Tuesday 5 January 2021

Interpersonal Therapy (Take Two) Session 1

(TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of Self Harm and Suicidal Feelings)

 After a major Depression and mood swings relapse, and encouraging words from loved ones, I decided to ask for help again. Initially, I thought I just needed my medication/dose changing but when calling Access/Crisis team, I was told I would probably benefit from therapy again, and my GP should be able to review my mental health medication. I reluctantly called Primary Care/IAPT to book an assessment and see what therapies were available (thinking they would just put me onto CBT again) but luckily was assessed by a wellbeing practitioner who realised that I had been through CBT many a time; resulting in some help for my anxiety disorders, but no improvement of my depressive episodes. The Primary Care team decided that I would be a good fit for Interpersonal Therapy instead. 

Interpersonal Therapy is intended as a treatment specifically for Depression (whether as a condition in itself or a part of another diagnosis) and focuses on how relationships can have a significant impact on our mental health. It could be things such as role changes (becoming a parent, carer, taking on a new job to name some examples), a loss or bereavement, arguments within relationships of any kind, or a major life event. This type of therapy aims to look at these factors and help the client to build up skills around them in order to improve their symptoms of Depression. There are 16 sessions to this type of therapy. The first 4 aim to get a picture of how Depression manifests for the client specifically, the middle 8 sessions aim to help build up skills to help improve symptoms, and the last 4 aim to conclude the therapy and get the client ready to continue practising those skills once therapy has ended. 

I had a few sessions of Interpersonal Therapy with someone prior to my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I was very unwell at the time, however, and due to some things my therapist said as well, the therapeutic relationship broke down and I was unable to continue. I am looking forward to going through the process of this therapy with a different therapist though. 

My initial phone call with the new therapist went very well. I felt she was easy to talk to, and listened well to my problems. We decided that my diagnoses, symptoms, and issues would be a good fit for this type of therapy, and I was happy to go ahead. 

Before the first appointment, I had the PHQ/GAD/Phobia etc questionnaires to fill in, as well as a therapy agreement, consent for my therapist to record our appointments (she is a trainee IPT therapist, so her supervisor needs to monitor the sessions), and a symptom review sheet. 

The Symptom Review worksheet is a grid containing many different possible symptoms of Depression. My task was to tick each symptom I felt had been a problem within the last week, then pick 5 that specifically needed addressing. I did tick a lot of the symptoms, and found it hard to pick just 5. I put a star next to the most pressing symptoms, but through talking to my therapist in our first session, I found that each of those branched out into the other ones, were very similar in the way they manifested, or were linked quite closely together. What looked like a simple task, became a more complex one, the more I tried to explain each of the symptoms!

I felt like I was rambling throughout the conversation, and I worried that the therapist would not be able to organise what I'd said into cohesive notes. I should've had more faith though, she was very helpful and understanding. She would bring me back on topic when needed and would focus on the symptoms that seemed to bother me most. Between us, we decided that I was struggling with the following issues most in the past week:

  • Irritability - I would find conversations and too much noise overwhelming, with led to a type of sensory overload which resulted in irritability. I may not always have made this apparent to the person/people I'm around, but I coped with it by turning on myself and either punishing myself (self harm) or isolating myself (going in my room). Generally, this is something I do if conversations online become too overwhelming or difficult. It's as if I'm suffering an emotional pain and I either want to escape it or turn it into a pain that I find easier to deal with. 
  • Always tired - I experience extreme fatigue, due to my physical health problems, but I know that Depression plays a big part too. I find this symptom links in with lack of motivation and lack of energy (other symptoms on the symptom review sheet). This week especially, I have found I am constantly exhausted and want to stay in bed for longer and longer. I know that this is partly due to the Depression because my moods affect my levels of energy, and the worse I feel, the more sleep I need. Unfortunately, although sleep can have a positive effect on mood, oversleeping can have the opposite effect. I felt as if I hadn't achieved much at all in my week, I saw myself as lazy, and I worried others would see me as lazy too. 
  • Mood swings - These are problems I have experienced a lot recently, which is why I think my mood stabilizers (Aripiprazole) have stopped working. I feel things in the extremes, to a point where I can feel as if I can't cope or I am out of control. The extremes weren't as bad as they could have been this week, but they were bad enough for it to be a problem. I didn't get the hypomanic emotions this time, but I did swing from considerably depressed and down, to irritable/angry, tearful, anxious, and even numb. I explained the numbness further, as my therapist said that it wasn't written down as a particular depressive symptom (which I found interesting, as a lot of people I know with Depression do feel numb quite a lot!). It's something I hadn't realised in myself until I connected with others with similar conditions and symptoms. When numb, my self awareness of how ill I am tends to decrease, and I'm not sure how to respond to the question "How are you?" because I simply don't know. When numb, I can dissociate too, although not always. I explained how I experience dissociation, to my therapist. She found that interesting too. We discussed how some of my symptoms had become coping mechanisms, as my numbness and dissociation can occur after days/events/conversations that I had found overwhelming. Again, it was a matter of extremes. I either felt too much, or not enough. 
  • Feel worthless - I am often very self critical, although this is something I am trying to work on. I try to say more positive things about myself these days, but I do worry about coming across as arrogant, or just being wrong. When I'm not able/don't have the motivation to do much in my day, then I feel worthless and pointless as a person. This can lead to the suicidal feelings, as, in order to feel like I should be on this earth, I want to feel I have some sort of purpose, I am doing something to improve myself, or I'm doing some good for other people. It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation, as if I feel worthless, I lack motivation, but if I lack motivation and therefore don't do much, I feel worthless. I'm never sure which started first, but it seems endless! 
  • Bored - As a symptom, this seems like a very mild one, but boredom can be unbearable for me. When I lack motivation and are not doing much, obviously I get bored. I have things I could do, but the thought of being disappointed if I do not enjoy them, or struggle to progress with them, can be very hard to deal with. Being bored can lead to becoming frustrated, angry at myself, extremely low and self critical, and even lead to suicidal feelings if I feel everything is going wrong. Doing something I enjoy (seeing a friend, not possible at the moment of course! Playing a musical instrument, cross stitch, a TV show etc) can lift my mood, but overthinking the possible result (not enjoying it) can make me talk myself out of even starting. I can usually push past this worry and do the activity anyway, but when very low, any disappointment feels like a big risk. 

As you can imagine, going through the symptom review took up most of the time in the therapy session. I was very apologetic and nervous throughout, but my therapist tried to put me at ease by saying she could understand what I was saying/what I meant, and she felt she had learnt a lot about me that day. She confirmed that, going on the questionnaires and what I had told her, I was still suffering from moderate to severe Depression. Apparently this type of therapy expects a diagnosis to be made and for Depression to be the main problem that needs addressing in order to go ahead. I know labels aren't useful for everyone but I like to have a name to put to the problems I experience, so I know what I am dealing with and what is likely to be helpful for me. 

She then told me what the other sessions would cover (possible past trauma/events, key relationships, arguments, role transitions etc) and asked me to complete the PHQ etc questionnaires and symptom review for next session as well. 

This concluded the session, and after checking there was nothing else I needed to discuss, we booked in for the same time next Monday. 


No comments:

Post a Comment