6 April 2018

A YEAR IN COUNSELLING - MY EXPERIENCE


Sometimes emotions can become difficult to handle and overwhelming. When I was younger I struggled deciphering how exactly I felt which lead me to that dark place we hear others talk about but never want to go to ourselves. I didn't know how to vent, or deal with the mix of emotions and feelings. Anger, sadness, fear, worry, excitement, happiness. It would get too much.

Five years ago, I began speaking to someone about my feelings and what I was putting myself through. I had just turned 15 and I had been in a constant battle with myself to the point my mum realised the extent and insisted I spoke to someone who could help. I turned to my guidance teacher at school who had supported me through a lot before. He referred me to a counsellor who came into the school each week and within a week or so, I was making my way along the corridor every Thursday to speak to someone I had never met before.

The counsellor was lovely. She was so welcoming and down-to-earth and promised me everything said in the room would be kept between us unless she was to believe I was in danger. Some days she would bring along her dog, a chocolate labrador, and he would just sit next to me through the session. This was before I got a dog myself and understood the benefits that they bring, but just his presence then was so comforting during the sessions. However, when I first began counselling, I didn't feel ready to begin ‘the recovery process’. At the time it felt more like an admission of weakness or accepting I wasn't strong enough. 

The counsellor would get me thinking about why I felt the way I did. She asked me about my relationship with my parents and how the last year or so had been. For me being 14 wasn't an easy year. I got back into brief contact with my father through email, but it was exactly that, brief. He and my mum split not long after I was born and by the time I was about five, he completely cut himself out. I also found out that I had a rare, inherited condition that had me seeing my mum in and out of hospital growing up. I felt my family had kept this a secret from me for all these years, and because of this my relationship with my mum (which has always been so strong, even more so now) took a turn and it became somewhat toxic. It lead to us arguing a fair bit, which I never liked. When not at school I spent the majority of my time in my room to avoid any confrontation or hurt.

I didn't just spill my life story out to the counsellor. It took time to open up, to fully trust her and to feel safe. I walked into the room unaware of what a counselling session really was. Over the course of the sessions she identified I had anxiety and depression - which I knew very little about then. I just thought it was part of who I was, part of being a shy, quiet person. I understood that everyone has nerves and can get overwhelmed before doing a presentation in front of the class, I simply thought for someone who had experienced so much at once that it was normal. I guess though I wasn’t being completely honest with myself.



Despite having began counselling, within the first 8 months of meeting with her, I definitely ‘relapsed’ and had some terrible days - weeks even - before I decided I had enough and was sick and tired of feeling the way I did. Only then did I manage to find the strength. Through this I learnt that there is no point in forcing yourself to stop doing something if you don't want to, or if you are trying to stop for the sake of people asking you to. You can’t just turn off emotions like that, you have to want it for yourself! 

As time went on counselling taught me techniques to help overcome negative thinking. What seemed liked simple exercises then, have became tools for me to use and refer back to whenever I feel so low. She always reminded me to take control. Those are two words that will stick with me as I go through life, so much so I wear a bracelet with Take Control on it as a constant reminder.

After a year of counselling, I felt relieved and emptied of the negativity that dragged me down each day for years. I now feel better and stronger, and though I can’t say in the last five years I’ve never slipped up or had overwhelming feelings, it’s important to remind myself that everyone has bad days and those are just some of mine. For me, counselling was a journey in self-discovery. Without speaking to the counsellor I don't think I would have ever taken control. I’ve been saved.

And now by working where I do, it has opened my eyes further to the positivity that counselling and therapy bring. I feel like the stigma of mental health is reducing and I am beginning to feel slightly more confidant in sharing my experience in hope that it will inspire and give someone else out there the motivation to ask for help. I know that counselling is always an option. It’s an opportunity to speak in a safe, comfortable, and confidential space to someone who won’t judge you, which is something I believe we can all benefit from.

It’s important to know, everyone is deserving and you are strong enough to take control! 



(Originally written for my works blog)

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