They also help me to identify triggers in the future. When I have overwhelming feelings that are spiralling out of control I remind myself of what has happened before. For example, what has been the result of my panic attack? I have been scared, tearful and out of breath but I have always lived through it. Do I want to respond to my thoughts and feelings in the same way or try something different?
I use distraction techniques such as texting a friend, calling a trusted one, practising relaxation, watching a film, listening to music, going out, it can be anything that works for you, or all of the above in quick succession. The key is recognizing and interrupting those thoughts right at the very beginning before they’ve had a chance to gain momentum and feel out of control.
Unravelling a Web of Thoughts
Believe me, this process is not easy, or a quick fix. Fundamentally, you have to talk about why you think those initial thoughts in the first place. It became very clear to me that although a seemingly confident person, I had low self-esteem, never felt good enough and was desperate for acceptance and security whilst developing mental health issues.
I have spent hours and hours unravelling a web of thoughts that have built up through my years and left many CBT sessions feeling desperately sad with the intent to cope through my negative strategies. I even fled from one. However, something has always made me return. I had to untangle thoughts to accept my past but my CBT focused on the here and now, and how I could build a future.
I was asked constructive questions and supported in finding my own solutions. This gave me empowerment and gave me a sense of self-worth. My therapist gave me hope that I could get through the difficult periods. I now automatically challenge my thoughts every time I worry or start to think down a destructive path.
I have lived with my diagnosis of bipolar for six years now and I am 32 years of age. I have had many hospital admittances, I take medication daily and I receive regular support from health professionals. I still struggle in life but CBT has enabled me to take some of the control back and manage what, at times, feels impossible. It has encouraged me to move forwards, taught me to problem solve and I’ve learnt about myself and found things I enjoy, reducing further risk of negative thought patterns.
My therapist never told me that CBT would make the world a better place and cure my mental health problems but he did say it would relieve some of the pressure and give me a way of thinking that would help me manage it that little bit easier.
He was certainly right.
Note: Cognitive behavioral therapy for bipolar is usually recommended by a doctor or psychiatrist because treatment is dependent upon the person and not applicable to all. If someone is in a crisis, specialist emergency treatment is required.