Not surprisingly, it was the advice of a
good friend future fiancée, herself a mental illness veteran, that got me going in the right direction. The right direction was cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It sounded like just the thing I needed, and I pressed my at the time therapist to get our weekly sessions into the realm of actual CBT, instead of the patient-directed Q & A that had been the hallmark of our times together. He didn’t respond quickly or effectively, so with a recommendation from not one but two psychiatrists, I contacted another therapist in town. His specialty was/is CBT, and he came highly recommended – so I thought, OK here’s the real deal. Here’s where I’ll get the treatment I need.
On an intellectual level, I understood the motivation and logic of CBT right away. It made sense to me. So off I went. Each week the good doc would ask me how I was faring, and we would talk about those situations about which I used the CBT worksheet he gave me. After a few weeks, a pattern emerged in what I was experiencing that seemed to warrant use of the CBT worksheet: not surprisingly, it was most often about my almost total lack of self-esteem.
That was n0t the only pattern that emerged, though.
I also found that, though the therapy still made perfect sense to me, I was having a lot of trouble with the last step each time. The rational challenge, as it is called in the version of CBT we’re using, was the hardest part. In fact, I felt that I was making up my responses to the rational challenge. I could see that they were good thoughts, and indeed should be the way I was thinking, but I didn’t believe them for a second. I told my therapist that, and he knew I didn’t. His reply was essentially a simple “fake it ’til you make it”. It was a curt way of saying I had to practice. It wasn’t something that was going to come overnight.
If a situation arose in which I felt down on myself in comparison to another person – something in my brand of depression I do all the time – the rational challenge would of course be something like… I’m actually fine. I’m better than my stupid scumbag brain is telling me I am. I am actually good at parenting/holding a conversation/dressing myself/whatever. Yep – good answers all. Very uplifting. I would dutifully write them down each time, but I never believed what I was writing.
After months of this therapy, my disbelief continues. I’m no closer to being convinced of my rational challenges than I was at the start.
In other words, what was supposed to be the savior therapy for me is turning out to be a complete bust.
There are a number of potential reasons for this, one of which is that I’m just plain stubborn, or comfortable in my lifelong lack of self-esteem. It could be that I’m not giving it enough of a chance. It could be that I’m not suited for this therapy. It could be that it just is a therapy developed by quacks.
It could be that, like having a positive attitude, the success of CBT depends wholly on me. That seems most likely to me, and scares me to no end. I mean, seriously? I have to make myself believe it? I compare it with religious faith. If I don’t have it, how do I get it? If I don’t believe my rational challenges, how do I… well, how I do make myself believe them?
So, here I am, months in to what was going to be the mother of all therapies, and I’m at a loss for how to make it work for me. And I have questions for you.
Have you tried cognitive behavioral therapy?
Did you find it useful and effective? If not, what did you do then?
I don’t want this failure to be the end of journey toward a calm and comfortable self. I don’t want to miss out on how to make this work for me, and I also don’t want to ignorantly disregard other types of therapy available.
My lack of self-confidence affects pretty much all of what I do – as a father, employee, son, member of society… and as a boyfriend/fiancé/future husband. It’s killer. I can’t say how many times I’ve frustrated our Summer Solstice Girl in one of my self loathing episodes. She patiently puts up with those times and continues to love me like only she can, but it has to be taking a toll on her as well as on me. I can’t have that.
If you can shed any light, wisdom, or experience, please don’t hesitate to comment below.
© Sid Dunnebacke and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sid Dunnebacke and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.