There is a lot of shame and fear surrounding things like counselling, so I thought I’d tell about my own experience in hopes of alleviating at least some of those fears.
My counselling doesn’t follow any specific protocol, like CBT, I just basically show up and we talk about whatever it is that I want to talk about that day.
A bit of an oxymoron. It’s a funny thing, counselling. You make an appointment to have a discussion about things you don’t want to talk about.
I’m involved in counselling through a local charity. They have been fantastic. I was even assigned another counsellor from the city where I was in hospital, so there wouldn’t be a break of several months. All three counsellors I have been involved with from the same charity have been lovely but I especially like the one I’m seeing now. We get along really well.
A little bit about me at this point in time: I’m a perfectionist. I’ve been described as a ‘go-getter.’ I have no problem working extremely hard towards something that I want. (At the expense of my health, as it turns out.) Until my breakdown I had a quite a skewed mindset where I thought that as long as I kept achieving things: get diplomas, recognition, whatever, some day, EVENTUALLY, I’d be happy.
Of course that never happened. I just kept on going, digging myself further and further into the swamp. It’s easy to ignore the warning signs your body and mind are giving you when you can just think ‘oh I’m just tired because of so and so’ or ‘it’s just a bit hard at the moment.’
And so on and so on and so on until you find yourself slicing your arm with a bread knife or writing a letter of final words to your loved ones.
Complete and utter bullshit.
Despite having gone through traumatic events, I honestly thought for the longest time that I didn’t need counselling. I thought that I could deal with things on my own. I had a really abusive relationship and once I got out of it, I was of the mindset that I should just keep on achieving things. Of course that worked an absolute treat.
Who? Me? I’m doing just fine! I don’t need to talk to anyone, that would just mean wallowing in that old muck. That was then, this is now! Onwards and upwards! Pardon me, I’ll just reach for that antiseptic behind you, I seem to have accidentally repeatedly cut myself. Everything is under control, no need to worry about a thing.
Honest to god I was so delusional. Because I thought that what happened to me had somehow tainted me. Because I had systematically been told that had I or had I not done or said something, nothing bad would ever happen.
People who have never been in an abusive situation have all the answers in the world.
Why didn’t you just leave?
Did you say no?
Why did you put up with it?
You should’ve told somebody.
I would’ve done something…
Could’ve would’ve should’ve until the end of the earth.
But I tell you this: if you get told something for a prolonged period of time, you are going to fucking believe it. End of.
I would achieve things in order to feel better about myself, almost paying penance in order to show how fucking amazingly I was doing despite what happened. Not that anyone would know that because for a long time I didn’t tell a single soul. I dealt with it all on my own. If people concentrated on the things I had achieved and nothing else, none of them could see that part of me that was tainted, right?
For whatever reason, this system wasn’t exactly without its flaws. I now understand that I was grinding myself down for years before finally breaking down. I did too much, took too much on, set incredibly ambitious targets for myself and worried myself sick about achieving them. That was how I existed. That’s how my value was measured.
Once I finally achieved them, whatever it was, it only brought momentary relief until I realised that this wasn’t the end. Oh no, we’re only just starting. You’ve gone through hoop A, now there’s only B, C, D, E and X left to do. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
All of those nights I spent studying. All of those times I refused something fun because I had to do some work. The times that I was so exhausted and terrified of failing that I would just cry. The days off that I would spend just laying in bed because I was too tired to do anything else.
The warning signs were there for the longest time. I just didn’t see them. I just thought I was tired. But I was champion at beating myself back to life with a stick. Squeeze out that tiny drop of energy I still had left and utilise it. Come on, you lazy piece of shit! Of course all the while telling my friends that they are precious angels who shouldn’t work too hard like a hypocrite that I am.
Of course I was playing a losing game. Little by little things had started to nag at me. Maybe everything that had happened in that relationship wasn’t normal. Maybe I had been treated in a way you wouldn’t treat a fucking house plant.
And I was terrified to tell someone, because I thought I wouldn’t be believed. I had been told so many times by this person that everything was my fault and that it was all in my head. What if he was right?
Long story short: I told about it, and of course I was believed. I was told that what happened wasn’t normal, it wasn’t ok and it wasn’t my fault. Cue tears and my first steps on a road filled with shit, landmines and bear traps towards the light.
I’m still on that road but I have been able to sort of isolate it into that hour on every Monday when I step into a lovely, inviting room, sit down and take a pillow into my lap as if to shield myself.
It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It’s not quick. But it does help.
I have been to counselling for about a year now. Without it I wouldn’t had been able to write any of the things I’ve mentioned in this post. I would probably still be living under the same delusion, or actually I wouldn’t because I’d be dead.
To me things had to come to a complete and utter halt before I stopped running. I had to be thrown into a hospital bed with my mind a white haze and depression having eaten me empty from inside into a hollow core before I finally agreed that things have to change.
This was how it happened to me but it doesn’t mean it has to go the same way for everybody else.
Tomorrow is Monday, and I’m going to go to my counselling. And afterwards I’ll go to a cafe to have a coffee and a chocolate chip muffin because I like the routine. I pick bits off the crunchy top with my fingers first before moving on to the soft, doughy core. Then in the evening I’m going to meet a friend for aftercare; crying, cuddling and looking at cute animal photos.
It’s going to be shit but I’ll be glad that I did it. Some day. Down the line.
Actually, that’s a lie.
I already am.