The year was 2014 and I just didn’t feel the same. The days seemed longer, and the things that used to make me happy just didn’t cut it anymore. As I sunk deeper and deeper into depression, I started trying new things to numb myself, hoping for a quick fix.
Unfortunately, this led to a dangerous attraction to alcohol and a number of other substances. Addiction took hold, and I began to isolate those closest to me. When I finally stepped back to assess the damage, I didn’t recognize who I had become, and I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to be. I tried multiple therapists and a battery of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication, thought to be a pretty common approach, but nothing seemed to work.
It was at this point my mother recommended I try CBT. CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a kind of therapy that centers on adjusting and understanding certain behaviors. It takes a more practical approach to why we feel the things we feel and restructuring negative ideas into realistic ones.
At this point, I was skeptical. I had been to multiple therapists and I had found none of them to be any more helpful to the way I saw myself than a good friend, a glass of wine, and a vent session. I sat in the therapist’s office, glancing around the room and ascribing my judgements. My first session was a single lesson that I was told to say to myself over and over and get into my brain. “It’s not your fault.”
From here the therapy went deeper into my own brain pathways. We centered on what kind of things made me get down on myself. When I started thinking I wasn’t pretty or smart, we focused on the one thing about those insecurities that I appreciated, and rewired the conversation in my brain to the realistic. I may not be the prettiest, but I liked my eyes, and I may not be the smartest, but I liked reading.
Up until this point I thought I was useless, that my depression was a result of my own failures, and that I should of had complete control over my mental faculties. CBT allowed me to start to see the chemical signature of depression, and how because my neurons were firing differently than they used to, the way to work with my depression instead of against it was to stop treating the symptoms and start changing the conversation. Moment by moment, I started to have more conversations with myself to understand why I was feeling the way I was. Instead of telling myself I should be happy when I was sad, I kept a journal to release the things that made me sad and forgive myself for having those emotions. I became more realistic, and it made me a more active participant in my depression.
The biggest lesson I learned through my journey with CBT was that there is no easy fix for depression. There is no magic pill or lesson that will make you do a 180 degree flip and cure you. Depression is a day-to-day, conversation-to-conversation struggle, and slowly but surely, things do get better. Fight the good fight, and become an active participant in your depression. I can’t imagine where I would be if I hadn’t.