How It Feels to Be Turned Away and Disbelieved by Therapists
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
Palms sweating, I found myself nervously fidgeting my legs and glancing at the clock. I had been here before, many times over the past decade, and increasingly losing faith. At the beginning the sessions seemed to help — you could talk about how you were feeling, what you were experiencing, and you knew the person sat opposite you would believe you. An encouraging nod here and there, a patient pause while you gather your jumbled thoughts together and attempt to make sense aloud. You were safe here; it was going to be OK. It was all going to be OK now.
But as the years crawled by and the symptoms worsened, the sessions changed. The nods became frowns, and I could swear suspicion flashed in the eyes of the therapist facing me. My words faltered and become stuck in my throat, tears pricking my eyes and shame burning my cheeks. It takes every ounce of courage to admit your deepest insecurities and perceived weaknesses to a stranger — especially one whose profession is to assess the severity of your health.
As the years dragged on it became clear my condition had changed. I had been diagnosed with major depression 10 years prior, but the past year things had begun to change. I felt so out of control. It seemed like the tiniest thing could send me to my knees — an abrupt tone of voice, a petty argument, an ignored message — and I would be curled against the wall, the tears streaming, head cradled in my arms. Everyone hated me, I was certain of it. They were just pretending to care. They didn’t love me, nobody did. I was incapable of being loved — too difficult, too needy. And yet never enough — nothing I did was worth staying for.
The people in my life who cared about me were confused and concerned about my behavior. I was a ticking time bomb and a walking contradiction — upbeat and carefree one moment, full of joy and hope for the future — only to be distraught the next, engulfed by a black cloud, forced to hurt myself just so I could regain control of my intense emotional surge and be brought back down to earth. This wasn’t like me — I was always a confident person, but when left alone I was afraid of my own mind.
Time and time again I traipsed back to the therapist, and time and time again my fears were shrugged off. They said I was simply lacking in self-esteem — an echo of what they told me when I first made an attempt on my life. There were no existing mental conditions for my symptoms, where mood can change in a matter of hours. I was told to keep a food diary and take up jogging. I was even told to buy a certain fitness item, a flippant suggestion that stung my heart like a hot brand considering my suicidal thoughts and how it could be used in an attempt. I was told to come back again in six weeks, and that was that.
Every time I left, my heart would break a little more. By now I had done enough research of my own to conclude I was showing signs of undiagnosed borderline personality disorder (BPD). Of the nine criteria commonly listed as trademark symptoms, I regularly experienced eight of them. It was at this time I also learned that mood swings could alter rapidly, in as little as a few hours. I didn’t know whether to feel relief that I may finally have some leads concerning my condition, or be devastated that my therapist seemed not to fully understand the signs of BPD in order to recognize them — something I chose to believe, because the thought of perhaps being too insignificant to be worth investing more resources in was too much to bear, and a cruel product of my black and white thinking pattern: “They can’t help me, therefore I must be worthless.”
Being constantly made to feel like an attention seeker, like I wasn’t really worthy of compassion or support because there wasn’t anything truly wrong, seemed to worsen my symptoms. I felt like a fraud. I often failed to really know “who” I was, and now my thoughts were racing — was I making all this up? Was I a fake? These feelings that frequently stopped me in my tracks and had me inconsolable for hours — had I made them up? Was I so wrong? After all, the experts weren’t alarmed, so maybe this was “normal.” I shrank away in fear, and found myself numb and unreachable for days at a time. Was this my life? Never getting better because there was nothing to help me?
To this day I still haven’t got the help I need. My breakdowns become more frequent for a while and I struggle to find the light. But it trickles in eventually, and I can pick myself up from the floor and pretend to be “normal.” Typically each cycle lasts a few days at most before it flips to the polar opposite, draining my energy, will and hope all at once. It is exhausting and my resolve to continue is faltering. I hope I can find someone willing to listen to me soon, to believe me when I say I need help.
I hope that if you have struggled to access the support you need, that you, too, may receive it soon. I hope one day, we never have to fight so hard to be taken seriously, to access treatment, and to recover.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
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Thinkstock photo via fizkes