Updated: Nov 15
I never realised that I suffered from a mental health issue until my parents told me they were getting a divorce in February 2017. I was 28 years old. I felt like my whole world had crumbled beneath me and for the first time ever (as a self-confessed control freak) I felt out of control.
I couldn't handle all of my emotions, I had too many of them. In the first few days after I found out, everything felt overwhelming and I really struggled to focus on anything; I was upset, scared, angry and confused. It was way too much for one person to compute and I decided that this was too big for me to deal with on my own. I felt like I needed to outsource my emotions. As they often say: a problem shared is a problem halved. I made the decision to go and see a counsellor.
This was the first time I had ever considered doing any kind of talking therapy. I had friends who had been to see someone about their own mental health and I had always been supportive and encouraging of it. But I myself had never felt the need to go.
I found my counsellor through an NHS approved website that a friend recommended. Having gone through a list of approved counsellors and emailing six of them about my situation, I made my decision on who to go and see based on their replies to my email. The reply that caught my eye was one of compassion and understanding - this was the first time I realised that compatability is very important when it comes to counselling. I know some people who have tried talking therapy and decided it's not for them and I wonder if it's because they didnt have the right person for them - whether they and their counsellor were incompatible.
Given, what I considered my 'inexperience' of mental health issues and the fact that I had never done any kind of talking therapy before, I was really nervous for my first session. What if I didn't like my counsellor? What if I had nothing to say? What if I just sat there and cried? What if my counsellor judged me? What if she judged my family? What if I said the wrong things? What if my counsellor didn't like me?
My first session was the easiest conversation I had ever had in my life. All my worries melted away as soon as she asked me my first question: How are you? I don't think I've ever felt able to actually say how I feel to anyone, ever. Without worry or concern for whether I was being too self-absorbed, not interesting enough, not funny enough. I could just say exactly how I was feeling without any judgement.
My first session was exhausting. I think I cried more than I spoke. I don't think I made much sense. I remember feeling really, really sorry for myself but without any sense of guilt that I was being a burden. After that first session I felt a huge sense of relief. It was like someone had pressed a release valve in my brain. My head was still foggy and the overwhelming anxiety I had around the fact that I was being forced into a "new normal" of a broken family that I didn't want to be a part of still remained. But somehow it felt a tiny bit more manageable to deal with that now I had my counsellor.
It's been three years since my parents separated and I'm still in counselling. At first I saw it as a disaster-recovery tool; something I needed at the beginning just to enable me to get up in the morning and get through each day. Now I see it as a way of life. Talking therapy has truly helped me work through the anxiety I experienced when I thought my whole world was crumbling before me. Today I see it as more of a balancing tool, helping me to process all my emotions and not just bottle them up. It helps me be as kind to myself and my thoughts as I am to my friends and family.