Despite having well and truly struggled with my mental health for a number of years now, I've not actually received a great deal of help. In my post all about my self harm & recovery story, I spoke all about how hard it was to even get help in the form of anti-depressants, let alone therapy. Having said that, however, after a number of trips to the doctors I was offered a course of CBT. This I found useful in the long term, but it simply didn't tackle any of the reasons why I felt the way I did.
So, when my lovely auntie offered to help me get help as a house warming gift I was over the moon. Her neighbour/good friend is currently training to be an emotional counselor in the town in which I live, so I've been given the opportunity to see her when I feel up to it.
Unlike CBT, this session took place in my own home, where I was comfortable. It didn't have to be here; I could have chosen to have it outside of the house if I didn't feel comfortable letting her into my home. Inside my house is where my anxiety is at its best, so I decided to do it here. Then I could get myself a tea, sit in comfortable clothes and the whole situation would feel less formal.
We started off slowly. I was given the option to start off the session wherever I wanted, but as I've never done one before I opted for the counselor to start it herself. Instead of just straightforward talking, emotional counselling involves other mediums of expression, including artwork, journalling and writing itself.
An arty medium was chosen as our first 'exercise'. I was asked to pick out beads/stones that represented people who are close to me from a selection of beads. Once I had chosen them, we discussed why I chose each bead for each person and I got to arrange them however I liked on the surface we were using. I then picked out a bead for myself and we placed it next to each of the other beads in turn and I got to talk about my relationship with each of the people that the beads represented.
Although the whole bead thing may sound silly, it provided me with a visual representation of each person, and made it easier for me to think about them in an abstract and slightly analytical way.
Possibly the best aspect of this section of the session was the validation I received about the way I feel. All other forms of counselling I've experienced have questioned why I feel the way I do. It was honestly amazing to have somebody sit there and tell me that my feelings are normal and natural and that there's nothing wrong with how I feel about things. I finally got to feel as though I was justified in feeling upset or angry or frustrated with people and situations.
Although I shed quite a few tears during this part of the session, I felt as though they were cathartic tears rather than destructive or pointless ones. For the last third or so of the session we moved onto the second activity, which was more of an action plan.
When I was talking about my relationship with my boyfriend, I mentioned how hard I found it when I'm on my own. He has a few business trips coming up this year, during which I'll have to learn to adjust to living alone in our home for a week or two at a time. So, we set up a piece of paper with my name in the middle and all of the people that I consider to be in my support system. I wrote down their names and why I want them in my support system. As a sort of 'homework' (if that's what you'd call it) I'm going to be thinking of a couple more names. Then, when I'm feeling low I can look over it and choose people to get in contact with.
It was hard to talk about things that I usually don't discuss, but I feel much lighter now and I think I'll definitely be arranging a second session! Let me know if you'd like me to write that one up too.