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Former patient shares gratitude for Tampa team teaching her healthy habits

06/17/22 09:25:am

mission2.jpgCristina says she was diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder, also called dysthymia, in her 20s and suffered panic attacks. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007.

Many years later, after going through a divorce, dealing with difficulties at work, the strain of the pandemic, and decades of depression, Cristina says she was at a breaking point.

“I had obsessive, suicidal thoughts, and I knew I had to do something,” Cristina says. “I talked to my psychiatrist, and she referred me to Rogers in Tampa.”

Cristina was in the Focus Depression Recovery partial hospitalization program from November 2020 through early January 2021.

Although she knew she needed to get better, Cristina says she approached some aspects of treatment like group therapy with hesitation.

“I thought it would be people sharing their stories and venting without any resolution,” says Cristina. “We shared something relevant in our lives, but we didn’t go into too much depth. We always had a learning component, which I loved, and we had the opportunity to draw. We laughed quite a bit, which was unexpected. They made it enjoyable.”

Cristina credits her former therapist, John Brazill, with making her feel she could let her guard down.

“He was attentive and knowledgeable. He explained everything to me so I could understand,” Cristina says. “He helped me address things with respect, kindness, and humor. He pushed me when I needed to be pushed, but he also respected my boundaries if there was something I wasn’t ready to discuss. I didn’t feel like a child. He treated me like an adult. He was amazing, and he made a big difference in my life when I needed it most.”

John recalls the moment when he handed Cristina her exposure hierarchy list.

“I remember her literally crying and saying she couldn’t believe it was customized just for her,” says John. “She was grateful to be getting the personalized treatment and attention.”

Continuing to use skills learned at Rogers

Cristina is still using the coping skills she learned, and she shares them with friends.

“One of the skills I continue to use is stopping rumination,” she says. “That can be a slippery slope. I also do weekly behavioral activations and set goals for myself. Learning self-compassion was huge. It was hard because bipolar for me was a lot of irritability and anger.”

John says Cristina worked hard to learn and apply the skills while in treatment.

“One of the things that stood out to me about Cristina is that she really ran with them and incorporated them into her everyday life,” says John. “She was able to make a lot of progress with distorted thinking patterns, distress tolerance, and she was able to regulate her emotions by using the ‘stop’ skill so she could proceed mindfully rather than react in the moment.”

When she was discharged from Rogers, Cristina says she didn’t feel like she was let loose to figure things out on her own. Instead, she felt like she had been given a lot of tools to help her cope with different things in her life and manage her depression.

“After years of bad habits and distorted thinking, I’m able to react differently with friends, family, and at work,” Cristina says. “My reactions are still a work in progress, but they are so much better. I know what my triggers are. You can read about DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), but therapy helps because you need someone guiding you, explaining things to you, and holding your hand through it.”

John says it made his day to hear how well Cristina is doing.

“Positive patient feedback is always very motivating and reinforcing,” he says. “It’s always nice to see all the effort and care we put into her was appreciated, and that she’s still doing what we taught her.”

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