Coping with life; is CBT for me?

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NB: when in doubt find a four legged animal and forget all other advice

Life can be bloody hard sometimes. It really can feel like an uphill struggle just to get through day to day existence, let alone the added stress of exams, money or relationships.

Recently I started CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). This differs from other types of therapy as its not just a chance for you to complain about a million reasons why life is getting you down, but forces you to take control and realise that you yourself are at the driving seat of how you feel and how you live.

Don’t shut down, I’m not trying to insult you. Considering depression and anxiety are such crap things to go through it’s kind of weird how much we defend them. Like someone telling us that we don’t have to hold on to these unhealthy feelings and thoughts somehow insults us and belittles the pain that we are suffering. Not at all, but anyone who tells you there is nothing you can do to feel better is lying to you.

The NHS waiting list for CBT was over 3 months long, and my student waiting list for counselling was over a term. Despite referral for immediate counselling, I’ve been waiting for a placement for a few months now and I don’t even have a start date.

Having had 2 months where I felt flat, tearful and lonely at the beginning of my final year of uni, despite taking medication for a few years which I wanted to ‘fix everything’, I realised it was time to step up. Private sessions can cost a lot of money. I pay £70 an hour, which is by no means ‘expensive’ but neither is the cheapest in this field. My parents are helping me pay for this.

The good news is that CBT is a short-term therapy which aims at building healthier ways to look at the world and people can get huge benefit from just 4-6 sessions. I eventually realised that if I can pay to go on nights out and holidays there is no excuse to avoid paying some money towards my mental health; surely feeling happy is the whole ‘point’ to being on this spinning hunk of rock anyway?

In CBT sessions you realise that it is not reality that make you upset 99% of the time. In the vast majority of cases it is how you react to them.

For example, it’s raining on the day of your graduation.

Person 1 would say ‘This is just my luck, I just wanted one day to go well for once in my life after all this stress and poverty at uni and now it’s all ruined.’ Possibly leading to a spiral of negative thoughts and ruining the day.

Person 2 on the other hand ‘uh oh, oh well.’ or ‘Good job I packed an umbrella!’

The fact it is raining didn’t upset the two people in the same way, the reaction is what caused pain. Of course, if it was this simple I’d not be forking out for more sessions but the basic premise if that if you take some ownership of your thinking patterns you can have a better life, even if you are incapable of changing the people and events around you. The only thing you can change is your attitude, and it can make your life better.

I highly recommend the book ‘Mind Power; Change your thinking, Change your life.’ By James Borg. I promise it’s not as corny as it sounds. Actually, its got some great tips for helping you out with taking control of your happiness if you can’t afford or aren’t ready to seek out CBT. If you’re having problems with emotional ups and downs, depression, anxiety, anger or stress, it’s a gem.

You can read more about my experience and advice for mental health medication here

Click here to read about supporting a loved one with depression.

Or why not try out the article I wrote about meditation as an alternative to therapy? You can read it here.

Meditation as an alternative to therapy?

meditation
credit zmescience

Sometimes things feel quite alright, and (rather unlike Theresa’s government) I really do feel strong and stable. Other times, things are hard. Depression and anxiety are hard to explain because they are hard to understand, even if you are experiencing these feelings.

I can feel terribly sad, worthless and lonely, even when I’m surrounded by loving and supportive friends and family. I can feel unsure of myself, questioning every word I say and even get waves of grief pass through me, even though I haven’t lost somebody at the time. I can also feel ace.

Peaks and troughs – story of my life!

After 7 years of taking medication (from such a tender wee age), I decided it’s time to try alternative methods. I’ve been trying yoga, exercise, healthy eating and I most recently adopted a bunny!

So, I popped a long to a Buddhist Meditation class at my university to see whether this might fill the role of reducing anxiety and processing my feelings in a healthy way.

The sessions are completely free and for 2 hours every Wednesday I can join a non-judgemental environment to relax, meditate and reflect on everything going on in my busy little head. People go for all kinds of reasons. Some are very spiritual, some are just slightly stressed out with deadlines and various people are dealing with personal issues through this method.

We sit quietly and breathe deeply, whilst someone ‘guides’ the meditation, speaking softly about what we can be thinking about and focussing on. You don’t have to Buddhist and you don’t have to know anything about meditation.

We wear comfy clothes, sit down on pillows and listen to soothing words. We drink tea in the middle and chat, and it’s a space where no one is interrupted or made to feel out of place.

On the first session we did a ‘prayer of love’ where you think about people you love and wish them the best. Then you think about someone whose hurt you and do the same for them. Oh my Christ, I was sobbing my eyes out. I didn’t realise I had stuff to process until my snot and dribble formed a single line of yuck, but no one so much as batted an eyelid.

All night I was subdued and felt strange, but to think I was holding all that sad inside without even knowing is quite a scary thought! We are constantly running around trying to push aside our feelings for a more convenient time so this is a healthy safe space to deal with shit without worrying you’re wasting valuable ‘doing’ time. I am feeling the same impacts that I have felt from formal counselling before, but this is free and there’s a real focus on working through your own issues and not having someone external ‘fix you.’

If you can’t afford, or are unsure about formal therapy, I 100% recommend trying out some meditation.

Hope you found this article helpful! If yes why not check out my other work:

 

Me too

 

You didn’t smack me in the face,
Or break a bone or burn my skin.
But you left footprints of abuse,
All over me when I let you in.

Like a guest that burned my house down.

And the saddest fucking thing?
You’re not evil but you’re sick.
My goodness held me hostage,
I wish that I’d have called the police.

It was never my job to fix you,
But you threatened to take our lives.
I ‘made you’ do some awful things,
I’m almost alright, almost all the time.

 

 

 

 

An illegal referendum and police brutality: what’s going on in Barcelona?!

barcelona.jpg
Credit: news.vice.com

What happened?

Catalan is a wealthy region in North East Spain. It recently had a ‘referendum’ so that people could vote on whether they want to continue to be part of Spain or set up their own nation set apart from Spanish control. They have a very strong culture including their own language.

The Spanish government called this referendum illegal and ‘a mockery of democracy’ (BBC), because they had not agreed to it and do not want Catalan to separate.

Following this, police were brought in to try and stop the referendum happening, which led to 900 people being injured. Police reportedly used unnecessary force.

Protesters think this is a gross violation of freedom of speech. Whether it was legal, the people only wanted to file a piece of paper… so the police response has shocked the world.

Currently, thousands of people are protesting in Barcelona and throughout Catalonia, against both the refusal of Spanish government to legalize their referendum, but more importantly to condemn the response of the police.

Why did it happen?

Part of the reason people want independence comes down to history. Spain had a dictator called Franco who oppressed and murdered many people. He strongly believed in centralism (one big state) so people now wanting to separate from Spain could be a part of a reaction to this, particularly older people who remember having family members killed.

The issue of independence is highly political in Spain and is very decisive. Barcelona and Real Madrid football matches have become more and more political, with people associating the games directly with the struggle between Catalonia and the Spanish State.

How is the British media responding?

In terms of social media, it hasn’t been too hot on UK trends. This could be partly due to other horrific acts of violence happening at the same time. Such as the mass shooting in Las Vegas where 59 people were killed and hundreds injured by a lone shooter. Of course, if he was brown there would be an uproar from Trump and his men, but he was white so it was a ‘tragedy’ and not an act of ‘terrorism’ from an American news perspective.

The BBC provides more detailed information about the reasons behind the protests, highlighting the 900 people injured by police, including women being dragged out of polling stations by their hair and rubber bullets being used to prevent people voting.

How is the Spanish media responding?

The Spanish news is less prepared to mention the reasons behind the protests, or to engage about the issue of police brutality.

People are reported by RTVE to be shouting ‘este edificio será una biblioteca’ (this building will be a library) outside government buildings in the area,  highlighting the passion and intensity of the protesters, and the fact they consider government intervention ‘Spanish interference,’ and see themselves (Catalonia) as a different place.

Highlighting this chant could lead readers to empathize  more with the police, as the passion and intensity behind these words suggests that the protesters were a bit of a mob, rather than normal people expressing their desires through an unapproved vote.

As of yet, an apology for the violence being carried out by the police has not been issued by the Spanish government. According to  RTVE , the huge protests now being experienced in Barcelona are linked to ‘the way the police acted’ but the mainstream news company does not highlight the number of people injured, or condemn police or government actions in any way.

What now?

90% of people who voted in Catalonia wanted independence, but turn out was only 40% because so many polling stations were shut down and roads were closed by the police so it’s hard to say how much this reflects the will of the people.

Protesters continue to occupy the streets in thousands but the Spanish president comes across as uncompromising – blaming the Catalonia decision to hold a ‘false referendum’ rather than police response as the reason for violence.

The TRUTH about sti tests…

sti
Credit: Marie Claire

 

It’s about time someone told you the REALITY about sti tests!  People keep telling you that you should be getting regular checks? Well I’m here to reveal the TRUTH.

The truth is, they are painless.

They are free. They take no more than 20 minutes. Sometimes, you don’t even have to go into a clinic, you can pee is a pot and put it in the post. Nobody shames you or tuts their tongue, nobody is going to stick something huge and painful up your bum, and YES, they are totally worthwhile.

1 in 4 university students will have a sexually transmitted disease before graduating! (Nursing Journal) You don’t need to scream and panic, it will almost always be treatable and leave no lasting damage, but don’t take that risk! The most common sexual infection in young people is chlamydia. Often, it has  no symptoms in men, so it can take a long while before people realize they have it. For women too, you could have absolutely no idea you have it for years, but if left untreated it can lead to infertility… WHY TAKE THE RISK?!

You can get STIs even if you use condoms in sex, for example they can be passed through oral sex. I would recommend you getting a check after every new sexual partner. It doesn’t mean you think they’re dirty, it doesn’t mean you’ve been shagging around, it means that the two of you are respectful enough to put each other’s health and wellbeing before 20 slightly embarrassing minutes in a free clinic.

If you sleep with one person, you are essentially sleeping with all of their past sexual partners in terms of infections. And all of the partners of the partners. And all the partners of those… you get it. By sleeping with one person (even with ‘little’ sexual experience) you are putting yourself into a potential ‘infection web’ that could include hundreds or even thousands of people.

Don’t panic, and for goodness sake don’t swear yourself off of sex, I wouldn’t dream of suggesting it. I’m just saying, use a condom for casual one off partners, because they can help protect you from potential infections.

No lying involved, they could be completely unaware that they have a life-changing infection like HIV (in the very worst of cases). Then, you could both get a quick check before deciding to stop using condoms if you would prefer not to use them.

To be honest, your sexual partner will probably be impressed that you’re mature and matter of fact about sex. If not, are they really mature enough to be going anywhere near your genitals?

Thanks for reading! If you want some help getting an appointment, check out this NHS advice.

You might be interested in my article about hormonal contraception, click here!

Or, for a review of the fantastic ‘vaginal ring’ contraception, click here instead!

The vaginal what?! A review of the contraceptive ring

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credit: medscape.com

I have had various problems finding the right contraception.

Condoms are the only type which can protect you from STIs, so you should be using them anyway if you aren’t in a regular sexual relationship with someone.

It really amazes me how some of my friends (particularly male friends) say that they don’t use condoms on a one-night stand.

‘erm WHAT?!’ I said, bewildered as my mate Tom said he had never once used a condom.

‘Well, I don’t sleep with the kind of girls who would have anything’

‘Come again?’ I wrinkled my nose in disbelief.

‘You know, I just wouldn’t sleep with a girl if she didn’t seem clean.’

Holy Christ, he wasn’t joking. He actually had the audacity to believe (and say outload) that he was somehow protected from sexually transmitted infections because he had some kind of internal chlamydia radar. It’s a view that a lot of young people share. We probably don’t really believe it, but we want to have sex with the interruption of a condom so a lot of people comfort themselves by thinking that STIs are for a ‘dirty’ part of society that they don’t belong to.

Well, tell that to the 13% of men and 12% of women under 25 that have chlamydia.( BBC )

Look around in a lecture and about 10 people (or more) have probably got an STI and have absolutely no idea. Please think about that next time you go back home with someone.

I personally have regular STI tests, before I ever have a new sexual partner without using a condom, and it means you can protect both yourself and your partner from potentially life changing complications. Chlamydia is common and symptomless, and can leave women unable to have children. For the sake of 15 mins in a clinic for a free test, there really isn’t an excuse.

Now I’ve got that rant out of my sweet little lungs let’s move on to the main event: the vaginal ring.

What is it?

Well, it’s a small piece of silicon that you place into your vagina once a month. After 3 weeks, you can take it out yourself and chuck it in a bin. You leave one week without it so that you have your period (just like a pill break) and then on day one you pop another one in.

It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t interrupt sex. It’s good for people who have trouble remembering to take the pill and for people who find the pill/implant can affect their emotions.

I became up and down when I had the implant and this is because it releases hormones into your whole blood stream to prevent you becoming pregnant. With the ring, because you place it in the vagina it only releases a tiny amount and the hormones stay in that area, and don’t circulate your whole body. Because of that it has less physiological effects.

The Marina Coil works in the same way but the difference with the ring is you feel absolutely 0 pain and unlike having it administered for 5 years, you change it every month in a jiffy.

I LOVE the ring, but I only heard of it when I did my year abroad in Spain. Here it is the most widely used and women rave about it. It is extremely effective. So why haven’t any of my English friends even heard of it?

Weird no? I don’t know why but I highly recommend you get to your GP and request it because contraception is free for all women in the UK through the NHS.

Any down sides?

Nothing serious but if somebody is touching you in bed (I think that’s the most delicate way to express what I’m trying to say) they can feel the ring with their fingers. However, it doesn’t hurt them they can just tell it’s there. During sex it is barely noticeable, and isn’t in anyway unpleasant.

The second point is that because you can’t feel it at all I forget that it’s there. That’s fine normally but it’s important to make a note of when you need to take it out and put it back in.

Also, make sure you store it in the fridge because it reacts to your body heat and starts releasing hormones when it’s warm. Therefore, you want to keep it cool until you’re ready to put it in.

For more information about the ring, check out the NHS info here.

If you find this article interesting perhaps you could check out my other article:

Hormonal firecrackers: is contraception playing with our heads?