An Open Letter to the Lady in the CBT Waiting Room
To the lady sitting opposite me in the CBT waiting room,
Waiting rooms are horrible aren’t they? No one knows where to look, it’s all a bit awkward. I’ve come to like this one though, horrible green carpet and all. You see, every time I am sat here I know that in an hour I will be walking back through feeling a bit more ‘Rachel.’ That’s my name by the way, I wish I could ask you yours but it’s so quiet in here and you look nervous enough.
I wonder if this is your first time, I overheard you at the desk asking about your assessment so I think it is. You’re with your Mum, I came with my Mum the first time too. She keeps looking at you with those worried Mum eyes, I know that look well. I give it to my kids too sometimes. She is grabbing your hand, trying to reassure you. She might have had to persuade you a bit to come here, you probably think it will be a waste of time, I know I did. How could anyone stop me feeling so anxious? How could anyone make this better? I was going to be like this forever, surely?
I don’t know why you’re here other than for CBT of course. Our sort of illnesses are invisible. But never forget that it is an illness, we’re poorly but with help we can get better. You’re playing with a hair bobble on your wrist and every time you do your Mum gives your hand a little squeeze. I use that technique sometimes too, it helps us to distract ourselves from those thoughts and feelings.
Anyway, I know you probably think it’s pointless being here, no one really gets it. But all I want to do is come and sit next to you and tell you it’s okay. I am 8 sessions in and I feel so much better. The therapist, she will get it, I promise. She will give you so much homework to do that some days it will feel a bit overwhelming but it works if you set your mind to it. She will show you diagrams, videos and make you write down all the evidence for your anxious and intrusive thoughts. You will come out of the session with an emotional hangover, feeling drained and exhausted but as time goes on you will come out with a little spring in your step too. You’ll be relieved for getting your thoughts out there in the open however silly they sound. You might have had a good cry too, don’t worry there are tissues in every room.
I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s not and I’m certainly not saying I’m anxiety free because I’m not but what I am is armed with tools, techniques and ways to deal with anxiety when it does come. I use mindfulness now, I used to think that was a load of rubbish! Your names been called now and your Mum asks if you want her to come in with you, you say no. I see that look of disappointment in her eyes but she will understand that you have to do this on your own. Sometimes you can’t say how you feel to the people closest to you for fear of upsetting them. It’s okay. You’ll be okay.
This week is Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week run by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership. The campaign focuses on speaking up for Mothers who have been affected by maternal mental health. If you feel like you need some support then visit their website to be pointed in the right direction.