Counselling, What's it Really Like?
It has occurred to me that although I have been pretty open about my mental health in terms of how it feels, but I’ve never actually spoken about the treatment. I had counselling and am now on medication, and in both instances I found reading about other people's experiences really useful. So, of course, I’ve decided to share my own. I’m going to split this into two different blog posts because they were both at very different times and had very different results. I had a brief 20 minute counselling session just after my Dad died, thanks to the Uni drop in. My boss in the accommodation team booked me in and asked me to go and have a chat. This was at the stage where I hadn’t put on shoes since it happened, so I walked to the counselling building in just my socks. It wasn’t as scary as expected and it managed to stem the flow of tears for a few days.
Stupidly, I didn’t go back again until the following year. I had started having panic attacks most nights, but by the morning they didn’t seem such a big deal, and so I would brush them off, until the next time. Eventually, with a day off work, I decided I would bite the bullet and book myself in for a proper set of sessions.
Most universities have some sort of counselling program and I would really recommend taking advantage of it if you can. Counselling won’t work for everyone of course but it’s a good avenue to try if you’re struggling.
Having read a lot of books in which sulky American teens were dragged along to counsellors by their parents and sat refusing to talk for the whole session, I always felt that I was somehow “doing it wrong”. I wanted to talk to my counsellor, although I wasn’t always sure what about.
My counsellor was fantastic. She was interested in similar things to me, like art therapy and yoga, (although, of course there are counsellors with different approaches and focusses like CBT so you can find one who works for you) so it was like chatting to a friend.
I don’t think she once said “and how does that make you feel?”, but we spoke about everything and the most useful thing to come out of it, was understanding why I feel certain things. For example, at the time, I felt like I was wasting my life. I wanted to do everything: have a baby, travel, buy a house, but not be tied down, work out my career path etc. and of course this left me feeling very unfulfilled. We worked out that my fear of dying young (nice cheery thoughts there!), had left me feeling like I had to do substantial things and I had to do them now. Now that I understand that, I can make sure that choices I make are rational and not based on my impending death..
I only actually cried once in a session, and always, without fail, felt a whole lot lighter and happier when I finished each hour. I could only get a few sessions paid for by my Uni (which I totes appreciate by the way!), however they really made such an amazing difference and I wish I could tell my counsellor how much she helped me. If you are struggling, consider seeing a counsellor. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, nobody needs to know (not all of us are horrific oversharers like me!) and it’s nothing like the films make it out to be - I rather enjoyed it! It’s useful talking to someone utterly impartial and knowing that that is probably the only context you’re likely to see them in. Obviously counselling doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s why I’ll be writing about my experience with medication in the future (but maybe not in the very next post as I think we all need a break from the heavy stuff eh?).