This week, I attended my second CBT session with
Uncle Fester the lovely Jim.
God love the man, but he genuinely takes an hour to ask a question.
CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is designed to understand why you’re thoughts are what they are. It’s a mindfuck, basically. And for an hour each week, Jim will evaluate my reactions towards specific things that have happened since our last render-vouz. This post is basically to outline what happens when you start attending the Crazy Clinic, and why it’s actually not that bad.
Every Wednesday, I’ll wait in the reception area until I see his wee, round moon face. He’s a delightful guy, seems to know his stuff and always, ALWAYS comments on the weather as we walk to the consultation room. It’s a big white room with two chairs, a computer and a filing cabinet. He has a Reebok backpack and wears the same shoes as Nuns. Those wee clunky black things. So fetch.
The reception is shared with the dental department on the other side of the building, so sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is there because they’re a lunatic or if they need a filling. This week there was a woman crying with her head in her hands and rocking in her seat. So I’m thinking her dental was stronger than her mental, na’mean?
Anyway, we’ll usually go in, sit down and wait for him to find the bits of paper that he needs. He’ll go over what we discussed last week, and always say this before we start:
‘So the point in these first few appointments is to get to know you and why you’re here, and what you want to achieve by coming here. Okay?’
Aye, okay Jim.
We started using little sheets called Behavioral Models which break down a specific event that occurred during the last week. The event has to be of a negative nature, so this week I used the fact that I didn’t get into my chosen uni course. It didn’t cause a flare up, but it was the only real negative thing to happen.
The models look a little bit like this, except I have to write under the headings. This one has already been filled out by some poor soul.
I think Jim gets pissed off with me sometimes because I start blethering and going off subject, a sign – he says – of why I’m there. Refusal to ‘open up’.
I’m an Ice Queen, mate. A bottler, a closed book, a mystery to all.
That kinda thing.
Anyway, we use that model to promote conversation about how my wee head deals with negative news or bad vibes in general. He seems to think that I took the uni news well, compared to how I would’ve dealt with it in March – alcohol, not eating and toying with the idea of legging it to Dublin.
Jim’s job is to take my thoughts, actions, physical reactions and emotional behaviour then cause me to question why they stick with me. Instead of just fading away like most thoughts, my mind holds onto some bad things and causes me to react in certain ways. The week before, we looked into why a high school ‘frenemy’ had piped up and caused me to briefly consider doing stupid things. Why does her opinion matter? Why would a so-called sane person like her want to get a reaction? The truth is, her opinion didn’t matter – it still doesn’t. But my mind is impressionable, so it stuck and hit a nerve.
CBT is bit like tidying your room.
You don’t want to do it, but you have to because otherwise your mind becomes a tip. You’ll go into corners and find the most hideous mess and have to put it in a bin bag, and you’ll probably find things that are embarrassing and hurtful, but they need tidied up too. It makes you realise how many memories, experiences and feelings your brain processes on a daily basis. And if you have depression or anxiety, those things become more relevant and stronger than they need to be. You cling onto shit, basically. CBT is there to establish the links with those and your illness, and eventually snap them.
As the appointment goes on, Jim tries to explain why my brain is struggling to let go of hypothetical situations. He says that some people, for some reason, can’t see the line between real life and facts, and the little paranoid situation that they’ve fabricated in their heads.
This week, he gave me a little ‘workbook’ to add to my folder. It’s a collection of forms to fill out ‘whenever I feel like it’. Different sheets ask different questions about family life, aspirations, hobbies, health history and shit like that. I think he’s trying to figure out if I’ve been permanently damaged by Daddy Issues.
At the end of each meeting, he always asks if I want to come back. He never assumes. The thing with therapy is that, as intrusive as it can be, it’s on your terms. It’s a consensual fucking of your mind.
He’ll ask, I’ll say yes and we wait another 7 riveting days for our next chat.
There is no long sofa on which I lie down and confess my deep turmoil to a bearded, professor-like chap.
There are no padded walls.
It’s literally talking to a slightly inquisitive, stone-faced bald guy who just wants to know why the fuck you’re so worried.
If you’re given the option, do it. It helps.