Hello and welcome to my final thoughts for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Sorry I forgot to post yesterday, but it’s given me a bit of extra time to think about what I’d like to talk about today.
So, as you may or may not know, I’ve had a few rounds of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) now. Initially I was undergoing treatment for OCD a few years ago, and at the time I didn’t think it was helpful. Looking back, it was! A lot of my behaviours have slowly changed over the years since then and my OCD is now under very good control. I also had high intensity CBT last year into this year for anxiety and depression. It’s very weird how therapy works; in the moment it doesn’t seem as though it’s doing a lot. I’d go along every week, tick numbers on a sheet and talk about my feelings and what I’d like to achieve in the next week whilst learning different techniques to help with this. Some were far from useful – I don’t like mindfulness and find that my brain is always far too busy to effectively get it! For pretty much all the mindfulness exercises I didn’t take a lot away. However, there are some things that were very useful, and it’s these that I’d like to talk about a little bit more today!
Linking into the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week which is Body Image, my therapist and I found that low self esteem was a big trigger which would then become a bit of a circle as I’d then feel worse. Over the years with various counsellors we’ve got to the bottom of a lot of why I feel so negatively about myself, but that’s half of the solution. I still needed to learn how to deal with those negative thoughts. One of my pieces of homework was to write down all my positive qualities and what other people saw that was good in me. It’s a pretty challenging task, thinking positively about yourself, and it seemed quite big headed at times saying “I’m good at my job!” or “my boyfriend thinks I’m beautiful!” because I really don’t see it that way! But, as I was told, in the future if I’m feeling low about myself, I can go back to that and see that okay, maybe I’m not so bad!
Another piece of homework was to take time for me. I didn’t realise quite how important this is, and it doesn’t have to be anything big. I was down about the fact that I didn’t seem to enjoy anything I used to and just couldn’t get motivated. We decided that my weekly task from then on would be to make time for myself, even if it was only ten minutes, and combining two of the things that I used to love was a good way to start. My homework was bliss; it was to have a bath and do some reading to relax and make sure that I take that little bit of time for me! I found this to be achievable and it really helped with getting me back into reading.
The final thing that I took away was monitoring my moods. I found it so useful throughout my course to see how my moods were fluctuating through the depression and anxiety scale that’s used (for anyone who’s never filled one out before, you’re given about 7-8 statements and have to circle how often it’s affected you in the past week and it ranges from very mild symptoms such as lack of motivation to the most severe). Because I found that so useful, we decided that I would try to keep a mood diary and we tried out a few different ones. I found the smiley face system to be the easiest – it took just a few seconds out of my day where I would draw a smiley face to show my mood! If I wanted to I could write a little bit about why and it was interesting at the next appointment to see how something that had made me really upset in the week was actually forgotten within days and wasn’t actually a big deal!
I know that CBT isn’t for everyone, but for anyone that’s struggling with mental health I would highly recommend trying it if it’s something that’s offered to you. I was signed up when I was at a low point, but my appointment took a few months. By then I was feeling a lot better but on the encouragement of my doctor I still went; sometimes it’s easier to learn the techniques when you’re not necessarily suffering too much. Time will tell whether the skills I learnt will work if I dip majorly again, but I’m hopeful that I’m a lot stronger and have a good knowledge about my moods to be able to handle them a little bit better!