“1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England.”
A pretty sobering stat when you think about it and one that is only set to further rise as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hugely impact so many lives.
With so many people struggling, 2022 looks set to be the year where additional support is needed more than ever. But with a lack of open dialogue about what Counselling or Therapy actually looks like, this can feel a scary step to take. We want to open up the conversation about real-world experiences to help.
I’ve struggled with anxiety since I was tiny. My poor mum often reminds me how whilst my sister, friends or cousin would be thrilled at the idea of a ‘surprise’ or a ‘mystery’ I’d be in the corner, with a tummy-ache, asking fifty-seven questions. At times it’s been okay, it’s been terrible and it’s been everything in between but after a pretty shocking couple of years (not just me, I’m sure!) I knew I’d reached the point where I needed a little extra help.
Here’s what I wish I’d known before I started the process:
Nothing ‘big’ needs to have happened for you to need help.
Personally, this was the hardest thing for me to accept. It’s very easy to convince yourself that help is only deserved by those who’ve experienced ‘real’ problems – loss, trauma, illness, etc. But that is a lie. Anyone can need help at any point. Whether you’ve faced huge upheaval or you’re simply struggling with the absolute everyday, your counsellor isn’t going to judge you or the size of your problems. Instead, they’ll listen to what’s happening with you and help to curate strategies that will make your life feel more manageable; whatever is or isn’t going on.
You have to go back to go forward.
Cliché because it’s true – once you start to open up about your feelings it’s common to feel worse. What?! Look, we know. It feels like the final kick, right? But actually, when you consider that you’re likely bringing up painful memories or dealing with emotions that have been pushed down for far too long, it does make sense. Lean on your counsellor and know that it’s absolutely part of the process and it will become easier in time.
It’s not stupid to need help.
This is the big one. It is never stupid. Ever. No matter what. No matter how much bigger/worse/more substantial everyone else’s problems seem, yours are not stupid and neither for that matter, are you for needing help to deal with them. Got it? Okay, let’s move on.
The scariest feelings often come from suppression.
For me, it was starting to believe that nothing was real anymore. Suddenly switching from ‘it’s not a great day’ to ‘I don’t know who I am, what I can trust and what is happening, anymore.’ It really shook me and I truly thought I was losing my grip on reality. A few sessions in though and something slowly became clear – if you constantly bury your feelings, keep busy and lock everything inside, it will eventually become too much and it will force your mind to react. Articulating your feelings breaks that seal and gradually, you’ll recognize that what feels so terrifying doesn’t actually come from nowhere and there are strategies to put in place to stop you getting to that point.
It doesn’t ‘fix’ things but it helps.
Now it would be properly amazing if a few sessions were all we needed to solve every issue but we all know that life is far from that simple. Instead, counselling simply works away more subtly in the background, something that grows like any other muscle to become stronger and help you feel more capable and in control.
If I’d have known some of this in 2020, perhaps I would’ve felt able to seek help earlier myself. I lost a lot of time to feeling lost and my one wish moving forward is that mental health continues to be prioritized and discussed. It is never something to be ashamed of and hopefully by sharing our experiences we can encourage one another to seek what we need and deserve.
One thought on “Five things I wish I’d known before I started counselling”
So true, this is such a helpful reminder that no matter how big or small the problem you should never be afraid to ask for help ❤