CBT (no, not that kind)

I’ve started group cognitive behavioural therapy for my anxiety. I hope it helps. It certainly seems like a more practical choice for me than traditional “talk therapy.”

Before class started they made us fill out a questionnaire about how we’ve been feeling and already I was annoyed. My annoyance may not be entirely reasonable. But my issue is: the questionnaire told us to rate our sleep, appetite, and a bunch of other shit over the past week, and most of the questions were “is X higher than usual or lower than usual?” where they seem to be assuming that my “usual” is, like…neurotypical.

My mental issues have been pretty bad for years now. This week, for whatever reason, I’ve been feeling a bit better than I do most days. Technically, I’ve been feeling less anxious and more productive than is usual for me – I’ve gone from “completely incapacitated” to just “pretty fucked up.” So I had to fudge the questionnaire a bit because if I’d truthfully said “Yeah, I’m less anxious than usual, my appetite is better than usual, my sleep is better than usual” they would probably have seen that as me not needing help.

And that’s irritating because there was a grueling four and a half hour interview just to see if I qualified for this free program, and the interview included a similar questionnaire that was solely about how I’d been feeling for the past week or two and whether it was worse than “usual”. The people I dealt with all along the path of getting into this thing acted like it was super exclusive and I’d have to reeeeally prove that I’m super fucked up in order to qualify…and the questionnaire assumes that applicants have only been feeling anxious for a week or two? I’ve been seriously compromised by anxiety and depression for forty fucking years. Take these hoops you’re making me jump through and shove them up your ass.

So yeah.

And yet, despite the whole “how are you feeling this week compared to usual?” thing, the program seems to assume that we’re all so permanently messed up that nobody has a job of any kind. They sprung the initial assessment on me without warning and made oblique threats that if I asked to postpone it, they might just decide I didn’t need the program after all. So I turned down a full day of work for this – during my slow season, mind you – and they ended up cancelling at the last minute because the assessor got sick. So I missed out on a $120 gig for no reason. At no time during this process did they tell me the time or day the program would be held, by the way; they just assumed I’d show up whenever, and that if I didn’t it was because I didn’t really need the help. Luckily when they finally told me I was approved and what time/day the program was running, I only had one gig scheduled that conflicted with that. It was an all-day gig at a well-paying school and I refused to miss out on $160 because of a two-hour course first thing in the morning. Luckily, the preliminary email about the CBT sessions said that I’m allowed to miss up to two of them (but warned darkly that if I miss more than two, they might just have to reassess whether I’m suited to the program. This insistence I have on eating food and paying my rent clearly means that I’m a slacker who doesn’t want to get better, you guys. Shame on me. Shaaaame.)

It feels as though this program is intended for people who are either super privileged and well-off with high-up jobs that have lots of flexibility (or no job), or people who are on some kind of assistance where they don’t work at all. And Christ, at least my job is freelance. The shitty foodservice jobs I worked at years ago would never have let me book off a particular timeslot for twelve consecutive weeks. It was always pretty much just “We’re gonna put out the schedule you whenever we want and if you bow out of shifts too often we’ll probably fire you.” So if I didn’t have the small amount of privilege that I do, I’d never be able to do this program at all.

So many social programs seem to punish people who are struggling to stay afloat.

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