it’s no secret that I have mental health issues, Which I am completely unashamed to admit. I mean in this day and age who doesn’t have or know someone who has battles with their mental health.
When I was very first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and M.E, My mental health was at a real low point, I’d been undiagnosed, unbelieved and ridiculed for over a year by medical professionals, close friends and family (basically the exact people who should not only believe you but love and support you unconditionally). Whilst as an inpatient for my kidney stones and kidney infection (Click here to nosey at My Diagnosis Story!). I was referred to Salford Pain Clinic in Salford Royal Hospital where I was assessed whether I was eligible for one of their intense pain management courses, Unfortunately I was not. The outcome was that I was too emotionally unfit for the course as in their words “I’d not accepted being disabled yet” and until I did the course would not work with helping me cope if I was in denial. I was wait listed for 12 months, a time frame they gave me to come to terms with my diagnosis itself and how it would affect my life. The rejection that’s felt is real when the people who you’re told will help you, tell you they can’t.
Therefore I waited 12 months, Which when I was told, felt like the longest time, but went surprisingly quick. I became pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, I almost completely forgot about referral to the pain clinic to be honest, Until I received a letter from them inviting myself to finally take part in one of their intense programmes. Which I was incredibly lucky and grateful to get on, I will forever be thankful that I was accepted onto it.
The course itself was a combination of trained health professionals offering different types of help, Which all added together would help me to slowly increase my daily activity and positive thinking. Being totally honest with you all, I didn’t think I would get much out of it at all.
You see, When I was just 16 years old, I was diagnosed with depression. To put it as simply and bluntly as they did that day “You have a chemical imbalance in your brain and need to take these tablets”. I was confused and scared, I barely knew what depression was and I thought it was something emo kids pretended to have to look cooler. Not something uncontrollable. Looking back I was too young to go to the doctors alone and be given news like this, But in the UK you’re no longer a minor at 16 so technically don’t need an adult with you.
I went home and told my parents which went nothing how I expected it to, They quite literally exploded at me saying things like “What do YOU have to be depressed about!?” And “How can he take one look at you and say YOU’RE depressed?”, My personal favourite “You’re not depressed your just acting out” and finally “They’re just trying to dope you up!”.
I mean yeah, I could see where they were coming from with each comment, They were upset and rightly so in their eyes as I hadn’t confided in them like they had wanted, I’d confined in a practical stranger to them. Although to me, My mother binning the medication I’d been given was a massive overreaction. After another trip to the doctors the time with my mother, I arranged for six sessions of CBT (Which stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) with Six Degrees for any anxiety and stress my diagnosis may of come with, I left with several appointments and a prescription for another lot of 10mg Citalopram. I started to take the tablets the following day and noticed pretty much straight away that I had more get up and go, But it was my CBT sessions that were sold to me as the ‘fix of all my problems’… the fix, it definitely was not.
Every appointment I attended my therapist was running around 20 minutes late for, He would leave me alone in the waiting room then call me in and explain he was running late so would therefore be cutting our appointent short this week, by twenty minutes. Except he did this every week, Meaning my sixty minute appointment was always just twenty minutes. He would open up all of my wounds and wind my emotions up to the forefront of my mind then just explain the session had come to an end and expect me to walk home like a quivering mess. He left me not only emotionally unstable but in a really mentally dangerous state, at a mear 16 years old. I would manage to stagger my way home, Explain everything to my parents was fine but on my walk home all I would think is self destructive thoughts, I lingered on the motorway bridge in a blank stare, Constantly spiraling within myself for the rest of the day barely speaking to anyone, and feeling nauseous for days afterwards.
After the fourth session, I felt I couldn’t gain anything from feeling like this each week, So I never went back. I explained to Steven and my parents how I felt and my reasons why I didn’t want to return, They understood and were supportive. It was that day that I swore I would never again try talking therapies,
Fast forward five years, I’m looking like I’m about to throw up reading a letter inviting me to yet more therapy except this time with a psychologist instead. In my mind this psychologist was only going to open old wounds again, and a bunch of new ones too for good measure. I remember so clearly my sense of deja vu, Sat in my garden reading that letter with the wind tickling my nose, Just as it had on the motorway bridge all those years ago. This time I had an usual feeling, Something I only felt rarely, Empowerment. I’d just given birth, ME? A chronic illness fighter has just grown and gave birth to her, a perfectly healthy baby! And if I could do that then I could give this therapy thing a second go surely? And you know, I’m so glad I did.
My psychologist was/is one of the real gems of the world, and I know she was only doing her job but she did it fantastically! Every week for over a year I attended pain Centre, I became on first names terms with the staff and genuinely felt like it was a safe place to share. My partner Steven would come with me to every single appointment, which helped me massively, he always said he would support me every step of the way but giving one of his dinner hours up a week to help me to get better meant so much to me even still now. He is my safety blanket after all so I wouldn’t of done it without him.
At first the chats were easy talking about things I enjoyed, how I felt about motherhood and adjusting to being a disabled mother, As the time went on the tone of the chats became more serious, chatting about my childhood, my parents and my emotions about my illness. It was then it became a struggle. But not like before, Nothing about these sessions were even remotely like those I had at 16. These were structured, on time, precise and above all I felt like she genuinely cared about what I was saying whether it was me moaning for an hour or me pouring my heart out, she listened and I mean really listened. She warmed the sessions up with the same few questions, asking how I’d been, how was Nancy and had I been up to much. She asked how my illness was and how my symptoms were, Which usually always led the tone for the rest of the session, During the cool down towards the end of the session she would talk about positive things like how I handled situations well, how I’d been coping, what I was doing well and explained that she thought I was doing great, Which no matter how many times you hear it, Always makes you feel good when it’s said with sincerity.
My psychologist helped to learn me tools that have lasted me every single day since, I have learnt how to calm myself down when having a panic attack and not to just rely on Steven to help like I used to, She (along with my current therapist) has taught/ teaching me how to be more confident about myself and not so hard on myself also. She has helped me to mostly control my severe anxiety and when my course of treatment ended I was genuinely upset, It almost felt like I’d lost friends.
I was a little lost after finishing my treatment, I’d really got used to chatting and lightening my mental load every week with someone I felt safe talking to no matter what. Although my GP set me up with a new therapist for when my treatment ended, As my Pain Centre therapist thought it would be for the best if I carried on with a less intense treatment, meaning I would be trying another course of CBT.
Before I was sent to the right place, and the right therapist, I had to have few assessments by different healthcare professionals at my GP surgery and my local hospital. Meeting my new therapist I felt so sick with nerves, That nervous in fact I thought about bailing beforehand. I had made an assumption that we just wouldn’t click like me and my previous one did, and it would be exactly like my first CBT experience.
In a dark office block in Manchester is a light bright floor which very much looks like your standard NHS hospital does, except this entire floor of the office block is dedicated to talking therapies of all kinds. My kind is CBT and my new therapist specialises in patients with chronic pain, Which makes her understand my situation and illness so much better.
For the sake of confidentiality we’ll call my new therapist Sue. I’ve been seeing Sue weekly for a few months now and I can honestly say It’s changing my life. Mainly because of the difference between my CBT sessions now and my old psychology sessions has, Which is the homework I’m given to complete at home (obviously!). The homework is my therapists way of giving me the tools to help myself to rebuild and recover from my own anxiety after my sessions have finished, At the moment I have weekly activity charts to fill out which I can monitor my levels of high and low activity on, This chart is to help get me out of the boom and bust activity cycle that I’ve been in recently. (If you fancy reading more about the Boom and Bust Cycle, Click here).
The second thing I usually have in my homework file (yep, I have a file, I’m so organised these days ha!) is a negative thoughts chart, Which I only write in when I’m having a bad day and having lots of negative thoughts. I write in how I was feeling before thinking like that, How it made me feel, How I acted on it, Why I think I thought those things, Were those thoughts rational and what activity was I doing before thinking like that. Which at the time of writing you feel mega stupid doing actually writing down your thoughts which you know are irrational but you can’t help thinking them, But actually writing it down and reading it days later makes you feel a little odd. Similar to reading someone else’s thoughts and feelings, not your own, That’s why when you read it back you feel a sense of sadness of how you felt and the scary, destructive thoughts that were circling your mind. I learn so much about myself and how to deal with my own negative thoughts, hence the homework giving me the tools to help myself. I’ve been given other pieces of homework too, One of my most recent pieces was to come up with a selection of questions I’d like to anonymously ask mothers. Which Sue and myself have used to make a survey with to get answers from parents from all over the country, The questions are mainly to do with my mum guilt and coming to terms with not being the perfect parent which I struggle with, although I know nobodies a perfect parent, I still beat myself up over it daily and Sue is hoping this survey can help me to see that I’m not alone in this.
For the next few months, Sue will be building my confidence and helping me to overcome some of my biggest mental obstacles in the hopes that I’ll be stronger by the end of my sessions and able to deal with anxiety and low self esteem myself in future. I’ve made so much progress already and I didn’t even realise, Every week in the cool down Sue explains that I’m doing great and what I did well that particular week, and I’m kind of used to hearing it now, without sounding big headed. But when you actually realise it and realise how far you have come, There’s that wonderful sense of empowerment again.
I have gone from living my life confined to a bed, Unable to get downstairs or even to the bathroom alone, To spending my days raising my daughter and running my own home. I adore my life, So wholeheartedly now, I remember lying in that bed dreaming that my life would one day be as it is now. How crazy is that to think about, I literally daydreamed in bed that I would one day be a mother and have my own little place to call home, and now I’m living it. That even brought a smile to me face even typing that.
Although I’m still learning so much about myself with every session of CBT, I have already learnt so much already, The main thing I have realized is that I give second chances and I will always give second chances because if I would of stuck to my promise to myself of never again trying CBT, I wouldn’t be where am I progressing and rebuilding daily.
So next time you’re about to say no to something again, Think about this post and maybe try saying yes. You never know when something will be a lesson or a blessing.
I hope you all get to try CBT or talking therapies one day,