I’m dreading the August therapy break – as you can tell from the above poem I wrote. Although I’m also trying to convince myself it will be okay – as you can also tell from the above.
Last year, the six week break included two to three weeks of incredibly low mood and suicidal ideation. It included poor decisions about how to spend my time, and I resolutely held out from contacting my therapist by email, despite the fact she had told me it was okay to do so.
Although I cannot completely control how I will feel, I am hoping that this time, I will be able to do things a little differently, and therefore I hope that I will end up feeling a little differently. The two-week Easter therapy gap was the first time I felt I’d really managed to stay connected to my therapist. It was incredibly hard work – striving constantly to challenge unhelpful thoughts and to remind myself that she still cared and hadn’t abandoned me. But I’m going to try and work hard at it again, despite the much longer gap.
I am also going to schedule regular nights out with friends; I will ensure that I do something ‘just for me’ at times when I would normally be in therapy, whether that is spending time writing, or watching a film. I will make sure I don’t stay in alone, on difficult anniversaries which remind me of loss or abandonment; and I will ‘allow’ myself to take the very genuine offer of help from my therapist, and email her now and again.
And I will make sure that I put in place as many other support mechanisms as I can. For example, though I felt very guilty at the thought of ‘using up resources’, I will be signing up for the Textcare scheme run by the mental health charity SANE. Textcare provides emotional support for anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers. It provides help either at regular times when you might feel isolated, or at specific times when some extra support might be needed. I know that receiving a text once a week for five weeks, at a time when I would normally be in therapy, will help me to feel supported, thought-about, and less alone. If you think that you may struggle during your own therapy break this summer and that this would be a useful additional support, please do find out more.
In the meantime, here are two excellent posts by therapists whose writing I greatly enjoy reading, on the subject of therapist vacations. They look at the break from the therapist’s perspective, and from the client’s perspective, and also give pointers for further reading.
Finally, for a light-hearted approach to the issue, try googling ‘August therapy break New Yorker’. You will find a number of interesting and amusing (depending on your perspective!) articles. However, the following extract from the start of one of them, is, I think, an interesting question for anyone in therapy (and not just New Yorkers) to ponder, particularly as one of the most valuable aspects of a therapy break can be the experience and subsequent discussion, in therapy, of all the thoughts and feelings that came up during the break:
“To many New Yorkers, August poses a potent question: What would life be like without therapy? Analysts have no shortage of answers to this question – and it could take you a year’s worth of 50-minute hours to explore them all.” – Jennifer Senior