Sometimes it’s easy to forget that this is my personal blog. I have written so much recently about workfare, welfare reform and politics that I haven’t had time to write about anything outside of those. I have always found it useful to write down what I have been going through, to help get my own thoughts in order and so this is one of those blog posts.
In the last few weeks I have been trying reboxetine in addition to the escitalopram I was already taking to try to reduce my panic attacks and anxiety. Two days after I started taking reboxetine I spent a day in the worst depression that I have had for a few months and was suicidal as well as being really really horrible to my wife. This is always a possible temporary side effect with a new anti-depressant and fortunately I was much better after that. The new medication did seem to be working for a couple of weeks but in the last week I have had two big meltdowns, panic attacks leading into spiralling depression again.
Since referal to a psychologist seems to be rare and slow in my area, last week I started to attend a cognitive behavioural therapy group which I have been waiting to start for a few months. CBT (and I may be wrong here) appears to be a way to learn to see and understand the problematic thoughts and moods, and then provides a method of changing them. CBT is currently the most popular therapy for depression and anxiety. It isn’t without problems, and it isn’t for everyone. One person said to me today that CBT is “feels like brainwashing” and I think he is right, but it is self-brainwashing.
CBT has a bad reputation among patients with M.E. because many psychiatrists believe that M.E. is a somataform disorder – that is, they believe that M.E. is a set of physical symptoms caused by mental illness. Now this isn’t impossible in some cases, although I think in most cases it is unlikely given that people with M.E. can often overdo things on a good mental health day and still find themselves stuck in bed for days recovering from their exertion. More common is that depression arrives after and as a result of becoming sick with M.E. Anyway, since M.E. is a physical neurological illness which can be partly controlled by pacing and learning when to stop, the common fear is that CBT teaches M.E. patients to push themselves too far and end up enduring serious health repercussions. This bad reputation of CBT for people with M.E. is the reason why I changed my psychiatrist and checked that the CBT group wouldn’t attempt to interfere with my M.E.
Although this group is officially a CBT group it seems to be more than that. We will be taught how to use CBT and Mindfullness, and we are working through a book called Mind Over Mood. (Affiliate link.) We are being taught some helpful things alongside that too. The group meets for two hours per week over twelve weeks and there are six of us, plus a psychologist and a community nurse. Group therapy provides the chance for us to support each other too and I have already found this useful in the first two sessions. While Twitter has been a lifeline by allowing me to be in contact with a lot of people in similar situations it is nice to discuss these things in person. (And I might be dragging some of these people on to Twitter!)
Apart from the depression and anxiety taking a turn for the worse again my M.E. has been significantly worse for a while. I currently can’t walk very far at all and have had to use my wheelchair a lot when going out as well as rely on my dad to drive me to medical appointments. I have been stuck in bed for the majority of most days because sitting in a chair is extremely draining. Unfortunately the two hours I have to spend at each CBT group session is very draining and I have had a lot of pain since yesterday’s session.
So things aren’t so great at the moment. Despite that, I am looking forward to going to QEDCon next week and then spending a week staying with my sister. When I get back I hope to collect my new car which I hope will allow me to leave the house a bit more often. I will finally be able to stop relying on my dad to drive me around and I also intend to start going swimming when I can drive myself to the pool, and to take a few trips to meet friends around the country. I just need to build up some strength for that one.