Cognitive Behavioural Therapy | My Experience So Far

If you know me personally (or just follow me on Twitter) you’ll know 2018 has been the Year Of Mental Health for me. I know I’ve been struggling with my mental health for a while now. However, this was the year I finally got a diagnosis of depression, anxiety and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). A few people have said they’d be interested in reading about my experiences with therapy so far, so here’s a bit of a brain dump to explain the whole process up to now.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy | My Experience So Far

Mental Health Diagnosis

After getting diagnosed in April as severely anxious and depressed, I was recommended an assessment with my local Psychological Services team. This took about three weeks for the phone appointment, by memory. The assessment was an “informal” chat to see how I was doing, what issues I’ve faced which might have contributed to my mental health issues and what type of treatment would be best for me. I always thought that this diagnosis wasn’t accurate for me, but at the time went with it as I assumed the doctors knew what they were talking about.

They decided on a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and I was set to start about 6 weeks after that after finding an appointment slot I could attend. I was also prescribed antidepressants but I only took those for two months as I really didn’t like them, something I have discussed with my doctor.

Group Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

The course of CBT was a group course of 7 weekly sessions. In these, we went through talking therapy where we were taught ways to cope with our depressive spirals, “why” we were depressed and how we can pull ourselves out of a depressive slump. Still not sure why it’s called talking therapy as the patients do essentially no talking, but here we are. While I took away a couple of useful tips from group therapy, I largely thought this wasn’t worth it for me. While the two people running the sessions were lovely, a lot of it just wasn’t relevant to me or why I was there in particular.

Having spoken with the therapists throughout the process, and upon seeing my doctor, we then spoke about Borderline Personality Disorder. My doctor agreed this seemed more fitting for the symptoms I display. While I agreed with the anxiety diagnosis, the severe depression one never felt right to me.

As someone who isn’t deeply depressed and has other issues at hand, I can see why the group sessions would have been useful for others but for me, they weren’t.

One-On-One CBT

Luckily for me, the Psych team agreed and put me forward for further assessment. It took about 6 weeks to get another appointment where I was asked further questions about my own personal issues and what needs dealing with. This one-on-one session allowed me to get a lot off my chest about why the group CBT wasn’t for me and what the issues I needed to address head on were.

The Future

Those closest to me know these issues and have been endlessly helpful with them. Unfortunately, I’ve known for some time that it’s something I need professional help with. While for the most part I’m pretty well-functioning, I’d reached the stage where I knew I couldn’t keep going on as I was. The next step for me is that I’ve been recommended a course of one-on-one sessions to address my issues. I’ve been on the waiting list for this course for three weeks so far.

Thoughts

I know I’m endlessly lucky to have the NHS and its services on the other end of the phone or in person when needed. However, this has been a slow process with no hint of it speeding up any time soon as I’m not a high-risk patient.

Starting in April, only to wait til June to go through a pointless course, to now be back on a waiting list feels to me like it’s been a lot of wasted time. I didn’t think the group CBT sessions would work for me and voiced this to the doctor I saw. Unfortunately they thought they’d help and said to try it anyway. Sometimes the doctors know best, sometimes you’ve got to trust your gut instinct.

While I know the NHS are doing the best they can, I think the system as a whole needs to change. While the group sessions didn’t entirely work for me, I can feel that while I’ve been in the limbo period between that and waiting for the next course, I’ve been getting worse again. Such long waits often do result in detrimental effects to people’s mental health which negates all the hard work put it to improve. For people who really want to change, these waits can be the worst times. That being said, I’m appreciative of all the help I’ve had so far.

Either way, that’s been my experience with cognitive behavioural therapy so far. Obviously things work differently for different people. I have a lot of hope that one-on-one sessions work for me. If you’ve been through CBT I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you think it went for you! Same goes for any of the same issues I have, or a different type of therapy!

Photo credit: Bryoni Burns Photography