CBT helps but takes time and effort
by Julia Carnevale
It was my first semester at Fordham. Emotionally, mentally, and personally I was doing really well, and I was also doing really well in school. College truly is so much better than high school I did, however, have a panic attack when I lost my ID. And I did, however, have another panic attack when the South Football players somehow confused the public lounge I was sitting in for their locker room; those had triggers. But then we hit finals and I started to feel generally anxious again, and everything was so cold and so dark in the winter months, all I knew was psychotherapy, where you just talk about what is going on, so I didn’t really have any coping mechanisms or tools to use.
I had done a little bit of research on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT because Selena Gomez has talked openly about her experience with it. I thought I should be proactive about my anxiety, and I realized: I have a great resource, Campus Psychological Services, to refer me to someone. I made a reference appointment, and when I got there they already had a printed page of numbers to call. I think the most ironic thing about anxiety, is that in order to treat it, the first step is doing something that makes you anxious: calling people. It’s like when they put scissors in impossible packaging that you need the scissors to open.
So anyway she hands me this page, and asks me if I have any questions or need anything else. And I was like well, these are psychotherapists and I was kinda interested in doing CBT (because I’ve been in psychotherapy for the past two years and I’m still having panic attacks and shaking in class and my thoughts are concerning). And she turns to me and says, well let me explain the difference to you (so I don’t have to do more work and print out another page for you):
Psychotherapy is like asking why you are getting headaches. CBT is just like taking Advil to relieve the headache. And I’m sitting there like: Who the hell would want to know why they’re having a headache when they could just take Advil instead?
I already asked myself why I was getting headaches for two years. And to no surprise, I still get headaches because asking why something is happening, while it is important, only allows you to accept what is happening.
But of course, when she asked me which one I would prefer, I just shrugged. Which is why I needed to go to CBT because I couldn’t advocate for what I actually needed which was CBT. Scissors in impossible packaging again.
After going to another psychotherapist in the Bronx and feeling like I was wasting my afternoon every time I went there, I decided to stop going and vowed to try CBT for my first semester of sophomore year. I was even able to make an appointment over email!
I’ve been in CBT since September and I have learned so much about the way I think, how my thoughts affect my emotions, and who I am as a person; I’m a lot more sensitive to the world. I feel like I have so many tools now that I can utilize to help me when I am anxious, and finally feel a sense of relief.
It’s not as easy as Advil though. It takes a lot of work and effort on my part and being a student with other responsibilities – I can’t always dedicate as much time to my mental health as I need to.
There is no “cure” for anxiety either. I can’t just make it go away with a pill or CBT. It will always be a part of who I am and my story. It took me two years to accept that and now, I am weakening its hold on me.