Monthly Archives: June 2015

One Day at a Time Part II

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This is the second post about my learning outcomes and how I’ve changed following Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Depression. When I finished the program I was asked what I LEARNED. And I wrote this out because I find writing the best way to express my ideas in the most coherent way for me.

CBT FOR DEPRESSION: What I’ve Learned
June 23, 2015

I call this program, Train the Brain because I believe that’s exactly what it does. I believe that a combination of the new medication I’m on, and the learning and daily documenting of positives in my life, that were part of this program, resulted in these positive outcomes:

I have changed my thinking patterns and coping strategies to deal with depressionThis has also helped me control my anxiety.

Look for the positive, but more importantly I now WANT to focus on the positive. I had the tools to do this before, but didn’t allow myself to do it. In part, this had to do with feeling guilty that Bob was dead and a belief that I should somehow suffer to make his memory a blessing.

I am the only one who can take control of my life and my mind. I have been given the tools to do this but without the will there is no way this will happen.

It’s not all about me. There were several quotes posted in the room where the group therapy took place. My favorite was:

“What others think of me is none of my business.”

If something went wrong, someone was mad or unhappy, I felt like I did something wrong. The truth is that it’s not all about me, it’s about them. It’s so hard to learn this and even harder to believe it, but if you do it frees you.

The true meaning of living in the moment and mindfulness. This came to me in the last two weeks of the program. It was like a light switched on and that amazing “ah ha” moment came to me.

  • I can’t control what happened in the past. To ruminate over all the bad or sad things won’t make it better. By brooding over past mistakes I can never move forward.
  • I don’t have control over future. Bad things will happen, but good things will happen too. Focusing on “What if?” isn’t going to change the future. In fact, this creates anxiety.
  • In the moment means being PRESENT AT THAT MOMENT. Yes, we are busy. Our mind often moves back to the past, or goes forward to the future, but if we are really, truly aware that the present is where we are, then by focusing on that present moment we make the most of our lives. We don’t rush through every moment and miss it.
  • We can only do our best at any given moment, and maybe by doing this we have less regrets. No more: “should have, would have, could have.” 

Good enough is good enough: I recently read a book about not trying to be a perfectionist because we can never do anything perfectly. I’ve spent my entire life trying to live up impossible expectations, set by me for me. I believe I was trying to be perfect but, of course, could never achieve it. Good enough is good enough.

I am not alone in my struggle with depression. Through my hospitalization and hospital therapies, including the CBT class, I found people who really understand how I’ve been feeling. They have dragged the ball and chain of depression around themselves. These are everyday people you would say ‘hi’ to on the street. They are not “crazy,” in fact most are more sane than some people who won’t admit they are plagued by anxiety and depression and don’t take the time to figure out how to be the best they can be.

Taking time for oneself isn’t a sin but rather a gift we can give ourselves. We don’t need to work 24/7 or always have the cleanest house or the biggest or the best this or that, or work long hours at work to be better. Do you really want your headstone to say “Hard Worker?” instead of “Loving Daughter, Wife, Mother, Friend…?”

I have family, friends and even acquaintances who care about me. I have met people in hospital and through therapies who are kindred spirits. I have friends all over Canada and the US who saved me the night I almost took my life. Through social media, after I posted my concern about finding someone to take care of the cats I had just brought into my life, they sprang into action and contacted friends and family here who came to help.

I am starting to believe that I am capable. I’m still plagued by anxiety (to a lesser degree) and low self esteem (and, to some degree, imposter syndrome). But almost every day someone tells me how I’ve inspired them. I am starting to believe that I am capable of inspiring people and, most importantly I deserve to be happy.

Next post: How I’ve Changed.

 

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One Day at a Time, Part I

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In March I wrote about the fact that I was taking a program – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Depression. This was the second mental health therapy program I’ve taken since I was released from the hospital. It has been a challenge, to say the least.

I’ve been writing about metamorphosis lately and that’s where I believe I am now. I had a meeting with one of the case workers at the hospital who ran the CBT program and I had to tell her What I Learned and How I’ve Changed. So, being me, a writer, I wrote about it.  I’ll break this down into a few posts over the week because it’s lengthy. I will start here with the background to fill in some of the blanks.

June 23, 2015

The past two years has been a tumultuous journey for me. It has also been a time of many epiphanies. To say ‘it hasn’t been easy,’ is an understatement.

I believe I have always suffered from depression since I was teenager. I was diagnosed when I was 40. I was put on medication (Prozac). I weaned off (with my Doctor’s permission) hoping that I would be able to manage without it, but found myself in that dark abyss of depression again, so agreed to go back on the medication. I was on it for almost 20 years.

Despite the medication I have always suffered some symptoms of depression and low self-esteem and extreme anxiety. After Bob died (June 8, 2013) I started a slow decent, fueled by intense grief and (I learned later) the medication no longer working. Instead it was making me more depressed and I became suicidal. My anxiety was out of control. The slightest little issue sent me into a frenzy. I couldn’t think straight. I felt immobilized by fright.

I was hospitalized in October 2014 after an attempted suicide. Doctors quickly diagnosed the biggest issue,  the medication no longer working and, ironically, this meant it was making me even more depressed. I was admitted to the psychiatric ward and my medication changed under the care of a psychiatrist. I attended classes and through the learning was able to label my anxiety issues. My low self-esteem was also at an all-time high (no pun intended).

I was released from hospital approximately a week later and began an outpatient group therapy– Track to Wellness. This program gave me tools to deal with my depression and anxiety and an overview of other group therapies available at the hospital. I requested and was accepted into CBT for Depression.

After a four-week three-hour activation sessions, followed by eight week, three-hour CBT group therapy sessions, including homework every night detailing everything from how I felt on a scale of 1 to 10 about every single thing I was doing to noting what made me laugh, positive events and many other details, I emerged in a very different place than when I started.

Looking back, I do wonder if part of this is be due to the two-year mark after Bob died. Maybe the worst of my grief passed by calendar days. But it’s more likely a combination of many things, the biggest lesson being to “live in the moment” and exactly what that means. I leave that for my next post.

 

Up …Down… Up

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I am trying to write from the heart but my words keep getting tripped up by my mind.

Roller Coaster DarkLife keeps us on a rollercoaster. When we go up it’s exhilarating. Then swoosh down…  down… down… We are scared. We feel trapped.

“Will it go up again? Can it go up again? But then it will go down!” Our mind moves ahead, worrying.

At my lowest point of …down… I was sliding across the gravel. My hands and knees were bruised and bleeding as I skated across with nothing to hold onto. I couldn’t stand up on my own. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stand again.

Along the way I learned lessons. How to see light in the darkness. How to laugh. How to live. How to breathe. Yes, I had forgotten how to breathe.

I want to give you hope that everything will be alright. But the truth is that life’s rollercoaster won’t stop.

Today I am reminded of this. I reached out to someone who is sliding on the gravel. I tried to give comfort. I felt helpless, but I hope I helped. I wanted to go back there to feel my pain so I could speak in a genuine way, but I can’t go back. I shouldn’t. Sometimes I still wrestle with this.

My journey continues. I fought the hardest fight of my life. How did I get through that? Am I through it?

Yes, I am here, now. Yes, I am different. Am I Phoenix rising? (cliché, but feels appropriate because I did crash and burn). No, I don’t want to go back again.

I fight with this back and forth and back again.

I am trying to write from the heart but my words keep getting tripped up by my mind. If I feel too much will I have to go down… down… down again?

Roller Coaster Bright
I have learned there is hope. That down is short lived. That up is around the corner. That I am here, now. That I breathe in each moment, and breathe out another. What comes will pass.

I am spending longer times on the up and less on the down…

I just need to harness my heart and keep living, and writing.