Is it supposed to feel this anticlimactic?
I spent months waiting for therapy on the NHS, went for online therapy to speed up the process, then finally, finally managed to get my first appointment – which happened on a laptop, upstairs in a villa in Spain, while everyone drank and had fun downstairs, because I was told that if I couldn’t take that appointment, I’d get therapy snatched out of my hands forever.
That first session didn’t go to plan. The wifi was so terrible that I only spoke to my therapist for seven minutes – just enough time to explain how therapy works and have a brief check that I wasn’t going to off myself – before my poor laptop gave up entirely.
Ten weeks later, I’m done.
That’s 10 sessions of 50 minutes. That’s just over eight hours in total.
Apparently, eight hours of CBT is enough to resolve all my issues and give me the boot back into the world.
Spoiler: It’s not.
Don’t get me wrong – the CBT I’ve had has been incredibly helpful.
I’ve learnt a lot of techniques that I’m working on incorporating into my life. Things like writing down my worries during the day so I can put off thinking about them until my scheduled ‘worry time’, giving my evenings some structure (so I don’t end up sobbing in bed for hours), and talking back to my negative thoughts.
I feel a lot more comfortable in social situations. I don’t get last minute dread before I go out as often as before, and when I do, I’ve learned to push through it.
And that’s lovely. But honestly, my social anxiety was never my biggest issue.
I wanted therapy to help me through the other stuff on my list: the obsessive thoughts, the panic attacks, the anxious spirals that keep me up until I’ve cried enough to pass out, the low points that make me question why I’m here.
That’s a fairly long list, made up of things that can’t be fixed in eight hours.
The techniques I’ve learnt are handy, but they’re tricky to keep in mind when you’re having a panic attack, trying to explain to your boyfriend that you need to leave the pub because your mind’s got stuck on one obsessive loop.
Today, when I tried to log on to the online community where I access therapy, the screen told me I’d need to renew my subscription – £24 a month, not for therapy, but just for the online guides, the forums, and the self-taught courses.
I felt cut off, like I’d been unceremoniously dumped by text.
I still feel that way. The end of therapy is abrupt, and it’s concerning that no one – not my therapist or my GP – has advised me on what to do next.
Is that because they expected me to be cured? Or am I expected to figure it all out on my own?
I’m grateful for the therapy I received, it just wasn’t quite enough, and it didn’t really help fixing the parts of me that felt most broken.
I’m scared now.
I worry that I didn’t truly make the most of the free therapy I received, that I should have been firmer about what I wanted to focus on, or tried harder with the techniques.
I worry about what happens next.
It turns out that politeness and not wanting to let down my therapist were pretty significant motivating factors when it came to doing the CBT homework (CBT has a LOT of homework).
Now that the weekly appointment is gone, I worry that my own mental state won’t be motivation enough to keep doing worksheets.
I’ve been struggling a lot with motivation recently. When it’s tough to motivate yourself to do anything beyond watching The Defenders (enjoyable, but I wanted more Jessica Jones) wrapped up in a blanket, it’s hard to be motivated enough to do things that are good for you, but require effort.
And so I’ve decided: therapy isn’t a luxury any more. It’s a necessity, something I need to get me up and running and ready to actually deal with my massive list of mental stuff.
I am incredibly lucky to have a full-time job that – with careful budgeting – will allow me to get therapy.
It’s important to remember that there are many, many people whose mental health issues prevent them from working, cutting them off from access to support. That’s a huge issue, and one that can’t be fixed with eight prescribed CBT sessions with no followup.
I want us to work towards providing better care for anyone with mental health struggles; care that goes beyond pill prescriptions, months on waiting lists, and cursory CBT sessions with nothing set up once the course comes to an end.
I want to fight for more funding for mental health care. Because as frustrating as it is that I’ve had to wait months for therapy that’s only worked on one small portion of my issues, my mental health problems are fairly minimal compared to a bunch of other people still waiting for any form of support.
That’s going to take some time. Hopefully, stories like mine will hammer home how important it is to fund the NHS and provide people with better mental health support.
But while we’re working on making that happen, we have to take care of ourselves to make sure we’re strong enough for the battle.
So for me, it’s time to dive into private therapy.
I’m viewing it as an essential expense that I’ll work into my budget, as important and worthy as the money set aside for toiletries and loo roll.
I’ll be trying to find a fairly affordable option, but, honestly, I have no clue where to start. There’s no Tinder for finding a therapist (wait, is there?), and asking for recommendations puts my cagey self on edge (I don’t want the same person who my coworker vents to to hear all of my problems).
From what I’ve heard, finding the right therapist is tricky, especially when you’re trying to find one whose schedule works with yours and office is in reasonable commuting distance.
So seriously, if anyone has any hints on how to start searching, please do comment below or send me a message. The hunt for a therapist equipped to untangle the jumble of my brain begins now.
This article is part of Getting Better, a weekly series about my journey through getting help with my mental health. You can read all previous Getting Better posts here, and check back next Monday for an update on how everything’s going.
Chat with me on Facebook about all things mental health if you fancy, but, obviously, I am not a therapist or expert of any sort – just someone going through not-so-great stuff, mentally. Let’s get better together.