When you are struggling with a mental health issue, possibly the biggest challenge you will face is reaching out for help. One of the major factors in creating this obstacle is trying to imagine just what shape that therapy is going to come in?
One big mistake?
The prospect of sitting in a room with a complete stranger and telling them about this completely crazy story of how my life is dominated by this thing, this anxiety, scared me. It really scared me. How were they going to react when I told them that I could barely function? That getting on a bus terrified me? That I threw up just thinking about a night out? How long would it be before they would have me carted off to the madhouse?
All these things raced through my mind in the weeks after I first reached out for help. With an amazing amount of luck I was scheduled to see a psychologist within a very short space of time. Though at that point I really did question whether it was all a big mistake. Should I have just kept my mouth shut? I certainly wanted to run away from it all. That thought of seeing someone sent my anxiety into overdrive.
Back then when I thought of a psychologist I thought of couches, ‘mad’ people (please forgive my younger self!) and awkward questions about the relationship with your mother. I really struggled to build a positive picture in my head. I knew in theory this ‘could’ help but for the life of me I could not think how? How could talking solve this overwhelming thing that at times seemed more physical than mental?
To me Lorraine did not look like a psychologist. She didn’t talk like one, she didn’t act like one and what was more there was no couch. Just a chair, a comfy one but it was still a chair. I sat on it and we talked. Just talked. She asked me questions and I answered them, there was nothing that was particularly awkward or intrusive. It felt like a conversation. Lorraine had this really laid back and easy way of chatting that put me really at ease. The whole thing was quite the opposite of what I had imagined, which came as such great comfort and relief.
We met regularly once a week to begin with and we just did the same for fifty minutes, just talked. It is strange that I don’t actually remember us talking directly about ‘anxiety’ or mental health. We just talked about how I was feeling. The other strange thing was that Lorraine never once told me what to do. She just asked questions and I came up with the answers. It was so clever as it meant that ultimately I overcame the issue by myself, she just helped guide and shape my perception and thinking. This is such an important thing I believe and I really appreciated it as I kind of hate it when people tell me what to do.
Yet the most surprising thing of all was that I was actually able to overcome this thing through just talking. Through what for all intents and purposes, to me at least, seemed like a nice conversation over a cup of tea and the occasional biscuit. It took a while (I probably saw Lorraine for just over a year) but considering just what an impact and for how long the Anxiety was in control of my life it was amazing. There were no drastic procedures, no drugs or medication or being forced into doing something against my will. Neither was there judgement or any kind of criticism. All things I had feared before it all started. It was in many ways a pleasant experience. To this day I genuinely miss talking to Lorraine, she really was an amazing person.
Back in therapy
I Had some therapy sessions recently to talk through some personal issues I was facing. And once again I found it so beneficial. It really helped me in coping. It was the same drill, though this time it was over zoom rather than face to face. Maybe something was lost in this but I could not really tell.
I will never be ashamed of talking about my struggles with mental health or the fact that I sought help through therapy to deal with it. Yes before all it began it did seem very daunting and I was afraid of the outcomes. However in a very short space of time, its value became abundantly clear.
If you are worried about taking part in therapy I can reassure you, any fears will not last for long. And if you are anything like me you may realise that it could be one of the best decisions you have made in your life.