Eight months ago I was referred for and started CBT. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I didn’t know what to expect and I actually planned to blog my way through it, thinking that maybe my journey might help someone else in the same situation. I wasn’t ready though for the intensity of this one. I wasn’t prepared at all, and I can only apologise for the blanks over here. It’s been hard. Really hard. So what has CBT taught me?
I am resilient. I’ve had to be. I cannot crumble. I cannot allow my mind to tear apart or my body to crumple to the ground. I do not belong there. I am strong. I can have my bad days, my want to stay under the cover days. I can have my anxious days, my sweating palms on the steering wheel days. I can have my fat days, stupid days, useless days. I can have them, as long as I pick myself up again afterwards. And I always do.
I am stronger than I realised. Through talking, and working my way through my responses to situations I’ve been shown all the ways in which I’m strong. My strength has come in many disguises and is shown in many forms, but it is strength none the less. And not just in the years since my son was born, but in times before then too. Situations and experiences that have shaped me since childhood have been analysed, discussed and put to sleep. And I have seen how strong I am.
I am a good person. I’m not useless. I’m not stupid. There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with me. I needed some help in learning how to change my responses to certain situations, and the methods I’ve been taught are still very much ‘works in progress’. But I’m not a bad person. I can see this, even on dark days. I am learning how to love myself. I am doing this by caring about me. Not above and beyond anyone else, but as well as. And that’s huge.
I have PTSD. And now that I know this, I am stronger in the face of my trauma. PTSD is a normal response to trauma, and I have experienced not one, but two points of trauma. See point two. I am stronger than I realised.
I am not afraid of labels. I used to think that being labelled with PND was so terrible because I was a person and people shouldn’t have labels. I hated it on my notes- I still do- and I didn’t want anyone telling me I was depressed. I never realised that was because it wasn’t true. I wasn’t depressed. I have never suffered from post natal depression. And I am not rejecting this because I think it’s shameful or because there is a reason to hide it from the world. I am rejecting this because it isn’t me, and for so long I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. Knowing, having the PTSD label, has been a comfort.
I suffer from anxiety. At the start of my first session, my anxiety levels were recorded as high. High enough to need to work on some stuff. At the start of my last session, my levels were low. Low enough for my counsellor to agree to a phased discharge, but I know enough now to realise that the decision to leave my referral open for further sessions if and when they’re needed is a good one. My anxiety peaks and wanes and it’s up to me to handle it. It’s also up to me to know when I need some help with that.
I can talk about my son’s birth without crying. This one is huge for me. For so long I have refused to speak about what happened ‘in real life’ because I knew that the words would get stuck, I would feel like an idiot, and I’d never get across just how horrific it all was. There were parts I could speak about and parts I never would. There were parts my brain had told me to forget and those parts, it seems, will never emerge now. But last year, I spoke about my son’s birth at three different conferences, to three different audiences. Not only that, but I unpicked it carefully with my counsellor during an extended session, whilst the trauma was live. And I was ok.
This is going to be a long journey. I am not ‘cured’. CBT has not been the magical solution I may have been looking for once upon a time. My trauma is now part of me and I am starting to accept that it won’t ever go away. I am instead learning how to live with it, and how to cope with the bad days a little better than I have previously. I am also learning to accept that it’s ok to have bad days too.
I’m going to be ok. I’m not done with it all, not yet. But I can- finally- see a chink of light at the end of this tunnel. I can see a future filled not with sunshine and rainbows, but with the means to get on and deal with stuff. I can see alternatives, decisions, crossroads. No dead ends, not any more. And I know I’m going to be ok.