Tag Archives: gloom

Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: a patient’s view

I finished the online CBT course on Friday. Do I feel any different? No… just relieved it’s over!

A number of people on the forum say it made things better for them.

“It must be nice to be you,” I mused enviously. “Able to say something positive and encouraging about the course, and follow it up with a ‘thank you!’ That’s the desirable reaction.” Some went so far as to say it has turned their lives around. It would be amazing to be able to say that.

One or two, on the other hand, say they didn’t find it helpful. I was disappointed we were in the minority, but maybe only a few of us negative nellies made it to the final session. I read that a lot of people drop out of the course. It shouldn’t have taken me so long, but I had a long hiatus in the middle.

The course is intended for ‘mild to moderate depression or anxiety’, but it seems if it doesn’t work, it’s because of “low adherence and engagement with treatment, rather than lack of efficacy.” See the Guardian article: Questions raised over effectiveness of online CBT for treating depression

I don’t know enough myself to be able to pinpoint why it works for some and not others — can only give my personal experience.

A lot of the time when I was trying to do the CBT exercises, I felt irritated, even angry. If I put it down and did something else for a while, I would eventually be able to complete the exercises, but my heart wasn’t in it… I felt distanced from what I was doing. For instance, I had to list positive self-beliefs, and was jollied along with, “don’t be modest.”

Having got over my spat of grumpiness, I wrote: “I read a lot; I write well; I try to improve my artwork.”

As the online course reminded us, ‘practice makes perfect’. I’m supposed to keep doing these exercises; these tools to improve my mood or how I handle things — but right now I look at those three self-beliefs and feel on the low side of neutral. I’m confused about the kind of beliefs I’m supposed to come up with, and have a sneaking feeling I got it wrong. This exercise is a spin-off from a section about ‘attributional style‘. Healthy beliefs about oneself should be ‘permanent, internal and general’ as opposed to ‘specific, external and temporary’.

So… ‘I read a lot’… is that specific or general? I would have said ‘specific,’ as it’s a specific thing that I do, but the relevance by-passes me at the moment.

It’s internal, I think, because it’s a way of taking credit to myself. I’m not depending on someone else to do all my reading for me! Also, it’s a permanent belief; I read a lot while I can. So what does a temporary belief look like? “I read a leaflet yesterday but probably won’t bother again?”

A lot of people on the CBT forum seem to like that exercise, so they must know what it means and how to correctly label their beliefs. It’s just me who’s the numpty!

Come to think of it, “I was lucky to win that tennis match,” is probably a temporary belief. A more self-believing belief would be, “I won the match because I’m a good tennis player.” No wait, that’s an internal belief, whereas “I was just lucky” is external because the gods smiled on you.

“I read a lot” doesn’t make me feel I can take on the world. People write such contradictory things I find myself believing stuff that cancel each other out, don’t know what to believe, or do daft things because I uncritically internalized the last thing I read. So much for all that reading.

At any rate, perhaps a better self-belief would be “I am kind.” That’s more ‘general’ because it’s something I am, whereas “I read a lot” is a specific belief because it’s something I do… though don’t take my word for it!

It should really be “I am sometimes quite kind.” 😛 Does that make it a more temporary belief? Is that the very thing I’m being warned against by the CBT course? I would probably be told I’m giving away credit for my success.

Well, that brings us to the point of the attributional style. When you have successes or disappointments in life, you use your self-belief in the following way: “I made a new friend today because I’m kind.”

That would be better than saying, “I made a new friend today because the other person is kind,” which would suggest there’s nothing about you the other person thought was remarkable.

“I made a new friend today because I was on my best behaviour and hid my usual surliness”… that’s pretty realistic for many people, especially me, but I think the CBT would frown on it!

I could just switch off the niggles in my head and say, “I made a new friend because I’m kind and witty and clever, and the other person likes me.”

Does that make me feel good? Hmm……..

Just had a lightbulb moment! I noticed the word ‘control’ when reading online about attributional style. People are depressed and anxious if they don’t feel in control, so it makes sense that being able to make more powerful statements should be beneficial. That’s easier for me to grasp than whether or not my beliefs are ‘permanent, internal and general’.

I hate to be curmudgeonly, but you’ll note I didn’t say that I believe telling myself that I believe something that I don’t believe is going to make me step out more confidently! However, since practice makes perfect, I will keep trying the various exercises for a while. I would enjoy setting up a special CBT journal to fill in every day… though perhaps actually filling it in is another story?

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Minding Our Ps and Qs

I know the rest of you are probably well up on this already, but I haven’t been paying much attention to the gossip recently. Pure chance I came across the following article by TechDirt:

Yahoo Licenses Lyrics… Meaning More Pressure Coming To Unofficial Lyrics Sites

It’s worth following the links from there (and links from those links too) as there are some interesting articles along the way. And to the character in the TechDirt comments who said “all you have to do is turn up the music to hear the lyrics for yourself” – NOT true!

Today I’ve been feeling pretty flat – there was nothing I wanted to do, and all the things I had to do, I didn’t want to do. I did buy a green Furby in a charity shop for £1, and even then I was thinking “can I really be bothered to go to the counter and ask how much this thing is?” Though I did get a laugh when he turned it every which way before putting it in the bag, and its eyes (which were closed up till then) opened wide and rolled upwards with a shocked expression.

I fed a cat a pink pill who didn’t want to be fed pills. He realized what I was trying to do, and strolled casually away under the coffee table. I pushed the table to try and get at him, and he just moved around under the coffee table no matter where I pushed it. Finally he popped out again and walked away, and I got up and followed him, and he stayed *just* ahead of me without quite running. Finally I landed him by making a flying leap with the towel, which was when I got stabbed in the hand.

I think he swallowed the pill, but Fusspot taught me you can never be sure – cats are tricksy creatures and will pretend they have swallowed it, then quietly spit it out once your back is turned.

During the day my knee nearly gave way a couple of times when I put my weight on it, and I realized I had slightly hurt it when trying to get the cat out from under the coffee table.

I feel a touch sidelined at the moment. Usually there’s a project or two on my computer that I’m happily involved in, and you can barely drag me away to eat supper, but right now I’m running away from the computer and getting into bed (on the sofa) and watching TV instead, which is always a bad sign. I have to force myself to check my messages… usually I breathe emails instead of air.

But I got everything correct when watching (rats, what do they call that programme again, the one hosted by Julian Fellowes? Never Mind the Full Stops?) I also got something that nobody else seemed to get – “What is cacography?”

Maybe that’s the point of life – oneupmanship! Don’t burst my bubble too quickly. Let me enjoy feeling smug for a while – it’s good for me.

Comments for this entry (during its previous life on Blogigo):

1. Buttercup2 wrote at Apr 28, 2007 at 16:40: Hi Diddums. The cat swallowing pills reminded me of when our cat Jordan was very sick with a bladder infection and needed antibiotics for 2 weeks and he had to be given this nasy tasting stuff via a little dropper. Hubby use to have to open his mouth and squirt the med in there then grab his mouth shut as we would try to gurgle it out before swallowing it. For 3 months after this 2 week procedure Jordan wouldn’t give hubby the time of day he was so mad at him, lol. Now they are best buddies again and hope he stays well cuz he really can cop a ‘cattitude’ hahahahaa, Have a good weekend, Hugs, Aly.

2. Diddums wrote at Apr 28, 2007 at 18:31: Thanks, Aly – hope you have a good weekend too! Cats can take this quite personally, can’t they – which is probably why Fusspot fought so hard.

3. Iain wrote at Apr 29, 2007 at 22:52: Re the audibility of lyrics, and giving the lie to the ‘just turn up the volume’ oaf, http://kissthisguy.com/ can be very entertaining, a website full of misheard lyrics.

And proper folk music academics and buffs even have a proper word for it – mondegreen. See Wikipedia for info on that word (although the article’s not a great one, slanted muchly to pop examples).

Iain

4. Diddums wrote at May 1, 2007 at 17:06: Sounds like there are more than a few of them pesky mondegreens – I grew up with some myself. They are really hard to shake once they’re well ingrained!

Once You Start, You Can’t Stop

The other day I cut my own hair for the first time in my life. I didn’t start out with that intention, but I don’t like going to hairdressers, and was in a mood anyway, so when I looked in the mirror and saw bright beady eyes peering through a shaggy mane, I decided to trim my fringe. Well I’ve done that before, and I know how to cut it so that it’s not in a clump. Having done that, it looked a bit long at the back, so I cut that… and the side, and the other side… and the top… oh, and that bit here… and that bit there… and …. yes, it’s a bit squint now, so cut it again… and the other side to match.

Hmm. Cut that bit too deeply. No, resist the temptation just to hack every hair on your head off. You really must get your temper under control. Just snip this bit then. OK, not too bad. Put the scissors down NOW.

Go to bed and sleep, forgetting everything, and only remember about it when I get up and see all the loose ends in my bed. Suddenly my neck feels draughty. Never mind, just damp your hair and brush it and nobody will really notice – lots of people cut their own – it saves money.

I had to go out to Mum’s. I opened her door and stepped in, surrounded immediately by the peaceful, familiar warmth. I was tired and depressed, but now it all dropped away and I felt safe. Nobody could touch me here. Mum came down the stairs, smiling, and I looked up. She said “you cut your own hair! It looks nice!”

I had forgotten about it again, and was surprised, but then I felt pleased and said “really? It looks OK? Does it LOOK as though I cut it myself?”
“Well I knew you hadn’t been to the hairdresser…” (she knows I’m not fond of them and usually have to be forcibly dragged). “It looks fine! Good.”

Well – saved a little money, then, and a trip to the you-know-what. I remember writing to a penpal (long since gone) whose advice was “pick the best hairdresser in town, and never allow your hair to be cut by a woman.”

I wonder why not? I feel miles away from that kind of world, and that’s not such a bad thing.

Yesterday All My Troubles…

…were hanging over me. The opposite of what happened to the Beatles in their song. And I was absolutely depressed the night before. Why, is not important but it was like sinking in quicksand – the more of you that went under, the faster the rest of you got sucked down.

My feet swelled alarmingly – the ‘good’ foot was just mildly puffy, but the ‘weak’ foot (injured in November) blew up more than it did when it was broken. Even the ankle got puffy, and the cats were staring at it. I huddled up on the sofa and tried to pretend nothing was wrong. We were watching Lost and it seemed a particularly sad episode. Charlie was having odd dreams and running off into the sea in his sleep with Claire’s baby. Everybody turned against him, thinking he was taking drugs – Locke knocked him down, and Charlie lay there in the water looking lost.

I always had a soft spot for Charlie, a gentle and gregarious soul with very low self-esteem, and everything that happened to him felt as though it was happening to me. It was probably helpful rather than depressing, though I found myself getting angry with Locke – “how DARE you look at him like that?! Back off!”

When I finally trailed off to bed I was all too ready to fall asleep and forget everything. Several times my eyes closed. Several times the house shook me awake. It was a frightening, formless experience.

There was a sound like a rising whine in my ears while the house’s rumbling increased. That was tinnitus, or my brain filling in sound where none was. Knowing what it was didn’t make it go away. Shadows moved in on the bed. No I wasn’t imagining things – they were moving. A shape lurched past, like a figure in the daylight walking past a window – it looked like Mr Guppy from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. He had his hat on and was strolling up and down with his hands behind his back. Over there beside the beanies was a purple wormhole. It opened out like a whirlpool when I looked at it, then disappeared on itself with a silent ‘shloop’.

Stop getting frightened. Ghosts do not exist. It’s probably time I had my eyes checked – they’re old, tired, myopic things now. Anyway, I’ve lived with the shuddering house for years. Nothing bad has ever got me. Actually it’s just hallucinations – it’s happened before when you were overtired. The dreaming part of your brain thinks you’re still asleep.

To distract myself, I started thinking about Lost. Charlie standing in the breakers at night, holding the baby. Charlie swimming after the baby’s cot in his dream, bringing it back to safety. Suddenly I sat up, remembering a dream I had the night before. We were all being swamped by the tide, which was streaming up the beach. Our clothes were swirling away in the sea and I was shouting to everybody to grab the stuff and move it up towards the trees. Nothing must be lost. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but I realized now it was a dream about Lost. Like Charlie, I was standing in the waves, looking up at the shore. Like Charlie, I was going off my chump with daft dreams and things that weren’t there. It was like a jigsaw piece clicking into place.

My hand lay just in front of my face, pale in the light that filtered through the curtains. Every time I breathed out, a dark shadow slid across it. I got scared again. How could I see my breath? And how could my breath be black? I would have said it would be a warm pink, or rainbow-coloured, like drops of water catching the light. I stopped breathing, and the shadow slipped across my hand anyway.

At that point enough was enough. I abruptly sat up and put the light on. I looked around. Dark shadows? No. Purple wormholes? No. Mr Guppy? No. Everything looked normal. My bears over there, my beanies over here, my books on the bedside table, a crumpled blog post on the floor. Nothing was moving. With a relieved sigh, I lay back and decided to try and sleep with the light on. That was admitting defeat, but the thought of returning to Mr Guppy and co was more than I could stand.

When I got sleepy I turned off the light. And kept my eyes CLOSED.

Warring Moods

On the 23rd of December I was in the middle of wrapping my presents, thinking about people, events, the past, my relationships etc etc. I started feeling sad, and it seemed wrong to me that I was wrapping gifts in gaily coloured paper for family and friends in this kind of mood.

What set me off was reading a note that reminded me of a person no longer in my life. It was hardly a great tragedy – but I started thinking about failed relationships and how difficult it is to compete with the rest of the world, or to live up to people’s expectations. Getting things right seems to come naturally to some, but others are constantly on the wrong foot or a little bit lost.

My heart grew heavier and heavier – finally I left the rest of the gift-wrapping till Christmas Eve. I’m glad to say I was a lot more cheerful by then and had zapped such depressing thoughts!

The thing is, I have a feeling this has happened before. I was wrapping Christmas presents and got pretty depressed. Mixed up with all the gift labels and cards are old ones from Christmases past, so you pick up a card that says (for example) “To Diddums with lots of love from Tom and family.” Then you pick up an old card from a completely different person, and your thoughts charge off in another direction, not much happier. Eventually gloom descends. And yet I love Christmas. It’s hard to make sense of those two opposing reactions.

“Christmas is a time for family and friends.” I suppose that’s a double-edged sword, as family and friends can bring mixed feelings, especially when you’re thinking about all of them at once, in combination with people you never even met, like Tom’s family – and yet somehow here you are writing Christmas cards to them every year.

Apart from that short spell of depression, I have really enjoyed my Christmas. Maybe I should remove all those old Christmas cards from my Christmas box; in future I won’t be triggered to these gloomy thoughts!

“It’s Not What I Had in Mind But I Tried”

On Christmas Eve, as usual, I was rushed off my feet, having left everything to the last minute. Except the tree, for a wonder – that went up good and early. Still, I was on the go constantly, washing things, hoovering, checking lists, nipping out for must-haves, feeding pets as part of my small pet-minding business (I have four cat households under my wing this Christmas). The thing with Christmas is that we don’t just have to do these large sweeping things, we have to do all the small niggly things too – it’s the fairy on the tree; the pretty home-made gift labels; the icing on the cake.

I expect we all have different niggly little details that we feel should be a part of Christmas Day. There will be a particular lovely decoration that has gone up in the same place every year, a particular food or sweet that must be on the table, a particular record that must be played (or film that must be watched).

And above all, everything must be perfect. Nothing must burn. Nothing must undercook, otherwise we get the same stupid TV advert every year. It shows a man dressed as a turkey attacking someone sitting quietly on the sofa watching a Christmas film. “Don’t let your turkey ruin your Christmas.” Presumably if people stop undercooking their turkeys, we will not have to watch these ads. The lights must twinkle, the presents must be liked (preferably marvelled at) and the icing certainly shouldn’t slide off the cake.

This is the time of year when, planning ahead, we see ourselves writing flowery messages to our loved ones, hand-crafting our own greetings cards. I know exactly what I’m going to say. I’m going to slip a note inside this parcel or that, saying something like “to keep my favourite XXX warm.” I decide on these cosy details a month or more ahead of Christmas.

Somehow there’s always something more pressing that has to be sorted out first – and when Christmas Eve arrives, it’s midnight and you’re exhausted, and you still have to do things like change your bed linen and stick the rest of the cards on the doors and (aargh) you still have half your parcels to wrap.

So you settle down with some sherry (for energy) and a cat immediately jumps on the table, coming close to upsetting the required drink. The cat wants to curl up where you have to wrap the presents, so you put him out of the room, ignoring the look of hurt affront on his face. Turning to the matter in hand, you find you don’t have any fancy home-crafted gift tags or cards, and your ribbons are all scrounged from the parcels you received last year.

When it comes to the crunch, you can’t remember all those little finishing touches you were set on – the loving notes and flourishing signatures in gilt pen. (What gilt pen?) Above all, you’re so tired that your hands are shaking and your creative imagination has curled up and died.

Instead of changing from one gift paper to another to keep the heap of gifts bright and interesting, you find yourself drawing on the same roll of thin but goes-on-forever giftwrap for all the gifts. You write a gift label that should have been important – “To XXX with lots of ocean-deep, transcend-the-boundaries-of-time love from Diddums, please have the best Christmas yet,” and you find yourself scrawling untidily “To XxX, MeRrY ChRiStMaS fRoM DiDdleoopsUms.” Then you draw a sad little doodle that goes wrong. Well, sometimes the doodles work, but not at 2 a.m. in the morning.

“Well,” you think comfortingly to yourself, “people who love me won’t care – anything I do will be beautiful, because I did it for them.”

Christmas Day comes, and you are receiving gifts… many are done beautifully, much better than your own, but a few have gift labels in wobbly hand-writing. “tO dIDdumS with loVe fROm xXX.”
“Awww”, you think, smiling fondly. “I wasn’t the only one wrapping gifts at two in the morning.”

Hey Mr Doom Doom

Had to go out in the bucketing rain to feed some guinea pigs! Got completely soaked, and my umbrella blew inside out. Why is it always windy as well as wet? Not fair!

There’s a song in my head, and I don’t know why – Mr Bassman, as sung by the Muppets. It’s a cheerful little ditty but makes me very sad for some reason. The main singer is permanently on the edge of fading out, and you don’t want him to – you want him to sing it forever in that beautiful voice, and so it goes round and round in your head… “hey Mr Bassman, you’ve got that certain something, hey Mr Boom Boom, di di di di di di…” Woke up in the dark feeling as though it was the end of the world. I bet it’s really just the rain.