When I started counselling, I was unsure of what to expect. I had an idea which I’d built from snippets of TV shows, pieced together with a couple of anecdotes from friends and family. It seemed like a whole lot of talking about yourself, and that was unexplored territory for me.
I am a listener. If I can get away with saying as little as possible, I will. This is partially due to anxiety and depression playing tricks on me – a belief that my voice sounds awful, and the things I have to say are of interest to no one except myself. In addition (and on a happier note), it’s also because I simply care about what others have to say and enjoy learning about them. So, I choose to listen.
Nevertheless, I was desperate. I wasn’t in a position to turn away help, because I couldn’t stand feeling the way I was any longer. At that point, I would have done anything.
I attended an introductory appointment where the process was explained to me. The description more or less matched my thoughts, and I began to wonder if I was making a terrible mistake. An hour a week of talking about myself? This was going to be tough.
Turns out, for someone who doesn’t like talking, I had a lot to say.
The first couple of appointments were the hardest. They were tricky because I felt awkward, but also 27 years’ worth of thoughts and feelings flooded out. It left me feeling physically and emotionally drained, so I’d head home and have a nap.
'That’s the beauty of counselling for me. It’s a time when there are no other distractions. You are forced to really look at your life, yourself and your feelings.'
But it did get easier. Every Wednesday, I would turn up to my appointment, blabber for the duration, and leave feeling like a weight had been lifted. The awkwardness faded away as I became more comfortable. The exhaustion was replaced by a sense of freedom. The more I felt those benefits, the more I looked forward to my weekly brain-dump.
Around the middle of my journey, I started feeling like I didn’t have much to say. We seemed to have covered the big stuff. It was only when I’d get to my session that I’d realise all the things I’d overlooked – both the good and the bad.
That’s the beauty of counselling for me. It’s a time when there are no other distractions. You are forced to really look at your life, yourself and your feelings. Initially, this is what scared me the most, but it became the most appealing part.
I am now approaching the end of these sessions. It has been made clear to me that I can sign up for more, but I’m reluctant to do that just yet. I will keep it in mind for the future, but I think it’s time to see how I get by without it.
I feel quietly confident because I am equipped with 3 invaluable lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
1. I am in control of my life. Within the first few sessions, my counsellor and I had identified that I had a terrible habit of passively accepting what was happening. I made no attempt to fight that nasty little voice in my head which told me I wasn’t good enough. I just let it be. I let it wear me down. My counsellor reminded me – using several examples from my own life – of the fact I’m in the driver’s seat here. I can determine the route my life takes. It won’t always be easy, but I do have a choice.
2. I am not in control of everything. As important as it was for me to learn that I’m in control of my own thoughts, it was equally important for me to realise I’m not in control of everything. Most notably, other people. A lot of the memories I discussed with my counsellor involved me feeling disappointed by how people had reacted or behaved. I assumed it was a reflection on me. Yet, looking at it again, with a fresh perspective, made me aware that it was probably more to do with that individual than anything I had or hadn’t done.
3. It’s good to talk. Don’t get me wrong, counselling hasn’t transformed me into a chatterbox. I’m still the quietest person in the room. It would take a personality transplant to change that, I imagine. It has, however, encouraged me to see the value in letting other people in. Every week, I’d turn up and be surprised at how much I had to say, because it forced me to realise how much I’d been keeping in. No wonder my mind was feeling heavy – I’d been lugging around all this baggage when I should have let it out! Counselling allowed me to do that, not only with my counsellor, but the people in my life. I noticed I became more open with my boyfriend. I began reaching out to family and friends when I was feeling lonely. There were all these wonderful people around me who wanted to listen, but I hadn’t been giving them the chance.
I can’t help but feel sad and a little apprehensive about my sessions drawing to a close. I think it’s a testament to my wonderful counsellor that I feel like I’m saying goodbye to a friend. There’s a sense of loss, and a lot of question in my mind if I’ll be okay without it. Truth be told, there’s only so much counselling can do, and I feel like it’s up to me now.
It’s hard not to feel upset, but I know I’m leaving counselling with much more than I had when I started. I’ve given a lot and gained even more. That, for me, is the key when it comes to counselling – you have to be willing to try. It won’t happen straight away but, gradually, you’ll feel yourself open up to what’s on offer, and it can be lifechanging. So, let it happen. It’s new, and scary, and strange, but it’s worth it.
What I choose to find a lot of comfort in is knowing that my sessions ending means somebody else’s are about to begin. I can only hope they benefit from it as much as I have.
After being diagnosed with depression and anxiety then receiving treatment, Ruth wanted to turn her situation into something constructive. Consequently, her blog, 'Ruth in Revolt' was created. With a lifelong passion for writing and a renewed sense of determination, she took a step out of her comfort zone and began putting all her efforts into creating a positive space online to brighten the lives of others.
Read more from Ruth at her blog, Ruth in Revolt or connect via Twitter