BY GABRIELLE ZEMSKY
CN: DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, CBT
As a child, I always had my head buried in a book, and as a teen I became obsessed with my favourite movies and TV. I wanted my life to be just like those I observed on screen with envy and fascination. I dreamed of becoming a writer or a filmmaker so I could continue to immerse myself in symbolism and happy endings. It’s so comforting when everything comes together and just makes sense.
As an adult, I’ve become something of an ‘epiphany addict’. I’m always on the look-out for those moments when everything fits into place and the right path opens before me like a clearing.
When I started experiencing mental health issues, I struggled with the fact that the experience didn’t make narrative sense. It wasn’t part of the ‘Story Of My Life’ I’d been writing in my head. And I had to reconcile with the notion that recovery is unpredictable and ongoing. There isn’t always a clear cause, or a clear solution.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has allowed me to start seeing myself and my mental health in a non-linear way. I can identify patterns and shapes where I was previously looking for straight lines that went up or down – usually down.
It can be tempting to talk and think about mental health in a linear way, because that’s how we like our stories. But real life is not a story. And when you’re feeling unwell, it can be especially hard to convey what you’re experiencing in narrative form. Gaining distance from the tangle of connections that is your mind feels exhausting.
Experiencing something new is always a little scary. And as unpleasant as they are, these thought patterns have become my comfort zone over the years.
With the help of CBT and other therapies though, I’ve found that I can create new patterns – virtuous cycles instead of vicious ones.
This takes daily practice, and progress is incremental. I still catch myself searching for that magic thing, the fairy-tale ending, the epiphany; but taking concrete, tiny steps to heal myself has proved to be much more rewarding in the long run.
Further reading: Centre for Clinical Intervention CBT resources and exercises