Ah, the C word. Don't panic, Mum, not THAT C word. Can't afford to have my laptop taken off me like we used to experience as a child when we misbehaved. I know I don't live with my mum but trust me, she'd have no qualms with driving up the M6 to give me a good talking to I tell you. No, but seriously, counselling is a word most people don't feel able to use in the same sentence as the words 'I'm having'. Most people, that is, but me.
I think we have a long way to go when it comes to talking openly and unashamedly about how we are managing our mental health. So, I'm going to lead by example and tell you why I have organised more sessions and the difference it has made to and for me. I hope by hearing how I have benefited from them, and feeling reassured that it's okay to get help, you might consider getting the support you may need if you can relate. Sound good? Great. Let's get crackin'.
I guess the first question is, 'why did you start counselling again, Soph?' In short, how I was feeling and the thoughts I was having were not going in the direction I wanted them to. I felt unable to manage them on my own and wanted guidance on how to conquer or manage recurring issues. Psychologist and counsellors are educated and trained for a reason, just like doctors and nurses. They can help you to understand and overcome obstacles you are struggling to tackle yourself. You wouldn't try and do physio on yourself, so why should your mental health be any different? That's right, you in the back, it shouldn't.
I know this year, and lockdown specifically, has got to us all in some way but it has chipped away at my mental health. I wanted to take back control of my mental and emotional wellbeing, like many of us do. So, you know what, I bloody well did. I am lucky that my work has an Employee Assistance Scheme so I'm able to access 8 sessions for free. Work benefits are there for a reason and we deserve to take advantage of them. Plus, who doesn't like a freebie?
When I look back on the times I've reached out for help for help and support with mental health, there is a common thread throughout every experience - I waited until I was in crisis mode to seek any kind of support. In fact, when I had one of my worse episodes of depression, I was told I should have gone to see them months before. I wasn't going to let that happen again. I won't ever let that happen again.
I've probably had about 5 or 6 counsellors now. Each of them has taken a different approach and each of them have discussed things with me that the others haven't. This time has been no different. On this occasion, I wanted to understand how my depression was triggered and what the deep rooted cause is. So, as my counsellor described it, our aim was to 'wade deep into the muggy, muddy pit of depression' and to really understand where it stems from. Oooo I do love me a bit of visualisation.
I'm not going to bore you to death with a breakdown of every session, I'm just going to cut to the chase - my self esteem has been shot to shit. Now, you may be thinking, 'That can't be right? You're so confident'. Surprise! Some of us don't always portray on the outside how we feel on the inside. Mind-blowing, right? A number of events, relationships and scenarios, I've now learned, have gradually chipped away at my confidence and how I view myself. I hadn't realised how much of an impact it was having on my life but it really was, especially my ability to get close to people. Dating has been traumatic rather than fun (more on that another time) and the negative self-talk has badgered me on a daily basis for longer than I can remember. Now, thanks to help from my counsellor, dating is fun again and I'm learning how to silence the trolls in my own mind.
Since uncovering the root cause, my progress has been fantastic. I don't want to be a bragger, but I really do feel good. I now understand that my issues were not intentionally caused by me and I know what to keep an eye on, what to avoid and where to prioritise my time in order to avoid a relapse to the best of my ability. Having that knowledge is so empowering and that feeling alone has made me hopeful for the future when I have so often lived in fluctuating fear.
I appreciate talking to a professional is a big step for some but before letting that put you off, ask yourself, who really needs to know? You don't broadcast every time you go to see the doctor, so why is seeing a counsellor any different? It doesn't have to be. I know in a world where social media is the beacon of communication, it feels like you have to reveal every inch of your life (don't I know it), but you really do not.
Like you would for any signs or symptoms you may be experiencing for a physical illness that you then go on to seek help from a GP, get help sooner rather than later. Why would you not want to feel good at the earliest opportunity? Regardless of what you think or how you feel right now, you deserve to feel good. Don't forget that.