My Mental Health Journey Through an Intensive Outpatient Program – Part 31

I was third at the IOP this morning. These new group members are early birds. I guess I’m going to have to get used to it. I can’t reasonably get there more than fifteen minutes early every day. Plus, the normal clinician was out today, so I started the day a little out of sorts.

My check-in was OK. I was feeling pretty anxious. My time in group is coming to an end, and I’m getting nervous about it. Part of it is losing the sense of safety in the group. Part of it is losing the sense of community in the group. And part of it is losing the certainty of daily life in group. I don’t know what the world’s going to throw at me when I’m out and it’s scary.

Check-ins took all of first hour and half of second hour. We started the skill portion with habit building. We’ve done this before. I’m not sure if the repetition was caused by the different clinician or how long I’ve been in the program or just that we really need to build good habits. Since it was just seven installments ago, I don’t think it was because I’ve been in the program too long. I think it’s just the importance of the topic.

This time we talked about breaking the habit down into smaller parts. If your goal is to walk for 30 minutes per day, start by changing into your walking clothes. Even if you don’t go walking, it’s a step. Then, walk around the block. Then, walk for ten minutes. Etc. etc. etc. My new goal was eating healthier. Step 1 was meal planning. Step 2 was making a list before going to the grocery store. Step 3 was sticking to the list at the grocery store. Step 4 was practicing different cooking techniques. This is all easier said than done, of course. But it’s worth a shot.

Our last topic of the day was “The Cognitive Triangle”. This is the idea that thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are intertwined. That means that changing what you can control, like your thoughts, can change things that are outside of your control, like your emotions. Changing your emotions will change your behavior which will change your thoughts. Round and round it goes. The example we got was if someone looks at you funny. If you can think, “Maybe he’s having a bad day,” instead of, “What did I do wrong?” it will make the cycle a lot more positive.

So, that was how my 30th group went. Can you believe I’ve been to 30 of these things? I really am getting to the end. It’s kinda terrifying.

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