I lived with a fake smile behind a pane of glass. My friends finally took me to a doctor and this time I felt so desperate I took the antidepressant given to me but it triggered extreme reactions, and I was referred to see a psychiatrist.
In 2008 I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder and an eating disorder. I was flinging from the depths of suicidal depression to the heights of mania where everything was beautiful with perfect clarity. I was writing poetry, spending obsessively and bursting with energy.
Unfortunately, my mania reached the point of psychosis where I believed my family were conspiring against me and I had a unique relationship with God. As a result, I was admitted into a private psychiatric hospital.
Thoughts, Feelings and Behavior
I met my CBT therapist when my symptoms stabilized and I was receptive to talking therapy. I didn’t know what to expect. Since then I have read many articles that over-complicate CBT, but my trusted therapist explained it very simply to me. He taught me that the basic model of CBT was looking at how your thoughts affect your feelings, which impact your behaviour.
In my opinion, it is simply a better way of thinking. CBT has been shown to be effective for many mental health problems including anxiety, depression, panic, phobias, stress, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and psychosis.
Your thoughts as a starting point can be absolutely anything. It’s about becoming aware of them and how they impact your feelings and behaviour. We all know that throughout our mental health struggles we follow negative thought patterns that often lead to despair and feel impossible to break.
For example, as part of my depression, one of my recurring thoughts was I am nothing, so my feeling was sadness, and as a result, my action was to stay in bed and cry. An example for my eating disorder was, I am fat and disgusting, my feeling was worthlessness and my action was to restrict my diet and over-exercise. And for mania it was I want to buy things, so my feeling was excitement and my action was to shop and spend money.
CBT is all about learning to interject at different points in the cycle. Instead of thinking, no one likes me, I can’t cope, and spiralling into feelings of panic and despair, I try and train myself to ask myself why I can't cope today. Has anyone said they don’t like me? Am I feeling down and tired in general? Have I taken my medication? These interventions enable me to rationalize my thoughts and help me to prevent panic attacks, self-harming, purging food or anything else that might have a negative effect on me.