How to Find a Therapist

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Looking for a Therapist?

Looking for a therapist can be a daunting task. I know because I have had to find several over the last 40 years. Finding someone compatible can take time and when you are in a crisis, time is not what one typically has.

Here, I will lay out questions that can help with the screening process for who might be a good fit… and who will definitely not be a good fit.

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How to Find a Therapist

Finding who to call can include getting names from Human Resources, your insurance book or Googling “Therapists.”

I find that if you need low-cost therapists, going to support agencies can help more than just Googling. I suggest the LGBTQ+ Center in the nearest town, even if you are not wanting to talk about those issues, they keep a long list of therapists who are low-no cost. You can also search the county’s social services site.

You can call the local college and ask them for recommendations. If it is a school that licenses therapists, that can be a jackpot, asking for newer therapists because they often charge less. It can seem not fabulous to ask for a new therapist, but they are often the ones with the newest ideas in research and are willing to work with you and your desires for therapy.

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Once You Have the List

It can be daunting to call the long list of therapists you have in front of you. Take your time. Call 3, then take a break and call 3 more the next hour or so. Be gentle on yourself even if you are desperate.

Desperate, of course, means NOT in a place to harm yourself or others.

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If you are in a suicidal or homicidal place, PLEASE CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.

Calling for an Appointment

You will almost always get an answering machine when you call. That is normal. So plan out what you are going to say… write it down and read it if you want to… and then say what you need to the machine. Short and as succinct as possible. Therapist’s appointments end at 10 ’til the hour, so occasionally you might catch a person between then and the top of the hour, but not usually.

“Hi, my name is Barb Herrera and I need a therapist for depression. Your name was given to me by the LGBTQ Center. I am in crisis, but not suicidal, so the sooner I can see someone the better. My phone number is: xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

If you are in crisis, it is important to say you are. Make sure to add the not suicidal part, please… if you are NOT suicidal, of course.

If you are a parent, needing therapy for a child, you can say, “Hi, my name is Barb Herrera and my 10-year old son William needs help with his ADHD and anger issues. We are having a very hard time right now, so the sooner I can see someone the better. Please help!”

I find the phrase, “Please help me,” brings out the codependent in just about everyone. I use it in the ER, in bookstores, and looking for therapists.

You might need to call 20 therapists to get 3 to call you back. That is the way it goes, sadly. Some will be kind and tell you they cannot help, but good-luck, but that is pretty rare.

Try with all your might to answer the phone when a strange number calls (or a blocked number even) because catching each other can be a terribly frustrating game of cat and mouse.

When You Speak to the Therapist

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While it sounds like you want that exact therapist when you left a message, there is a screening process you get to do to see if they are a good fit or not.

I encourage writing down exactly what you want help with:

“I am struggling with my marriage. My partner is distant and I don’t know why./My partner asked for a divorce and I’m scared/I’m having such a hard time getting anything done, my life is shit.” Etc.

If it is for someone else, your child for example, being really clear with what you need is good.

“My 15-year old daughter is using drugs and I don’t know what to do about it/My daughter is 13 and angry all the time. I need help understanding her/My 9-year old son struggles in school and cries a lot. I need help figuring out how to help him.” Etc.

So, when the therapist calls, this is when you bring out that paper and read to him or her what you need. Then ask, “Is this something you work with?” They might say yes (some say yes to anything), but they might tell you that isn’t their skill set and that’s great. Ask if they have a referral, thank them for calling and move on.

If you make an appointment with someone who says yes, WRITE DOWN THE APPOINTMENT DATE AND TIME and keep it handy. I say this because you want to keep talking to the therapists who call you back. Make an appointment with each one, just keep them straight (stars or ** next to the ones you like) so you can cancel  the others when you get a feel for the right therapist. It is rare you will not connect with one of the folks that eventually calls. If you do not, pick the least objectionable and start there.

When you have the appointment with the therapist, please call the others and cancel. You will get a machine again, so no worries on hurting their feelings. It happens all the time. BUT, thank them for their time and that you are holding onto their number for future reference. And then do so so you don’t have to go on the search again in the future if the one you choose does not work out.

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Appointments

The first appointment can make or break the relationship, but I highly encourage having at least 3 before deciding you are not a good fit and moving to the next one.

It is also so so tempting to stay with one that is meh because the prospect of starting over is daunting and can be really challenging when you are in crisis. But, I promise, if you give the therapist 3 sessions and you are still not clicking, the idea that you will eventually is really delaying the obvious. Best get out and start over now. The sooner you do, the sooner you will find the right fit.

When I moved from San Diego after my 28-year marriage ended, I had specific needs because of the situation… needed an LGBTQ+ friendly and knowledgeable person. The first three people I had were very young and I spent those first 3 sessions teaching them about the transgender person. I stayed the 3 hoping after session 1 and 2 that they would learn on their own and come back armed with information they could use to help me. When it was clear I was going to be the educator, I ended the relationship and moved onto the next one. With the 4th, I hit the jackpot and am still with her 3 years later. I did not have to teach her one thing about the trans community or the trans experience. She is older and volunteers as a therapist at the LGBTQ+ Center in town. It took almost a year to find the right person, but it was worth it. (A year waiting for appointments to open up and the down time between therapists when I was frustrated and was too tired to move forward.)

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Lastly

Trust your instincts.

If you are able to be CLEAR about your needs… even if it is merely describing your child’s most difficult behaviors or your most intense emotions about your job… that is a fantastic way to start.

Others who have made these choices, do you have other ideas on how you choose therapists?

I’m Depressed (Again)

Due to a glitch in my insurance and the Latuda company’s lack of medication, I went about a week without it. Might have been more. I have been back on it for 4 days now, but have fallen into depression. I wasn’t sure at first, but after sleeping 20 hours a day 3 days in a row, I think that qualifies as depression.

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And the crying.

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I hate the crying.

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The welling up of tears for (seemingly) no reason. The way they fall unabated, no amount of logic stopping them. They just turn on and off at their own whim.

What am I sad about? Nothing. There is no precipitating factor here, merely biochemical.

I want out of it.

NOW.

Snatch with Prompt

This was the Prompt:

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This is what I wrote in 30 minutes (unedited):

When Colors Run

Deep inside my colorless cocoon, I have a vague sense of other lives nearby.

I slither through their reality; where is my own? Surrounding myself with the darkness of my depression.

My mirror’d existence bursts into color, fireworks exploding with energy that drains my body, but never my mind.

Having Bipolar Disorder 1 is, quite literally, opposing colors of my brain. I see auras anyway, but during a manic episode, the colors scream off my body, tsunamis of energy crashing into my brain again and again. Voices screech… or whisper… I, never knowing which will be next… raging about how I look, feel, need to act, need to fly, need to find this or that, things that are elusive even after hours of mentally and physically searching.

Exhaustion never comes.

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When the electricity finally dissipates after months of zapping me, I collapse into that dark world once again, struggling to keep breathing and not smother myself with the thought that this will go on forever.

Reaching outward, always outward, needing several hands to keep me alive, I am fed my medication, waking only to swallow, then sleeping yet another 23 hours.

Writing is my emotional gauge. By how many words I write in a day, I’m able to see where I stand psychologically.

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Not writing for days, weeks, months… I am in that dark place and need help. Too often, because I am alone, I do not recognize the need for many weeks and, by then, am buried by the pain.

However, when I write 20,000 words in a day… several blog posts for me, blog posts and essays for work… long emails to friends and family… run-on sentences with divergent topics… it is they who sense my need for help and their well-rehearsed phone calls are made to see who can get me to the doctor the fastest.

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Walking the tightrope, umbrella in hand, I teeter, side to side, always searching for that inaccessible balance.

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Bipolar Mania: Precariously Weird

10/3/16, 5:24pm

Yesterday was so awesome. Filled with energy and no hallucinations. I took two short naps, but didn’t take my Risperdal until 2am because I’d moved into a new day without seeing it happen and I was still wicked high on energy.

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From Awesome to Terrifying

Well, I did have a few images/tactile sensations trying to invade around 8pm.

After I took the 4mg Risperdal at 2am, I was making my bed after having done the laundry during my frenzy and when I bent over to put the sheet on the back corner, some-one/thing fucking kicked me onto the bed. I thought I was being robbed! I fell and whirled around and nothing was there. I rubbed my ass it hurt so much. I started crying, got back up, put the sheet on and moved to grab the pillows off my chair and some-one/thing grabbed my upper arm; I could feel the fingers digging in. No one/thing was here. These were, by far, the most aggressive hallucinations I’d ever felt. Scared the bejeezus out of me. I put Bear McCreary’s Outlander music on and quickly jumped into bed and under the covers. I breathed with Raya Yarbrough as she sang the Skye Boat Song and eventually fell asleep.

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artist: Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Today Sucked

10/3/16, 7:29pm

Today, however, has been entirely different than the delightful highs of yesterday.

I seem to have an emotional mechanism… a gauge, if you will… that can instantly detect where my emotions are at any given time. Today I woke up feeling… sad? Dejected? Off?… I sighed knowing today was going to be tough. And it has been.

I have struggled to type. Normal words come out spelled as a homophone of themselves. “Brake” comes out “break”… “flee,” “flea.” Frustrating as crap having to go back and edit over and over… not something I often have to do.

I did take calls, but could feel that too-fast mind on overdrive and had to really harness the energy so I didn’t talk over clients. One caller in particular spoke at a gentle pace and I could feel myself tromp tromp tromping on some of his words (and I could feel his frustration as well), so I was really strong with my voice and stopped doing it. The call went smoother and he was very happy in the end. (It was less than 15 minutes long, so I only had to control myself for a mere few minutes.)

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10/3/16, 8:28pm

I’m overwhelmed and need to lay down. Do I take my meds and sleep? Do I just rest for awhile? I cannot even make a simple decision like: Should I drink water or Diet Coke. (No comments from the peanut gallery with your opinions!) Back in awhile.

10/3/16, 9:24pm

I went and cried in bed thinking about today.

As the sun went down, I began to break apart more. Tears, laughter, morose, frustration. A couple of the guys annoyed the fuck out of me so I decided, with check-in, that I was a tad over-reacting and best email with them in the morning instead of tonight. Apparently I shouldn’t have screamed my head off in anger (in my room) when I was called “Sweetheart” in an email.

Oh, and the news. I am not supposed to watch or read the news. I am even trying to stay out of Facebook a lot so I don’t get dragged down by the horrible things going on. But I caught a whiff of the tragedy (understatement) in Aleppo and went to read what was happening. I have barely stopped crying since. And then all the Trump shit? It’s just too much. Too, too much.

Reaching Out for Help (Again)

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When I had my second “break-down”  in 1998, my dear friend who introduced me to the Internet (on New Year’s Eve 1994), along with my two lovers at the time, took me to the doctor where I was diagnosed (finally) with Bipolar Disorder 1 and put on a cocktail of meds that began my life of being medicated to keep me sane.

So tonight, as I felt my mind was disintegrating, I called my friend who understands in more ways than most in my life. She listened as I explained what was going on (hallucinations, physically shaking with electric energy and occasional jolts, crying, laughing, anger, despair) and she helped me decide to see the doctor again tomorrow instead of next week. No suicidal ideation at all, but the feeling like my mind is going to spill out of my ears onto the floor is so enormous, I am sorely tempted to go to the hospital, but know all they would do would be put me in and I don’t want that. (For me, the hospital represents  HELP!… a long-ingrained midwifery belief.)

I am just going to watch something inane and work on my Picture Files.

I promised those in my life: NO NEWS & CALL DOC in the morning.

You all heard me!

10/3/16, 9:58pm

Bipolar Mania: An Aura of Distress

It is 9/30/16 at 4:20pm.

I just took the 4mg Risperdal (it’s supposed to be 3 but I haven’t been comfortable leaving the house to get the 1mg ones yet and they are teeny with no scores so I made the executive decision to take 4mg). I am struggling to type correctly, so pardon typos, I will fix them later. I wanted to write, though, to get the feelings down as they were happening. They started… then increase exponentially as the minutes pass.

Part 1 – Hallucination Overload and Part 2 – Bipolar Mania: Recovering share the beginnings of recovering from a (pretty mild, but still terrifying) Manic Episode.

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I had a good day, handled several calls (am a Phone Sex Operator), did the two Tumblrs, was able to write the other blog posts… and now, though.

I am sweating profusely. I have been seeing increasingly ominous hallucinations (shadows, rats and fucking cockroaches) and feeling things crawling on me… and the fucking whispers. (Sorry, the word “fuck” is just appropriate sometimes.)

It is terrifying.

My hands are getting jittery and I am missing the right keys on the keyboard (I am an amazingly fast and accurate typist). Things look weird… Dali-esque. And there is a ghost trail effect going on. Like this kind of (can’t find an exact gif, but this’ll do… losing patience):

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I am glad I took the meds, they should kick in soon (it is now 7:16pm) so I can sleep and they can get back in my system. I am going to call Monday and ask about taking them twice a day so I am not in bed at 7:30pm and up at 3am for the day. Not good for business.

Does This Phenomenon Have a Name?

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I call it an aura because it is similar to an aura with migraines (I do not get migraines but everyone in my family does)… the premonition of doom so to speak. All I could find was this one article on an aura of doom with hypomania… doesn’t really fit, though. Anyone have a name for it?

I have Yusuf Islam on tonight… formerly Cat Stevens.

I am going to go lay down and meditate. I do Mindfulness Meditation. Struggling at the moment, that is for sure. But laying still, eyes closed… covers over me… I don’t see or feel as much.

No suicidal ideation at all today.

Light is closing in.

More later.

(And thanks to my new readers! You all are awesome for following along.)

It is 7:30pm

Bipolar Mania: Recovering

I published Hallucination Overload over the last few days and now that I am on medication for the Bipolar Mania, new things have been going on that need to be said.

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9/30/16, 4:00am

I’m trying so hard to hang on while the Risperdal takes its full effect, but it’s challenging, to say the least.

I took the first proper dose on Wednesday, 9/28/16 and thought I was doing better, but last night sucked bad.

I had a pretty good day, productive, took calls, wrote, but as the day wore on, I fell deeper and deeper into weirdness.

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I laid down and took my phone with me and texted a friend. I asked him to tell me stories so he shared nice memories from his youth and then a favorite Fantasy story. I laid there weeping, filled with gratitude for his kindness.

While he talked to me, I began crying in earnest. Reason, no reason… who knows. I called Zack, sobbing by that time, and he kindly reminded me of the down that comes after the high.

I felt mad, going from laughing hysterically to chuckling to feeling fine to falling into the hole again. All within the span of an hour.

I was back up to the computer at 6:00pm, but by 7:30pm, I was having horrible hallucinations again, could feel my mind crackling precariously. I tried to hold it together… can even see the struggle to stay coherent in my chat log, but by 7:55pm, I was nearly immobilized by the inner turmoil.

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I hastily signed off of work then took my Risperdal, turned on Andreas Vollenweider and crawled into bed to wait for the meds to do their thing: send me to sleep & fix my mind.

Laying there, my mind screamed, amplifying the tumult.

Kill yourself.

Go take the massive amount of pills you have just across the room and end it already.

Suicidal Ideation is some fucked-up shit.

I almost went to the hospital to protect myself, but couldn’t even reach the phone to call Zack again for reassurance. I took it as a sign that I also would not be able to get over there, to my drawer filled with medications, feeling a moment of peace.

I don’t know how long it took, but I stayed in the bed, meditating to Andreas Vollenweider – and finally fell asleep. 8pm was the last I saw the clock.

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Looking for My Self

9/30/16, 6:00am

I woke up feeling better (again) at 3am.

I’m logged into work, doing my Tumblr’ing… and writing all of this out. I hope the good feelings last.

Hallucination Overload

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From 9/28/16

I began writing this on Tuesday, 9/27/16 about 2am. I had not slept but 90 minutes total since Sunday at midnight. I got on the Risperdal on Wednesday morning, 9/28/16 at noon (still only having slept a total of 90 minutes since Sunday) and an hour later, was asleep until 6pm. I don’t even remember getting into the bed! Anyway, I am so glad I wrote last night and then shared with my friends in Facebook because tapping into that mass of confusion and horrific images is more challenging after medication and sleep. Read on!

From 9/30/16

It is almost 4am writing this. I need to get this post out and the next started regarding finding balance. Pardon if it is a tad disjointed and it doesn’t have a tied-up-neatly ending.


Ever since the Pulse Massacre, I have had a slow downward slide into depression. I haven’t been in a depression for over 2 years. The children of Aleppo, the Syrian War, the horrific killings of black men, women and children… and then the election stands out all on its own… all of these things have added cement blocks on my limbs and are pulling me under the water. I sort of recognized what was happening, but when the Relief Trucks were bombed in Syria and I was inconsolable for over 2 hours, I knew for sure something was wrong.

Initially, I was put back on Risperdal, a medication I was on for 18 years to quell the hallucinations I always carry with me (olfactory mostly, but also visual and auditory), but had been off of for a year  because the hallucinations hadn’t been scary in a couple three years, on Thursday, 9/22/16. The next day, my feet and ankles began swelling, but it didn’t dawn on me that it was the Risperdal until Saturday morning… and of course the office was closed, so I Googled it and it didn’t seem distressing, but was a reportable side effect, so called at 8am on Monday, 9/26/16.

Falling Into Mania

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I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 in 1998, have only had 2 manic states total (one in 1996, the other in 1998)… still enough to qualify me for the BP 1.

Until right now.

I was thinking I was merely in a hypomanic state, but these fucking hallucinations shift it to a manic episode.

This is part of what I wrote in Facebook last night:

I could use some good thoughts.

Long story, but the doc took me off the Risperdal 2 days ago and I have only slept 1 hour since then. Am extremely manic and am having really scary hallucinations. I don’t see him until Thursday so am white-knuckling it until then. Have considered going to the hospital several times, but keep holding out. I am not suicidal at all… not even really ideation stuff… but the hallucinations and racing mind with jolts of electricity coursing through my body are really not fun at all. I cannot even work because my speech is so rapid, stumbling over thoughts that have no direct connections to each other… and the flares of anger.

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I am just best left alone in my room until Thursday. I can write, however, and am pumping out post after post for work. Am writing one for my NgW blog about the hallucinations so maybe if I drop the shit on the page, they will leave me alone for awhile. Light and prayers welcome.

Then later, after being asked why I was taken off the medication, I answered:

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The Risperdal was making my feet and ankles swell. Called the doc. Nurse called back and said to halve the dose. I was pretty cranky about that because they were already simmering down the hallucinations (auditory, tactile and visual atm).

Then she calls back like 20 min later and says, “He said to go OFF the Risperdal.”

I was like… “uh, why!?!?”

“Because you are having hallucinations.”

I wanted to scream ugly nasty words hurled against women, but just kind of screeched loudly… “THAT IS WHY I AM ON THE MEDICATION IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!!”

She said, “Well we can get you in on Thurs at 8:15.”

I was so pissed… still am… and not knowing how much anger is actually appropriate… and mad at myself for…

1) not asking her to go back and fix the stupid comment she made

2) not taking the Risperdal even though he told me to stop.

I get Tardive Dyskinesia really easily with meds I have not used before… and Risperdal and I have an 18-year history. If the feet swelling is dangerous, then fine. If it is just a stupid side effect, I don’t give a crap… GIVE ME THE RISPERDAL. (See! I can’t even control my screaming here and you are are my beloved friends!)

My Beloved Holds Me Tenderly

Later, after talking to my former (30-year) marriage partner Zack  (“My Beloved”) for a really long time, where he listened to me ramble and rant… cry and laugh uncontrollably… talking me down from the ledge of insanity several times… reassuring me that if I wanted or needed to go to the hospital, it would be fine, but if I wasn’t suicidal, they might not even keep me, so try and hang on until the office opened at 8:am… I wrote this:

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I got really scared awhile ago and called Zack who has the best handle on my mental illness and he was very kind and loving and reminding me the rats and roaches aren’t real. That I can get in my bed if I want to… that those rats prancing on my arms, scaring the fuck out of me and making me jump out of my skin are not real.

I feel like my body has a form of Tourette’s, slapping myself randomly because I know there is a family of roaches on my legs… I can SEE them. I can FEEL them. But I swat and they are not really there. I was watching rats climb onto my bed last night. Blink 3x and they are gone. And shadows. Ugh. They darken my peripheral vision… I turn… and they vanish. And the evil whispers. Just out of my range of comprehension. Except when they call my name in a menacing hoarse whisper. Makes me jump every time.

My wonderful Facebook Friends posted, messaged and texted me:

DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THURSDAY.

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Agitated Waiting Period

I am writing 9/30/16 and ending this post, opening a new one and continuing.

It has been a bizarre few days.