Thursday 3 May 2012

"So, how do you feel about that?"

As the black and white person that I am, I put things in boxes. There's the "obsessional" box, the "good" box, the "I don't care" box, and the "bad" box. Counselling goes in the "bad" box.

My previous experiences with counselling have involved:

1) A counsellor making me feel even more out of control when a large part of my problem was feeling out of control, by saying that she would tell my parents about the things which I had told her (not suicidal thoughts, for the record, I do not believe that what I told her required the involvement of another); and

2) A session of counselling which led to my feelings of depression and thoughts about death increasing rapidly. I went into the session feeling about as bad as I'd ever felt. I came out of the session feeling worse. I didn't even know that was possible.

But considering that my depression is very persistent and the dent made by Citalopram has been slim, my doctor told me that it was time to do something more. The two steps were to raise my Citalopram dosage to 30mg, and to get counselling. He actually suggested CBT, but my university has offered me traditional counselling right now (and for free) whereas if I wanted CBT I would either have to go privately or go on a waiting list. So I decided to delve back into the murky depths of talk therapy once again.

It would be a lie to say that I didn't wake up four times overnight freaking out. It would be a lie to say that I didn't have to make myself a list of rewards I would give myself (sushi, chocolate cookie, episode of Lip Service, 2 hours less studying today) if I successfully completed a session. It would be a lie to say that I didn't have to sit on a bench whilst I was walking to counselling as a kind of 'time out,' or to say that my heart was beating at a normal rate when I went into the counsellor's room.

My first session was anti-climactic. I guess I'd been expecting to feel something extreme. As it happened, my eyes were dry throughout my session. I explained the thoughts and behaviours which I am unhappy with. The counsellor did not act in a judgemental manner, and she did not look at me like a hopeless case. Those are the positive things about my counselling session.

On a more negative note, I am concerned about the long-term effect of counselling sessions which don't seem to achieve anything. I am worried that they could further make me believe that nothing will make me feel better, because in general that's what happens. The more things fail to make me feel better, the more I feel like this is hopeless and recovery will not happen for me. I am scared that counselling will do this. Additionally, I felt sick at the end of the session. Despite the fact that it was fine, my stomach was churning after discussing my emotions and behaviour with the counsellor. It was nothing she did, it was just how I felt. And I will probably be anxious about next week's session. In fact, I already am anxious about next week's session.

Before next week, my counsellor asked me to think about the rules which I set myself. I never really considered this as a bad or even abnormal thing before, but apparently the way I talk about them is unusual. My rules include things like:

1. On a day with no other commitments, study for at least 5 hours. If you have other commitments this may be reduced to 3 hours.

2. No more than one bag of crisps per day.

3. No more than one cookie per day.

4. Once you are losing the vast majority of games of Minesweeper/Solitaire in the evening, keep playing. Only once you win a game can you go to bed.

5. No more than one fast food meal per week.

It has been mentioned before (and also on Twitter today) that these kind of inflexible rules could indicate obsessive compulsive disorder, but (as far as self-diagnosis goes) I am almost certain that I do not have OCD. I do not have thoughts about something negative happening if I don't obey the rules, I merely feel very guilty if I fail to follow them. However I then discovered something called obsessive compulsive personality disorder, for which I fit almost all of the criteria. This bothers me, because I do not want another diagnosis, and I probably will not speak to anybody about it for a while. However, OCPD does often lead to depression and anxiety, so perhaps if I were to be diagnosed with it then it would impact on the way I am treated for those coexisting conditions.

I might have taken counselling out of the "bad" box and put it in the "I don't care" box. It still triggers anxiety, but not to the same extent that it did before. My session had positive and negative effects, but none of them were severe and it did at least give me some food for thought.

I am still fairly certain that this will not help me. However, I am willing to go to a few sessions and see what comes of it, and that in itself probably counts as progress.

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