Today I joined a group on Facebook called “Clients Harmed by Therapy.” When I first stepped foot in a therapist’s office nine years ago, little did I know my life was going to take a turn for the worst. Little did I know that this thing which was meant to help me would make me want to die. Little did I know that I would spend the next nine years of my life depressed. Therapy became a drug, and its ending a horrific withdrawal. I wish it carried a black box warning.
I bonded with my first counsellor very quickly. She wasn’t much older than I was and she became like a best friend to me. I even fantasised about being her girlfriend and going to the beach and other nice places together. She was the first person I told my story to, the story of how I grew up believing I was a rapist, and the bullying I had experienced throughout school. The only problem was that I was seeing her through my university counselling service. You had to be a student to use the service and it was mainly for short-term counselling. It was not set up for people with complex trauma or personality disorders. It was the system which failed me rather than my counsellor. My counsellor made an exception for me and let me see her every week for the rest of my degree. But I knew that our relationship was destined to end. For the first time since high school, I felt like jumping in front of a train. I stopped going straight to the train station after our sessions. Instead I went to the park and lay behind the bushes. Or I’d go downstairs to the spiritual centre and shut myself in the contemplation room, a small, dark room with a table and a few couches. Often I’d etch red marks into my arms and legs using the clip of my drink bottle. Sometimes I’d lie on the floor instead of the couches. One day somebody called security.
I couldn’t imagine life without my counsellor. I spent the rest of my degree suffering anticipatory grief over this relationship ending. I fell into a deep depression and could no longer study full time. I withdrew from my friends. And while the acute grief eventually lifted, the depression did not. I have never been the same since.
I was referred to a psychologist who specialised in trauma. I didn’t want to see another therapist, but my counsellor persuaded me to at least meet the woman. I found her warm and caring and I came to trust and love this therapist as well. She was like a mother to me. I loved her so much I painted her a giant mandala painting for her office. I didn’t even mind that I spent longer on the train than we did together. Seeing her was the highlight of my week. But about a year later, she suddenly told me that in three months time she would stop seeing me. I never received a proper explanation, only that something had come up in her personal life and she had to change her practice around. She was still going to see clients and I was hurt that I wasn’t one of them. She told me that I needed a higher level of care than she could offer. Instead of telling me what she could offer and letting me decide what I wanted to do- keep seeing her or find someone else (or both)- she made the decision for me, with no collaboration with me. It felt like she had stabbed the very wound I’d come to therapy for. After our session that day I shut myself in the bathroom downstairs. I knew I needed help but I didn’t know what to do. I felt like lying on the floor outside where somebody would find me and do something. That night I cried to the point I could barely breathe. The next day I was admitted to a public psychiatric ward.
I could not accept the shabby explanations this therapist gave me, and our relationship quickly soured. She withdrew her warmth and unconditional regard; I barely recognised the person she became. She asked me why I couldn’t just thank her for her work and move on like her other clients. I never ended up seeing her for the remaining few months. All we’d do was fight, and she had a way of making me feel so ashamed that I felt like killing myself when I left.
I started seeing a third counsellor to process what had happened with the last, and to help with my depression which had never left me since I first started counselling. Once again I came to trust and open up to my new counsellor. So much so that I let her talk me into trying antidepressants. I was terrified of medication and had to have her on the phone each night when I took it. Sadly nothing improved. I was put on a new medication and over the course of a year the dose continued to be increased. I was still no better and finally decided to come off this drug as well. That is when I started getting a sensation of being “electrocuted” when I was about to fall asleep. It was as though the drug was punishing me for trying to come off it. Meanwhile, my counsellor decided to close her practice. She said she’d continue to meet with me at a café. We met a few times. Then one day she cancelled, saying she was sick. I did not hear from her again. I texted her asking her how she was doing and I called her but I got no reply. I know she is still alive, I guess she just got sick of working with me. I was left with another therapist to grieve and a fucked up brain from the medication she persuaded me to take.
I took out private health insurance and got admitted to a private hospital to get off the antidepressant. That is where I met “Betty”, who I have written about previously. Somehow losing “Betty” felt worse than losing all three counsellors combined.
I now have a wonderful case worker, but once again, the light at the end of the tunnel is just the headlamp of an oncoming train. Earlier this year he told me that his service is not long-term and we will have to finish up at some point. I feel like I’ve done the full circle. I spent the rest of the day on the floor of his office crying. I felt truly ready to die. I ended up back in the hospital. I also have a new psychologist who I like, but while she says she’s in it for the long hurl, it’s hard to believe her after everything I’ve gone through.
Needless to say I am tired of the mental health system. I am worse than I was before I entered it. I wonder where and who I’d be if I never went to see a counsellor at uni.