Sunday 10 November 2019

Trauma Focused CBT: Session Two

(TRIGGER WARNING: Descriptions of termination and discussion related to it)

My homework from session one was to go through the PTSD self help book and answer some of the questions. These involved check boxes for feelings, thoughts, behaviours etc that I could relate to. I found I'd ticked almost all of these! I didn't know I could relate to this diagnosis so much, but there you go. I'm hoping that, even if I don't necessarily get more support from this (because my local mental health team literally doesn't offer more than Trauma Focused CBT for PTSD) I will at least find it personally helpful as a way to put a name to the struggles I have.

I got up to a certain point in the booklet, but found it very hard to answer one of the questions in particular. This one asked me to describe the nightmares and flashbacks I have, in as much detail as I can manage. I gave some basic, vague answer, but found myself getting panicky, the more I thought about my termination and the nightmares and flashbacks I have about it.

In session two, my therapist went through my answers to some of the questions in the booklet. She asked me to embellish, and give examples of some of the times I have engaged in the behaviours I ticked, feelings, and thoughts I related to. A type of behaviour I engaged in was to react to pretty normal events in a tense and jumpy way. For example, when waiting for therapy, I was very anxious due to how busy the waiting area was. My therapist came to get me, and I jumped when she called my name. Another example I can think of is a bit of a silly one. Every single time the toaster goes off, I jump! It doesn't matter if I was expecting it to go off at that particular time or not. My body acts as if something scary has happened. Of course I get teased for this, but if you've ever jumped at something, you'll know how much it can shake you up, even if just for a few seconds.

We also went through some of the thoughts I had, and questions I asked myself constantly, in relation to the traumatic termination I had. I had made the decision so quickly, I still doubt whether it was something I ever wanted to do. I of course ruminate over them and weigh up pros and cons. I wish I could say for certain whether it was the "right" thing to do or not (for me I mean, I strongly believe anyone can have a termination if that is the right thing for them). If I had continued with the pregnancy and kept my child, I would've struggled but I think I would've been a good mother. I've always wanted to be a mother too, so I hope so so much that this wasn't my only chance.

I guess, because I don't think it would be the end of the world to keep my child, it makes me wonder whether I made the right decision. On the other hand, I was just learning to become an independent adult, living in my own place, having further education etc. It would've been very hard to do that whilst heavily pregnant. Halls would hardly be an ideal place for a baby either. But again, there would be things that could be done. See, I'm forever second guessing myself and not being sure of what would've been the right thing to do for me.

The termination itself was horrible. I won't go through the graphic, physical things. I feel sick and panicky even thinking about what I went through. This is something I will eventually have to go through with my therapist, but thankfully she is not rushing me. Even in session two, I was going through my thoughts about it, hypotheticals etc, and I was dissociating, struggling to speak etc.

This took up most of the session. We went through a couple of worksheets as I described various behaviours, thoughts etc. One was about the "Fight or Flight" response. The worksheet displayed a diagram of a body, with organs shown. Each part of the body was labelled and each function, to do with the fight or flight response, explained. For example, the mouth getting dryer when anxious, and the heart beating faster. These things happen due to the body's primal instincts. We are "supposed" to get anxious when faced with a dangerous situation. The mouth gets dryer because digestion is not needed at that time, and energy is diverted towards the muscles in order to get them ready to run or face the danger. The heart also beats faster in order to pump more blood to the muscles to help them work more efficiently. Other functions include shallower breathing, adrenaline being released, and muscles tensing etc. Unfortunately this can happen even when the situation isn't dangerous. When we have an anxiety disorder for example, we perceive things as dangerous even if they are not, or are very unlikely to be.

The next worksheet talked about unhelpful thinking habits. There are different types of thoughts that can be unhelpful to our mental health. These include the "mental filter". This is when we only notice certain comments, thoughts, events etc. These are usually negative ones, so we exaggerate the negatives as being absolutely awful and incessant.

Another unhelpful thinking habit could be saying/thinking we "should" or "must" do/think or not do/think something. This puts an unrealistic expectation and pressure on ourselves. A particular "should" I have is that I "should" earn my rests. As you may know, I have physical health conditions including Fibromyalgia and Hypermobility. These cause lots of pain and exhaustion. I feel like I "should" be productive every day though, no matter how ill I feel. So because of that, I "should" be productive before I am allowed to rest, otherwise I'm doing nothing but resting (in my eyes).

There are many other "unhelpful thinking habits" that I can relate to, but it would take all day to describe them, and this blog post is long enough! Onto the last topic of this session:

Lastly, we spoke briefly about having a "safe place". This is a visualisation of a nice place, where I feel safe and happy. Somewhere I can go to in my head when things are getting too intense or negative. As I am facing some traumatic things in these therapy sessions, I will need to have time to have a breather and "escape" to somewhere calm. My homework for the next session is to think of a safe place in my head; a sandy beach for example.

I am starting to think of that safe place, which I will describe in my next blog post.

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