There was a time before I was diagnosed with PTSD that I didn’t need a therapist. I didn’t need support and a bevy of distress tolerance tools to help me get through endless hours of crisis. I didn’t need reminders that I am safe from past predators sneaking into my present, and I didn’t need a safety plan from untangling the 20 plus years of programming that became my fight for life when I went against the rules and talked.
That was the time before my snow-globe illusion of control smashed into the ground and my repressed past came exploding to the surface. The same resilience that kept me in survival mode no longer served me and my psyche demanded that I face the truth of my past.
From the beginning, the goal was to have an end to therapy. To gather enough tools in my toolbox, to have processed the dark truth of my past and then be able to employ what my therapist taught me in my everyday life. Whatever that life looked like.
The first few weeks of therapy I was willing to give it one year. My goal was to get my shit together and get back to work full time. I sought therapy because I thought I was going “crazy” and assumed that if I could just control my universe again, that I would be fine.
It didn’t go the way I planned, but it did go the way it was supposed to if I was going to have any chance of survival, a life, some peace.
After eight years, I have graduated from therapy. We had been talking about ending, on and off for about 15 months, but I wasn’t quite ready. Then as it all unfolded organically, I found I was ready. I began to understand that while I’m still living with debilitating symptoms of PTSD, I don’t necessarily need therapy to cope with the discomfort.
I have the tools to help with the distress, I know what to do when the panic and fear sets in, I have a support system in place that I can reach out to, who are at this point well-versed in what to say and do to help me through bad days or moments. In short, My therapist has taught me the things I need to get through my days. He has completed his job as my therapist.
But now what?
I still live with the effects of my trauma that has left me with complex PTSD. In my mind, I thought I would be cured when I stopped therapy. Maybe, that is the end result for some, but for me, it is not the case. I still have unrelenting symptoms, but now I know how to deal with them.
Therapy did not cure me, but it did give me what I needed to cope with this miserable illness. I haven’t quite come to terms with my PTSD, and in all honesty, I still get angry and frustrated because the life I want to lead and the life I am able to lead is often incongruent because of my symptoms.
What happens now that therapy has ended? I’m not sure. It’s still brand new for me. I will continue to work on accepting where I’m at every day and go from there. I’ll live in the present, while I fight the skeleton hands of the past so I can have a future.
As part of May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re focusing on treatment and the stigma around getting help. Check out our coverage here and share your story at strongertogether@
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.