A Brighton based blogger sharing a candid tale of 20-something humanness

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Therapy: let's talk about it


'This is the hard bit,' she said.

I'm willing to invest my time and effort - the trying - because the hard bit of this is already a thousand times easier than the hard bit of the alternative.

I've been generally anxious for a long time when I'm truly honest about it, and the past couple of years especially have been a struggle more often than not. There have been days, weeks at a time, where the anxiety that I have fostered for over a decade and the low mood that often accompanies it has cast a shadow upon every corner of my life.

Exercise, I told myself time and time again, whenever it brought me to my knees. Eat healthily, practice yoga until your thighs shake, meditate whenever you get the chance. Do the CBT, learn the coping mechanisms. You will be fine, you will be fine, you will be fine. Except, it was never fine. Those things proved soothing remedies, and I'm sure they always will, but those things were not enough for me.

I don't want a life that is perfect: to never feel unhappiness or loneliness or even all consuming fear. My feelings are my humanity and fear is so often the price we pay to experience the magic. The leap that makes life better. But I dreamt of a life where the irrational fear, rooted so deeply in my sub-conscience, didn't govern every minute of the day. I missed driving to work without being plagued by the bastard feeling of mounting panic. I missed nipping out to buy peppermint tea and dark chocolate gingers without the sudden onset of a dizzying, nauseating, heart-pounding, humiliating dread - the one without obvious trigger that I cannot fully put into words; the one that has rendered me useless in too many places. I missed saying yes. Spontaneity. Light. Breath after breath after breath. Silence.

I phoned my now therapist to book an appointment a whole ten years after I should have. That phone call - the decision to ask for help and and be vulnerable and finally, at fucking last, share my truest narrative with myself, let alone a total stranger - is one of the best I have ever made. In the first blog post I ever shared about my anxiety, I wrote 'I will live with this anxiety disorder for the rest of my life, I get that now.' My therapist was the first person on this earth who has ever challenged that statement, dismissing my misplaced certainty within the first breath of our conversation and promising that we would work together to change things. Those words were the slither of light in the black and I had no idea how much I needed them. If you believe something enough it becomes your truth, and what I told her with so much conviction during our first interaction isn't mine anymore, which was perhaps half the work. The gift of hope is the gift of everything.

I'm six sessions in to integrative counselling now and life already feels different: like it's truly, finally changing. It's a strange and fascinating thought that for ten years I was perhaps only six hours away from new direction: this graceful surrender to a better life. Joy is returning in all manner of things, and there is light where there wasn't, and the sense that I am coming home to myself. We have explored the story of my life and unpicked the probable roots of the anxiety and we have worked through feelings that I had no idea I still carried. I am learning to be kinder to myself, because the kindness holds so much more power than I once realised.

I laugh more now than I have laughed in a long time. I accept invitations with ease. On most days I sing the wrong lyrics to every song that comes on the radio during my morning commute, because what else is there to do now? I'm writing on here - an art that I love - for the first time in almost five months, and perhaps that fact alone says more than this blog post ever could.

The big work is the slow work, and so the work is not yet over. The hard bit my therapist refers to at the moment is the maintenance of it all: committing to the change and putting everything I have learnt into practice day after day after day until it doesn't need practicing anymore. The gentle refusal not to slip into old habits. I would be lying if I said it isn't hard at times, but I'm willing to invest my time and effort - the trying - because the hard bit of this is already a thousand times easier than the hard bit of the alternative. And I now believe, with the fullest of hearts, that there will come a day when I am completely free of the anxiety that I have fostered for over a decade.

Breath after breath after breath. Silence.


Please note that this is my personal experience of integrative counselling for anxiety. If you are currently dealing with a mental health issue, please be mindful that we are all different and what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. If you are interested in trying/investing in therapy, I would recommend the Counselling Directory as a good place to start. Your GP may also be able to point you in the direction of free local services. If you are feeling overwhelmed or suicidal, please reach out to the Samaritans. You are not alone.
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2 comments

  1. Such an incredible and honest piece I feel privileged to read. You are a fighter and a beautiful writer! Thank you so much for sharing xxx

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  2. Oh, Kathy, I have missed your beautiful posts! And now I know why there haven't been any for a while. I'm sorry I've not reached out to ask.

    I'm sorry to hear you've been struggling with your anxiety so much, but I am so, so glad that you've found a form of therapy that's working for you, and you're already seeing an improvement. I'm sure you'll battle through the difficult parts, because I can see how much you want this. I'm so, so glad you're on the road to recovery. I hope it doesn't take too long for you to reach the other side. *hugs*

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