Sunday, 6 March 2016

CBT Diaries - Week 2

This week I attended the second session of my CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) group work programme and I have to say that, despite what a positive experience I had in my 1st session, it was a real struggle to motivate myself to go to the second one. There's no way I would have missed it but you know when it just feels like a struggle and like you're really forcing yourself to do something? It  also doesn't help that this group takes place in the morning as this is the time of day which is the most difficult time for me.

Anyway, struggles aside, I managed to get myself there on time and I found myself in quite a positive frame of mind by the time I arrived. Unlike last week I didn't feel any anxiety about this second session, probably because last week went so well and I felt comfortable in my surroundings. I'd done it before so I knew I could do it again. This time the group members had changed slightly as a few people had completed the course so new people had replaced them. Again, this didn't really bother me too much as my anxiety tends to be more situation based opposed to social. 

This week's topic was anxiety and our therapist warned us before we started that we may find it difficult as we would be talking about anxiety in depth. Anyone who suffers with anxiety or panic attacks may know that when you start talking about it, or focusing on it, it can quickly bring on some of the symptoms. Recently I was reading a book about anxiety and specifically around a phobia of being sick (Emetaphobia) which I suffer from and I could feel myself becoming more and more anxious as I read it so I decided that I needed to stop.

We started the session by discussing the feelings we associate with anxiety, both emotional and physical. Some of the words thrown around included nervous, fearful, wobbly, phobic and sick. All of which I happen to feel when I am really anxious. When you look at all these feelings on paper it really is no wonder that the symptoms can unfortunately make us panic more. When I first experienced high anxiety I in fact believed it to be a physical issue opposed to a mental one. I was convinced there was a number of different things wrong with me including epilepsy and having a brain tumour. But as with anything, until you experience it for yourself and learn about it you have no idea what is happening to you. Which in itself is a pretty scary place to be.

Next up we looked at distraction and mindfulness techniques which can maybe help to take our mind off the feelings of anxiety. I threw into discussion some of my own techniques which include dog walking, sipping water, going online / looking at my phone and having a bath. I was surprised to learn that no one else in the group uses baths for relaxation and this was something that I promoted to everyone. It also helped me to learn more about how others suffer with anxiety differently. Where as a dog walk helps to ease my anxiety and improve my mood, it is for some an unbearable task to even leave the house.

Mindfulness can be difficult to practice but it's something i'm working on. For example, when I brush my teeth in the morning I try to concentrate on this activity, how it feels, tastes, sounds etc without letting my mind wonder onto anything else. It's so surprising how quickly the mind does try to move onto something else. You will be familiar with this is you ever drive and arrive at your destination with no real memory of the journey or how you got yourself there. This is because your mind has been so focused on other things.

Another technique I use is visualisation. If for example I happen to be out and about and i'm not feeling too good I will always try to visualise myself comfortable at home in my pjs snuggled up with my pets. This always helps to make myself feel a little bit better.  

The therapist drew a really useful diagram on the white board of how our thoughts and feelings impact on the anxiety and how it becomes a vicious circle. We discussed how by distracting ourselves from our thoughts and worries we should be able to lower our anxiety levels and improve our mood. As some of you may know, this is much easier said than done! Putting this into practice is the daily struggle of anxiety. It can also be quite a difficult thing to accept because in theory we are being told that we are the reason for our illness, when so often we feel completely out of control of what's happening to us.

It always amazes me just how powerful the mind is and how certain thoughts or triggers can induce such horrendous physical symptoms and worse thoughts.

I really know and understand what I need to do, I just need to try my hardest to put it into practice. 

I found it so interesting today that a couple of people commented that I seemed so well in myself. From the outside you probably wouldn't know I was unwell. I don't always look unwell and I manage to get ready, do my hair and make up and paint on my mask for public appearance. I'm also relatively confident in situations where I feel comfortable so I found myself being one of the biggest contributors within the group, which again alludes to idea of confidence. I've also got into the habit of practicing a lot of self care so I had a lot of advice for others in the group which in some ways I guess made me sound like an expert, which I can assure you i'm not. What they don't see are the situations which make me pale, sweaty and a complete nervous wreck - i.e travelling, public transport, driving long distances.... Even though we may experience anxiety differently it doesn't mean that one person is more ill than another. This just goes to prove as well how any mental health issue is referred to as the 'invisible illness'. People unfortunately have to be able to see to believe. 

Overall I found this second session really helpful and encouraging. It really helped me to sum up in my mind what I am doing wrong and the areas I need to improve on. It was also nice in some ways to hear that I looked well and confident as these are things I so often doubt about myself. As sad as it is, when I see or meet people worse off than me it always cheers me up a bit. That sounds awful doesn't it? But it does help me to realise that i'm not as bad as I was back in September when I originally referred myself. It makes me believe that I am coping better than I thought I was and, contrary to what my mind would have me believe, I am getting well again
Past Entries
CBT Diaries - Week 1


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