“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful parts of us.” ~ David Richo
My experience with traditional therapy was mostly a game of “Who can pinpoint the diagnosis first?” As a young teenager I was depressed, suicidal, and self-harming. So my parents sent me to therapy, as most worried parents do for their children. My therapist did not lend me any insight into my personality, or what I needed to do to live a healthy lifestyle; we just sat hour after hour and compiled a list of symptoms in order to put a diagnosis to my craziness.
After which I would no doubt receive pills. I went along readily because I was in pain and wanted any kind of help I could get. After such diagnoses as “Adjustment Disorder,” “Borderline Personality Disorder,” and “Bipolar Disorder,” one therapist pinpointed a diagnosis on the spectrum of Bipolar. I was flying high, I finally had a word for all my pain and confusion! Now what?
In none of my sessions did we talk about which thoughts made me feel sad or anxious. We never talked about my sleeping or eating habits. We never talked about what I wanted from my life, or where I felt unfulfilled. We never talked about my personality and how that personality manifests in its healthiest and unhealthiest forms.
We never entered into my mysterious spiritual world that was bubbling under the surface. We never even talked about the horrible effects of keeping one’s feelings bottled up, of which I did a fair amount. We never talked about my purpose in this world.
A therapist must go past the diagnosis in their manual, and the pills that promise an easy fix. In traditional therapy, we are too used to these handy tools that don’t go anywhere in the long run. In holistic therapy, and medicine, we look at the full person, from body, to soul, to personality, and back. As in traditional education, we are in the process of learning to go from a one-size-fits-all system, to a more individualized and holistic approach.
This will make all the difference in dealing with psychology and “mental illness.” I did not have a mental illness. I have a creative and fast-paced mind, and this causes overthinking and anxiety when I don’t take care of myself and my creativity the way I need to. Many people are being pushed into categories that hurt more than they help. What we need is therapy that really looks at a person, the whole of that person, and not just their symptoms.
There are many therapies and therapists who do wonders for their patients, but both patient and therapist must be willing to look at the full person, and really listen and dig through the mind and soul, in order to come to the peace they so desire.
A diagnosis in one person’s book is a spiritual gift in another’s. My “Disorder” on one hand was the pain of depression and the jittery mania of anxiety, on the other hand was my creativity that became insomnia, and my empathy and sensitivity that led to unhealthy coping mechanisms. This is to say that on the other side of every diagnosis is a unique gift calling out for attention.
I healed myself slowly through the love and care of others, and through the love and care that I gave to myself, as I slowly realized that I deserved it and that my love was necessary. And through this journey of healing, I found that each disorder was indeed where the person had the most light. Every addiction, disorder, and wound was the door to love, healing, and purpose. I am not saying that it makes the pain easier at the time; in fact most are so utterly blind to this light that they stay in the dark longer than needed.
“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” ~ Shannon L. Alder
This is what I suggest to a person who is in this darkness; the person who is digging through diagnoses for the right one. Stop. Breathe. And answer these questions.
You can even sit down with a friend, or a therapist, in order to gain more insight from your answers.
What purpose do I want my life to have on the other side of this darkness?
What would my life look like without these bad habits?
Can I find a piece of light inside me?
Can I feel a piece of love inside me?
Who am I in my healthiest form? What qualities does my healthy self possess?
Which thoughts make me feel (anxious, depressed, lonely, frustrated etc)? What would I (my life) look like without this emotion?
Which habits bring more light into my life?
Which habits bring more light into the lives of those around me?
What do I want to receive from this life? Am I receiving it now? If not, how can I?
What would I regret not doing or having in my life?
Is there a phrase in my life that stops me from answering heavy questions? Such as “I don’t know?” What can I substitute for this phrase in order to get to a more solid answer?
Do I know myself? How can I get to know myself better?
Do I love myself? Does the love for myself depend on something specific, or is it unconditional?
When someone is in pain, therapy is very often sought out. A good therapist knows that his patient is more than just a diagnosis and pills, and treats them as their full spiritually complex being. In order to be fully healed we must be able to ask ourselves tough questions and deal head on with many emotions; a traditional therapist can guide us through these steps, but ultimately the hard, and rewarding work lies with the patient and his/her journey.
In the structure of traditional therapy there are many different methods, such as cognitive, psychoanalysis, behavioral, etc. Each focuses on different parts of the person. And this may work for many people, but a more holistic approach can make a patient feel whole and have longer lasting effects on their mental health.
Many other alternative therapies can be used such as working with a spiritual healer, EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) and EFT tapping therapy, Reiki techniques, Reflexology, as well as many other self-help/healing techniques. There are many different ways to go from the dark times, into the potential light that lies in each person.