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When I Told My Therapist I Need to Go Back to Mental Health Treatment

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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 741741.

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Walking into my therapist’s office the day I decided I needed to go back into residential treatment was not easy. I remember sitting in the beautiful but strangely uncomfortable couch in the waiting room and shaking my leg so much that the vibrations could probably have been felt all over the state of Utah. All of the other times I had been to treatment for my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it had been forced on me, but this time, going back to treatment was my idea. I would be asking for the help I needed and accepting that support. I would be taking my life back into my hands.

• What is PTSD?

My therapist walked out of her office to take me back — all while talking in her usual upbeat tone. “Good morning, Elisa! How are you doing?” she said.

How could she not see the anxiety radiating off me in waves? I mean, all the snow outside must have melted as I walked in with all that anxiety. It must have, right? Yeah, there was no way my therapist couldn’t have noticed my trembling body and tear-filled eyes. Despite all these obvious signs that I wasn’t OK, she had still asked me how I was doing.

I was furious with my therapist, but as if taking a cue from her supposed obliviousness, I said, “I’m doing well today! I’m just tired from school.”

At least the tiredness wasn’t a lie,” I thought as we made the trek back into the depths of the building and reached the door of my therapist’s office. As soon as we had both found our usual seats inside, she turned to me as if she was expecting me to say something.

But before I even had the chance to blurt out what I was thinking, my therapist started speaking. “You told me that you were doing well today when you were obviously struggling. Why?” This shocked me — and as if I had just been discovered eating my siblings’ Halloween candy, I tried to come up with a quick lie.

I couldn’t get my brain to think fast enough, though, and I eventually just cried out, “I’m really struggling, and I think I need to go back to treatment.

“Can you explain why you think that?” she said calmly.

“Well, my PTSD symptoms have been really hard lately. I have no motivation and I’m always so anxious and I keep hurting myself and I hardly go to my classes anymore and I have no friends here and nobody likes me and I just don’t want to be alive anymore.” It was barely even a minute into our session, and I was already crying and rambling. “I keep trying to use all of the skills I’ve learned from the millions of treatment centers I’ve been to, but none of them seems to work! I am failing my anatomy class already, and I am studying for it almost all the time! I can’t stay in Utah anymore! I am living an almost 24-hour drive away from my parents, and I can’t spend any more time in this godforsaken state!”

As if reading my mind, my therapist grabbed the tissue box in her office and handed it to me. “If that’s the way you feel, then let’s start looking into programs that can help you. I am going to help you feel better, even if it means having you go back into treatment. Before we decide on anything, though, I think we should call your mom. Let’s do that right now so we can both be on the phone, and you can have support after if you need it.”

I turned my tear- and mascara-stained face towards my therapist. “You would do that?”

“It is my job to help you, right?” My therapist laughed as she started to dial my mom’s number and figure out a way to help me get back on the road to recovery and happiness.

I wish I could say that being in recovery since then has been all rainbows and sunshine, but I still have many struggles. I still struggle with self-harm urges and flashbacks, but each day I am learning how to cope with them better. When I walked into my therapist’s office that cold day and told her I needed to go back to treatment, it was not easy, but looking back on that day over two years later, I can say it was definitely worth it.

Getty image by Kemal Yidirim.

Originally published: July 12, 2022
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