P.S. There are no other stories. Sorry to disappoint.
So, it wasn’t my first time in a counseling session. Nor will it be my last, I’m sure. But I decided recently after the past 2-4 years as I have fallen down each and every pothole life has thrown at me, it was probably time to see a professional. I’m pretty proud of my general progress. I work hard. I workout hard. I eat well (mostly). I generally look put together. I very rarely cry myself to sleep and I’m mostly aware of my actions these days (post the year of total zombie grieving that 2017/2018 sent me). But something still isn’t quite right. My mind gets fuzzy. My heart races. Tears well into my eyes for no apparent reason and always at the most inappropriate of times. So I decided to seek help.
My word for 2019 is BRAVE. And the bravest thing I have ever done is let others help me when I need it most.
I had first sought counseling in my early twenties in the deep, dark, depths of my depression. Anything to save me from myself as the medication alone was not going to lift me out. The NHS (National Health System aka the UK’s free healthcare system) had a 12 week wait list to see a counselor, which when you’re suicidal is way too fucking long. My mum’s friend pointed me in the direction of my university’s health and disabilities team. Where I found support, information and most importantly someone to talk to.
If you’ve never been to therapy/counseling (honestly no idea what the difference is) you may think it’s this weird place with hypnosis and magic tricks and illusions. In all honesty, it’s just two regular people sitting in a room talking it out. It is a face and voice completely impartial to you and your story. They do not know your mum, your ex-boyfriend, that time you missed the bus in 6th grade, or who you blamed your problems on last week. They just see you, as you come, with as much as you tell (and I recommend you tell them everything). They shed light on your life that you’ve never seen before.
Counselors can’t fix you, but they teach you to look at your life in a way that you can fix yourself.
My counseling sessions back in uni mostly resembled word vomit. All the thoughts, feelings, words and experiences that were just previously white noise swirling in my head as I try to sleep, came tumbling out in the form of mostly coherent sentences. Interrupted only by tears, ugly cry snorts and lots and lots of nose wiping.
True to form, today include word vomit, tears and snot. Healing is a glamorous thing y’all.
What was very different about today was the circumstances. Back in 2012/2013 I sought therapy out of despair! I had no idea what I was going to do next, anxiety pinned me to my bed. Physically paralyzed by the weight of my fears. She (my counselor) helped me understand what I was feeling, she revealed historical circumstances that had never been apparent to me. One of the most profound questions I have ever been asked was this. Sue looked me directly in the eye and asked me “what do you do that makes you happy?” And at 23 years old I could not name a single thing I did JUST to make me happy. That became my homework.
Today, I am not desperate. I am not at “rock bottom”. At least not that rock bottom, maybe this is a new rock bottom? I am just lost in this space I have created in my mind. I am now dealing with new issues. Living in the US and feeling like I don’t fit it. Being thousands of miles from most of my friends and ALL of my family. Still deeply grieving the loss of my mum. Dealing with life post-divorce and the feelings of failure that brings. I am anxious, I am uncertain, and I cannot rationalize with myself.
It is so easy to rationalize other people’s problems. But when they are mine, I let the crazy flag fly and cannot rein it it.
Like before, I am not expecting my counselor to fix me. But I’m praying to all the energy in the Universe that he can teach me more ways to fix myself. For my depression I have strategies. Through close attention, and trial and error I can pick out my depression triggers, tipping points and catch myself before the slippery, slippery, so mother fucking slippery slope. If my depression is a giant fucking bear pinning me to the ground, my anxiety is a mutant daddy-long legs (or whatever we call those in the States) that will not fucking die. It just flits around, smashing in to stuff and ruining my day. Like what is the fucking purpose of you anyway?!
My point being that these are very separate beasts, and thus need a whole new set of skills (cue Liam Neeson).
This year I am brave. I am bravely taking care of myself. And bravely sharing it with you.