ve been getting married, having children and buying bigger houses, and I’ve been suffering brutally, seeing doctors (and spending my money on them), and living with my parents.... oh and achieving nothing except (just) staying alive long enough to survive and write this sentence!
This could potentially upset me. I know this because it has already done so! The answer is that I am going to stop comparing myself to others and live in the present moment! Being well is enough for now remember!
This isn't easy to do but I'm definitely going to try!
I am responsible for my chimp
I often spend hours on here writing away and then have to remind myself of my own advice later! This happened over the weekend when my ‘chimp’ (see Chimp Paradox) was going into overdrive with frustration over my current situation.
So, I remembered to ‘exercise the chimp in a locked compound’ and subsequently called my empathetic and understanding friend Max who listened and let my chimp rant and scream.
Finally calmed myself down, went for a walk in the Jurassic coral of Cothill nature reserve, and let the ‘human’ take control again!
I am pleased to report that I no longer feel upset, deprived, or annoyed with my situation!
I am nothing without my health
All of this was finally put into perspective when I spoke to another friend 'R' who has been admitted to hospital during the hottest and stickiest days of the year.
This was a huge wake-up call and I immediately stopped dwelling on my situation and started practicing some gratitude instead.
I am so grateful to have my health and be finally out of the mental illness battle – everything else is just background noise!
I found a great quote online by historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle which illustrates this point so well:
I am going to remember this if ever my mind starts to moan in the future!
Once again, I feel so much better for getting all of that out through my writing this morning - I’ve said this before but I'll say it again - blogging/journaling really is the best thing that I do for my mental health, and I really think that everyone should give it a try!
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,