It’s bizarre to me that therapy is still considered taboo or an extreme measure by some, in this country (the UK) where a stiff upper lip and ‘we don’t discuss our problems because we’re British’ mentality prevails.
Therapy was normalised in the US long ago where it seems that most people have either had therapy or are continuously having it as a means to deal with problems, and/or stay emotionally well.
It appears to me that our American neighbours pay mental health the same respect as physical health, and I hope the UK fully follows suit as while we’re slowly making progress, therapy for my generation, at least, hasn’t become naturalised or normalised.
There is no shame in therapy, full stop. It’s a gift that provides you with the tools to tackle your past, and therefore understand your present, providing you with the tools to self-love, forgive, and heal like nothing else I can think of, and it’s transformed my life twice, now.
I started CBT back in 2011 after I suffered from a traumatic birth in 2010, self-silencing the pain for fear of being deemed an un-fit mother or worse, having my son taken away from me, and I was at my lowest ebb.
Mental health wasn’t an accessible subject back then. Blogs were deemed new and obscure, and people were still only using Facebook as a means of sharing their holidays pics rather than anything deep or meaningful (I shudder at past statuses which read like short tweets with updates on what I was eating for dinner! To be fair, 2010/11 was the dawn of this brave new digital world we’re now fully immersed in and while there are aspects of social that can feel unhealthy (comparison paralysis, trolls etc), it’s reassuring to see how social media is helping to normalise mental health struggles, enabling us all to feel less alone and greater supported, because of it.
As well as starting up my blog and social media channels, opening up about my struggles to family and friends and embarking on therapy, gave me the strength to heal. It also provided me with an emotional tool kit to overcome the anguish I felt at the time, so much so, I overcame my birth trauma to have another baby, something I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel able to do.
Learning how to help myself overcome that dark period in my life with the help of a therapist has been a game changer for me. I felt depressed again when a close relative was unwell 2 years ago which lasted for a much shorter period than the first bout and reminded me of the importance of consistent self-care as protective armour, rather than something to start as a knee-jerk reaction to feeling low.
At the start of the year, I began therapy again, initially to help with the devastating loss of my young aunt, Zak, who was diagnosed with incurable cancer out of the blue a few months before passing, which later as the session progressed, developed into reflecting on boundaries, confidence and self-worth.
…Zak was my second Mum, my aunt and best friend (as well as Xander’s godmother) all rolled into one, and we spoke every day.
Her loss has broken our hearts and the squiggly line of grief veers from bearable to not. Grief never leaves you but I’ve slowly learned how to handle it better, and how to process the anger and sadness with exercise, crying and sharing my feelings with family and friends.
As my therapy sessions have progressed, I’ve begun to trust myself more and lean on myself as an anchor and compass, treating myself as I do my close friends. I didn’t think I’d ever reach this level of self-worth and love after a lifetime to date of being my own worst critic.
Guilt-free time out, turning off tech an hour before bed, regular meet-ups with friends and date days with my husband, are carved out as I realise how valuable they are to my wellbeing.
I give myself permission to unwind and I’ve learned that saying ‘no’ and being strict about boundaries gives me the space I need for work/life balance (which I’ve achieved thanks to a supportive management team and my therapist) and free time.
Hand-on-heart, I’ve never felt more secure in myself, or happy. It struck me the other day, that how I feel now, is how I was always meant to feel, the unaffected me before strict school-life as a child, bad body image, the media and societal pressures and everything else that can chip away at us all. I addressed my past in order to understand my present in a way that has allowed me to let go, and move forwards content and joyful.
I accept the waves of self-doubt when they inevitably arise (hello PMT) but I’m consistently following my therapist’s advice to sit with compliments for at least a minute when I’m given them, so as to absorb and store them up, rather than dismissing and diminishing them, and it’s working. Please try it for yourself and soak up the kind words others have said about you, repeating them, and ultimately believing them. Equally, I’ve taken a moment to breathe deeply, or a night’s sleep before reacting to triggers, so as not reacting, even to the most hurtful of comments or incidences.
Most importantly, I’ve become empathetic to myself. I know that PMT/S requires that I slow down and switch off more (this month due to exercise and self-care has meant manageable PMT), or busy periods will make me more tired and sensitive, requiring more self-care, and that I shouldn’t apologise or feel bad about those times.
I honestly feel liberated thanks to therapy.
I only wish I’d started it up again sooner.
Now that I have, I never want to stop.
Have you had or are having therapy too?