I’d firstly like to thank you for your courage in sharing these struggles with us. I can imagine how difficult it must be to be faced with all these challenges, especially when it feels like you’re constantly trying to solve your issues but you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot in the past 8 years, including trying different forms of therapy and medication, all within the context of the financial constraints you’ve mentioned. You also mentioned the added stress of balancing work and school, and being stuck in a difficult home situation. It’s completely understandable that you feel torn and helpless right now.
Please know that you are not alone and we are here to support you. Your perseverance and determination to get better, despite the obstacles in your way, is truly commendable. I admire your strength and resilience and I’d like you to know that you deserve to receive the care and support that you need. I want to also affirm that it’s okay to ask for help, including financial support if necessary.
The first point I would like to address is what you had mentioned about your relationship with the school counsellor you are currently seeing and your desire to see your previous therapist instead. I can imagine how difficult and tiring it can be to open up and be vulnerable with a new therapist, especially when you have found comfort and some level of success with your previous one. It takes time to build rapport and perhaps we could start by letting the counsellor you are presently seeing know about your concerns in opening up and your preference for your previous therapist. This would allow him or her to explore the reasons behind the fear that you have towards speaking openly about other issues besides school, so that you can work towards moving onto establishing and working on therapeutic goals that are valuable to you. The therapeutic relationship is one that is built on trust and honesty, and your counsellor can only help if you are willing to share your thoughts and feelings.
If you do decide that you are keen to explore other options for therapy, you can have a look at this list (1) or consider mental health support services provided by non-profit organisations. Here are a couple you may wish to consider: Limitless, Impart, IASH. Do note that some of these are volunteer-led.
I can imagine that the conflict between wanting to work on your mental health and thinking about the financial implications (in the form of both money and time) of this could result in feelings of guilt, especially if this means involving your parents in some way. However, remember that seeking help and taking care of your mental health is a brave and important step, not just for yourself but also for your loved ones and the people around you. For this reason, when you attend your counselling/therapy sessions, I’d like you to try and focus on the present moment and what you hope to gain from these sessions. Setting specific and realistic goals for therapy, such as managing stress and difficult emotions or improving relationships could help in naturally shifting this focus.
You also mentioned that you had abruptly stopped taking your medications. I’m wondering if this was a result of the financial situation that you are in or if there were other reasons such as side-effects involved? Regardless, I would encourage you to speak to the psychiatrist that had been prescribing you the medication regarding your concerns and see if there are options for financial support or, if side-effects were the main factor in stopping your medication, a dosage or a different medication that might be better suited for you.
In the meantime and in between sessions, here are a couple of things you could try out to help you cope:
Given practical constraints as you balance school and work among other commitments, you may find it challenging to carve out time for hobbies that you used to enjoy. While I strongly encourage you to try to schedule bits of time in between commitments to engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, I understand that it may not always be easy to do so. A time-efficient way in which you could give yourself a break is by practicing mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing, or mindful movements that can help you stay in the present moment and reduce stress and anxiety. Here is a page with various tools and guided exercises that you could try out (2).
Try to shift the focus from self-criticism to self-care. I hear that you have been trying your utmost best to take care of yourself and improve your mental health, but despite your efforts, you still feel like they are never enough. I want you to know that it’s understandable to feel this way and that self-compassion can be a powerful tool in helping you manage these thoughts and feelings. Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding, rather than criticising and blaming yourself. Instead of denying or trying to suppress your struggles and/or difficult emotions, try gently acknowledging these. Know that we all make mistakes and have limitations. Instead of saying “I’m such a failure”, we could try to use positive self-talk to replace self-critical thoughts. In your case, for example, you could instead say “I am doing my best and that is enough”. This may feel effortful and perhaps rather awkward at the start, but consciously practicing self-compassion will help you develop a more accepting and understanding relationship with yourself over time. This exercise (3) teaches us how to take the power out of difficult sticky thoughts and could help you get started. You could also use this worksheet (4) to guide you through designing self-affirmations that are impactful for you. Writing these affirmations down would give you something to refer to in the future and serve as a good reminder whenever self-critical thoughts arise.
Lastly, I would like to end off by once again reaffirming your strength and efforts in trying your best over the past 8 years, despite the challenges you’ve encountered along the way. As human beings, we have the tendency to zoom in on the negatives. But I’d like you to also recognise the progress you have made and remember that no accomplishment is too small to be celebrated. Know that it’s okay to not have everything figured out right now and that you are not alone in your struggles. At the end of the day, recovery is a journey and not a destination. Let’s work on being gentle and patient with yourself in this journey. Hope is always present for as long as you’re willing to give yourself a chance, and things can get better with time and effort.
I’ve linked the resources below. I hope some of these will be able to help. Please take care and I wish you all the best!