A Ten Minute Walk in the Fresh Air

On Wednesday I had my first appointment for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Because of my work patterns, it’s more convenient for me to attend at another surgery, the other side of the Wye Valley in the Forest of Dean. Wednesday afternoon was foggy and murky, and as I drove towards the surgery, getting more and more lost in the fog and the murk, I couldn’t help comparing the journey with a journey into my subconscious.

I eventually arrived in the right place ten minutes late. The therapist I saw, Jenny, was very pleasant. I’ve had psychotherapy before, and found it immeasurably helpful, but this had a different focus. One of the first things Jenny told me was that since I’ve suffered from depression so consistently for so long, I probably won’t ever get ‘better’. This appears to be clinical depression rather than reactive depression, and so rather than hoping for a miracle cure, I need to focus on management of the condition in order to live as fully and constructively, and happily, as I can.

This might sound like a bit of a pessimistic propsect, but in fact it was a breakthrough for me. Rather than feeling guilty that I can’t make the effort to get better, here is a medical professional telling me that this is no longer a concern. I felt it take a lot of pressure off.

In the course of the session we discussed many subjects, and came up with strategies for dealing with what evolved as issues. For instance – I don’t take care of myself properly. I always assumed I did, but on investigation, I feel guilty about any time or money I spend on myself. Part of that is ‘having three children’ syndrome. Because I am not the primary carer, any time I’m not at work I feel I ‘should’ be spending with the children, or doing housework, or just giving The Husband a break. The effect of this is that any time I do take for myself feels like an enormous effort. Whenever people suggest I should have some ‘me’ time, or do exercise for instance, in the back of my mind I’m thinking – but you don’t understand, you don’t have my life, my responsibilities, my time pressures. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the effort of getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed and putting makeup on always seemed like an impossible mountain to climb.

But the effect of the outside observer’s opinion is quite astonishing. Because she has said I need to look after myself, I’m making more of an effort to do so. One of the things Jenny recommended was doing some more exercise. I’ve started up various exercise plans many times in the past, only to fail to keep to them and abandon them, feeling lazy and like a failure. But Jenny and I are both of the opinion that some of my exhaustion comes from a lack of exercise. So the middle ground is a ten minute walk in the fresh air every day. Enough to get the blood pumping, to raise the endorphins and seratonin and lower cortisol levels, but not enough to seriously inconvenience The Husband, or take too much time out of my working day. It’s also so little that even if I’m really quite unwell (as I am at the moment – terrible cold!) it’s manageable.

I did it yesterday – I just walked around the office grounds for a short while, and it really did lift my day. And I felt as if I had more energy this morning, even though I slept really badly. I also took the time to wash my face properly and use moisturiser this morning. It’s obvious now that I’ve slid into some very strange attitudes without noticing, which reinforce my feelings of worthlessness. So tackling those by challenging them in my own head is the way forward for now. And I can allow myself to do this because someone else gave me the permission to do so.

I’ve got another session in a month, and it’ll be a good time to review progress. In the meantime, I’m waiting for a good time to do today’s walk, and I have a haircut tomorrow. And I’m making a real effort to eat properly, take medicine when I’m in pain, and generally treat myself as if I’m a worthwhile human being. I’m 41. Why am I only just figuring out that this is the right thing to do?

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3 Responses to A Ten Minute Walk in the Fresh Air

  1. Alan Garde says:

    I am so glad you found a good therapist, it sounds like she is really going to encourage you to get the best out of yourself by teaching you all those good habits that seem so obvious in hindsight but bloody well aren’t at the time. Life is all about the little things and its so helpful having someone else point out what they are when we get so caught up in drowning in the big picture. I remember my therapist telling me that I wouldn’t drop someone in a swimming pool and just hope they worked out how to swim, or put someone in a car without teaching them to drive, so why did I expect to be able to know all these things to try and keep my brain in a straight line without someone giving me hints and tips and the tools to do it. The best of luck with this, now that you don’t have to worry about why you can’t make yourself better but can get on with treating yourself better.

    • You’re right, therapy is definitely a learned skill… or rather, self-healing is a learned skill. And a safe space to talk about things. One of the bizarre, unusual but very freeing things about the session was being able to talk about self-harm to someone who fully understood and didn’t judge. Because I was able to do that, I understood some things I haven’t understood before. In fact, it was a session full of light bulb moments…

  2. Nikka says:

    WOOO WHOOO!!!!

    And that is all I have to say!

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