I’ve been keeping a secret. Ever since the birth of my daughter nearly 2 years ago I have been suffering with severe, chronic and acute anxiety and still am. Along with this comes a deep embarrassment that as a qualified CBT therapist I haven’t been able to “fix myself”. On an endless refrain in my head I hear my old supervisor saying “teach your client to be their own therapist” which feeds into my shame of not being able to come out of the other side of this anxiety when I myself am a fully qualified therapist. I think I feel that as I have so many CBT skills that I should be doing much better than I actually am. My self-pressure and guilt of not being able to navigate the minefield of my own anxiety by “being my own therapist” is at some points suffocating.
My amazing mental health care coordinator has helped me to gradually see that I do an awful lot to help myself but I never feel it’s enough.
My psychiatrist printed off lots of CBT thought record sheets to try and help me manage my anxiety a bit better. Although this helped get many distressing thoughts out on paper rather than just in my head endlessly floating around, I am still left with my worst symptom, a constant feeling in the pit of my abdomen of complete fear.
I’m on several medications, I’d be on higher doses if I could but my physical medical conditions make this problematic.
I’ve seen an amazing psychologist yet am still so overwhelmed by crippling anxiety.
My anxiety revolves around fear of not being able to cope looking after my daughter. I have numerous disabling medical conditions meaning I’m reliant on my family and carers to assist me in my parenting role. It makes me feel so vulnerable. I suffer with awful chronic fatigue as a result of my medical conditions and my psychiatric medications only compound this. Combined with pain this means I can’t drive. I can’t use public transport without severe pain. I can’t lift my daughter up or down the stairs (and toddlers won’t always walk even when they can). I can’t hold her legs in the air to change her nappy and many other parenting tasks too. At my worst I feel suicidal and like a terrible person that was stupid to have a child. I go through phases of constantly berating myself for having a child knowing I’m disabled. I live in fear that something will happen to my relatives or my carers will be taken away (a real fear in light of social care cut backs) and I will be stranded with a child I can’t look after by myself. I’m all consumed by this fear. I’m scared my health will deteriorate further and that I’ll be able to do even less for her and in my eyes be even less of a mother.
I feel so guilty that I’m not “better”. It’s made me reflect on how I feel about CBT a lot. I have in fact used lots of CBT techniques without actually consciousluly realising. For example I’ve never avoided taking my daughter to baby or toddler groups however much I’ve wanted to hide away, even though I sometimes cry in them as I’m so consumed by anxiety. I think this is because I know that avoidance is a slippery slope to doing less and feeling even worse. However I’ve also had something confirmed I’ve always known, CBT isn’t a magic one-size-fits-all cure. I’ve always been passionate about the fact that CBT isn’t always the whole answer but it can help. I’m living proof of this. CBT alone isn’t enough for me, I need my medication, I need secondary mental health services input, I needed other types of therapy and still do in the future. Most of all though I want to learn not to be ashamed anymore. I don’t think this will be a quick process but I’m hoping on some level that writing this will go someway towards helping. I don’t know if I’ll ever be physically well enough to work as a CBT therapist again but if I do this experience will only go on to expand my compassion and empathy for others living with anxiety. My psychiatrist has reiterated several times how difficult it is to treat. I just never really appreciated someone (me) could be this difficult to treat. My psychiatrist is confident I will improve and says it’s a marathon not a race. I have improved somewhat but really wish I could sprint to the finish line.