…snuggling up in front of the fire, guinea pigs splashing around in a bubble bath, hot steamy showers, the wave of pain relief washing over me, making plans and chasing dreams, wrapping up in a toasty blanket, rain running down the window pane, sleepy smiles, cloudy winter mornings
It’s been a while since I started CBT, and I recently had my final session. CBT, though essentially great, brings up some conflicted feelings. I suppose that’s inevitably the case with any talking therapy, but as my CBT went on for almost three months, I feel like I really invested a lot into each session.
Therapy for mental health conditions can be really helpful, but – and as with any treatment – you can’t expect a quick fix. Admittedly, though I’ve had counselling before, when I first started CBT I didn’t account for just how hard I’d have to work and how emotionally draining I’d find it. Walking out of the first session I felt simultaneously overwhelmed and absolutely empty, and I remember walking around the nearest supermarket aimlessly and directionless, with what felt like a flick-book of every emotion I’ve ever felt whirring through my head. It did, of course, get easier over time, but I always found it difficult to snap back after each session.
Each of my sessions were tailored to me each week, depending on the situations I found difficult, and the topics I really needed to address. I loved this part of the session, as we’d draw up an agenda and tackle the issues most important to me. Essentially, though, what each of my sessions boiled down to was working through my low self esteem and trying to recognise and acknowledge the good things I have done. Thing is, I get so blinded by feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and inadequacy that I completely ignore the good and positive things I have achieved throughout my life.
I also spent a considerable proportion of my sessions working through hypothetical situations that I often worried about, with the aim of learning to accept that I cannot control everything in my life, and I cannot solve everyone else’s issues. This was a particularly challenging topic to address, but I feel like I made some really positive progress in learning to accept and work through these issues.
CBT also addressed what felt like a dirty little secret for far too long. Thing is, I always suspected i had OCD-esque traits, but I’d never actually been diagnosed. Along with the assessor prior to my CBT, we agree that I do have OCD that fluctuates from day to day. I have always been a stickler for routine, but I knew things were a bit unusual when I found myself checking clothes, and jewellery, and other things that really didn’t require constant checking, like whether my alarm was set or that my door was locked, even though I could see that the latch was on. It’s frustrating, because no matter how much I know that these things don’t need checking, I cannot resist. And if I try to resist, I feel an unstoppable anxiety bubbling up which can only be ‘quelled’ by checking. Of course this only reinforces the behaviour, which makes it a really hard cycle to break. I have worked on techniques to help, and I am noticing that I’m getting better, even if this progress is only slow.
CBT provided some great coping mechanisms to work towards in order to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include keeping logs of activities that I’m particularly apprehensive about, or recalling situations that I found difficult and then examining mine – and other people’s – responses. Crucially this made me acknowledge that situations aren’t as bad as I expect them to be, and that working on evidence – and not speculation – is key to working towards a happier, less anxious life.
Now that my CBT has come to an end, I’m facing the everyday struggles with a mixture of apprehension and pride. I’m proud because I’ve really improved, but apprehensive because I suddenly feel all alone. The relationship with your therapist becomes a really important one; they’re there on a professional level, to help you through what can sometimes be the most challenging times of your life, but they somehow become more than just a confidant as you build up a relationship with them. You open yourself up completely to them, and they are privy to some of your greatest fears, deepest emotions and darkest secrets. They become integral to working through your mental health issues, and invest a great deal of time and effort in helping you. I feel a little bit lost facing the big, bad world on my own, but I am so grateful that my therapist has equipped me with the skills to tackle this on my own.
I suppose I’m finding it difficult to let go. I know that I’ve only just embarked on my ‘journey’ (and no, I’m not keen on that explanation, but it’ll have to do) but I know it’s going to be a long, hard slog. My mental health does fluctuate, and dealing with my physical disabilities brings another layer of complexity to proceedings, but I’m positive that I’ll get there; whenever ‘there’ may be.
I am letting go, and I am learning that I can do this on my own. I just need to prove it to myself.
Just thought I’d provide a quick update re: counselling etc. Ages ago (when I first presented with MH problems) I probably mentioned having to have an initial assessment to see what things would be most useful. This time around was no different, and almost the entire session comprised of filling out scales to determine levels of anxiety/depression.
I have a lot of difficulty with these scales as I find it so difficult to assign emotions a numerical figure, but they are aiming to assess the degree to which said mental health problems affect your life. I suppose it’s very difficult to assess anyway, and I know scales are one of the only feasible options, but they’re so difficult to navigate. Scales exist in a similar fashion for pain management, and that’s perhaps why I find them so frustrating. I’m always filling them out, and I don’t always understand what they mean/how useful they are.
After filling out these scales, we had a quick chat about my mental health history. These chats are often the most difficult part of assessments; they take you right back to a time you’d rather forget. I always find it difficult to control myself when I talk about things from the past. I know it’s useful to address, but it never gets easier. It’s hard to admit that at one time I had difficulty leaving my room to use the bathroom, never mind leaving the house at all. Though I can appreciate how far I’ve come, it’s never easy to admit that I’ve really, really struggled in the past.
It’s completely my own complex, and I’m aware of that. It just hurts everytime to even think about it.
By the end of the assessment we’d decided CBT would be the best route. I’ve tried counselling, and at the time I had counselling it was extremely useful because I felt I just needed to talk and uncover all my deepest fears. Now that’s done, I don’t feel like it would be of any use. I need to learn how to control these feelings and physical symptoms, and CBT is the best fit for that.
We briefly talked about cycles of thoughts and resulting behaviours, and CBT will hopefully provide the techniques needed to break the cycles and work through the feelings as and when they occur. Thoughts will probably always pop into my mind, and I will always probably feel anxious about some things, but CBT works towards getting that to a manageable level. Recognising the physiological symptoms of anxiety is the first step, and hopefully I’ll be able to work through something to make things easier on bad days.
My first ‘proper’ CBT session starts next week, and I’ll keep you updated on my progress.
I hope you’re enjoying your day so far. It’s gorgeously bright and sunny over here, and I’m waiting for my coffee to cool before taking the first sip.
Mornings like these bring a smile to my face.
Look after yourself,