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Sunday, September 4, 2016

The case of the purple elephant

I've been wanting to write about my therapy session two weeks ago, but I've been really busy. Anyway, here I am, writing about it and giving you an update of what I've been going through.

As I've mentioned in my previous entry, my psychiatrist put me back on antidepressants (Escitalopram). So now, I'm back to taking three medicines: Escitalopram, Quetiapine (antipsychotic), and Lamotrigine (anticonvulsant). The cost has really hit my wallet so hard. Thank God I got extra money last payday for extra work I did before.

Last August 24, my psychiatrist and I touched on my insecurity once more. This, I think, is my biggest depression trigger. I've been really insecure of (and frankly, annoyed at) this person. Let's call her Z. And last February, when I sort of had a close encounter with Z (through Facebook), I really spiraled down. Down, down, down. I wrote about it here and here.

Ever since that February encounter with Z, I never go out without makeup. Before, I could go out with just moisturizer and powder on my face, especially if I wouldn't be out for long. But now, since February, I always wear makeup when I go out. When I'm with my boyfriend to watch a movie or just stroll at the mall around the area where he lives in, I make sure I wear makeup. First, it's because when I see that I look good, I feel good. And second, we might bump into Z (she lives in the same area), and I don't want to look plain when that happens. I want to look good, to be pretty when I bump into her. So far, it hasn't happened. Yet.

This insecurity of mine is spiraling out of control. It's one of the reasons why my psychiatrist (Dr. G) put me back on Escitalopram. I'm now taking 15mg of Escitalopram in addition to 300mg of Quetiapine and 150mg of Lamotrigine. This combination is making me very, very sleepy.

In my last session with Dr. G, she gave me the elephant exercise. She asked me what my favorite color is (it's purple), then she told me to close my eyes and think of a purple elephant. She asked if what I'm seeing is an adult or baby elephant; what's going on with its ears, trunk, and tail; and where I am seeing it, was it in a jungle, zoo, or somewhere else. When she told me to open my eyes, she asked me if I've seen a purple elephant in real life. I said no. She then went on to say that that is the power of our thoughts.

After her explanation, I asked, "Does it mean that I'm making it (my depressive episodes) all up?" She assured me that I'm not making anything up. The point of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is not to put blame on me. It's to change my negative thought patterns. She then went on to say that our thoughts are influenced by our past experiences, like the way were brought up. These experiences affect how we think about and see things. None of these are imagined or made up. They're all products of our past.

My depressive episodes and panic attacks and my restless and noisy mind--from now on, I will see these things as one purple elephant. My purple elephant. It's not something I made up, of course, but something I saw because of my past experiences.

Dr. G also gave me a list of cognitive distortions (with explanations for each) and asked me to encircle what applies to me. Out of ten, I encircled eight. It's from David Burns's book Feeling Good Handbook (which I have yet to get my hands on). My destructive thinking patterns are destroying me and the way I see myself.

My latest destructive thought is that I'm afraid of getting fat (just to make it clear, I don't have anything against plump people). I've never been the type who's conscious about her weight or figure. I eat anything I want. I have a fairly fast metabolism, but I don't overeat. But lately, seeing a flat tummy when I look in the mirror makes me feel good even if it means I'm hungry because I haven't eaten breakfast yet. Then I will just have light snacks then eat lunch late. When I get to the office, I just want to work, with sugary food like cookies sustaining me before I eat a proper meal. It's not healthy. I shouldn't rely on sugar for energy--I must eat regular meals. But lately, my appetite is messed up. Z triggered my latest panic attack (and my subsequent plunge, as if my current depressive episode isn't drowning me enough) when I saw a photo of her on my Facebook timeline (FYI, I'm not friends with her on FB but some of my friends are). I got insecure for the nth time, hence this latest destructive thought: I don't want to gain weight because Z leans on the chubby side.

I'll see Dr. G again in two weeks (I'm supposed to see her this Wednesday but something came up at work so I had to reschedule). I'll bring all these up--my fear of gaining weight, my fear of being seen barefaced, my neverending depressive episodes. Maybe we'll have another exercise that could help me see things from a better perspective.

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