So, I’m coming to the end of my 10 week block of counselling sessions through a local charity. This isn’t my first rodeo with therapy, I’ve had person centred counselling, anger management and cognitive behavioural therapy over the years but this was the first time back in counselling since being an adult. Quite frankly, I’m gutted it’s coming to an end. It’s not that I don’t really feel ready for it to be over, it’s probably just because it’s become a bit of a comfort blanket for me. I know that if I have a crappy week, I can go and air it out with my therapist and I’ll feel like a weight has been lifted, but now I’m going to have to use my own techniques to do that. It feels a little bit scary. Like I’m being unleashed again, for want of a better term.
Counselling felt different this time. I was finally dealing with the root problem rather than a load of circumstantial problems that I’ve had to work through throughout my life. It’s been quite painful this time round too. I came to a lot of unexpected realisations throughout therapy which has since made every aspect of day to day life different. I started off therapy feeling completely hopeless, at my wits end trying to figure out how I could change everything, but once again I’ve come back to my age old favourite quote:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Some things that I’ve learned over the past ten weeks…
Getting help is really quite difficult.
By that I mean, coming to the realisation that you do in fact need help. No one wants to be told that they need to get help, for any of their issues. Why would you want to hear that? Hearing it can be unhelpful, and can actually make you retract even further away from the help. I know it has had this effect on me in the past. So, coming to the realisation that you might benefit from therapy is one that you should come to on your own. That thought process of ‘If I don’t get help then I don’t know what is going to happen’ is an important one, at least it was for me. That was my breaking point, I knew that I couldn’t live life feeling like I was feeling any longer and that the only way that was going to change was if I got help. So, I did. Thankfully I have the most understanding husband, who offered just the right amount of advice, he allowed me the personal time and reflection to realise when it was finally time to make sure I got some help. When I reached that realisation, he was there holding my hand every step of the way. Sometimes people will push you into therapy before you’re ready, just remember that every single individuals journey is different, and you should always do things on your own terms. Admitting to yourself that you will benefit from speaking to someone is whole heartedly the first, and most important step in your progress.
It doesn’t magically make you better.
Therapy isn’t a one stop shop. Your therapist can’t wave a wand and magically make the pain go away, but they can help you cope with that pain and learn to live a fulfilled life despite everything else. Therapy isn’t going to magically make everything better. It just isn’t. That isn’t how it works, therapy can’t give you a whole new life, but it can give you a new attitude to life. I have taken my negative, defeatist attitude and I’ve swapped it for a ‘how can I change this?’ attitude. Therapy has allowed me to evaluate my thoughts, and my perception of situations so that I can better understand my own emotions and the emotions of others around me. It hasn’t magically made me better, I know that there are still going to be dark days (like today, when I started crying for no reason while I was making my breakfast) and I know that I am still going to be dealing with the same problems I have my entire life, but just now I feel like I am better equipped to cope with them. Some people will be in therapy forever, some people will be in therapy for short periods of time but multiple times throughout their lives. This isn’t my first rodeo with therapy, and it is very likely that it won’t be my last. But that is okay, there is nothing wrong with continually trying to work on yourself and do the right thing for yourself. Absolutely nothing wrong with it at all.
Sessions are draining, emotionally and physically.
Those first few counselling sessions were horrifying to go to for me, at first I felt like I had regressed back to childhood Ysabelle. I couldn’t believe I needed to go back to therapy, I thought I had dealt with everything I needed to, and quite frankly I was in a bit of denial. Aren’t we all? This makes going to those first few sessions so much harder. In the last few years, I have made initial appointments and backed out before the therapy actually began because I had convinced myself I was fine. Realistically, I was scared. I worried about bumping into people I knew, I worried about feeling like a failure because I needed to go back to therapy and I worried about what people would think of me. You can’t help yourself. Let’s face it, when you start therapy you’re not in the best headspace, so you’re bound to have these thoughts. It is completely normal. Now that I’m starting to feel like I’m coming out of the other side, I can safely say that the best people for you are the ones who support you, being open about my counselling has actually given me a stronger support structure than ever before. My husband drives me to my sessions every week, waits in the car outside for the hour and drives me home. He knows that after some sessions I’ll be far too tired to even talk let alone drive myself home.
I know that I am extremely lucky to have that support, and that some of you reading this might not have that. But try (as much as you can) to take comfort in the thought that there are so many of us going through the same thing. The online community is full of people who love to support each other. We might be able to be your support structure. This is just an example of one tweet I received this week from a total stranger (as in we’ve never met in person). Stephanie didn’t need to be that lovely, and she probably had no idea that receiving this notification would make my day. But it did. The overwhelming support I’ve received through so many people that either read my blog or follow me on twitter astounds me. The online community can be such a negative place, but recently all I’ve seen is the positivity it can bring you. That being said if you are going to therapy you don’t have to tell anyone. You could be popping out for a coffee once a week, or unable to take calls/reply to messages because you were in the bath. Everything needs to be on your terms, and remain in your control.
Sessions are difficult, not because I don’t love chatting to my therapist, but because I sit and drag up things that I have never spoken about aloud before. It’s emotional, I cry, I go into my thought spiral, but doing it out loud with someone who is there to clarify things for you and listen to you one hundred per cent of the time is so freeing. Yeah, most Tuesdays I come home and crawl into bed with a cup of tea and need to just be alone, but some weeks I’d come home and never have felt better. It gets easier as time goes on because you’re able to reflect on your emotional responses with more clarity as you start to analyse things for yourself. And anyway, there is nothing wrong with wanting to crawl into bed and be left alone, you’re dealing with a lot. You need that time to recuperate, taking time to recuperate is so important. Talking about some of the hardest things you’ve ever experienced is going to be draining, you are entitled to allow yourself time to heal afterwards.
Give yourself time for reflection.
I usually take at least a day off of any sort of social plans to allow some reflection time after a counselling session. This could be just taking some time to think about what you’ve discussed at your session, or it could be talking it over with someone to clarify your stance on it or even writing it down. I do a variation of all three. Whilst chatting over your issues at therapy is amazing, I think allowing time for reflection can be such a useful tool. It allows you to clear up anything you might have left your session needing to think about, and it can help you to prep what you might like to discuss at your next session.
Progress is progress, no matter how small.
So you were able to make plans with friends this week… progress. You went to the gym for the first time in a year on your own… progress. You need to give yourself credit for each and every tiny positive step you make in the right direction. Progress is progress, and what seems like absolutely nothing to other people could be a huge monumental step for you.
Progress can be determined a number of ways, in my opinion, progress is not only reaching and dealing with your root problem. Obviously this will have a knock on effect and help you achieve other personal goals, but progress for me includes not being grumpy in a social situation I didn’t want to be in, going to gym on my own, making a phone call I didn’t want to make. The small things matter to your progress. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Celebrate each small victory, it will help you recognise when you’re making positive steps.
Like I have reiterated a few times throughout this post, each person is a complete individual with their own journey, so your progress will be different to mine and it will be different to anyone else’s. My best advice is to remember that your progress isn’t going to be linear, it will be up and down. You might reach the root of your problems immediately, it might take you a few weeks, a few months, a few years. I can’t stress it enough, each person’s journey is completely individual.
Sorry for the length of this, every time I tried to cut it down I kept thinking of new points I wanted to get across to you!
Please ask any questions you might have, I’d love to chat through any questions and help you out as much as I can.