My experience with CBT. Part one.
I’ve written a few posts about the affect my endo has on my mental health. A big thing being anxiety raising its ugly head. Please go check out my other post, where I talk a little more about the affect my chronic illness has on my mental health. After suffering in silence for nine or so months I’ve finally got my arse into gear and booked a few sessions with a therapist. After an assessment it’s been decided that a course of CBT is my best option on managing my anxiety.
CBT or cognitive behavioural therapy, is a talking therapy which is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. The idea behind it being that if your current behaviours can be broken down into smaller parts, you may be able to deal with current problems in a more positive way. During your sessions, you will break down any negative thoughts and feelings into their physical, mental and emotional elements and see what you can change about this to help you.
Want I’d love to do it take you guys with me, whilst I complete my CBT and record my thoughts on it and let you know how I’m getting on. Mostly because when offered it I really had no idea what to expect, and demystifying anything can only be a good thing.
My first week involved a chat about what had brought me there, a little about what CBT was about and some of my goals for the sessions. We discussed my anxiety, how I felt when I felt anxious and I where I was/what I was usually doing when it hit.
I really don’t know what I expected from it, but I’m know I really wasn’t prepared for how eye opening it would be. We spent a long time discussing the negative thoughts I would have leading up to either a panic attack or anxious period and I admitted this often involved being overly critical of myself. I was aware I did this but it wasn’t until this session I realised that critical voice almost always called me lazy. Whether I was in bed, unable to clean the house or calling in sick for work this voice told me I wasn’t trying hard enough, wasn’t working hard enough and wasn’t good enough.
As hard as this was to hear, and as hard as it has been to write that, it has meant, I am now aware I do this, and I hope if I achieve nothing else after this I would love to be able to manage those negative thoughts a little better.
I was offered a few exercises to begin with, mostly just to help control my anxiety. Including breathing exercises and grounding techniques. I have already tried to put into practice some of these and I’d like to keep you up to date with how useful I find them.
I’m well aware I have had one session and it’s very early days but here’s a few tips I think I’d have liked someone to have told me.
How to get the most out of your CBT sessions.
1)Don’t feel like you have to stick with the first therapist/councillor offered. This person will be discussing difficult, often upsetting topics with you. You need to mesh well with them and there’s nothing wrong with finding you don’t. The process of requesting a new councillor will obviously vary depending on how you’ve accessed this care but don’t feel like you have to stick it out.
2) Have an open mind. PArt of the reason it has taken me so long to get myself through the door of this councillors door is that I was a little sceptical how much this could possibly help me. We all have internalised bias, and I have found that I very much except a medication for an alignment but find it harder to accept any kind of non-medicated treatment. This isn’t because I’m not aware how effective some of these treatments can be, it’s more a case of only ever being offered the former. So go in with an open mind and it may just help.
3) Be realistic. One of the first things they tell you is that this isn’t a quick fix scenario. CBT may help you manage and alter some of your behaviours that take a negative affect on your mental health but I is unlikely to eradicate them entirely. I struggled less with this. I suppose the thing with having a chronic illness with no cure is you get used to the idea of a symptom/aliment being a constant feature that needs to be managed as opposed to something that can be fixed.
4) Commit to it. The nature of this kind of therapy does mean you’ll have things to work on between sessions. FOr instance after my first session ive been asked to apply the breathing techniques we worked on during times when I’ll feel anxious and see how it helps. Additionally I’ve been asked to note down any times I begin to have negative thoughts about myself, and record where I was, was I alone and how I was feeling at the time. So yeah if you want it to work you’re going to have to be prepared to do some work in between your sessions.
That’s it for now. As I say it’s very early days, but one week down and I’m feeling optimistic. I’ll keep you posted.