Talking Therapies: Chris’s story
Before the pandemic hit in early 2020, Chris was leading a busy life; working in a voluntary role as a board member, exercising and receiving physical therapy for an injured shoulder, and socialising with friends. However, all of this had to stop when the first lockdown was introduced. Like many of us, Chris was forced into isolation; he couldn’t even go to spend Christmas with his recently widowed father.
It wasn’t until early 2021 that Chris realised how much all of this had affected his mental health. He was having trouble sleeping, and if he did sleep, he found it hard to get up in the mornings. He was finding it difficult to make decisions or organise plans, and struggled with increasing pressure at work.
After talking to a friend, Chris decided to make an appointment with his GP, who suggested he consider Talking Therapy. We spoke to him to find out more about his experience.
How did you hear about Talking Therapies?
It was through my GP. I had a scheduled call with him about something else. During the conversation, he asked how I was and I told him how I’d been feeling and what I’d been through recently. Afterwards, he said he thought that I was quite possibly suffering from depression.
The doctor proposed therapy. I wanted to try something different to tackle the way I was feeling, so he suggested I look at the Community Living Well website. I had a look through all of the options and, after completing a self-referral and talking with one of the CLW advisers I decided on CBT with Talking Therapies.
I had reached a point where I needed someone to reassure me, point me in the right direction, and just keep an eye on me. That’s quite scary to accept, strange to be scared of something like that. But it was very useful.
When you started your sessions, how were theses arranged?
I had my sessions online, via a video call. The first session was an introduction, covering background information, what the therapist needed to know about me, and what my approach would be to particular exercises, so that she could work out which ones to set. By the end of first session, we got onto setting some tasks for the week.
I had 6 sessions in total. You have to have sessions regularly, obviously as it’s trying to re-establish a routine. It made perfect sense to have the sessions at the same time on the same day, but they could be flexible if I needed to change an appointment because of another commitment.
Did your therapist give you any exercises or tools to practise at home?
Yes. The first one was simply keeping a diary of what I do every couple of hours. Just writing down what I did. If I’d done nothing, then that’s what I wrote, and it progressed from there.
I was having issues with some of my work where problems I was trying to solve were just too big. I couldn’t recognise what I needed to do in order to solve them. I should’ve known to break the work down into smaller tasks. It takes the knowledge of the therapist to tell you to put the brakes on and take a look at the situation.
In became clear to me in the first few sessions, ‘why didn’t I speak to someone the first time around?’
Keeping the diary triggered my brain to break my day down so I could manage it. The therapist also asked me to write down what I wanted to achieve from therapy, what problems did I have that I wanted to be on track to sort out myself.
I wanted relief. I wanted to get back to exercise regularly, I wanted to get out and enjoy my hobbies, re-do some of my boating courses. These were all building blocks. My first priority was to get out of a board-member role I had. I knew I had to get out as it was causing so much stress. The hardest thing for me was leaving a situation behind. But just recently I walked away from it – I’d spent two-and-half years fighting to keep it on track for my own sense of pride. Therapy made me see it for what it really was. Ten minutes after I got home after leaving, I felt 6-feet tall. No regrets about leaving at all.
Are you still using the techniques now that your sessions have finished?
I still keep a diary; breaking tasks down – I used to do it all the time and got out of the habit. But now I write it all down. It helps to take some of the stress away from organising a task. You put it in the order it needs to be done, allocate time to each task. Then you can plan a walk, arrange to meet up with friends – it makes it all clear.
For me to accept the hole I was in was probably the hardest part of it all. I was brought up to sort out my own problems; it was a dent to my pride to realise that I couldn’t. Then I realised that it’s not about pride anymore; it’s about relieving the pressure on yourself that you’ve built up in your mind.
You don’t get your pride back by beating yourself up about something. You get your pride back by standing up, accepting the problem and walking away to help yourself.
I’ve completely rebalanced everything I do now. I make more time for myself, make sure I finish work on time and never miss my social arrangements or things I enjoy.
Would you recommend Talking Therapies?
Oh yes, in fact I already have! I know from my discussion with friends that different types of therapy suit different people in different ways. It’s important to have a look, talk to someone about it. Call Community Living Well and discuss the options. I’d spoken to someone from the referrals team and was told how things would be broken down, how it worked, did this sound right for me, etc.
I certainly can’t fault it, I got into it very easily. It’s such a step forward to be able to self-refer. The wait time wasn’t as long as I expected either, which was good. It gave me time to prepare myself for the therapy, rather than start immediately.
It was a relief to get it out in the open. I’d spoken to my GP, but it wasn’t the same. To sit and talk to someone, just to get it off your chest, it takes such a weight off. And the knowledge you’re going to get help, such a relief.
It’s a good service; I think many more people should consider some form of therapy. It is so helpful to talk to someone about how you’re feeling.
If you have been experiencing similar feelings to Chris and you think you’d like to try Talking Therapy, you can refer yourself now. Just complete this online form or ask your GP to refer you to Community Living Well.
This story was originally published in the Summer 2022 of Community Living Well magazine.
Author: Stewart Gillespie
Posted on: 5th December 2022