Apologies for my lack of post last week, and also for my delay in the one before that. It’s been a busy couple of weeks and a lot has happened. I’m attempting to get my shit back together though – although, I think I’ve done pretty well considering I’ve stayed consistent with two posts a week up until now. So, credits to me. Anyway, I’m going off topic again. One of the main things that’s happened is that I’ve started yet another course of CBT, following a diagnosis of depression earlier this year. I know what you’re thinking, I’m ticking off a hell of a lot on the mental health bingo card. I should definitely get loyalty points.
Anyway, a combination of anxiety induced IBS and IBS induced anxiety was also contributing to a hefty old dose of depression – as well as the usual crippling shame and self-loathing that’s always been there, so following a self referral to B&NES Talking Therapies, I was given another assessment and it was initially decided I would enrol on some online CBT.
I’d heard mixed reviews about the online CBT stuff, but I knew from past experience that waiting lists were pretty hefty and I also knew there were probably people worse off than me on that list – people like me from 2016. So, I decided to give it a go.
I don’t want to majorly slag it off, because there were definitely aspects of it that I can see would be helpful in the right context. However, I personally didn’t find it majorly helpful. They give you a lot of theory on how thought patterns and such work, and while I don’t want to sound big-headed, it was stuff that I already knew. A combination of a psychology degree and A LOT of CBT over the years has meant that I’m well aware of the basics of it and how anxiety/depression works – I don’t need an app telling me what I already know. Having said that though, I can see how someone that has absolutely no experience with CBT would perhaps benefit, so I think it could be a good idea as maybe a stepping stone into further treatment.
There were some fairly good tools in the online CBT app – there was a journal, a template to map out your triggers, thoughts and behaviours, and there were also questionnaires and graphs allowing you to track your progress. I really liked the “daily tasks” feature, where you could plan to do wellbeing tasks and general things you enjoyed each day, and then you could mark them off as done or defer them to the next day. At first. It was quite a faff adding each task to the planner and as weird as it sounds, I didn’t quite get the satisfaction I usually get from physically crossing something off a list with a pen or marking a symbol in a box to check something off.
Combined with that, there was the issue of motivation too, as there often is with these things. On days where I was feeling good, I would really make an effort to complete the tasks and answer the prompts, but on the days where I felt like crap, it was all I could do to not throw my laptop out of the window in frustration at being asked such dumbass questions.
So, my verdict – probably not for everyone, but more than likely would be beneficial to those who haven’t done any form of CBT before.
Following my initial assessment, I had my follow up phone appointment two weeks later, where I admitted that I wasn’t finding the online CBT particularly useful. I’ve always been more likely to stick to something when it’s a legitimate appointment that I have to physically set aside the time for, and when there is an actual person relying on me to be there for it. The practitioner who I spoke to (and who carried out my assessment) was really nice about it and gave me two options. The first one: I could continue with the online course, but this time, it would be “supported,” where one of their team would have access to what I was putting into it and would provide feedback and phone support. In a way, that might have worked, but considering that on multiple occasions I was drunkenly entering “WHY AM I SUCH A FUCKING FAILURE?” or phrases to that effect, it probably wasn’t a good idea. Although maybe it would have given them some proper insight, I don’t know.
Anyway, option two was to be put back on a waiting list for some low intensity CBT. Another one to check off the mental health bingo, am I right?! I expressed my concern following what I was told when I was discharged from my last course of treatment – that I wasn’t entitled to any more – but it turns out, because this time around, my main issue is depression and anxiety, I would qualify for more. However, as per usual, there would be a waiting list of 4-6 weeks. Now, I was told 4-6 weeks when I was initially referred for my last lot of treatment, and if you’ve kept up with my Therapy Diaries series, you’ll know those weeks were actually months, so I wasn’t all that convinced.
However, I have to give them credit here, because exactly 6 weeks to the day, I was contacted and given my first appointment. I was given the choice of phone or video appointments, and up until this point, it had all been done by phone. I’m not sure why I decided to go with video consultations in the end, but I guess maybe it felt a little bit more personal and therefore a bit easier to develop that rapport with who you’d be working with.
At the time of writing, I’m two sessions down, and so far, things have been going pretty well. I really like my practitioner, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is a huge factor in how successful things are (not just for me, but probably for most people engaging in this sort of treatment). We haven’t really got into anything too meaty just yet, but I’m keeping thought diaries and my most recent session looked at some of the dumbass things my brain comes up with when I’m stressed/tired/drunk/interpreting virtually any situation to be something it really fucking isn’t. I feel good about it. Upon starting it, I’ve come to terms with the fact that a lot of the I’m dealing with have always been there – how I feel about my appearance, where I am generally with adulting, how I interpret things that most normal people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at – and because OCD and emetophobia would always take centre stage, those issues never really got dealt with. So, I guess now’s a good time to work on them. You know, before the world goes back to normal and OCD comes back with a vengeance.*
*That right there is an example of one of the many unhelpful thinking styles I adapt on a daily basis. I have identified it. Progress bitches.
Anyway, I plan to do a Therapy Diaries post on this when I’ve completed the treatment, but a lot has happened since my last MH update, and I haven’t really checked in for a while, so I wanted to put a little something out there. Plus, I’m running out of content ideas.