Boring title, but a rather essential, important subject. CBT, in my experience, has been fantastico.
It helps enormously if you have someone - sympathetic friend or family - who can take you through it. I'm extraordinarily lucky in that husband/rock/lover/best pal/soulmate etcetera is a natural at it.
I used to scorn counselling. I'd had a bellyful of it. It did work to a degree - I'd leave feeling a tad lighter, perhaps - but it never actually did the trick, never quite got in there.
Once, after I'd had my son, a lady called Beth counselled me. It was one of those sessions where you let it all hang out. In other words, you talk, she listens. And gawd, did I talk! There were long silences when she'd gaze sweetly at me, waiting for me to gas on...and on...and on...
I'd always hated silences, always felt the need to fill that shrieking gap. I had been brought up to be sociable and believe that silence = boredom. So I ploughed on, and on, and on. I remember jabbering on about wanting to be another Calamity Jane, wanting to part of the wild west scene. Maybe true, but I'd just wished she would respond. She did respond, every now and then, but oh! - I was knackered. I was so relieved by the end of the session I left that room and never returned. I'm sure Beth did a brilliant job with other clients, but I needed someone who would respond, I needed feedback.
I saw various other counsellors, but I'd often say 'I don't need counselling, it's biological, not psychological.' That might have been true in the early years, but when you've suffered forever your mind begins to distort your thoughts.
This is what Cognitive Behavioural Therapy deals with
I believed 'psychiatrist' was a dirty word. 'You don't need a psychiatrist.' That was highly likely a parental (mother) observation. She was an expert, you see and you listen to your parents. Well, most of us good, sensible people do.
When I did finally see a psychiatrist, I didn't tell the my folks, no not on your nelly.
The Psychiatrist was good, he introduced a new medication which worked well, although the anxiety that had been growing didn't completely disappear. He counselled me regularly for some months, and certainly that did help.
Fast forward seven years
The anxiety and depression had grown worse. My psychiatrist prescribed another new medication. This was to become the catalyst towards my full recovery. Not that I knew it then.
I plunged, Christmas Day two and a half years ago. I ended up in bed, feeling suicidal on and off. My husband was beside himself.
We were introduced to our brilliant mental health team, who ordered me off the new medication, and gradually, over the last two years, I was stabilised.
A psychiatrist put me on a combination of medication - my original one plus one other - together called 'California Rocket Fuel'! Love love love! Gimme! I grew brighter, brighter, brighter. But they weren't finished, 'You must do CBT. It's brilliant.'
After thirty years the thoughts had become distorted, and the task was to straighten them out. Every time depression attacked, the first task was to stop, sit down and go somewhere calm, somewhere quiet - if you can.
Husband, for me, was perfect - a planner, logical, scientifically minded, empathic, sympathetic. I'm extraordinarily lucky to have him. But if you can get yourself a CBT partner, so much the better. After stop, you must think about what you were thinking. Depression is set off by a thought, and you have to work out what that was, that's the difficult part. Often, at the beginning, I would eventually reach that point and tell him the thought, however fleeting, that had passed through my head, then I'd burst into tears. Success! We'd touched on the problem.
Depending on the circumstance, you have to ask the question: Is that a fact? I felt stressed walking down a frenetic town high street one day, I burst into tears, it was all too much. We sat in the car and talked .My stressed feeling was real, the town was frenetic.
I would also experience a feeling of deep anxiety when camping at a wild west living history event. I had a history, when anxious and clinically depressed, of arriving at the event and encountering not-so-friendly individuals who would denounce whatever you were doing. My brain had trained itself to remember this. My anxiety was trained on this. 'Is it a fact that I meet unfriendly people every time I attend an event? No. Not a fact.
The brain has gradually, over a long period of time, become retrained to think differently. You're not even aware of the change. I had a problem whereby every time I was any length of time in the house, I would grow depressed and cry. I needed to go out, which when we did, my mood would lift. I reflected back to when I was a young mum, and a return home was filled with dread. I would be depressed and having to care for small children. My brain had remembered this and translated that thought into the current moment. My husband reinforced the fact that I was no longer looking after small children and I was my own woman again (yes - he was brilliant!).
Gradually, over time, my thoughts have other, fun and interesting things to reflect on. Things to look forward to. My sculpture course, a surface pattern design course, travel, a successful living history event, open mic nights, our daughter and our granddaughters, our son, this blog, our writing group, Facebook groups... We're slowly fixing up a house that's been sorely neglected over the years,
Finally, I can honestly say I feel better today than I've ever felt! So there I have it. I was worried, at the beginning, that I'd slip, that the medication would stop working, but my husband pulled me up time and time again. 'You're cured. There's no reason to feel low.'
My brain now believes that. Finally.
Jo Clutton describes herself ashas recently started a blog 'Creating My Odyssey', about her complete recovery from my depression and the rebuilding of her creative lifestyle. She hopes to inspire and encourage other creative people with mental health issues, and, hopefully, give some enjoyment too. a writer, artist and renaissance soul. At 63 she has been writing for many years. Offering light-hearted anecdotal articles, and now with a year's worth of her works published in local newspapers and a smattering in various magazines she continues her creative journey as a novelist. A novel titled Alias Jeannie Delaney – a western with a rough n' tough, sharp shootin' female protagonist.
Jo has said that she's been writing for thirty years, as long as she's been suffering depression/anxiety, which is since the birth of her daughter. In Jo's own words "I think it's kept me sane! I've been very embarrassed and self-conscious about it – the plot of my novel covers sex, bisexuality and violence (shock, horror!). I've written the beginning, a middle and the end, now I need to finish it. It's been hidden for so long, with only selected friends reading it. Now I'm putting it onto Facebook writing groups and receiving very positive responses, which has boosted my self confidence enormously."
You can hear more about Jo's novel and her creative journey here