Tag Archive | cbt

Fighting negativity


Fighting negativity takes a lot of hard work, discipline and energy. I don’t want to be negative and I chastise people who are. I talk them through the reasons why they feel that way, challenge them to find the evidence to prove their opinion is well-founded and try to motivate and encourage them to think differently.

So why can’t I follow my own advice and lead by example? Who knows but it must have something to do with a low self esteem coupled with the expectation that I should be Wonder Woman and be able to cope on my own with anything and everything that life throws at me.

I am getting better at asking for help but that makes me feel worse not better. I am starting to come to terms with my limitations brought about by my constant fatigue and lack of mental and physical energy but this in itself is very depressing for me. Compromise, moderation and “second” have never been in the dictionary but they are highlighted in my latest version.

It is an especially difficult time for me at work at the moment. Not just because we are working up against set deadlines but because there is so much I would have done better had I known what to focus on. The trouble is, until I experienced this cycle I wouldn’t have known and therein lies the frustration.

Until I look at it in a more evidence-based way and realise that, overall it hasn’t been so bad. Yes, it could have been a lot better and I would have loved to have been at the top of my game but realistically, taking everything into consideration I got through and next year I have an amazing opportunity to show a dramatic improvement. I will know what is expected, I will change my ways (many of which are dictated by my illness but need to be challenged) and I will feel much more comfortable when I am back in control.

Easy to say, not so easy to carry out but I will. There is nothing to stop me and if I manage my illness properly, I will stay the course.

A very steep learning curve can be demoralising and depressing when you feel out of control but analysed in light of realistic evidence, it can be beneficial and help you develop both as a person and professional.

I need to accept my limitations and plan accordingly. Turn negativity into positivity and learn from my experience.

Isn’t this what life’s all about?


Are you mentally strong?

I found this on Pinterest today and when I read through them it made me think. I don’t practise some of these things that “mentally strong” people do. Maybe I should start. Have a read and let me know how you get on…..

Mentally strong

There’s something good in every day…..

every-day-may-not-be-good-but-there-is-something-good-in-everyday (1)

When I am struggling with low mood as I am at the moment, I try to be positive. If nothing else, many sessions of CBT have taught me to be more positive and to look at the “evidence” objectively before I condemn myself to more self-induced misery based on emotion and my devilishly overactive imagination. It’s all part of developing those good habits (ARTs as opposed to ANTs) in the hope that they overwhelm and destroy all those long-formed bad habits as they take over.

On my way home this evening, rather than dwell on all the things I didn’t do well or didn’t go well, I decided to focus on the good things and what has made me smile and happy today. It was an interesting exercise!

Before doing this, I would have said that today wasn’t a “good day” overall and a 3/10 would have been generous. However, looking at the “good things” I have a change of heart. So what made me happy today?

  • My son getting another offer from a University of his choice. That’s 5/6 so far.
  • My son finishing his Level 1 football coaching qualification at the weekend and qualifying as a coach to go with his Referees qualification.
  • Coming home from work to be collected from the train station by my Chauffeur-hubby.
  • Having dinner (salmon, dill rice, salad and seasoned Greek yoghurt) cooked for me whilst I relax.
  • Laughing my socks off when some dumb-ass pulled the emergency cord in the train toilet so that we came to an abrupt stop. (The train cannot continue until the alarm is reset so his ablutions were unceremoniously interrupted by the female guard!)
  • Having cuddles with my pussy-cats.
  • Getting some lovely paper flowers for my nieces wedding scrapbook delivered in the post-I love coming home to parcels.
  • Knowing that whatever happens, it happens for a reason and to embrace it however scary at the time.
  • Being told at work that people confide in me because I am approachable, understanding, non-judgmental and encouraging.
  • Realising that money and status really don’t impress me still. (I’d be worried if that had changed)
  • Worrying about my friends and clients, who are going through tough times-I can’t help caring and I see it as positive. I have too long seen the nurturer and caring instinct as a weakness  but I am proud to care and empathise. I wish more people would care.
  • Laughing at a few “funny” things that happened today although I sense that my sense of humour is maybe a tad different to many others! I don’t care-I thought they were funny.

So. All in all I would re-categorise today as an 8/10. A huge difference and a positive one at that.

good things

Keep it real

burn out

It’s official. I have been diagnosed with “Burnout” with extremely high levels of both anxiety and depression. That’s the bad news (It is horrible) but the good news is that my psychologist diagnosed the issue almost immediately, recognised my symptoms and causes and told me that I can recover with help and support. My Dr has known me for a long time, just over 20 years, and knows me well. This is a huge advantage when fighting an illness like depression/anxiety because there is nothing worse and more frustrating than seemingly wasting time and energy going through old material. It takes up precious time and energy which I can ill afford.

So very briefly I have a plan. A plan feels good and at long last I truly believe that I can crawl out of this mire and get back to my life. My plan is discussed and agreed with Doc Fraser and involves a number of active strategies to make the best of a bad lot.

Firstly, I will be starting work at 10.00am and not 9.00am on the days I work in Birmingham. This one hour adjustment appears pretty minor at first glance but has major advantages for me with the least disruption to my work and employer. Based on train times, believe it or not, it actually means that I get an extra hour in bed every morning and a much more relaxed start to the day. The later train is far less crowded and I don’t have to fight for a seat or sit next to a really annoying person who insists on sitting next to me and puts their makeup on and plucks their eyebrows (Sorry, but whilst I sort of get the make up I think it’s revolting to pluck eyebrows/ trim toenails in public) So immediately I am faced with less stress!

Doc Fraser also understands that I am my worst critic and expect far too much of myself when feeling under the weather. He directly asked me the question, “So Caroline, you feel hopeless, helpless, despondent, tearful, you have loss of memory and confused thinking. You are mentally and physically exhausted and you expect to perform as normal?”

Me: “Yes”

Mmmm…..this is where the Doc suggested that I might like to “get real”.

negative thoughts

The reality is that I am ill. It is not a choice it is a fact. I couldn’t run a marathon with a broken leg so why would I expect to perform a cerebral job as normal when mentally impaired?

Ok, fair point. So let’s get real and manage expectations.

Positive thinking 2

I now have a list of homework tasks to do before my next appointment on Thursday. Nothing too demanding but focusing on those aspects of my life which I find most difficult. Small steps and steady progress.

Let’s keep it real.

positive-thinking-quotes (1)

Stones. The straw that broke the camel’s back

For reasons too numerous and too complex to go into today, I am back on the antidepressants; 40mg Fluoxetine. No messing around; straight into a decent dose of artificial mood-enhancer.

After 16 months of being drug-free, true to form the Black Dog has returned to lay me so low that I question the value of my very existence. This wasn’t a decision taken lightly either by me or my GP. I spent 45 minutes with her yesterday, 5 minutes discussing my recent encounter with kidney stones/renal colic and the rest of the time reasoning the advantages or otherwise of going back on medication for my extreme low mood.

When fully functional, I can argue black is white but I had no defence against her solid and sensible reasoning that good old Prozac will again buy me the time necessary to sort myself out. I am not great at looking after Number 1 and to say that I had a lecture in personal well-being and making sensible choices is an understatement. Everything she said was absolutely true. I can’t deny that but sadly I am not in the position to do what I need to do to recover from this dreadful illness once and for all.

For now, I have to deal with it with the help of chemical intervention (Fluoxetine) and more counselling/talking therapy until such time that I can wave goodbye to it forever. At 50 years young, I am fast running out of time and options but I am still determined to die happy.

What an achievement that will be.


Ruby Wax on Mindfulness

003Last Monday I was invited to the Barbican in London to attend a mental health event featuring Ruby Wax. I duly made my way down to the Metropolis from Birmingham  first to enjoy a drinks reception kindly hosted by my employers, KPMG and Linklaters followed by the event itself.

The reception was a great place to start the evening as everyone there has a personal interest in mental health. The reasons for their interest were varied, interesting and often surprising. You just never know what goes on behind those shutters and it is humbling to hear others talk about their experiences of their own mental health issues or those of their family. The best thing though, is that we were all talking about “it”. Thankfully the stigma attached to mental illness is slowly but surely being whittled away so that more people are prepared to stand up and admit to their illness. I have seen first hand the amazing results that being open and honest can bring about and listening to others in “my tribe” it appears that the word is spreading with life-changing impact.

Bold and brash. Modest and mindful. In simple terms this describes the very distinct and diverse traits of the complex personality that is Ruby Wax. Polar opposites-the Ruby Wax of old and the “new” Ruby that is now the proud owner of a number of Diplomas in subjects related to mental health. At first I was rather sceptical, but as the evening wore on, I soon realised that this woman knows her stuff. She also knows that she has limits, and most of the “show” was given over to her interviewer, Radio 4’s Claudia Hammond and Psychologist  Dr Tamara Russell who specialises in Mindfulness.

005And this is where the evening got really interesting. I have been a fan of Mindfulness and MCBT (Mindful Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for many years and often practise MCBT techniques to get me through the day. Ruby Wax has clearly cottoned on to its benefits, and if I understand correctly, her new book describes Mindfulness and how it can help with depression. She herself uses the techniques and finds it does help her condition. Good for her for sharing and if it encourages others to follow suit, it has to be a good thing.

Mindfulness is described as;

“the awareness that arises
when paying attention in a
particular way: on purpose, in
the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”
(Kabat-Zinn 1994)

and there are numerous books and websites which contain information about Mindfulness and how to practise the techniques.

Personally, I have a Mindfulness bell set up on my computer so that it chimes at certain times of the day when I recognise that I am usually at my most vulnerable. On hearing the bell, the Pavlov Dog in me immediately takes in a deep breath and starts 2 minutes of breathing properly. In the moment. Calm and peaceful. Relaxed and refreshed. It works for me.

 The evening was very different to what I expected but pleasantly so. I wasn’t disappointed-far from it I was impressed by Ruby’s approach and demeanour and she came across as a genuine “sufferer” and someone who is determined to help herself. She is no victim, but she remains vulnerable and for this, her admissions are commendable and inspiring to many others who find themselves unable to “come out” just yet.

I don’t think I will be buying her book which comes out in June, and I didn’t learn anything new on the night but it was a great idea and I would recommend going to listen to her talk about her battles with depression and Mindfulness if you get the opportunity.

It was £10 well spent!

Useful links:

 Oxford Mindfulness Centre 

Mindfulness bell

Why did I start my Blog? Part 2

Continued from my previous post-Why did I start my Blog-Part 1

Following on quickly from the cathartic exercise of writing to JSP, a strange thing happened. At 4am on Wednesday 26 May, I woke up with the sole intention that day to tell some of my closest friends and colleagues that I have depression and to commit to helping eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness. I have no idea why I woke up on that particular morning with that particular goal in mind but I was obsessed. At this point, only 2 or 3 people were aware of my struggles.

I wrote my email and by 5am, it was ready to send to approximately 30 people at work. My finger hovered over the “send” button but for a millisecond before I launched my confession into cyberspace. At the time I felt a mixture of dread, relief, anticipation but most importantly I felt clean. I could be who I am. No more acting or pretence which is exhausting and whatever the outcome, I sensed that I had done the right thing at the right time.

It didn’t take long for the responses to come flooding back and the comments I received were overwhelmingly positive. I don’t use that word lightly. It was simply overwhelming.

“Well done, I think your strength and generosity is incredible”

“What an incredibly positive thing you are doing”

“I have always thought highly of you but this surpasses that by a mile”

“very inspiring”

“I am so proud and impressed. You are indeed an inspiration”

What followed on from this email has been nothing short of amazing and I am not going to go through the detail here but will list some events briefly so that you get an idea of how big this topic has become in my life since last May.

  • June 2010- I was interviewed by Clive Cookson the Chief Science Editor of the Financial Times for his article “No Room For Gloom” which was published on 14 June.
  • July 2010- I was invited to sit on the KPMG Disability Steering Group and Mental Health Champion.
  • October 2010- I attended the launch of the Depression, Disability and Employment report compiled by the Depression Alliance and RADAR, sponsored by Priory Clinics at the House of Commons.
  • November 2010- I started to help organise a corporate seminar about depression in the City taking place in March. This is a high profile event with well-known speakers.
  • November/December 2010-  I joined the Aspire Heroines Quest.

My Campaign is:

To eradicate the stigma attached to mental illness in general and depression in particular.


Everyone deserves a chance.

Why should you care?

Because depression is non-discriminatory. Tomorrow it could be you or someone you care about.

Call to action:

I would like everyone to start talking openly and honestly about mental health issues and experiences of depression. Only in this way will we effect change.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world”-Mahatma Gandhi

  • December 2010- I registered as a Time To Change Champion and a Rethink Activist.

As you can see, events have rather taken over and as I have tried to combine all this with a full-time job which involves travelling the length and breadth of the UK  I am paying the price now. I am mentally and emotionally exhausted.

I was so worn down at the beginning of November that I was advised to take some time off work to recuperate.  I didn’t want to speak to anyone, go out anywhere or do anything. I wanted to be left alone, in peace and quiet with just my thoughts. That didn’t work completely as I still had lots that I needed to say. Unable to converse without bursting into tears I began to write more and more. I filled notebooks and journals with poems, stories and experiences. All my pent up emotions from the last 30 years were being poured out onto paper.

Then I decided to create a Blog for me. Like many people, I didn’t expect anyone to read my posts. Why would they? And so it began. I’m not terribly clever with IT, but I have managed to create a Blogging environment which I am happy with. I chose the name Poppyposts as the flowers in my garden last year were so beautiful, and the photos I had of the poppies were my favourite. The bright orange showy blooms symbolise the vibrant person inside waiting to escape, but they are also some of the most fragile flowers in the border. A sharp gust of wind, or heavy rain shower  can soon put paid to the petals so I try and protect and shield them by surrounding them with stronger more resilient shrubs. The shrubs may not be so colourful but they work hard and are a constant support for these delicate plants.

Poppyposts is therefore part of me and I am nurturing it as best I can with the much welcomed support of anyone who cares to provide it. For everyone who has so far connected with me and left their kind words for me to read, I am most grateful. Although I don’t expect people to read my witterings, it’s undoubtedly nice when they do.

For anyone who cares to join me and my friends for the journey, you are more than welcome.

In a nutshell (!), that is why I started my Blog.

Thank you for making it to the end-you must have one of the many of the attributes I lack. Patience.

Lesson (1) to be learned

I’ve had a strange couple of days. Not at all unpleasant, and in fact better than I anticipated and therein lies the clue to the first lesson learned. I should really say lesson reinforced rather than learned as nothing that I have experienced over the past two days is anything new but it has been an opportunity to bring certain things to the forefront of my thinking and with a little self-awareness realise that old habits die-hard.

Lesson 1-The negative vicious circle of depression

Like many others, negative thinking is a real threat to my well-being and general outlook on life. Most of the time I manage to control those demon thoughts and they rebound immediately from my conscious the moment they fly in. A skill I have learned to execute perfectly over the years.  This week however, with a new lap-top scheduled at work, I let all those fears and dreaded predictions of disaster take hold so that I was not looking forward to this morning one bit. My mind was racing with thoughts about the loss of data, scrambling of documents, eradication of my contacts, and having to spend hours on the phone to our in-house Helpline to retrieve it all. I have little patience with IT equipment and gadgets and my philosophy is that if it comes with a manual, it’s too complicated. I want to get-and-go and from listening to others with their new laptops, that wasn’t going to happen. I don’t know whether my subconscious was also working overtime but I was awake and up at 04.00am this morning preparing for battle.

Needless to say, after all this energy and effort spent in worrying about something I had no control over it all went rather well and took much less time than anticipated. I still have all my contacts intact, no email derail, and even Facebook is better! (Ssshhhh!)

So next time you are tempted to look on the black side of everything, see the worst in yourself  or view the future as bleak, don’t.  Challenge those thoughts and put an end to those thinking errors.

You might save yourself a lot of heartache.