Hayley started therapy at a young age when she was about seven years old. Around the age of 13, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, though her therapy visits remained inconsistent for years following. As a child, she was told to “trust the adults,” because they should know what’s best. There was much trial and error in her mental health care experience. As she grew older and more self-assured, Hayley had a better idea of what traits, goals, and relationships she was looking for in her therapist. Then, at 29, over 15 years after her original diagnosis, Hayley was referred to another psychologist, who redacted her bipolar diagnosis and instead diagnosed her with a borderline personality disorder.
It is not uncommon for diagnoses and information about certain mental health disorders to change over time, but it can, of course, be a frustrating experience for a patient to be faced with a whole new set of challenges. This is how Hayley felt.
Having seen many therapists through private practice organizations, Hayley was in a partial hospitalization program when a fellow patient referred her to a therapist at Jefferson Center. At the time, she was suffering some rough turbulence with her then-husband, which resulted in a difficult legal situation. Hayley was in crisis, losing weight, malnourished, and feeling mentally exhausted. She was taking six different medications, not entirely sure what was helping and hindering her mental health, and her therapist of ten years dropped her as a client. She needed to look for help elsewhere. Beginning fresh with a new therapist at Jefferson Center would be the new start Hayley needed, she had hoped. And she was right.
“Jefferson Center has been my best mental health care experience so far, with the most helpful resources.”
When she started seeing a new therapist, Hayley notes the process was a lot like an interview.
“But you’re interviewing the therapist,” Hayley says. She outlined her history and the most important facts and experiences her therapist should be aware of. “If you don’t feel like you can be yourself if you feel judged, then that therapist isn’t a good fit.” It’s about full comfort and trust. If you don’t feel secure opening up to that therapist, they won’t be able to give you the help you need.
After beginning therapy at Jefferson Center, Hayley was introduced to a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) program, which is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that attempts to identify negative thinking patterns and push more positive behavioral changes. Hayley’s new provider streamlined her medication prescriptions, and she received help through group settings where she got to interact with and listen to the stories of others who were going through similar situations. As someone who didn’t socialize much, this kind of support really resonated with Hayley. She was given “homework” assignments from her therapist to keep her productive, making her feel like she was truly committed to improving herself. These assignments gave her a kind of self-satisfaction toward completing specific goals.
Hayley understands that she’s not perfect, and she still has hiccups with her mental health treatment every once in a while. However, what is most important is that she is now more aware of these mistakes and mindful of fixing them. Hayley makes the effort, to apply what she has learned in therapy and wellness classes to help improve her life. She is more stable in the sense that her reactivity is mild and manageable, focusing on breathing during moments of stress and anger.
“A lot of people believe seeking mental health treatment is a form of weakness, and it’s not. It’s one of the most courageous things you can do.”
Even if you are not sure how or why you are not feeling well, talking with a third party without judgment can feel so cathartic. Hayley believes that to get past that fear is to know you have nothing to lose. Therapy can open doors to so many positive paths. Her journey has not been easy, and she has doubted the system herself. She may have stopped therapy at times, but Hayley never gave up on herself, because she always came back. Learning to place your mental health first and being willing to put in the hard work can be rough adjustments, but if you can follow through with them, life’s issues become so much easier to manage.
Hayley has grown to the point where she is no longer ashamed to admit that she seeks treatment for her mental health. There are many others who seek similar help but choose not to talk about it. You are not alone.
Has your life improved because of mental health treatment? Do you wish to use your experience to help others?
Sharing your experiences with mental health treatment can help others who are struggling, and it can help fight the stigma of seeking mental health care.
You can remain anonymous.
For more information, please email VoicesOfHope@jcmh.org.