what do you do with a problem?

What do you do with a problem? That’s the title of a children’s book in my therapist’s office. I’ve never actually read it but I love the title. Growing up, I learned to pretend that my problems didn’t exist. And if I couldn’t pretend they didn’t exist, I definitely learned not to talk about them. My dad is the king of the idiom and one of his favourite expressions was, “if you’re looking for sympathy you can find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary”. Pleasant, I know.

📷 Mae Besom illustrator

I have tried so many different types of therapy that I’ve lost count. I’ve tried EMT, talk therapy and traditional pyschotherapy, and the only thing that I have ever tried that actually works is cognitive behavioural therapy.

If done correctly and by a skilled therapist, CBT is tough but effective. You will probably think at some point, like I did, that you’re going to come apart. Or that you aren’t making progress. I told my therapist after about a month that her approach was too hard and anyway, “it wasn’t working”. She very politely just smiled and said, “Janet, this takes time. Give me two sessions a month for six months, and let’s see where we are then”. And I did. And after six months, I knew she was right. My anxiety was lower. My depression was starting to lift. By the time I went back to work in 2016, I still wasn’t doing great but I was well enough to be there most days. I still wasn’t sleeping well having suffered severe insomnia for six months. But I could see improvements.

If you’re like me, you want to see results and not waste time. I wanted to skip the part where I had to talk about all my mistakes and false assumptions, the stories I had told myself about how the world is supposed to work. Life should be fair. I should be perfect. Other people should be perfect too. The most valuable lesson I learned doing CBT is that I am a flawed and fallible person and that this is ok. That others, namely my parents, were also flawed and fallible, also ok. Not that it excuses the behaviour or the impact that those had on me, but that I can see them as human, prone to mistake. This one, I will admit, is still a work in progress for me. I’m still mad. I’m still hurt. I still want to judge them, harshly. I’m still hurting.

So if you, or someone you know, has depression and/or anxiety and is interested in seeing a therapist, may I make a suggestion? Do some homework. Research CBT and find a therapist who is trained in these methods. Go on ratemymd.com and search reviews of people. I did and it was very helpful.

Also, if you, or someone you know is struggling with depression and/or anxiety, there is help to be had. Resources exist. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. People are there to listen. And it does get better, it is possible. Suffering is inevitable but not terminal. I promise. xo Janet

Published by Janet Gwilliam-Wright

Feminist and queer. Professional teller of truths. Slayer of personal demons.

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