It’s been a while since my last update, my last post was nearly a month ago, the day after my first ever therapy session. This Wednesday I had my 4th of an initial 8 sessions so I figured it was as good a time as any to provide an update on my current mental well-being and how I’ve been finding the treatment.
The first couple of sessions have been a case of feeling each other out, I have been slowly coming to terms with speaking openly to a stranger and filling gaps with awkward laughter and struggling to maintain eye contact throughout. There has been a lot of pressure put on myself to hit the ground running in each session, trying to come up with things to speak about so as to feel like I was making the most of the opportunity. Worrying about wasting time is a massive issue for me, it stops me from ever relaxing and enjoying things in the moment, as instead I’m worrying about how I could be doing other things and be being more proactive with my time. It has left me feeling a little bit disappointed with each session, it has taken me years to get round to getting proper counselling for my depression, but I feel like if I don’t get to the root cause of it, or at the very least find some answers, in these 8 hours then it will have been a waste of not just my time, but also theirs.
With a decade worth of depression to pull from it has been hard for me to focus on any area in particular to discuss each time. This is the issue, nothing ever really feels significant enough to be the cause, so I skim over it, dismissing it before I’ve really give it a proper chance. I’ve mentioned a couple of times in these sessions that despite how drastic it may sound, that I wished there was an event, a reason, no matter how bad, that I could point to and blame for my mental health issues. Instead I’m left feeling guilty for having these problems when there is no obvious reason. There is a chance that this is just how I am, my therapist has reassured me that it’s not uncommon for the depression to come from a combination of many, seemingly small things, but I’m still hoping to find that magical answer.
Every week I walk past this door when I go to my therapy session, and every week it makes me laugh. At least I know where to go should I need any help breathing. Today's session didn't necessarily go to plan, I had an idea beforehand what I wanted to talk about but a minor setback moments before kind of derailed it. It was the first time I've 'broken' in front of my therapist so at least that is out of the way now. Now I just need to try and remember what was discussed and reflect on it before next week. #mentalhealth #depression #mentalillness #therapy #counselling #anxiety
Something that has been a recurring theme in these sessions is the fact that I am massive, raging empath. I am a sponge when it comes to emotions, whilst this can have an effect positively, it is pretty much always an overwhelmingly negative thing. I seem to be able to not just easily acknowledge other’s bad moods but actually absorb them as if they were my own. Being around negativity has an almost vampiric effect, sucking any leftover happiness that may be floating around me and pushing me into a deep, miserable place. I can try really hard some days to be positive and happy, but 5 minutes around someone persistently moaning about (mostly) trivial shit will ruin a day for me. Even just an innocent remark can through me off my game if it catches me at the wrong time. About half an hour before my therapy session last week I was helping someone with some work when I unintentionally made a comment about how they could find something easier, only to be told that they would find it themselves later. To many this would have been a harmless exchange, but for me at the moment I felt worthless. I spend a lot of my time putting more energy into thinking how I can help others, rather than helping myself and that felt like it was being thrown back in my face. Those emotions stuck with me for a few hours and I took those feelings straight into my session and it helped derail the opening half hour, focussing solely on that.
These natural empathic tendencies manifest themselves in different ways and there is a general frustration I have with others that don’t match my ideals. I don’t pretend to be perfect, but when I spend so much of my time and energy into making sure I have as little a negative impact on other people’s lives as possible, the idea that other’s don’t even consider such things is exhausting. Every time I walk through a door that has to be manually opened, I check behind me to make sure that there is no one behind me before I let it go. Fairly standard behaviour? Except I don’t just do that, I wait and calculate how long I estimate it will take them to get to the door if I was to let it go that very second, and then if that means I’ll be letting it go on them, or within say 5 seconds of them trying to walk through it I’ll wait. EVERY. SINGLE. FUCKING. TIME. On the same lines I catch myself moving across to a specific side of the pavement up to 100 metres in advance of seeing someone walking in the opposite direction, to make sure that they have enough time to see that I am on a very defined side of the pavement and to make it easy for them to know which side to walk on when they approach me. I do this way in advance, long before anyone I’m walking with has even identified someone walking towards us, often to the point where it frustrates them.
I mentioned in my session last week about a dream I had at some point last year. Typically I don’t ever remember dreams, it doesn’t help that I often suffer with insomnia, so when I do remember dreams it always seems significant. The reason why in particular that this dream sticks with me is that it was one of the worst dreams I can remember having and yet I can’t tell you what happened in it. All I know is that I woke up feeling happy and content with it, and that seemed so alien to me that within a few minutes of waking those feelings clashed with how I normally feel and it affected me for a couple of days. It was a dream where I was happy and yet I call it one of my worst dreams ever because of how unobtainable it feels. It has left me wondering if I’ll ever be happy as I can’t ever remember feeling like I did in that dream. Every now and then I try really hard to remember what the events of that dream was, but it’s gone, I’ll never remember it.
My memory is becoming an increasing concern of mine. It’s never been great, but the therapy seems to highlight just how bad it can be. It perhaps just sounds melodramatic of me to say I can’t ever remember not feeling like this, my depression has a rough 10-year time frame that I attribute to it, but the truth is it could be longer. Often in the sessions I’m probed to remember what it felt like when something happened, or if I can think of an example of something and each and every time I come up empty. It’s something that just feeds itself, the more I try to remember something, the more stressed I get and ultimately less likely I am to remember.
The memory issues sometimes manifest themselves in entertaining ways, like on Monday when I forgot to take a spare top to the gym, so spent the entire morning at work trying to feel comfortable whilst only wearing a hoody, but managing to feel more naked than if I wasn’t wearing anything.
Last Thursday was the breaking point when I was trying to recall I conversation I had with my brother to Jenny, only for her to inform me that I hadn’t had that conversation with him, she did. Just the day before I had mentioned to my therapist how concerned I was about the fact that I can’t remember things, and sure enough 24 hours later I wasn’t just forgetting things, but I was attributing other people’s events as my own. I wouldn’t be too concerned if it was the first time it had happened, but it wasn’t, I subconsciously convince myself I’ve done/said things and because my memory is as weak as it is I have nothing to tell me otherwise. That clear an example of my memory failing me, along with the help of some Anathema, pushed me into and through another storm. It wasn’t necessarily one that I felt had been building for some time, but once the signs were there I was relieved to have it clear.
Once I had cleared my head, as much as I could, after some persuasion I decided to begin keeping a daily diary, to help keep track of thoughts that go through my head and things I do in direct response to my ongoing memory concerns. The issue is, unsurprisingly, remembering to do it, I started off well but the past couple of days have been blank.
On Sunday I woke up ‘frantic’, I was pacing back and forth, trying hard to focus on just one thing, my mind was racing and I couldn’t stop it. Unfortunately I’m more than used to these kind of experiences, but it’s the first time I can remember waking up like it and having to deal with it from the minute I got out of bed. My solution was to force myself back to bed, to spend 10-15 minutes meditating and to essentially start the morning over again. Sure enough 15 minutes later I got back out of bed, slightly more calm and before my brain could even attempt to derail me again I threw on my running trainers and headed out for 7 gentle miles.
I’m finding that meditation is having a positive impact on my mental well being at the minute, whilst I still haven’t managed to successfully position it within a routine, instead having it be my go-to I need to escape from everything for 10 minutes activity (often in the toilets at work or in extreme cases in a cemetery with goats), it’s getting the job done.
This week I had my 4th (of 8) therapy session, now halfway through my treatment I was hoping that I’d soon be able to see some signs of progress. For the first time I went into a therapy session without any clear thoughts in my head. All my other sessions have begun with me franticly trying to understand the hundreds of thoughts that are firing around in my head, all combating each other, desperate for attention and wanting to either be discussed or ignored. But this time it was different. After a few sessions I was beginning to feel more relaxed about the whole idea of therapy, I wasn’t anxious or feeling like I needed to go in armed with a list of topics or problems, instead I was willing to let what happen…happen. This peacefulness very much happened to be the calm before the storm of what ended up being my exhausting session to date.
It was a session of two halves, the first 20 minutes were spent expanding on comments made in previous sessions and again I found myself always trying to get ahead of myself, stressing about whether or not I was saying the right things or if I needed to start speaking about something else. Half way in something switched and I found myself speaking more freely and ended up throwing hours worth of conversation into about 30 minutes. I don’t think my poor therapist knew what hit her, it felt very much like I’d found a release and having mentioned earlier in the session that I felt I was always trying hard to think of what to say, she said that she thought it was this first time I was allowing myself to relax and be fully open. Being the halfway point in my treatment it was always the intention to review how the therapy had been going so far at the end of the session, after what felt like a breakthrough moment we both agreed that continuing the treatment would be best and extended it to another 8, making 12 in total.
The next day I was exhausted physically, but perhaps even more so emotionally. The next eight weeks are going to be tough, exploring avenues I’ve never gone down before and saying things out loud for the first time. Good job I’ve got my new favourite spot and some very friendly goats to get me through it.
On the running front whilst there is no challenge as such this year, I’m still trying to running as many marathons as and when my body/wallet allows. A few weeks back I ran the Peddars Way Ultra, a race I ran as my first ever Ultramarathon last year, in a race that was much tougher this time round. My fitness levels seem to have dropped off from last year and when I crossed the finish line, it was nearly an hour slower than my time the year before. The medal and satisfaction of crossing the finish line at the end of a tough day on the trails is all that matters though, and when I did it was marathon #30 in the past 3 and a bit years. Slowly marching towards the 100 marathon target.