You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you- Dan Millman
Having recently reached the conclusion of my counselling sessions, I wanted to dedicate this post to explain how it went and how I feel having done it.
After around a three month wait, short in this current climate, I was fortunate enough to start my sessions at the start of September 2018. Previously I’d attended CBT, although it did not go as well as I’d hoped, therefore going into counselling I was wanting a clear improvement. In my first session, myself and my counsellor decided on a list of three key goals.
1. Limit use of social media
Many of my triggers are linked to social media, therefore I wanted to manage my usage and take more time to focus on myself and practise self-care. The constant source of comparisons, particularly with campaigning, have been hugely negative and I believed that finding other positive outlets would hugely help my mental wellbeing. Spending lots of time online almost always leaves me feeling downbeat and depressed.
2. Learn to focus and concentrate better
With a mind constantly on the go, racing with thoughts, maintaining my concentration can often be quite a task. I’m someone who loves to be productive and get things done, therefore I was extremely determined to improve this particular facet of my life. Ironically, writing blogs like this usually takes a long time because of my poor concentration!
3. Be realistic and make manageable goals
As a perfectionist and someone who continuously strives for excellence, to achieve the next big target, it can be very hard not to set the bar too high and out of reach. Having recognised that this ‘perfectionist’ mindset was regularly making me feel like a failure, I was keen to make a positive change. This cycle had to be stopped in its tracks. And fast!
For me to feel comfortable in opening up, to share some of the deepest, darkest moments of my life and for this process to be successful, I knew that developing a good relationship with my counsellor would be vital. Luckily, from the very start, I felt completely at ease and able to divulge almost everything on my mind. There was absolutely no judgement. I could take things at my own pace. Cry if necessary. Take a break whenever I needed to!
While the first six or seven sessions did provide me with a sense of release and satisfaction in release my emotions, there was no significant improvement. Much to my dismay.
The scores I made in relation to my three goals were fluctuating week by week, certain situations in my life left me incredibly overwhelmed and I was quickly running out of time before my sessions ended. Particularly in the UK, with high demand, long waiting lists and a shortage in staff, the majority of people undergoing counselling are now restricted to a measly six or seven sessions. I know what you’re thinking- not much at all right? Having resigned myself to the fact that I’d also receive either 6, 7 or a maximum of 8 sessions, it came as a huge surprise that the number would be extended to twelve. Something I desperately needed!
As I progressed through sessions 9, 10, 11 and onto to the final 12th, it was clear that I was starting to make some much needed improvements. In order to fill the 2/3 week gap between sessions, I was focussing more on self-care and looking after myself and even took an overdue break from campaigning. From discussions with my counsellor, we’d identified that I was not doing enough to maintain myself, but rather too much in attempting to help others. The moment I took a step back and re-balanced my life was the moment I started to feel better!
Instead of spending countless hours trying to blog, organise events, feeling a pressure to please or impress other people etc, I began spending quality time with friends, reading books, practicing meditation, going to the gym and much more. Just simple which I enjoy- living more in the moment as they say. It’s amazing just how much I neglected such things when feeling very depressed.
Having had time to reflect since the end of my sessions, I’d definitely say that I’m in a better position to cope and manage my emotions, however I would argue that other forms of help could be more beneficial. If I were to receive further support in the future, my ideal scenario would be something more practical, possibly Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) or Hypnotherapy. It’d be fantastic to learn new coping strategies and identify possible solutions to my problems. Counselling was effective in some ways, but also rather basic.
If you’re reading this and wanting support for a mental health problem, what I would say is give counselling a go. Even if it doesn’t go well, what’s the harm in trying?
It can be frustrating but finding the best help for a mental health problem is often a case of trial and error. What works for one may not work for another. There is no one size fits all!
Thanks for reading,