Be Your Own Therapist

Today marks one month since I got out of Homewood, a local treatment centre. In some ways, it feels like I was just there yesterday, and in others, it feels like a year has passed. Time moves in strange ways in hospitals; one day drags on and on, yet a week flies by like nothing, and suddenly your discharge date has come along and it’s time to go home.

When I was discharged, I was referred to a 12-week outpatient program that would function the way the Process groups in inpatient did; essentially, we sit in a circle and bare our darkest secrets in the presence of other residents, a therapist, and a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, outpatient treatment was canceled before it began as they were no longer able to staff the therapy sessions. I had a minor freak out when I found out, but the truth is, I’ve been here before. I have left hospitals with no follow-up treatment many times in the past, and it was bound to happen again. It’s a messy, unfair system.

Before I went to Homewood, I embarked upon one of my many weirdo personal projects. I called it Be Your Own Therapist. It’s exactly what it sounds like. In lieu of an actual one-on-one face-to-face therapist, I became my own; essentially, it entails reading about mental health; reading self-help books; rehashing the tips I learned in cognitive behavioural therapy when I was nineteen; asking myself questions in my journal as though being asked by someone else and then answering them as honestly as I can no matter how scary it is; reading books about creativity and writing and actually doing the recommended prompts and practices; and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, this does not solve a lot of my problems – in fact, it probably doesn’t solve any of them, but I don’t know what to do without either a book or a pen in my hand, and I have just about exhausted the resources in this town and come up empty-handed every time.

And yet, when I left Homewood, this was exactly my plan: play the Be Your Own Therapist game because I didnt know what else to do. I had to justify this plan to staff members who didn’t think it was very safe, but couldn’t refer me to anyone or anywhere else anyway. I told them about the merits of the Psychology section of the used bookstore and of my determination to take care of myself for real this time, and not just fall back into old patterns after a week or whatever. I was truly hopeful when I came up with this game plan, and sometimes I still am. It can be helpful in some ways, but the fact is, being my own therapist is not a replacement for being directly involved in the mental health system, and writing to myself is not the same as talking to somebody. For all the griping I do about the mental health system (and I will never stop), there are obviously some useful and positive elements. It’s just a shame that it remains inaccessible to many who need it.

Folks ask me if staying at Homewood has helped me, and I don’t know what to say. I get the feeling they’re asking if my depression is cured forever. The answer is no. It never will be. Overall, being at Homewood was a positive experience for me, but it is also yet another place that has set me free with no one to turn to. If I’m feeling extremely unsafe, yeah, I can go to the ER or call a crisis line, but those are short-term solutions, and not what I need right now.

Embitteredly Yours,

P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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