Thursday, October 05, 2017

Outpatient program, part three

Please! Read this first Outpatient program for depression and anxiety, part one.

Fourth Session (Oct. 3, 2017)
The St. Joseph Hospital outpatient program did get better this week. It's like they really heard our criticisms of the heavy focus on handouts and the non-interactive reading of what we'd written, and started doing more group discussion (once I spoke up about the focus on handouts, so did others).

This is good for two reasons. One: the sessions feel more useful. Two: it shows that the staff are capable of accepting and acting on feedback. That feels RARE and responsible for any program staff and I'm very impressed. Psychology professionals aren't any less driven by ego than the rest of us, so I appreciate how postively these therapists and managers (and Dr. B) responded.

This week my first day was Tuesday. At check-in, I was able to say that my depression had lifted and I was feeling fine again. I mentioned that the previous week, I'd made the decidion to stop the sugar roller coaster I had been on in September and it had made a big difference. Within 24 hours of stopping the almost hourly candy, cookies and soda, my mood improved. But besides getting off the heavy sugar use, I said I hadn't changed anything, so I didn't fully know why I felt so much better. Someone joked that it could be because I'd been coming to the program, and I just smiled at him.

The second hour we did a handout on negative thinking. We went over the language of negative thinking, which can include words like never, always, can't and don't. We looked at words that are more neutral like often, sometimes, choose not to and will not. Then we wrote down a negative belief and re-wrote it in a better way.

I wrote, "No one will ever want to be in a long-term relationship with me." There were sections on the handout that asked me write the pros (keeps me from rejection) and cons (loneliness) of believing that. In the part of the worksheet that asked for the origins of that belief, I wrote, "My ex-husband divorced me because of my depression." Then I changed the statement to "I might meet someone who wants to be in a long-term relationship with me." Again, no great revelations or lessons there for me.

But when we talked about what we'd written and I read mine, a discussion started that did help. The facilitator asked me what I'd want to change about myself to help me believe I can meet someone. I said, "I'd change my brain, so I could have one that works right, and my body."

Everyone was giving me input about that, and in the process, surprisingly, it sank in for me: I actually MIGHT meet someone who wants to have a relationship with me. That is within the realm of possibility. As the discussion moved on to the next person, I stayed with my new statement. I wrote it down on the paper. I even threw in some parameters: "I might meet someone who wants to stay in a relationship with me, even after he gets to know me very well, even with the depression."

I felt a little lighter. I sat with that feeling. It felt good.

After lunch (breaded chicken sandwich and fruit cup. Mmm...fruit cup), we did some work in pairs. It gave me a chance to get to know the person sitting to my right, who seemed like a cool guy I could connect with. I was glad I got a chance to confirm that. We talked about what's challenging us right now, then the whole group got back together and shared a little of what we'd talked about.

So, things have gotten better. The outpatient program surprised me. I'd still like techniques for managing my emotions when I'm in the worst of a depression, but that's not what this program offers. That disappoints me, but if things continue in this direction, staying in it for two and a half more weeks won't be as painful as I was expecting.

Next post: Outpatient program, part four.

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