In 2015, I reached out for help with my condition – Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). My treatment plan involved a series of mood-stabilising medications and regular psychotherapy sessions.
Initially, I felt intimidated that I had to reveal my personal self (inner thoughts and feelings) to a stranger. I was afraid of being judged and shamed for my suicidal thoughts and self-harm tendencies. I was concerned that whatever was shared during these sessions would be disclosed to my family.
Seeing a therapist can be rather expensive
During the initial period, visits with my psychiatrist ranged between 6 weeks to 6 months.. Currently, my psychotherapy sessions are scheduled on a fortnightly basis.
Thanks to the Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP) which can be assessed at more than 700 GP clinics and GP groups, I am able to manage the costs of my visits at Changi General Hospital (CGH). With that, I can use my MediSave to pay for treatments, on top of the existing government subsidies.
Other mental conditions eligible for this programme include schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder.
Will my therapist disclose my personal details shared during the therapy?
While my family was aware that I was seeking treatment for my mental illness, I was not comfortable with them knowing about the details. I did not want them to feel hurt or guilty in knowing that their actions have contributed to my intense anxiety and panic attacks.
Protecting your privacy: Understanding confidentiality
I have been assured that in almost every instance, my therapy is absolutely confidential.
I have also learned that therapy sessions would only be fruitful when I begin to trust my therapist. Our sessions were critical to my recovery, as my willingness to be honest would in turn help my therapist to understand my struggles better, and suggest suitable coping strategies.
Research has shown that therapy is more effective than medication in the long-term, although they have been working well together for me.
My medications were aimed to stabilise my moods, calm my headspace so that I could effectively assess a triggering situation. Consequently, I am able to practice the coping techniques such as breathing exercises, being mindful, or re-evaluating my thought process before I responded.
I cried in front of my therapist
It took about 2-3 sessions before I was willing to open myself up and dive deeper into the reasons behind my emotional reactions. We were then able to identify patterns of thought and behaviour.
It was painful to confront repressed memories. I felt ashamed even when I felt like crying, although I eventually accepted that I was in a safe space to express myself however I wanted. Sometimes, I became angry because I felt like I was being provoked, and I questioned if I was able to continue to trust my therapist.
I gradually learned that this was a necessary evil, especially since I no longer wanted to feel weighed down by my emotions and panic attacks.
The hardest part was learning to accept that my past was now a part of me, even if they were unpleasant.
Recovery has not been straightforward, and even with the good rapport I build with my therapist over many sessions, there were instances of regression. My self-harming behaviour and suicidal thoughts would become more intense and frequent, and this made me feel discouraged.
There were also sessions that did not feel fruitful, with issues discussed that remained unresolved. I also found myself unable to practice the coping techniques when I was caught in a similar triggering situation, which made me feel dismayed and sometimes even made me feel worse than before.
Besides learning to trust my therapist, I also had to trust myself and be patient with myself during the process. I needed to learn to forgive myself in moments when I faltered and continue to attend my therapy sessions. Celebrating my milestones and small achievements also helped to keep me going.
I am still attending regular psychotherapy sessions, and am in the process of tapering off the medications that I was once largely dependent on to function. I know that more work needs to be done, but I have also come a long way in my mental health journey.
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