I thought I would give you a counselling update, as it’s been a while since I shared my counselling introduction and I wanted to let you know what’s happened since.
My appointments are on Wednesdays and they last 50 minutes per session. I have had three appointments so far and, in an hour, will be attending my fourth.
Week One – 13th June 2018
In my first week, I met my counsellor and the whole idea was to get to know each other. It was a different lady to the one who did my introduction, but she was still very nice. Before we started, she offered me a glass of water and made sure I felt comfortable.
She explained that the type of counselling they offered meant the session was ultimately led by me. So, whatever I wanted to talk about, she would work with it. I didn’t like this at first. However, I think my counsellor recognised this so she gently encouraged me with a few questions to set the ball rolling. Still, I found it difficult to talk about myself so much. It wasn’t even the nature of the conversation which I struggled with – just the fact I had to carry the conversation.
Around 20 minutes into my appointment, I became comfortable and felt the words just spilling out of my mouth. I told her everything which came to mind, including experiences which I hadn’t discussed for a long time, if at all.
Together, we identified how I had held onto a lot of negative things that people had said to me, and allowed them to shape the person I was, and how I felt about myself.
Her suggestion was to think of myself how my nieces think of me instead. I had gushed about them at several points during the appointment, and she had been quick to point out how children are not born judging others. She said they probably loved me equally in return and believed I was wonderful. Going forward, she said I should try to see myself through their eyes. I liked this, because my nieces mean so much to me. They have changed my life and I know they love me. So, it felt like something I could work with.
Week Two – 20th June 2018
I went to this appointment feeling good. I had had a good week and even after only one appointment had started to feel the benefits of counselling.
We discussed my progress. It wasn’t until this happened that I became aware of how much I had achieved during the week. My counsellor was thrilled and suggested I started to write all the things which make me feel good in a book. Given how many notebooks I have, I knew this was a task I could do. I have been doing it since, and I’ve loved it. It encourages me to stop and think about what is good in my day and my life. It reminds me of when I was younger. My mum and I used to have a thing where we would name our good thing of the day. We’d often do this when we were walking home from school, and I love those memories.
The other reason I loved this session was some of the things my counsellor told me. We discussed my strong negative feelings about myself and she told me:
Think of your life like an old-fashioned train which uses coal to run. For the past 15 years, you’ve been putting bad coal on the fire, and you’ve been moving, but not necessarily in the right direction. As you describe it, you’ve been driving yourself into a foggy place where you can’t see clearly. You are still the one in control. Now, imagine if you put good coal onto that fire and began turning the train in a new direction – a positive one. It will take you a while to turn it around, but it’s possible.
For me, this image was powerful and helped me to realise that the person thinking all of these negative thoughts all the time is me, so I’m also the one who can change them, hard as it may be.
Another way she made me see I’m the one letting the negative thoughts live inside my head was by asking “when it rains, do you get wet or do you put an umbrella up?” Naturally, I said I put an umbrella up, and she replied:
Exactly – it’s the same with negative thoughts. When they start coming in, put something up to defend yourself. Say “no, I’m not listening to you today.”
I loved this so much, I bought this print to remind me of it.
By the time I got home, I felt empowered and like I could take on the world.
Week Three – 27th June 2018
The day before this appointment, something happened in my life which upset me. I didn’t know what to do with it, and I hadn’t really had time to process it before my appointment. So, when I got there, I made use of the opportunity to discuss it, and I cried. Nobody enjoys crying but I absolutely hate doing it in front of people, especially when I don’t know them very well. It made me feel uncomfortable. Yet, it was necessary and there was no way I could have held it in.
Discussing it enabled me to make sense of why it had impacted me the way it did, though. It wasn’t that my response was illogical, but the event had hit me very hard, and it seemed disproportionate. Together, we identified the causes and I felt better. It didn’t seem like I was an emotional mess, just that there were underlying issues which had all coming flooding to the front at once.
Other than that, I had another good week, so we spent the last ten minutes discussing that. I shared some of the things I had written in my notebook and the session ended on a positive note.
Despite her efforts to get me to a better place, this was the first time I left my appointment still feeling low. Tuesday was still looming over me, and all the crying had left me drained. I met Neal for lunch and then called my parents in the evening. My sister was visiting them and I was able to speak to her, too. What I realised was, even though I didn’t feel good, I had reached out and talked about it. So, that felt like progress.
By bedtime, I felt much calmer.
I stand by my decision to attend counselling. It has forced me to face up to things I had buried, which were having a toxic effect on me, even if I didn’t realise it. This hasn’t been easy but it is, so far, proving to be worth it. I’m interested to see where the rest of the journey takes me.