I participate in many forms of treatment for my mental illnesses. There isn’t a single “cure” for any of them, therefore the treatment must be approached from many different sides. I take a combination of prescription drugs and natural remedies. I see two different therapists, who both have distinctly different approaches and views.
My medication journey is a long and tired road, commencing in September 2015 with a prescription for lithium to treat a misdiagnosis of bipolar one disorder. Ever since then, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of different combinations of psychiatric drugs: lithium, valproate, abilify, olanzapine, venlafaxine, prozac, cipralex, rispiridone, seroquel and ativan. I currently take abilify as a mood stabilizer, venlafaxine as an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant, and prozac as a treatment for bulimia. The first two work well for me, and the third (prozac) is new, so I have no information about its efficiencies. Taking prescription medication can be really hard. My issues stem from the thought that “I’m not good enough on my own”. It feels like a weakness, rather than an illness. I feel guilty for having to take these medications. Here is where one can use the cancer comparison. Say you had cancer. Would you feel guilty for doing chemotherapy? No? Then you, by the same logic, shouldn’t need to feel guilty for having a mental illness and for having to take medication to help your symptoms.
To treat some of my borderline symptoms, such as the feelings of emptiness that I experience, as well as much impulsivity, I use medicinal cannabis. This is a rather stigmatized thing, however, it helps my symptoms immensely. When I use cannabis, I take it orally, and I take only Indica strains. This is a strain that has more of a mellowing effect, and tends to relax rather than excite. I take anywhere from 17.5 mg THC to about 100 mg THC. The amount depends on the severity of my symptoms at the time. I turn to cannabis when I feel extremely impulsive, or when I feel unbearably empty. It can also help to break a bingeing and purging cycle.
My therapy is a double edged sword, with two different therapists playing a role. My private therapist is a DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) specialist. DBT is the most often recommended treatment for BPD and chronic suicidality. It was developed in the 90’s by Marsha Linehan, who is my personal hero. She suffers from BPD as well, and she created a treatment to help her personal symptoms, and with her treatment of her own symptoms, she managed to create a whole treatment plan for an entire demographic of BPD sufferers. The therapy itself is of the approach of radical acceptance. This is the idea that it is possible to both be content and happy with something – accepting it – while simultaneously striving to do, or be, better. In this therapy, which I attend once a week, we do tons of behavioral analysis, meaning that my therapist and I deconstruct events in my life to identify triggers, and learn from mistakes made. DBT believes in the powers of both distraction and mindfulness, and thus draws on theories relating to these for treatment plans.There are many skills and strategies that come with DBT, including my self soothe kit (a bag full of things that calm me down or cheer me up), mindfulness strategies and distraction techniques.
My second counselor takes nearly the opposite approach, by trying to fit everything into a bigger picture to make sense of my symptoms. While my DBT therapist is extremely granular, my counselor is very abstract and theoretical. We do a lot of thinking, realizing and epiphanizing during these sessions, which I also attend once a week.
I see my psychiatrist regularly once a month, but more often if I happen to go to the hospital anytime in between.
I try many lifestyle treatments too. By adjusting my creative output and thinking, using mindfulness techniques such as meditation and reducing the stressors in my life, I am able to maintain a semblance of control over my life. I use this blog as a method of reflection, and it allows me to verbalize end express a lot of my emotions in an indirect method of communicating, which I find I am more comfortable with in general.
I also am training my dog Pippa to be (eventually) a PSD (psychiatric service dog). She will be trained to alert me to mood changes and remind me to calm down. She provides an acute anti-anxiety treatment, as an alternative to drugs such as ativan or seroquel.
My treatments are many-pronged, and varied. However, this strengthens the approach that I take towards my mental illnesses. From drugs to cannabis to dog therapy to lifestyle choices; the focus of my life at the moment is working on myself and healing my mental illness.