Okay so following on from my last post, I just wanted to write about my CBT journey and how/why/what helped me.
When I first got referred, I did think that it’d take ages, because from my understanding, waiting lists for the NHS are usually endless and I suppose they put people with the highest priority to the front of the queue. Even though I knew I was feeling low, I was sure that there were lots of people a lot worse off than me.
The hospital rang me a few days later and told me that they wanted to ring me in a couple of days to have a chat about what my main problems, thoughts and worries were, allowing them to decide what the best course of treatment would be from there. I was dreading that phonecall. I’d have to tell another stranger everything all over again just like I did with the Dr and the same surge of anxiety washed over me and I started to panic. What if they thought I was being a bit OTT and didn’t think I was suitable for any treatment?! What if I was left in this dark hole? What would happen? A tiny slice of me knew these were stupid thoughts because otherwise the Dr wouldn’t have referred me, but the anxiety was just a whole lot stronger than my rationale. They gave me a time that I should expect them to call, and that was it. From that Wednesday morning until 15:30 on Friday (two days later) seemed like eternity and my anxiety only grew and grew. Ugh.
As 15:30 was approaching, time just seemed to slow riiiiight down. A bit like the last 2-3 weeks of your pregnancy – time literally took forever. It came and went and that made me even more scared because then I was questioning whether or not they were even going to call. Or if I’d got the day wrong; freakishly checking my calendar, notes, emails and texts to make sure. They finally rang and my heart was in my throat. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, or swallow, or muster up any form of voice to even say hello. Her voice was friendly though, and I remember that even though it was a tiny amount, just that put me at ease. She asked me a series of questions and I answered them as best I could. Tears flowed and my heart rate must’ve been sky high for the whole duration. At the end, she said she was just going to confer with her manager and then get back to me shortly to let me know what they’d like to offer and when I could start.
Just like she’d promised, she rang back soon after and told me that they’d like to offer me CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and that they’d love to get me in the following week on Wednesday. She explained that CBT was different from traditional counselling because it only focuses on the ‘here and now’ and it will ultimately give me the tools to change my thought process and change it into a positive one. I took a huge sigh of relief but realised that shit was about to get real. The only thing that stood in my way was 5 days. I knew I could do it, but actually getting through them was tough. It’s crazy, but unless you go through it – you’ll never be able to understand how entirely exhausting it is living with anxiety, depression and insomnia. Even when all you do is sit on your sofa all day – you’re just so so tired. The most sleep I got every single night was 2 hours and even the tablets I got prescribed (they just made me drowsy – a bit like an antihistamine) took ages to work and I always woke up feeling horribly groggy.
Wednesday came around and my appointment was at 1pm I think. I dropped Jax to Ole’s mum and drove the journey there in silence. There was no space in my brain to be hearing anything on the radio. I got there, parked and slowly walked into the building. I had to sign in and the lady told me to take a seat. Straight away I needed to go to the toilet. I felt an overwhelming sense of nausea and the smell of hospital didn’t help. I’ve never had a problem with hospitals or what they smell like but all of my senses were heightened for some reason. My hands were unbelievably clammy and it felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I went to the toilet 3 times before my name was called. The lady who called my name was beautiful and friendly looking. She instantly reminded me of Paisley from Tattoo Fixers.
She showed me to a room which was small with a window at the end. The 2 armchairs were green and there was a box of tissues and a couple of pens on the table. There was a whiteboard too which I could tell had been there a while because it was stained a bit from the markers being rubbed out a million times over. She told me to take a seat and that she’d be back shortly because she needed to go and print some things. My face felt so hot and I just sat in a trance until her soft voice saying “Here we go” brought me back to reality. I had to fill in a questionnaire type thing which gave me and overall score on how mild-severe my anxiety and depression were. We wrote a ‘problem statement’ together and I remember that being really demanding of the little brain power I had. I felt a bit like a broken record in a way. I’d kept this in for months and in the last 2 weeks I’d told 3 strangers and gone through it all 3 times. After we’d written the PS, time was nearly up and she handed me a booklet and we read over the first page together. There was a little exercise in it and she told me it’d be good if I could complete it by the next session, the following week. It was weird; especially coming from somebody who has loathed homework since the dawn of time – but I was actually quite excited to complete the task. I almost wanted to do it as soon as I got back in the car but decided that probably was a bit keen.
From then on, we met every Wednesday at 1pm. The routine was good and I looked forward to seeing Fran and going over the previous weeks homework she’d set. I’d say it took a good 4 or 5 sessions for the anxious feeling of going there to subside. She would ask me what it was that was making me anxious; of course I already knew her, I knew the building, I had a rough idea of what we were going to be doing in the session but I just could not put my finger on it. Over the weeks I learnt about thought processes, how doing or thinking one thing can lead to a chain of negative feelings, thoughts and problems. I set myself 3 medium term goals and a few short ones, I kept an activity diary for a whole week. Slowly but surely, I was gaining control of my life again and it was empowering. Setting goals like ‘hoover the lounge’, ‘take the bins out’ and ‘make a nice home cooked meal’ instead of ‘clean the whole house’, ‘buy loads of healthy food, make meal plans and stick to it regimentally’ made a HUGE difference to my confidence. Setting tiny, achievable goals meant I could set myself more and each task wasn’t that daunting. It still required every molecule of energy in my entire body to do, but actually getting something done couldn’t have made me any prouder at that point in my life.
I remember nearer the end of my treatment (when my anxiety had almost disappeared), Ole had told me that he was going to Fabric in London. I told Fran about it on the Wednesday and he was going the next night on Thursday. I have no idea why but my anxiety just went through the roof again. I felt really shit in myself and felt like I’d let myself down. That Thursday night, I was awake till 05:30 going out of my mind in worry that something bad was going to happen to him. I was crying, my hands were clammy, I couldn’t keep still. The worst part was that one half of me knew that everything I was thinking was absolutely ridiculous and that he was going to be fine and I should just go to sleep. But the other half of me was screaming in fear. I was checking my phone every 15 seconds because I’d completely convinced myself I was going to get a call to say something awful had happened. It was horrendous. I must’ve finally passed out from exhaustion and Jax woke up at 7am full of beans. I had a text from Ole saying he was home safe and sound and I felt like the biggest idiot on the planet. The following Wednesday I spoke to Fran about it and she told me something I’ll never forget; “Your thoughts are not facts. Unless you have concrete evidence, NEVER let your own thoughts take control of your life or lead you into a frenzy.” I felt like I’d never heard anything more true in all of my existence.
I remember feeling all sorts of emotions when my treatment came to an end. I was excited and immensely proud that I’d actually got to this point of being discharged. I was going to miss Fran so so much and she’d done so much for me in more ways than she’ll ever know, and in more ways than I could even try and explain. It was crazy but for my last session, we ended up in the room where I had my first ever session. I’d really come full circle. We read over the problem statement that we’d written from that first day and I burst into tears. It was painful to hear it all and realise how low I actually was in comparison to that final day. It also made me sit back in my seat and go ‘wow, I have actually come a hell of a way. How proud am i?’ Fran asked me if I was able to pinpoint what it was that ultimately helped me get better/on the road to recovery, and I couldn’t. I still don’t think I can now, all these months later. I suppose it was a mixture of everything. All I knew was that I was finally starting to get the reins back on my life, I had a more positive outlook, I wasn’t shit scared of being on my own (even for an hour I would’ve cried the whole time), and I was gaining confidence by the day. Fran was amazing and I can never thank her enough for just being there. She kept telling me that she didn’t do anything and that it was all me but she’s like the Angel Gabriel in my eyes. Just being able to talk to somebody who is entirely non-judgemental, can empathise with you and bring you back up when you couldn’t get any lower is the most amazing gift and blessing.
I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more, I honestly don’t think there’s anybody in this whole world that wouldn’t benefit from getting CBT. Even if you’re not feeling absolutely terrible; the fact that it basically gives you the tools to change your thought process to pretty much always being a positive one is just insane. The benefit that has on your own life and everybody around you is enormous. Everyone has their shitty days, and yes I do too – sometimes I have a few shitty days in a row. But the difference is that I know that nothing is actually that bad. There is always a positive to a negative and the more positive you are in your every day lives, the better and happier life you’ll be able to lead. I can honestly hold my hands up now and say I don’t think there’s much that could phase me or bring me down, and I take everything with a pinch of salt.
Apart from deciding on whether or not to go forward with my pregnancy and Ole and I breaking up, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but also the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. All I had to do was look at Jax and it’d spur me on even further to get better. I had the most amazing support around me and I can never thank my family and friends enough for being there during that time. I understand there are people out there who have no support network at all and I honestly do not know how you do it, but I just want to say that if ANYONE is feeling down/scared/worried/depressed/like life is getting on top of you – please don’t hesitate to email or message me and please do seek that professional help because you’ll never look back. It’s changed my life and it can change yours too. CHOOSE HAPPINESS!!
If you’ve made it this far, I love you loads and thank you so much. I’ve always said if I can help just one person, writing and videoing all of this is totally worth it. Like I said in my previous post; I did film a video about my mental health, so if you want to watch, please CLICK HERE.
Again, thank you so much. Lots of love, J xxx
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