Thirteen years ago I was out-patient hospitalized for treatment of severe depression and anxiety. Then another hospitalization four years later, both in-patient and out-patient for the same issues. Even though I was in weekly therapy sessions and on medications, I had suicidal thoughts and so agitated I could not focus on the simplest task.
I questioned why therapy did “stick.” A change in meds and therapists helped and progress was slow but not finalized like I thought it would be. I was under the impression that once you spoke your personal story, that was the end of the issue. Of course I was wrong about that. It’s not like portrayed on television.
Susan shares similar frustrations dealing with her sexual abuse. I’m trying to fix it but can’t. It’s like we are going in circles.
I’ve recalled something I drew in an art therapy session of what is going on. How I think therapy works, at least for me. I’ve discussed the concept with Susan and she thinks his has some application for her. This is what I drew:
The spiral represents my life’s journey or the path I am on. I can apply any time scale to the spiral; one revolution could be an hour, day, week, year or years, or a lifetime. The red diagonal line represents an aspect of my mental health issue. It could the dark valley of depression, physical or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, shame, etc.
I see myself at the beginning of the spiral at the intersection of the issue at the red line. I face the issue, talk about it, and work on it and try to resolve it the best I can with the tools I have. I get to some resolution of the issue and I move along the black line. At some point I again meet the red line (issue) again. I get frustrated, angry, and depressed that I have to face the issue again (Yes, I can get depressed about being depressed.) But I am not at the same place in my life I was before; maybe I am a little bit stronger, maybe I’ve gained some understanding since the last meeting. I again work on the issues and continue on my journey on the spiral and eventually I meet the issue again. I may have discussed the problem a few times in therapy or read and article on the subject or maybe I’m on different meds.
The journey continues round and round. At each intersection I deal with the problem again. But each time I am in a different place in life. I am not in the same place as the last meeting. There is growth along the path. It is hard to see or understand that I am making progress, but I am. I’ve found with some issues in my life, the power of the red line is reduced because I keep confronting the issue and address it as best I can at that time.
I remember this diagram when I think I came to terms with something and I find it is with me again. I use this analogy to help remind Susan of the progress she when she thinks her progress in too slow or she thinks she has not made any progress.
No analogy is perfect but this is something we use to get us through difficult episodes. The journey will continue forever.