I've never had any form of counselling or psychotherapy. I'm far too British and 'stiff upper lip.'
I'm very happy sharing pretty much anything with friends. But strangers? Oh no!
(Makes it somewhat ironic that I've now taken up blogging, and share everything with thousands of people I've never met, doesn't it?)
I remember being totally shocked when I first went to the USA, and every time I went into a shop someone said "Hi! How are you today?" Initially I'd look over my shoulder, assuming they were talking to someone else, then bite back the urge to say "I'm sorry, but have we met before?"
The other thing that alarms me about the concept of seeing a psychotherapist is that it also spells psycho-the-rapist. I mean, how off-putting is that?!?
But then, as part of my 'cancer care package' I've been offered six sessions of free psychotherapy. I've been married to a Scot for far too long to turn down a bargain like that, so yesterday I turned up for my first session.
Here's how it went:
Therapist: So, SM, how are you? (steady gaze)
Me: Fine, thank you for asking. (steady gaze back)
Therapist: No, SM. How are you really? (hard stare)
Me: Fine! (slight bottom lip tremble)
Therapist: No. How are you really really? (penetrating stare)
Me: (uncontrollable weeping)
I started to offload and, actually, it felt pretty good. Cathartic. Until I got to this bit:
Therapist: How do you feel about the possibility of your children losing their mother?
Me: (staring at box of tissues)
Me: I don't even consider it. (glare)
Therapist: But when you do consider it, how do you feel?
Me: I can't even let myself go there. (super hard stare)
Therapist: Why can't you think about it?
Me: Because they are way too young to be without their mother! (more uncontrollable weeping)
Therapist: How did you feel when I made you answer that question?
Me: I hate you.
Therapist: It's good that you can be honest with me.
Really? Just wait till I get started....
Despite the spat over my potentially motherless children, I've signed up for five more sessions. I explained that since my cancer diagnosis I've gone from being little-miss-optimistic to Chicken Licken - constantly fretting that the sky is going to fall on my head, and the heads of everyone I love. (See my post: Panic Attacks).
We are, apparently, going to use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to sort that one out. Plus, she's throwing in some mindfulness practice to try and keep me anchored in the present rather than fast forwarding to certain, painful death and motherless children.
So, I was interested to hear on the news today, that a review published in the British Medical Journal yesterday finds that CBT is as effective a treatment for major depression as anti-depressants.
CBT is defined as 'a series of techniques that teach patients how to replace dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours with more adaptive ones, which can reduce distress and improve mood.'
It struck me that that's exactly what I've been training myself to do in the nine months since I quit drinking. And it transpires that CBT is increasingly being used to treat alcohol dependency, by helping people to identify their triggers and develop new coping strategies.
I figure that I'm going to start the new year all physically fixed (ten months sober by then, and cancer free - I hope). I might as well develop some really good emotional strategies too. That way, if the sky really does fall down again, I'll be ready with a bucket.
Love to you all,