Thursday, January 7, 2016

Touching base

It's been a while since I really updated any platform on my progress fighting the evil of the brain, so thought it was time I put fingers to keys again and got writing.
This all comes on what in theory is a breakthrough day for me. Having spent the majority of the past week away from social media, and deleting all my contacts on Facebook, today I flicked the switch to get back online. It is also the day that I saw my first real person face to face about the therapy I have been longing for since November.

Let's start at the beginning shall we. The social media blackout, why and did it help?
First up, why. Well because sometimes the world can become a really noisy place, and to hear yourself think, you need to turn off the distractions of what is for a better word a fake life, and concentrate on the realities surrounding you. Spending hours a day viewing and sharing words of wisdom, cute animals, and crazy peoples rants (yes mine!) is all well and good, but when the time comes to prioritise, it isn't hard to guess which has to go. The silence is amazing, in both a very calming way, and also a very anxious way, especially for me. With FB being a primary point of contact for some people, I feel I might have cut my nose off to spite my face.

So did it help. Obviously not from reading the above paragraph you might think.Well, wrong!
After a couple of days, and getting used to the differences it made in my day today life, things become a little more normal. Being what I would describe as an over active user on FB anyway, it is actually quite empowering to find other things to do, and keep things to yourself, for a while at least. That said, it did make me realise how important a role FB has had in certain elements of my life over the years.

Coming back on to FB I had a number of friend requests waiting for me, thankfully a small number, which allows me to adjust my feed as the number grows (if anyone else adds me). It was nice to see some genuine and friendly names, some who I have missed, right there. But in the new world, it's not about the numbers, but more about the quality. I don't want 5,000 friends to look special, I want everyone on there to want to be in contact with me, rather than add through obligation.
In short, I see a controlled reintroduction to FB to be a positive thing. That said, my interactions will be very limited, as will the content I choose to share on there. Old habits die hard, but that is one that has to go.

Next up, therapy, or should I say Psychological Therapies (PT).
Having first been referred back in mid November, and contacted a month later by phone for an assessment, I eventually received an appointment with a real person face to face, for January (2 months from referral). Today was the day.
With a Midday appointment, I was mindful to get there as close to the time as possible as waiting rooms, eye contact etc isn't good for me right now. I get anxious and twitchy. Imagine my delight when not only is there no receptionist to speak to, and confirm you are in the right place, but also no one to tell you the sessions are running 20 mins late. Suffering from anxiety, in a new place for the first time, with no one to speak to, and just left to wait. Is this some sort of acid test or something? Seriously though, I know it is a department of the NHS which is under huge strain right now, and only once you are in the system can you appreciate how stretched it is.
Eventually I was greeted and taken into a room to have a chat. My notes were flicked through, my documentation checked over, and it was agreed that my anxiety is on the increase right now. Imagine that!

She went on to explain that the type of therapy chosen for me by the phone assessor is CBT, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I am no expert on it, and have some reading to do, but the fundamentals seem sound certainly for some issues. Breaking a situation down into 4 categories, thoughts, emotions, physical feelings and actions. So a situation leads you to think something, triggering an emotion, which in turn may result in physical feelings and / or an action. Simple really, and when you run through scenario's, it is easy to see how it works. Learning to take control of a situation which affects you, and preventing the 4 categories becoming negative. As I say though, for some situations that is easy, for others not so.

The session was 30 mins but over ran, partly being the first session, and secondly I think from the sheer complexity of the situation I was trying to put across. It's not just me getting anxious around people, it is a WHOLE lot more than that. A fact I feel was slightly lost, as each time I tried to introduce another part of the issue, it was somehow tied into something I had already said. They are the pro's, they know best, and if there is an association, fine. But from my perspective certain elements are very stand alone.

Towards the end I was asked to give some examples of goals I want to achieve through these sessions. Keeping in mind that the standard package is 6 x 30 min sessions. I think I will be hard pushed to achieve much in that time, especially as I am in a negative frame of mind about the process already. So I am going to think over the coming week and put together notes of issues and goals, and see how they want to approach the matter. I don't want to be patched up, I want to be fixed. I am a complex old beast, and I know I have issues to overcome, and the more I look, the more I find. The whole situation is like taking an old car that has been sitting for years to a garage and asking them to fix it up. The more you strip away, the more broken and damaged things you will find.

A couple of things I found amusing during the session are below.

On asking what kinds of counselling or therapy I have had before, I explained I had counselling and felt good to open up and offload things that had built up. I was told that that isn't what we will be doing, and to forget about the past, as CBT focuses on the here and now. Which is fine.... If your here and now issues aren't a product of the past! The idea that I will just sweep everything under the carpet and start over is a fantasy.

On asking about my physical feelings and actions in a stressful situation, and explaining I use exercise, walking and cycling to get away from the situation, and prevent myself from being able to think, I was told this is a good thing.
When I then explained that these walks could be 8-10 miles, and some days I have done far more, resulting in causing physical pain and discomfort to my feet, legs and back. I was quite simply told, don't do that.
Oh OK, I I just told you a coping mechanism I have found, which I know can be negative, especially when walking in pain, but I should just stop. Turn off the desire to run away and escape, simple as that! I'm all fixed now!

If I tell you I went for a 90 minute 6 mile walk immediately after the session, it might give an indication of how I felt leaving there.
Looking back years in my blog I made an entry when I went for my first counselling session, and how positive I felt leaving there. Without even reading back, although I know I was right in the middle of one of the hardest times of my life, I know full well I felt relief and looked forward to the next counselling session. So I am yet to be convinced that CBT is the way to go for me right now.

In other matters, getting back into cycling has been a great thing for me, really remembering why I loved it so much before now. Slowly increasing the mileage.
Things in my head are far from settled yet, especially with today's adventure. Having built myself up to the fact that when therapy starts, the recovery will come with it. Now I am left with dread that this is going to be a long road.
Sleep improving with a change in diet and intake, planning my days a bit better, and trying not to lay in in the mornings, instead being up by 6.30. My mood diary has been of great help to me, I would recommend doing that to anyone. Weight loss has started, and starting out quite rapidly too, so that feels nice. And getting into a routine of training and making sure I challenge myself physically is also a good thing for me. Keeps me busy, distracted, and focused on myself.

Right, I shall end there for now, my back is hurting from over working myself recently, so time to rest, the only way I know how. Walk the dogs.

Final thanks to that small group of special people keeping me on the straight and narrow, even when I am being an arsehole! I wouldn't be making the progress I am without you all.


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