I never thought I’d be reading, or recommending, a self help book.
A couple of months ago, whilst reading around the subject, I realised that I’ve been having bouts of depression since my teens. Failure to recognise this sooner had left me without developed coping mechanisms and no doubt held me back on occasion. It was only because I was in the worst spell I could remember that I ended up doing anything about it.
My GP recommended Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but admitted that it would be at least six months before I could expect to see someone on a one to one basis. He gave me a couple of web addresses to check out in the mean time.
Most informative of the sites was Mood Gym. It was whilst reading this site that I began to recognise my history of depression. The site is meant to introduce Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and seems biased toward university students (it is running on an edu.au domain). There are also a few exercises to help you to help yourself.
Mood Gym isn’t perfect. The exercises didn’t always save properly and its insistence on referring to “Warpy thoughts” grated. However it did Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and drove me to look for a more in depth resource.
I decided to move on to bibliotherapy. The third result on Amazon for “Cognitive Therapy”, after Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies and Mind Over Mood: Cognitive Treatment Therapy Manual for Clients was Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Despite having fewer stars, the reader reviews were, for me, more convincing. I’ve been working my way through it for the last few weeks.
The theory behind Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is quite obvious. Before chemical imbalances or external influences, it is what you think that affects how you feel. Negative thoughts make youfeel bad, bad mood leads to more negative thoughts, and so it continues.. The trick is to recognise what the author calls Automatic Thinking (“warpy thoughts” if you’re an Australian undergraduate) and counter it. There are other factors, for example depression makes you feel that you can’t do anything, so you don’t, thus reinforcing your feelings of uselessness. Unsurprisingly, the answer to this is to do something, because you’ll be surprised how good it feels to get even the simplest job done.
This all sounds like the sort of advice friends and family try to give you- “Pull your socks up”, “Snap out of it” etc. The problem is that, no matter how well meaning, the drive can’t come from outside because you’ll just react against it.
There’s more. Advice on dealing with criticism and guilt and controlling your anger and other things that can bring you down. There’s also a large reference section on all the drugs you might be prescribed, how they act and what side effects may occur so you’ll be better informed if your doctor prescribes them.
Is it working for me? I think so. I’m still not the happiest person you’ll meet, but I am learning to cope and to cut off the negative thoughts before they put me in a funk. I’m also forcing myself to do stuff, no matter what. It may not be focussed exactly where it should be, but it all helps. Soon enough I hope to be back to full working order, growing Spinneyhead’s tail and looking to the future.
Technorati tag: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy