I am in therapy, I have been in therapy for about six months, and it’s time to talk about it.
I have always been aware of the importance and effectiveness of talking therapies via a constant stream of people in my life who have benefited from them, but equally therapy is not something I had ever thought I would need. I thought of therapy as a good thing, but a good thing for people who had experienced extreme grief, or who have a serious, diagnosed mental health condition, not for me. Unfortunately this is an attitude that many people, and in particular people in the UK, still have.
Anyone, preexisting mental health issue or not, can experience times in their life where they feel emotionally overwhelmed or are struggling to cope with a particular situation or with life in general. For me, everything went wrong all at once. Immediately after moving to London, further away from most of my friends and family than I had ever been, I spent the best (or worst) part of a year in an emotionally abusive relationship. I was fully self employed and out of a routine for the first time, I lost a grandparent and a few months later got the news that another had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and all the while the social and political climate around me was going entirely to shit. The stars aligned in all the wrong ways – my relationship was making it difficult to deal with day-to-day life and almost impossible to deal with anything bad happening.
At my lowest point I did not consider therapy, or help of any kind, at all. I was too wrapped up in my situation and in hindsight did not really have a grasp on how badly I was coping. A few months after the end of my relationship I eventually sought therapy to help me deal with what had happened to me; now I’m an entire year out of that relationship and am still finding therapy extremely helpful in coping both with related and entirely unrelated issues.
What to Expect
Therapy is a safe place to talk about yourself, your life, and anything you are struggling to cope with or understand, in a way that you might not always be able to with friends or family. Therapists are trained to listen and to help you improve whatever it is you are struggling with.
After exchanging a few emails with the association of therapists I had found online, I went for my consultation. I sat in a room in a house and cried to a stranger for an hour, left feeling completely exhausted, but at the same time oddly liberated.
I now go to therapy once per week, at the same time every week unless I need to rearrange. I ring the bell and go upstairs to a small set of rooms above a shop, wait in the waiting room until I am called, then sit in a room in a comfortable chair across from my therapist in a room with almost nothing else in it, and we speak for 50 minutes.
My first couple of sessions with my therapist were largely the same as my consultation, plus a lot of sitting in uncomfortable silence unable to summon a single thought. One thing that came as a slight surprise about therapy is how little my therapist spoke. I am occasionally asked questions, usually to further develop on what I am saying, but mostly I am left to steer the conversation. I have learned how to talk about what I am feeling, have grown to understand how events – positive, negative, huge or seemingly insignificant – in my life have influenced the way I think now, and how to better deal with what is going on in my head.
When I began my sessions I was hoping, expecting even, that I would go for a few months, get myself to a better place and stop. But the point of therapy is not necessarily to be ‘fixed’, and healing from anything is never linear. Life goes on, more things happen and like anyone else my mental health fluctuates, and therapy continues to help me deal with things a little better.
With all that being said, therapy (as with anything) is not for everyone, but is certainly an avenue worth exploring.
How to Get It
A conversation about therapy cannot be had without talking about access. Access to mental health resources is particularly diabolical and will likely get worse if NHS funding continues to be cut, and mental health awareness is worth almost nothing without access to support. I am fortunate enough to be financially stable enough to pay for my therapy sessions but many people who want or need therapy are not in this position; MIND’s advice on seeking therapy on the NHS or through a charity can be found here.
Here are some more useful websites and (UK) numbers: