Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Good news, in the form of an email from my therapist to my Dad:

"Léonie reports that she believes the therapy is working for her and that she has started to feel much better within herself. Léonie's mood appears to have improved and as a result she reports that she no longer feels the need to use previously maladaptive coping methods. Léonie has engaged well with therapy. She has been able to make a number of changes to her approach to day-to-day life and we continue to explore a number of important issues."

I love the word 'maladaptive'. It makes me feel all tingly.

This peculiarity aside, I think we can all agree that this is good. She's right, as well. I have engaged well with therapy. It has enabled me to make changes to my everyday life.

One of the hardest things about feeling depression, and I must emphasise that this is only based on my own experience, is the guilt that accompanies it. This guilt is omnipresent. It is there in the blackest moments, taking the form of agonising about an untouchable normality, a life outside the belljar that everyone else seems to be able to access. Being completely convinced that somehow if I was a better person, if I deserved it, if I wasn't so weak I could get there, too. In the brighter moments, though, it remained. If I'd mentioned to anyone that I was feeling 'depressed' (without really knowing quite what that means), I felt an absurd pressure to demonstrate it, to mope all the time, because otherwise they wouldn't believe me. Which sounds ridiculous, but it was a very prominent thing.

That guilt, in both forms, has ebbed away. I deserve to be happy, I have realised. As much as anyone else does. Which again might seem obvious, and I didn't even really acknowledge this double standard until it was pointed out to me. Now I can see it and am affronted, seeing the injustice of it, an injustice that was entirely self-perpetuated.

CBT is about altering learned responses and re-learning those responses so that they no longer interfere with daily life. Changing the beliefs that are so negative that they cause someone to feel they need to hurt themselves, and other people in the process. It isn't a miracle cure and has taken work, even so far, but I can feel it working in my brain already. My therapist described it as a field of corn. You are so used to taking a certain path, the path that is familiar to you. This path, this neurological response, is well-trodden, it is flattened and easy to walk, and as result feels natural. This path is the one you use to tell yourself it's your fault, that you're weak, that you're not special enough, that you don't deserve to be happy. It is, however, detrimental to you to continue using this path, because it makes you unhappy, anxious and depressed. Forging another path is tough, because you cannot quite see it, you are walking through the corn and it scratches your legs and it isn't easy. It feels unnatural to tell yourself that it is alright to be imperfect, that perfection is a myth. That you deserve happiness and you're a good person and you're not selfish by wanting things for yourself. It is only, however, by persisting, by intervening in the former path and forcing yourself to take the latter, that you can begin to make it feel more natural. The more you walk it, the more flattened it becomes, the better it feels. The more you walk it, the more overgrown the other path will become.

I'm not sure whether that will make sense outside the context of the rest of the CBT, but it makes sense to me. I am stopping myself, and frogmarching my brain down other, kinder pathway. It's strange, and oddly simplistic, but it comes with loads more analysis and all sorts of other stuff that, as a whole, is beginning to take root.

I wanted to write all of this down because I feel so much better, but I don't want to forget what it feels like to be teetering on the edge of what feels like a totally new way of existing, and yet still being able to look back at the old way. I want the old way to be gone, but I want to keep it for reference. It's important to come through, to change, but not to eliminate the memory of it. Partially because I want to be able to understand it if someone I love, or even someone I just know, needs understanding and support. Mostly that, actually. But also a bit for myself. A bit so that, in the future, I can look back on it and see how far I've come. Be proud of myself that I changed and came through, that I took a risk with something that worked. I hope it continues to work, I don't see why it wouldn't.

What I feel now isn't perpetual happiness, and I don't think I will ever be described as someone who is persisently sunny. I just am more comfortable, I can feel my self-esteem being to blossom a bit. It's nothing to do with anyone else, just me, and the work I have put in.

It's going to take more time, more work. My therapist and I agreed that it'll take more sessions, that there's more to deal with. It isn't over, but it's getting somewhere.

It feels wonderful.


Blogger RadiantSky said...

That whole paragraph about guilt was just, really well written. Taking something that I think alot of people feel (myself included) and explaining it in a way that is easier to relate to. I tend to say I'm screwed up for reasons that only make sense in my head. But some of it is exactly the sort of thing you wrote about. Thanks for being so honest, it's nice to read about someone overcoming things like this. Hope things continue to improve for you.

7:13 pm

Anonymous Jamie said...

Wow. It's really interesting to read such a well-written piece about depression written from the inside (as it were). Hope it all works out for ya.

9:08 am

Anonymous Lorna Griffiths said...

Oh darling - I'm so happy for you. That all made such sense to me. I keep meaning to investigate CBT properly myself, but in true Lorna style can't find the time/resources et c. Plus I've been on the waiting list for psychotherapy with the NHS for about 2 years now. Gotta love their ability to completely neglect the depressed ones...

Anyway - I'm very happy for you. Long may it continue. And we really have to have a drink soon, next time I'm down in the big village, or you're up here.


PS - have realised you won't be able to read any of my blog if were interested... Do you have a WGA usercode? If so, I can add you if you like...

9:42 am

Blogger Dancinfairy said...

That is just fabulous.

I know what you mean about wanting to record it. I have diaries from a few years ago around the time of my 'crazy' and I go back and read them when I feel low just to remind myself how far I have come.

I am so happy for you.

10:48 am

Blogger The Boy said...

That is such a refreshing post. Shout it from the rooftops!

3:02 pm

Blogger Leigh said...

Well done,

I really liked the way this post was written, and Im glad you can feel the difference that therapy is making in your life.

Keep it up!

3:37 pm

Blogger Curly said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:48 pm

Blogger Curly said...

I like the corn field analogy, it's nice to be able to visualise what you're trying to achieve and to see how far you're actually getting with it.

My corn field would be littered with different routes where I've decided to take a certain path, then just got lost and had to survive on just corn because I can't get out. Then the farmer would get all pissy because I've wrecked his field, he'd probably have a gun.

(editing racy comments again)

3:51 pm

Blogger Ant said...

The transformation has been plain from the last few months of your blog - and it is so heart-warming to read conclusions like that...

Heart-warming about the dress too - innit great when all the good stuff comes together at once? I command you to go and buy a lottery ticket now...

12:59 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going through a similar thing right now. Thanks for sharing.

5:00 am

Blogger Miss Devylish said...

I'm really happy for you sugar.. you sound so much more grounded just in your writing.. that's awesome. I know this may sound wierd coming from a virtual friend, but I'm so proud!! Big hugs to you!

1:40 am


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