Regular readers of this blog know that I suffer from PTSD, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 15 – that was 33 years ago. The anxiety diagnosis is somewhat more recent, and the PTSD is the most recently diagnosed, but its onset actually predates the bipolar disorder. My point here is that I’ve been dealing with these illnesses for a long time, and I’ve been in therapy to deal with them for years on end.

My therapy has been successful to varying degrees through the years. My current therapist and I have been working together every other week for a little less than three years, and she’s seen me through a lot.

She’s helped me discover tools that mitigate the rough spots when they occur, and talked me through some dark times. Over the last year or so, I’ve been steadily improving, and over the last six months or so I’ve improved so much it’s been like someone flipped a switch. This most recent change I attribute to a change in medication, but my therapist is quick to downplay the effect the meds have had on me, and just as fast to remind me that an awful lot of my improvement has been through my own education and efforts.

Today we met and discussed the trip to California. I told her about all that I saw and did, and then concentrated on three aspects of the trip – the party on Saturday night, the driving I did on Sunday morning, and the traffic that we encountered in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon. Each of these instances were a prime opportunity for my anxiety to open the floodgates to a bad downswing. Dealing with strangers in a social setting is something that I’ve avoided for as long as I can remember, yet on Saturday night I was practically a social butterfly. It wasn’t very long ago that I was only driving if it was absolutely necessary, and even then on familiar surface roads, and on Sunday morning I was excited to be out driving highways I was barely familiar with. While I wasn’t driving, the traffic in San Francisco was the worst gridlock I’ve ever experienced, and bad traffic is usually a trigger for my anxiety regardless of where I’m sitting in the car – but I handled it like it was nothing.

In short, it’s the most “normal” I’ve felt in a very long time.

My therapist was very pleased to hear how well the trip went, and how well classes are going as well, and she made a point of telling me what a long way I’ve come since I started seeing her. At the end of the session, we discussed my options for a follow-up appointment, and we agreed that we can start seeing each other on a monthly basis rather than biweekly.

I have never before been on a monthly schedule with any therapist.

Like so many other diseases, my illnesses are lifelong, and can be managed with medication and psychotherapy, but not truly cured. Being a once-monthly client is an acknowledgment that my symptoms are well under control at the present time. It’s about as close to remission as mental illnesses get. It’s an odd feeling, but not in a bad way at all. I’m not apprehensive about cutting back to once a month, something I’d have been terrified to do as recent as the start of 2017.

My follow-up is October 26, and we agreed that if something should go wrong in the meantime that I’m always free to call and schedule an interim appointment. We also agreed that if something happened that was particularly good I could text her to fill her in on the news.

It’s a really good feeling.

Oh, for those who have been following my activities of the week in my classes, tonight was my first closed-book algebra test. I think I did fairly well on it. There was one question that I’m pretty sure I got wrong, and a couple more I think I figured out, but other than that I’m comfortable with my performance. Of course, we’ll see how that goes once the grades come back.

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