Mental Health Awareness Week: Why I’d recommend counselling to everyone
Samantha Bye, Metro, Thursday 19 May 2016 12:00 pm
Anxiety and depression are something I’ve battled with for a large part of my life. It’s no big deal, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain and I am by no means the first or the last person who will have to live with it.
However, I have learnt that living with it is made a lot more bearable since identifying the causes of it.
It took me a long time to open up about my mental health problems. It’s not something that I want to define me, and I’d got used to bottling it up and pretending I was fine. This, unsurprisingly, led me to a particularly dark place late last year where I was finally forced to seek some help.
I spoke to my doctor about talking therapies and put the wheels in motion for a seven week counselling course. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my experience of it exceeded my expectations in the best possible way.
The seven weeks I spent with my therapist weren’t easy. The weekly sessions brought up things I’d suppressed for a long time, and delved into feelings and emotions I hadn’t allowed myself to address before. But, despite feeling quite drained after every meeting, there was a certain level of relief that came with it. Talking about situations and emotions I’d pushed into the back of my mind slowly made me see the cause of my anxiety and depression.
Don’t get me wrong, knowing the cause of these feelings is not a cure or a fix. But knowing the root issue of these feelings helps me to understand myself better, and when the mental health days hit me I feel like I’m now in a better position to deal with it and can move on quicker than I could before as I can see why it’s happening.
There is still a certain level of stigma with attending therapy. My counsellor and I actually had a conversation about it during one of my sessions, with her attributing the stigma to the days of Queen Victoria where we Brits adopted the ‘stiff upper lip’. I’m no expert, but I think she’s got a point.
If you have days where you feel anxious and depressed, I can’t recommend counselling enough. I think some people believe that counselling is just for those with extreme issues, but it really isn’t. No one’s mental health problem is more important than someone else’s, and having a neutral and well-qualified person to check in with makes a world of difference.
My advice, if you were to try counselling, would be to open yourself up completely. I know of some people who haven’t found it particularly helpful, but the key to it working for you is to keep your mind open, your answers honest, and to accept that you won’t walk out of the first session feeling like a new person. These things take time, and having counselling to identify the causes is just the beginning.
Since my sessions, I’ve been talking about mental health a lot more openly than ever before. After I wrote this piece I was amazed at how many people came forward to share their own experiences with me. Chances are, you too are surrounded by people fighting their own battles and there will be people you don’t expect, too.
I find that talking about these things to other people in similar situations helps me enormously, which is a stark contrast to my outlook this time last year when I wouldn’t dare tell anyone how I felt. For that, I only have counselling to thank.