I had counseling whilst I was at uni.
I only lasted out about 8 of the 15 sessions I was supposed to have.
Mostly because I hated the way that one hour could cast a negative spell on the rest of my day, or even the rest of my week.
It took place every Thursday afternoon. And I’d spend the morning living the student dream – y’know, mostly downing cystitis sachets and pretending to listen to seminars about libel and defamation. Then I’d eat a panini and mosey on down to my appointment.
It wasn’t so much the actual appointment I hated so much, but the aftermath. I hated the way my counselor would dig deep, that she’d unearth things that had managed to escape my day-to-day brain. That I’d leave my session feeling like all my emotions, my memories, my darkest secrets were suddenly on show – not just to myself – but to the world.
It made me feel vulnerable. But it also made me feel broken. It made me re-live and re-visit the things I had spent an entire lifetime trying to hide away, to bury deep, to put them in a place where they wouldn’t interfere with me living my best life.
And counseling unearthed them again. Brought them to the front of mind. Put them in bright, glittering lights, so that I couldn’t escape them.
I’d often spend those Thursday evenings feeling terribly alone. Feeling weak. Feeling teary. Feeling like the version of myself I so desperately didn’t want to be.
It felt like I was walking backwards rather than forwards – like it was making me worse rather than better.
Because that’s the thing with therapy, or counseling, or whatever you choose to call it – it’s not a quick-fix option. It is lengthy and painful and you have to show some real strength and commitment to stick with it.
I’ve no doubt that in the long run it is useful and brilliant. And now that I work from home more than ever, I am so, so aware of the importance of sounding out your own brain. Of talking out loud about the things pinging about inside it.
Because truly, it is the only way to make sense of it, to understand it, to feel content with it.
Whenever I’ve considered counseling before, I’ve wanted results fast. I’ve wanted, above all else, to feel fixed. To be put back together. For someone to click their fingers and for me to walk away skipping into the distance with bunnies hopping after me with a big ol’ rainbow above my head.
I’ve always been in low places, places where my own mental health was crippling me, and I was desperate to find a way out. To have a promise that things would instantly get better.
And the reason I applied for university counseling during the summer holidays betweenmy second and third year was because I knew it was my last real shot at getting easy, free access to those kinds of services.
I knew that not only were there long NHS waiting lists, but that there would be a real pressure to feel the need to prove that I was even worth the spot on that waiting list.
It’s only now, now when I’m in a place where I’ve felt more stable than I ever have, that I find myself re-thinking about therapy.
I’ll be driving and the sun will be shining on the horizon. The world will feel bright and optimistic and like a place that I truly want to be, and the question will leap to the forefront of my mind.
I’m not looking to be saved or rescued. I’m looking for someone to talk to. Someone that will listen and help me make sense of some of the issues that whirl around my brain.
The ones that jump in front of my eyes just before I fall sleep. The ones that dance their way into my conscious mind when I’ve spent too long on my own, or I have stressed myself out to the point of utter exhaustion.
The issues that don’t stop me from living my life. The issues that don’t interfere with my ability to live. But the issues that are there, regardless.
The issues that have, in one way or another, shaped every decision that’s brought me to where I am today.
And I feel like to let them stay there, to stay with me always, would be an injustice to myself.
I always thought that to feel ‘normal’ or to feel ‘happy’ would be to find someone to love, to settle down and to start afresh with.
But now that I am here, I am aware that you cannot just erase the past purely by building a new future.
You need to accept your life. You need to talk about it. You need to explore it. You need to come to peace with it.
You cannot simply move on by blocking something out and ignoring it, you need to give it air time.
And I guess now that I am in a place where it doesn’t feel like the world is threatening to consume me whole, well, maybe now is the time to give the things I fear most that airtime.
Maybe now is the time to truly come to terms with who I am. To truly accept myself. And to truly accept everything the world has thrown at me.
Maybe now is the time for therapy.