Cognitive Behaviour Therapy transformed my life from exhaustion to fulfilment
“Prior to using your services, I’d felt myself slipping dangerously into a cycle of sleep deprivation, overworking but unproductive working and ‘survival’ eating. I felt like I had lost control of my life coping with the demands of a 5 year old, a house that needed doing up, and a full-time job. I would sit at my desk on Monday mornings and cry, thinking about the week ahead. And I’d started to feel depressed because I couldn’t see a way to change it.
Thankfully and unsurprisingly, it all poured out during a 1:1 at work. I didn’t think my boss would care that I was exhausted because I’d let things get out of balance with childcare at home or that I had no time to rest because my husband was constantly ‘doing up the house.’ But of course, she did; it was destroying my quality of life and impacting my ability to do my work. She referred me to the Burn Out services through WeCare. I was referred to a specialist counsellor within weeks for four therapy sessions.
Each week, my counsellor listened to what was going on for me, reflected on this back, and gave me some specific exercises to complete between sessions. Because the approach was ‘cognitive behaviour therapy’ and I only had four sessions, those exercises were absolutely critical to the success of the therapy.
One exercise I particularly liked helped to challenge negative thoughts. I wrote my negative thought about myself in column A, and column B wrote a counter-argument to it. It’s so powerful because you can almost laugh at the negative thought afterward, which I now do in my mind in real time.
Another was the ‘Circle of Control’, which provided a map of all the things in my life I could do something about and those I couldn’t. It helped me to see that sharing childcare more equitably and taking days off at weekends are totally within my control, and my counsellor made me practice asking for these from my husband. It took both him and I some getting used to it, but again I do it in real-time now. Perhaps everyone does these things, but I certainly didn’t, and it’s changed my life.
What I loved about it was that there wasn’t time for months and months of talking about feelings; there were just really focused exercises that did the same job but probably much more effectively. In particular, the Life Story Past, Present, Future deals with a lifetime’s worth of ups and downs by creating a visual timeline of the good times and bad.
And with the help of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, let me put into words what needs weren’t being met during the bad times. With this timeline in front of me, the following exercise was to write a letter to my parents telling them how I’d felt during those times, but without blaming them, just articulating what I’d experienced. The letter is then destroyed, which symbolises letting go of those experiences. You can imagine that’s a very intense exercise, and for a couple of weeks, I was quite ‘raw.’
But the result has been transformational; I take time out at home, my husband and I share childcare responsibilities more equally, and I feel much more in control of my work and working patterns. I’m enjoying my job again; I’m happier.
It’s a brilliant programme; short and intense and very powerful. I’d highly recommend it to anyone.”