My Return to Counselling
First Published 2nd September 2020
It’s been some time since I’ve written on here as I’d kind of made a silent pact with myself to at least try not to keep going over what happened last year - in a bid to leave the past respectfully in its place, but also to not let Michael’s suicide define my whole life going forwards. What happened that night literally almost consumed all of me - and with lots of counselling I soon began to understand (and believe) quite how important it was to begin rebuilding on what little bits I had left of myself.
This has actually felt even more poignant recently as (those of you who know me personally will already be aware) I am now in a new relationship with a lovely man called Miles. It goes without saying that my openness about the trauma of last year has been an important part in building foundations and understanding within our relationship. However, while I am desperate to keep looking ahead and moving forwards with this new life, I am forever conscious of what lies ever threatening over my shoulder.
Generally, mostly in fact, I think I’ve been doing ok - surprisingly so - especially given Covid-19 and lockdown. But, just lately, I’m disappointed to say that things haven’t been quite so good. That angry, ugly, trauma wound has re-found some new energy and has definitely started making itself known. No longer quietly suppressed, safely under control - it’s increasingly persistent rumbling has gradually become noisier and sadly more and more difficult to ignore. I didn’t really see it creeping up on me - but If I look back now at the last 4 to 6 weeks, perhaps slightly longer, I can probably now accept that it’s in fact been building for some time. And the triggers are probably more obvious too.
How has this impacted my daily life?
Well, in many ways really. Both my daughters and Miles have noticed that I’ve become increasingly prone to ‘closing down‘ emotionally when faced with difficult situations. I’ve always considered myself a reasonably good communicator but somehow the trauma from last year sometimes manages to swallow that strength away from me. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s almost like I feel locked in my own head. Or temporarily frozen at least. It’s not that I can’t really speak, it’s more that I can’t really even think. So silence builds in me and around me. Not for long, but enough for me to recognise a change in my responses. It’s not who I want to be and not someone I recognise either. I guess my brain somehow retreats to how it coped on that night in June last year; and how it protected me in the weeks that followed. The shock, the event, the reality all too vile and devastating to process or accept. Thinking hurt. So preservation kind of stopped me thinking at all.
Another thing I’ve noticed is my feelings of vulnerability. I think I’ve been pretty emotionally strong in the last year - almost priding myself in that to help propel me forwards each day. But, lately, in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed I’m reflecting more on me and ‘what I’ve been through’ - not just last year but in the last few years really. Different shit, like we all have in various ways, but now I’m reflecting with - dare I say it - an element of self pity. Which I hate. But here I am sometimes feeling sad for myself. I catch myself welling up with tears all too easily whenever I allow life to focus on me. And of course those closest to me check in and ask how I’m doing (my lovely Mum is an absolute master at picking up on my look, my voice, body language, anything that suggests I’m not ok) adding to that focus even more.
I think I’ve also been more grumpy with those closest to me too. Another sign to me that I’m not coping so well with life in general. And my coping mechanisms for life’s stresses aren’t always helpful either. Of course I like having a glass of wine - not many - but it just numbs life a little when I need it to. But too much and the the next day brings with it greater undefined feelings of anxiety. Usually about nothing in particular. Even more frustrating!
So the signs and the problems are there -which is why last week I took a deep breath and did what I knew I needed to do... I restarted my counselling.
I’ve just had my first session and already the clarity in my thoughts feels a tiny bit better. Someone is holding my hand again; someone who held it from the very beginning who, in their kind, neutral, unbiased position is there once again to just listen and support and let me guide my way back to where I want to be. A place where I can process thoughts more clearly. Understand my troubles better. And communicate more easily with those closest to me and maintain those strong relationships that matter so much to my happiness.
So, session one was interesting, to say the least.. I couldn’t quite believe how much had happened in such a relatively short space of time; the one year anniversary, my brother’s horrid battle against covid 19, starting a new relationship, GCSE and A-level mayhem for both of my daughters... an hour was never going to be enough and Belinda mainly just listened. I rambled, in no particular order, but the one thing I noticed I kept coming back to was a sense of feeling in some way lost. A sense of not knowing my identity and what I was and would be. I realised that while a lot of what I’d been experiencing was of course related to trauma, a big part of it was also embedded in fear. Fear of a new dawn as both of my daughters prepare to leave home next week to further their academic studies. I couldn’t feel prouder of their achievements and ambitions but as I talked I realised that everything that’s about to happen next in my life was reinforcing my feelings of being left behind. Left behind. Yep, I knew that feeling! It tore me apart last year, and while rationally I knew this was a very different and positive scenario approaching, I can now understand a little of what’s been happening to me emotionally. The trigger that fired up that anxiety and all the repercussions that have come with it.
And that’s what makes counselling so brilliant. It’s no magic wand, it doesn’t ‘fix’, but it picks away at the tangled threads in your head and helps you make sense of your own thoughts and reactions. One of the things I always say to people is that while I don’t necessarily notice the immediate benefits of having been to a counselling session, I always notice when I haven’t. And this time I’ve really noticed the impact of not having been for several months. Thankfully though, I know that if I could manage to pull myself out of that horrendous place i was in last June, then this time should be a hell of lot easier. I know we will talk through all those fears and find a way of working them into opportunities; understanding this new stage in my family’s life as an another opportunity, another reason, to redefine my purpose. Purpose is something that we all need in life and this really is just another stage for me to work on mine.
I’m sharing my experiences with greater reluctance today than previously as it’s far easier to pretend everything is perfect now. I have two amazing daughters, a great Mum and a wonderful and understanding partner. As well as a fab group of friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin. A good life. Loads to feel grateful for. But, as ever, I have to remember the even keel mantra; that’s it’s ok not to be ok. And if me sharing my experience today of not being completely ok helps just one person reach out for help then that’s got to be worth doing.