The Ups and Downs of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

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CBT taught me to question my negative thoughts and emotions and gave me the skills I needed to combat them.

When I was fourteen years old, I started feeling strange. About myself, about school, and about life in general. I did not know what these thoughts and feelings meant. All I knew was that I had horrible self-esteem and that I had started losing interest in things I loved most.

I realize now that my mom knew exactly what was happening to me, but at the time I thought she was just as confused as I was. We booked an appointment with my general practitioner, and I vividly remember my mom explaining to my doctor, “Ellen is such a wonderful girl, and these days she’s having a very hard time seeing that.”

After discussing my crippling self-esteem for a painful ten minutes, my doctor suggested I start therapy. Specifically, cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). My doctor explained that CBT helps you question burdening thoughts and emotions, and helps you develop effective strategies to combat these intruding thoughts. “Cool,” I thought. I was able to meet with a psychiatrist around a month later.

Most of my early sessions included me explaining how I was feeling: Low, numb, stressed, insecure. My psychiatrist and I then began to question why I was feeling these things: Was it school? Friends? Bullying? The next step was to figure out how I could combat these feelings. I could distract myself, talk to my mom, or write them down. We discussed many options for distraction, and how I could make myself feel better. My psychiatrist gave me several worksheets to fill out. These included tasks such as writing down one thing each day that I did, something that made me happy that day, and rating my mood on a scale from one to 10. I would bring the completed worksheets to my next session, and it was an effective way to remember how many bad days I had that week, and why I felt bad.

I have gone through six therapists in the last four years, and each of them used CBT with me. The results, and my progress, have varied depending on the therapist I was working with, and how well I connected with them. Some days, I would be frustrated. I could not understand how filling out worksheets and questioning my thoughts would help my depression. Over time, I was able to understand that these were stepping stones to my being able to independently address and revaluate my emotions and thoughts.

After many years of practice, I can now employ the tools I learned from CBT and incorporate them into my life when I am feeling low and depressed. Because of this, my therapy sessions have been greatly reduced.

I would highly recommend CBT to anyone feeling off about themselves, or about life. You do not necessarily need to be depressed to seek out therapy. Therapy gives you someone to talk to without judgement. It can help you identify your thoughts and feelings when you are feeling low.

I am very proud of myself for having practiced cognitive behaviour therapy for the past four years. It’s a big step, and takes a lot of effort, but in the end, your mental health is worth it.

Submitted by Ellen Grickites