Since I have been in therapy for six months now, we did a little retrospective session yesterday. First, my therapist asked me to recount the events that led to me getting in contact with him, so I started with the three big panic attacks I suffered during the night exactly a year ago – it’s actually the first anniversary today. On June 24, 2010 I went to see my general physician about it and started with antidepressants the following day.
Looking back, I am glad about those panic attacks. As awful as it felt, without them, I would never have gone to the doctor, who urged me to start psychotherapy every time I saw him over the summer.
I proceeded to talk about the problems I had deciding what kind of treatment I wanted and that after finding contact information for a CBASP programme at the hospital online, I called as soon as possible because I knew I would not bring up the courage anymore if I waited for too long. The diagnostic phase started, with lots of tests to classify my psychological problems, I got off the antidepressant and a week before Christmas, we had the first session.
The next step was listing everything I had learned during those six months:
– talking about my problems and describing them
– asking for help
– understanding my own behavioural patterns and how people react to them
– understanding the depressive symptoms and handling them
– modifying my own behaviour if necessary
– becoming a more “visible” presence
– respecting and expressing my needs
It’s a topic that has been on my mind since my birthday last month. The change happens gradually most of the time and I can hardly tell a difference from one week to the next, but if looking at longer periods, there is a very clear distinction between then and now, and people notice. My therapist said I stopped “being on the run from other people”, my boyfriend commented that I seemed more self-confident these days, etc.
I also notice it myself – I do not sleep 12 hours every day as I did last autumn, but “only” 9 hours per night. I have more energy and can take care of myself better. Even if I have bad days, I know that they are going to end again eventually. Not everything is bleak anymore, not everything doomed to fail. I actually want something from life again.
The one situation that made me realize how much I had altered already actually took place 10 minutes before my session started: I was at the hospital cafeteria, counting coins for getting a bottle of coca cola from a vending machine because I needed some caffeine before the session. My therapist walked in, wanting to buy a cup of coffee, and he was so lost in thought that he didn’t see me. Just a few months ago, I would have hidden somewhere until he left again – or at least pretended I had not noticed him either, so that if he would say something, I could act surprised to find him standing next to me. For a second, I didn’t know what to do, then I simply looked at him and said hello.
For someone not suffering from depression and/or social anxiety, this must sound very trivial, but to me it was a big deal, and clearly to my therapist as well, because he commented how nice it was that I had said something and brought it up in the session again.
Starting therapy was definitely the right decision and I am really grateful for getting help.