11 In mental health/ who am I

You know nothing, MrsB

I think I’ve finally found a doctor who gets mental health issues and doesn’t say things like “If you don’t like the side effects of Citalopram you could try Escitalopram. Which is pretty much the same but obviously different because it’s got a different name.”

The new doc is a Kiwi. Southern Hemisphere people are just the best.

A few weeks ago when we discussed my Citalopram prescription – whether to reduce it, increase it, replace it, stop it – she suggested I give CBT a try (CBT stands for cognitive behavioural therapy).

On Tuesday I had my first session and since I don’t know much about CBT at all, I just went with an open mind only hoping that I won’t have to talk about my childhood again.

The CBT practitioner, let’s call him Bob – because he’s not one of those posh private shrink types – looked at my questionnaire (according to which I thought I have no real symptoms of depression anymore, just a bit of anxiety) and said I’m both depressed and anxious.

I said that I actually feel fine right now but just need to learn to fall asleep – my brain races so much when I lie down and the 2-3 hour waits for sleep are exhausting.

Then he asks why I started Citalopram in the first place and I said that the latest “round” (I had a couple of Prozac years in the States in my early 20s) started after the birth of my second son.

That was 10 minutes into the session and from then on I bawled until the end 50 minutes later.

Every time I cry when I talk about this, the rational part of my brain is shouting at me “Geebus, woman! That little child of yours is turning 8 in a month, get over it already.”

But a part of my brain is clearly still broken about this.

Bob had all the empathy of a 60-year old dude and said rather sarcastically in between my sobs: “Yeah. You look ‘fine’ to me. Totally fine.”

I sort of wanted to storm out of the room but I would have caused a scene at reception so I stayed put.

I hope he was being a douche on purpose, to make me realise that I’m not as fine as I keep repeating to myself that I am.

The thing with that birth experience is that the worst thing wasn’t the feeling that I was going to die. The worst thing was the feeling that everyone around me did not care.

You are going to die and there are loads of people around you just looking on and nobody helps… nobody cares…

That is the worst feeling I have ever felt.

Of course once somebody did check how I was doing (they probably got bored waiting) and realised that intervention was urgently needed (HOURS after they should have checked), everything moved at the speed of light and we’re all medically well in the end, but I keep re-feeling that feeling. Whether I like it or not.

Bob simply said “That is trauma. You need to get it treated by people who treat trauma.“

Okey-dokey. Just one more thing to add to my to-do list:

checkbox-square-unchecked-512-fw Pack disposable lunches for kids for tomorrow – museum day.
checkbox-square-unchecked-512-fw Schedule piano lessons.
checkbox-square-unchecked-512-fw Email school about pick-up arrangements tomorrow.
checkbox-square-unchecked-512-fw Buy eggs.
checkbox-square-unchecked-512-fw Get that trauma treated.

The rest of the session we talked about the present and I sobbed a lot because once you start it’s impossible to stop!  I know I bottle things up and sometimes it ALL needs to come out. Tuesday was definitely that day.

It’s not like I don’t ever talk about anything upsetting me, I do, I just don’t verbalise it all in the exact words that are going around and around and around in my head. I’m always trying to cushion the blow for anyone listening, usually my husband, but with doctors I just say it all out and it’s ugly but it’s also liberating.

I’m a textbook case for anxiety causing medical/physical/tangible problems – insomnia aside, I’ve been diagnosed with IBS symptoms in the past and my digestion and stomach pains and all kinds of ‘insensitivities’ are very much connected to my mental wellbeing.  I know that and I can control it from the symptoms side i.e. not eat certain things, but I’m not very good at addressing it from the cause side of things i.e. the anxiety itself!

Not surprisingly, since that outpouring of tears and feelings during that session, I have not had trouble falling asleep. Previous two nights it took me over 2 hours.

So yeah. The session was tough and I felt like I’d been through a boxing match afterwards. I was exhausted. Yet definitely quite a bit lighter.

Yet – I can’t quite make up my mind about Bob. He was a bit too sarcastic at times and a bit too critical. Maybe that is what I need because one of the things I cannot handle well is in fact criticism from people I look up to (thankfully not from randoms).

He was also made comments like “Why don’t you get a nanny who helps you? You don’t look impoverished so that shouldn’t be a problem.”  He knows nothing about my financial situation so I didn’t really like that comment… Just because he’s getting paid for his sessions with me doesn’t mean I’m paying for them (I have good insurance).

I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt though and have a few actual CBT sessions before I make up my mind as to whether he’s helpful in a tough-love kind of way OR whether he actually is an insensitive douche.

The good thing is that I realised that even though I think I know pretty well how my brain works and where it fails, I actually don’t know much at all. Or at least I don’t know how to change things.

I’m always just accepting that I have to live with my glitchy brain, and while there’s nothing wrong with acceptance, I’m starting to think that maybe some of it is actually changeable.  I keep tackling the symptoms with exercise and with what I eat but now it’s time to really tackle the source of the problems – the brain, the thoughts and most importantly what I do with those thoughts.

And it’s scary because a lot of my quirks and ways of thinking have been with me since I can remember so they’re part of my identity. Maybe 40 years of this is enough though and I can change my reactions & behaviours & mindset so that the next 40 years are different / lighter / easier for me and for everyone around me?

And – the hilarious thing is that I absolutely do not know anymore what ‘mind over matter’ actually  means. Time to change the blog name AND the freaking tattoo that I have!?!

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  • Reply
    Trust your gut, not your head or your heart (or any other body part) - mind over matter
    October 8, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    […] been almost 2 weeks since I had my first CBT session with a dude I’m calling Bob. There was not much CBT about that first session, it was mostly just me bawling and offloading a […]

  • Reply
    Juliana McGrath
    October 4, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Also, have you heard of the MTHFR gene mutation? I recently tested for it and was found to have it. It explains a lifetime of sometimes ‘explainable’, sometimes ‘inexplicable’ anxiety. I think you’ve suffered significant trauma with your birth experience and that totally explains your on-off depression and anxiety but it may be worthwhile testing for this too. It’s about your body’s reduced ability to create active folate which affects a whole lot of biochemical pathways, including those that regulate serotonin and dopamine. The good news is that there are supplements you can take that will help, if you have it.
    P.S. I’m a long time reader of your blog and also a mum of 2 boys. I live in Melbourne, Australia 🙂

    • Reply
      October 6, 2016 at 2:12 pm

      Very interesting. I wouldn’t even know how to ask for this kind of a test – in the UK they do as little testing as possible 😉 Are the supplements herbal or actual medications?

      P.S. Good to hear from a long time reader 🙂

      • Reply
        Juliana McGrath
        October 7, 2016 at 3:12 am

        Our family nutritionist recommended we test for it, given my anxiety and other issues in our family (ASD, ADD, anxiety, depression….la, la, la, laaaa!). She gave me a referral and we got another one for my son from an integrative GP. My normal GP couldn’t do the referral. I think it’s all still pretty new, so it hasn’t hit the mainstream GP world yet. However this is a good podcast that explains the condition and also your testing options:

        Here is another one by our family nutritionist, Steph Lowe:

        It’s still early days with us and MTHFR but I understand that the supplements you may need to take are folinic acid (not folic acid) or actual methyl folates. We are waiting to talk to someone about it. So I guess these are medications, rather than herbal.

  • Reply
    October 3, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Bob sounds like a bit of a dick tbh but I’ve heard lots of good things about CBT so it might be worth sticking with – even if that’s not necessarily with Bob.

    I got a lot out of just regular talking with a counsellor whom I immediately connected with. I still go and see him every now and again just to unload everything.

    Don’t be afraid to ‘shop around’ if you feel like Bob isn’t the right “one”.

  • Reply
    Juliana McGrath
    October 1, 2016 at 11:28 am

    I’m ‘an anxious person’ too and I’ve had CBT on and off my whole life – I started with my first child psychologist at 5, ha! But it has helped enormously. Good on you for giving it a go and sharing your story.

    • Reply
      October 2, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      Intersting. I thought CBT was a once-off thing. And – I probably could have done with a psychologist at the age of 5 🙂

  • Reply
    September 30, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    All I can say, is “Best of luck!” – with Bob, with the CBT, of re-evaluating who you are x

    • Reply
      October 2, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      Thank you. The more I think about Bob, the less I want to go back to see him! 😐 Might look for another therapist…

  • Reply
    September 30, 2016 at 8:10 am

    I totally do recommend cognitive behavioural therapy. It did wanders for me although i can not put my finger on what it was what actually made the difference. Understanding your thought process and ability to analyse-clarify your undermining thoughts is a long-term tool. I still use it whenever i start feeling the signs of approaching crash and am now able to get back on track without actually crashing.

    So even if you give upon Bob then give a longer chance for cognitive behavioural therapy. I also id not click with my first therapist (got some help, but still..), but with the second it took just 6 months and then i had to admit that i do not have any pressing issues to discuss with him because i feel good. And i have not relapsed after that (because as i said, i now can catch myself before i truly fall).

    • Reply
      October 2, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      That is really good to hear. I have high hopes, I’m just tempted to try another therapist just to see if with somebody else the experience is still good but maybe a little less ‘rough’.

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