The 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge continues, with
Day 24: What is your opinion on alternative treatments or treatments that aren’t commonly used?
Four alternative therapies that have worked for me…
Whilst writing the last post in the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge, Four therapies that have worked for me, I ruminated extensively on whether to include ‘writing therapy’ or hold it off until this post. Eventually, I decided to include it because I believe writing therapy to be one of the most important and productive therapies there is when it comes to mental health.
Of course, there will be others who disagree with me, and believe it should have been included in this post, about four of the most successful alternative treatments/therapies that I have explored over the years.
Following my breakdown in 2007, my abuser decided that a number of things would “fix me”, principally there was her belief that self-help books held the key to my salvation, but a close second was ‘massage therapy’. She strenuously believed that a simple massage would “cure” me of my mental health woes, or what she termed “a figment of my imagination”.
Unfortunately, I was unable to test her theory, as the idea of getting a massage from a complete stranger stresses me out so much that the mere thought of it can bring on a panic attack. Part of my trauma – as a result of the various abuses I’ve received over the year – makes human contact an intensely stressful action for me, so the thought of someone putting their hands on me, even in an unsexual manner, freaks me out so much that whatever benefits could come from massage would be immediately undone.
As a result of my stranger-massage fears, I decided that the next best thing would be acupuncture. Unfortunately, even though it involved far less person-to-person contact, I experienced such a heightened state of anxiety that it made things worse, not better.
Thus, the alternative therapies I have found most beneficial are those that require no human contact whatsoever. Art Therapy is something I have been doing off and on since I was a child, even before I knew what I was doing was having any therapeutic benefits. As a teenager lost to the worlds of self-harm and depression, I would draw montages of my favourite video game and Doctor Who characters, even sketching them on top of chests of drawers when I ran out of paper.
However, when I became a twenty-something, I stopped drawing after discovering the blissful feelings photography could bring me. Back in the days before digital, I would spend hours developing the photographs I’d taken in the darkroom and feeling more relaxed than I’d ever felt. There was just something so beautiful and serene in watching my photographs come to love in glorious monochrome. In fact, I’ve never been able to equal that sensation with digital, no matter how many hours have been spent in front of Photoscape.
Having been without a camera for so many years, I delved back into Art Therapy during my time on the streets, often wiling away my days sketching random images in a notebook I carried with me. Alas, this notebook was destroyed during a storm in 2010 so I’m unable to share any of the images with you today. However, I can still recall the calmness that took over me as I ran the pencil over the paper.
Another aspect of Art Therapy that I have partaken in over the years related to my self-harm. As a coping mechanism I took to drawing on my arm in red pen instead of cutting it with a knife. At first, I would just draw lines to indicate where I would otherwise have cut, but in time these lines became intricate, often abstract images that took up vast portions of my flesh.
I still utilize this method in dealing with my self-harm, and I’m sure will do so for a long time to come.
I have always been someone who enjoys walking. Once upon a time I tried to walk from Melbourne to Sydney (in my defense I was somewhat manic at the time), I did walk from Inverness to Drumnadrochit (also whilst manic) and one of my longest held dreams is to hike the West Highland Way in Scotland. In fact, there are times that I have walked myself to physical pain just so that I can feel something other than the emotional torment bubbling within me.
The same can be said for cycling, which now I am with bike again I do on a regular basis, regardless of how tired, exhausted and pained I am.
I’ve never been entirely sure why I push myself to physical pain as much as I do. Perhaps I’m just hooked on the endorphin release that comes from heavy exercise, or perhaps it is as simple as having a healthy endeavor to fill up my time. Either way, they are therapies I will continue to practice in.
…and four alternative therapies I would like to try!
I have only recently become aware of this therapeutic practice after it was covered in a ‘Tackling Trauma’ support group I partook in via GT House. Although I am somewhat skeptical about its ability to deal with heavy traumas, the book I read on the subject matter – Getting Past Your Past – peaked my interest enough to look into therapists who practice EMDR in my local area. So far I’ve yet to find one I can afford, but I shall keep you informed as to if/when I do.
My support worker and I have been looking into this alternative therapy as a way to help me deal with my insomnia and anxiety. Numerous people who work for the MH organisation I frequent have sung its praises and believe it could be most beneficial. There is a practitioner in Wodonga who charges only $5 a session (a special rate for people who, like me, live in abject poverty) but their waiting list is extensive. Once my turn comes around, I shall let you know how it went!
Granted, the line between this and self-harm is somewhat blurry, but as I wrote back in February:
If I were being completely honest – as I always strive to be on this blog – I would definitely be willing to give this course of therapy a chance. With my episodes worsening, I’ve reached a point where I’m willing to give anything a shot – even if it means sacrificing my ability to sit comfortably! Although thinking about it, I’d much prefer this to some of the more severe side effects I’ve received from medication over the years!
Unfortunately, Siberia is 2495km (1547 miles) from where I am, so the chances of me getting the opportunity to experience this treatment is slim to none.
I know very little of Reiki other than my father has been using this form of alternative therapy in his battles with stress and depression. Over the years he has reported extremely positive results after each session, leading me to put it on my list of things to try one day. If/when I do, as with all the other alternative therapies I’d like to try, I’ll let you know how they go.