Group Therapy, Metaphor Monday

Medication Monday | Group Therapy

In every therapy group I have ever attended, there is inevitably a session that I refer to as “drug day”.

It’s typically not the first meeting, but the second or third. We’ve all met, spilled our guts about family history and personal traumas and which mental illnesses we have and what symptoms we’re suffering from. There’s always at least one cutter (me, if no one else), one person with GAD and a serious case of imposter syndrome (no worries, kids, you do just as well as anyone else in group), and one person who’s just too god damn sparkly and bubbly to have a serious case of the crazies… but they do. (This one is also me more often than not these days.)

But in every therapy group I’ve attended, there has consistently been a majority drug use. I’m struggling to remember a group where there wasn’t 100% medication in our history. There may or may not have been one, but my point is this—medication is stigmatized. In spite of the fact that we’re all in group therapy, and in spite of the fact that we’re all baring our traumas to one another from Day 1, no one seems to be comfortable talking about psychiatric medication.

I’ve written a bit about how people view medication as the thing that destroys you, rather than as the thing that heals you. There’s a widespread belief that psychiatric medication is a conspiracy by big pharma to pick our pockets and drug us into compliance. I won’t lie and say there aren’t days when I entertain this idea—particularly, on days when I have to spend money on refills at the pharmacy—but I know that this is a symptom of healthcare in the US being a for-profit industry, and not a symptom of some vast global conspiracy.

I know this because the medication works, even when the placebo effect does not…but that’s a post for another day.

In 2011, Time Magazine reported that 1 in 5 American adults was taking psychiatric medication, and that antidepressants were the most used kind of psychiatric medication. According to the 2010 census, the population of the US over the age of 18 was some 234.5 million—almost 50 million adults would have been taking medication at the time of the survey.

50 million adults…and we were scared to talk about it in a group of young adults who were clearly struggling with mental health problems. Inevitably someone would bring it up, and there would be a sigh of relief as everyone suddenly began spilling a laundry list of medication we’d tried—laughing about the absurdity of it, sympathizing over shared side effects, and occasionally sharing horror stories about drugs gone wrong. (One time I went off of lamotrigine cold turkey. 0/10, do not recommend. Seriously guys, DO NOT DO THIS.)

There was inevitably a shift after the drug day. Things would ease up, we’d be more comfortable with each other, share more personal stories. Everyone was calmer, more comfortable with themselves, with each other. I wonder what would happen if we could bring that honesty outside of group… ❀

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Metaphor Monday

Metaphor Monday | Memories

You know those makeup kits they sell around Halloween? Usually it’s a “pirate” kit, although sometimes the costume in question is a little more…questionable. The kits come with a plastic container of black substance that I imagine is the approximate consistency and flavor of Play-Doh, designed to go over selected teeth. The idea is to represent a lost tooth, a gap in the dental line. It’s not.

Traumatic memory loss is like this black tooth cap, for me. I can’t remember what I ate for lunch on the third Tuesday of last month. That lack of memory is a hole, an actual gap like a lost little baby tooth in a row of tiny chompers.

There are other memories. I don’t know details, whens or whats or wheres or hows. I don’t even bother asking myself the whys anymore. These memories are capped, glossed over in black, a solid substance pretending to be a gap.

One of the many shrinks I’ve seen over the years recommended to me, once, to not try and peel back the blackness. She said that repressed memories need to stay that way until they’re ready to be exposed.

I don’t like the waiting, don’t like the feeling that I’ll choke on a lost chunk of black Play-Doh on a perfectly normal day. Still… I sit on my hands, and resist the urge to peel. I don’t know when the darkness will lift, when I’ll have to look at all the decay and destruction underneath. I just pull what pieces I can feel together, and try to be prepared for when it does. ❀

Metaphor Monday

Metaphor Monday | Hell is a Labyrinth

The difference between a labyrinth and a maze is that a labyrinth consists of one path. There are no wrong turns. No dead ends. Just a long, winding path that feels never-ending. It twists and turns and takes you deeper into a darkness that you didn’t know existed, didn’t know you were in until it was too late and you couldn’t turn back.

When you’re in a maze you can get lost, take the same path in the wrong direction, or  spend an eternity wandering lost in circles. When you’re in a labyrinth you have a lot of quiet time to think to yourself.

(Sometimes I don’t like the quiet, don’t like to think to myself… but that’s another post for another day.)

Hell is a labyrinth, because when you’re here you know exactly where you are and exactly where you’re going, only you don’t know how long it will take you to get there and what kind of monster will be there when you do.

Some people die in their labyrinths, never making it to the demons that live at the core of it. Some people lose that fight. And for everyone else? The trek back out of the labyrinth isn’t any easier. It’s still a long winding path full of random turns and no clear end in sight. You’re tired, and dirty, and hot, and probably covered in monster blood. You’re still alone with your thoughts.

But you have to keep going.

Metaphor Monday

Metaphor Monday | Layers

People have layers.

Every day of our lives, we make choices. Mundane. Profound. Sometimes in between. Not a day goes by that we don’t make some kind of choice.

Some people think that taking psychiatric medication numbs you, takes away your ability to feel, destroys your creativity, and turns you into a functional zombie. It’s not true. The disease does that.

Depression is a parasite. It can’t live without you, but when it latches on it takes and takes and takes until there’s nothing left. The disease strips you of your ability to make your own choices, peels away layers until it can eat your core. It strips away all the good in your life until all that’s left is the part of you that’s too sick to function.

On the flip side, being medicated isn’t a magic pill. They are pills, and they might feel like magic at the start, but all they can do at the end of the day is give you the ability to make choices again. It’s still up to you to make the right ones.