It was a victory for worried-about-being-late Kate when I arrived at my appointment 40 minutes early. The door was locked so I had to ring the buzzer. “Erm, hello, I’m really early. Is there a place I can sit and read for 40 minutes? I’ve brought a book!”
I tried to read but couldn’t manage it. This must be the short concentration span and lack of focus that the pre-appointment anxiety quiz was asking about. Eventually, it was time for my appointment.
The practitioner introduced herself. We sat down and talked for a bit about how I have been since my assessment. I was half concentrating on this conversation and half on her eyebrows – they were amazingly neat! Goodness, I thought, mine must look awful in comparison. I really need to be better at personal grooming. I’m such a mess.
We talked through what she called the cognitive cycle. This is what it looks like.
She wrote anxiety and low mood in the moods/feelings box and asked me about the thoughts and behaviours I associate with those feelings.
The list of thoughts that lead to anxiety ended up looking something like this. We are going to focus on these first because apparently this is what my problem is.
“I’m doing it wrong.”
“I look awful.”
“I’ve eaten too much/the wrong thing.”
“People think I’m boring.”
“I’m wearing the wrong thing.”
“People think I’m stupid.”
“I spend too much money.”
“It’s not surprising that your mood is low if you’re always thinking these bad things about yourself,” she said.
Apparently, these things might not actually be true. It will be my challenge over the next few weeks to find evidence for an against them.
As I cycled home I thought a bit about low self-esteem and where it comes from. Those thoughts might lead to my depression and anxiety, but it’s no surprise I think those things when capitalism trains us to think them. “You’re ugly/boring/fat with no sense of style – now buy this to fix yourself.”
Based on this initial session, I think that CBT might be good for me. But I also think that it focuses too much on the individual when it’s society that creates individuals. Mental health problems are a result of the anxiety and alienation of a patriarchal capitalist system. Individuals addressing their thinking patterns seems only a short term fix compared to significant social change.
*I also have a tendency towards “black and white thinking”. You would never have guessed.