I promised that there would be an update to my mental health journey, and here it is!
Back in April I wrote one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever had to write. I spoke about what it was like growing up with anxiety, my difficulties getting medical treatment, and what it was like to finally start Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in January – if you want to read my original post, click here.
A few months have passed since then.
I took some time away from The Anxiety Advocate to focus on my studies and personal life (I won’t lie, things have been difficult), but now I’m back to stay. And what’s more… I’ve finished CBT. I’m officially in recovery!
Hearing the words ‘you’re now in recovery’ after 13 hour-long sessions with my therapist over the course of 15 weeks felt like someone had lifted an invisible weight off of my shoulders.
I’ll tell you this – therapy is HARD. It’s challenging on the most personal level, and it left me drained to the core after most sessions. You get out what you put in. It’s like school in that respect – you have to turn up, you have to try your absolute best, and you have to do the homework. But you know what? It helps. And unlike a lot of what you learn in school, you’re likely to use the skills you gain in therapy for the rest of your life.
Don’t get me wrong, therapy isn’t some sort of a magic switch. Especially not CBT, a kind of therapy that takes practice and repetition to take effect. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll turn up on day one, be handed the answers to all of your problems, and walk out all fixed and ‘normal’ (ugh, what even IS normal? But that’s a topic for another post…). If it IS like flicking a switch for you, then that’s amazing. But for the vast majority of people, it’s a long, hard journey. At least, that’s how it was for me.
I know what it’s like – simply leaving the house some days can be too much, nevermind seeing your GP, being put on the (long) waiting list for therapy, and then actually going through with it. Sometimes, it’s admitting to yourself that you actually might need to see the doctor about your mental health that is the hardest part. I really struggled with that bit. But that’s okay. I’ve learnt that it’s okay to be scared. It’s a scary thing to do, therapy.
Here’s the truth. If you’ve made it this far, if you’re sat here reading this, you’re strong enough to beat whatever it is that you’re facing. It’s in all of us, deep down. No matter how long it will take, no matter how hard it gets. Even if you don’t believe in yourself, I believe in you. That’s why I wanted to come back and write this post. Also, I firmly believe that the best preparation for therapy is an honest understanding of what to expect from it. If I could send a message to my pre-therapy self, it would be this post.
So, where am I at now? My mental wellbeing is a thousand times better than it was before I went through CBT. Am I completely cured? No. Again, that’s not really how it tends to work with mental illnesses. I still have anxious thoughts, and I’m still scared of certain social situations. The difference is, I now have the mental tools to deal with my anxiety. It no longer cripples me. I can recognise the thought cycles and the unhelpful behaviours and put a stop to them. I’ve got a far better quality of life than I did before, and I’m thankful for that.
I know that should I need it, there are support systems out there for me, and if there is a next time, I like to think that it’d be a whole lot easier for me to reach out and ask for help.
That’s where I’m at right now. I’m living my life, getting on with everything and taking each day as it comes, whilst instilling everything I’ve learnt into my daily activities. ‘Recovery’ doesn’t equate to ‘fixed’ or ‘fully better’ for me, as is probably the case for many others. I’ll always be a little bit anxious I think, but I’m at peace with that, and I’m proud of all the progress I’ve made so far.
Thanks for reading. Take care.