Monday, 20 June 2016

Mental Health : Talking Therapies

Not so long ago I felt as thought I was drowning. Things felt overwhelming, for no particular reason. I wanted to shut myself away and not have to deal with life. It was an effort to make myself go to work, despite loving what I do. It was even harder to train. I was tired, bodily tired. Little things became a big deal. I couldn't pinpoint what was the root cause, which meant I struggled to know what to do.

What I did do was to resort to some methods I've found useful in the past. I made myself get out the door for at least a walk every day because I know how beneficial exercise and daylight is to mental health and general well being. Yoga became increasingly important to me. I found myself adjusting my goals on almost every effort. I went for blood tests to check my iron and B12 weren't low again. I took to journalling more, making myself talk to people, sending a brain dump to a friend I knew would understand.

I lurked on a couple of support groups for people with anxiety and depression and was plagued with this feeling that everyone else's problems were bigger than mine, that I was a fraud for being there, that I wasn't deserving enough. When I was finally brave and posted my first message, full of these anxieties, I was blown away by the welcome. I didn't realise until that moment just how much I'd been holding on to.

The biggest step I took was to refer myself to Talking Therapies. Talking Therapies is a friendly and approachable service that helps people with problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias, panic, stress and OCD. That help could be in the form of an online course, guided self-help or a stress control groups. In some cases they can even provide counselling. And it's all for free on the NHS. 

My first contact over the phone with my therapist, Emma, involved a chat about how I was feeling, what had been going on in my life and what sort of therapy might be best for me. It was decided that the online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT would be most appropriate. I could dip in and out, use the online journalling facility and have phone calls every couple of weeks with Emma. Although Emma was not providing a counselling service, I was able to talk to her a little about things, get stuff off my mind, and she listened, was supportive, but always guided me towards finding my own solutions. Whenever I've suffered what I would term a socially acceptable moment of hardship, like a death in the family, people have been quick to offer their time and ears "any time" but it's so hard to believe that you can take that offer up. You don't want to worry your friends and family. Sometimes it's easier to open up to a stranger.

The CBT course felt very common-sensical and I was highly dubious as to how it would help. But I persevered, dipped in and out, went back and forth over it, worked through some of the Thoughts Feelings and Behaviours cycles for myself and did find it useful in understanding why I was feeling the way I was. It didn't provide solutions in itself but understanding is the first step to figuring out how to fix things. A holiday, more sleep, a bit more breathing space between new projects at work; small changes that helped a great deal.

Mental health is a hard thing to talk about. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm not trying to be all woe-is-me, but I've been comforted and inspired by others who have been remarkably honest and open about their own issues on blogs and so all I hope is that sharing my experience will do the same. Mental health is just like physical health. Sometimes its good and sometimes it's not and you don't always have full control over it. What you can do is learn how best to manage it.

Now I've been discharged from Talking Therapies (after just 4 of the maximum of 6 review calls with Emma) I'm focussing on maintaining my wellbeing; understanding my triggers, learning to spot them and put measures in place to avoid them in the first place. It's likely I'll get relapses but hopefully I'll be able to cope with them and they won't be as bad. Staying active, making time for myself, not saying yes to everything, getting enough sleep... all of these are things I need to be better at.

I would recommend Talking Therapies to anyone suffering from low mood, anxiety or depression. It's hard to be brave and ask for help, but once you do you realise that you're certainly not alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment