When I first encountered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, as treatment for severe depression, one of the most useful tools was written dysfunctional thought records. I wrote down the automatic dysfunctional thoughts as they came into my head and instead of letting them trigger an automatic negative, harmful reaction, I examined them and analysed them as they lay before me, written on the page.
This was the first time I had ever removed the thoughts from my head. I literally had a different perspective on them. I could physically focus my eyes on them; they weren’t swirling endlessly around in my mind, they were stuck to the page, unable to escape the scalpel of dissection. They began to lose their power as they were pinned there under my gaze. I picked them apart, examined them, challenged them, came up with alternative ways of seeing things and thinking about things. I began to change my core beliefs for the better.
I have since learned to do this process in my head, combining mindfulness techniques and CBT techniques, but I still write some things down, in a formal structured way, because there is something powerful about writing the thoughts down physically.
Being in recovery since July 2014, I have done many things I never thought I would do or could do. I have rarely enjoyed other people’s blogs, so I had vowed never to inflict one on the World myself. The thought record experience changed my mind about this too. I had seen the benefits of externalising the thoughts, memories and experiences. I initially set up a Twitter account, @mostlymenotocd, and tweeted the random shit which is always in my head, as an ongoing record for myself, if nothing else. Surprisingly, given the subject matter, that account has grown organically. I have discovered an online community of people supporting each other. I have been supported and I offer support, which has been very beneficial to me.
The blog happened as a consequence of the Twitter account. Sometimes 140 characters isn’t enough to discuss a topic meaningfully or passionately, so I set up this blog as an experiment. I view it as I do the Twitter account, as primarily a means of me recording things, getting it down in black and white for my own benefit. I sometimes post links to posts on Twitter, but I don’t go out of my way to pimp the blog in any other way. If people read it, great. If people derive some benefit from it, even better. If it helps raise awareness of mental health issues in some small way, that’s an added bonus. But that’s not why it exists.
I don’t feel any sense of responsibility to write it. I don’t feel it’s Important with a capital ‘I’ that other people see it and read it. It’s not going to change the World. It’s not a campaigning tool. Occasionally there is a post which I think merits being brought to greater attention, but the moment the blog stops helping me, stops being cathartic, becomes a chore, becomes a responsibility, I will stop there and then.
In the meantime, please read on and let me know what you think about the things I discuss. It’s a dialogue, not a monologue.