I refuse to be ashamed of having counselling

Last week, I had my first counselling session. On the walk there, all I could do was beat myself up. ‘How could you have let it get this far?’ ‘Why can’t you just “suck it up” like everyone else?’ ‘People only need to go to therapy who are REALLY sick – you’re just over-exaggerating.’

“I’m here for a ‘Let’s Talk’ appointment at 11 am,” I said softly to the receptionist, hoping that nobody I knew was within earshot. Sitting in the waiting area, I was achingly aware of everything. From the girl who sat next down next to me and sighed a little too loudly, to the older man opposite who jiggled his leg anxiously. Finally, my name was called, and I entered the glass room (Glass? Really? But people can see) to sit with a small man with a reassuring voice.

After ten minutes, I settled down and felt comfortable enough to take off my coat, and with it, began to open up. I was told that my feelings were valid, that he could understand exactly why I had been struggling, and that I had held it together well, over things many people would have already broken into a million pieces over.

But I didn’t feel patronised. I didn’t feel stereotyped, I didn’t feel as if I was just being told what everyone is told. When I left 40 minutes later, my head and heart felt like they’d been put through a tumble dryer, but in a strange way, I already felt the weight lifting from my shoulders. I’d always been one of those people who nobody ever realised was struggling because I’ve always been the strong-minded, opinionated, fiery one, who makes a joke of everything. But there isn’t a “type” of person who has counselling.

By the time I was home, I was reflecting on what I’d just done, and I told myself I wasn’t going to let anyone, including myself, make me feel ashamed or weak. It is such a damaging aspect of society that we judge those for being brave enough to accept when they have problems they need to work through. If your car started making funny noises, you might ignore it for a little while, but if they get increasingly worse, you’d go to a mechanic and get it sorted. Why can you look after a car but won’t trust someone to help you with your thoughts and feelings when there are some that become too weighty to ignore?

If you’re struggling and you’re too ashamed to get help or feel as though your problems aren’t “serious” enough to get help, it’s understandable to feel that way, but you’re mistaken. Self-care, self-improvement, and being brave enough to admit when you have problems are signs of strength, and we’d all be better off if we tried to remind ourselves of that on a daily basis. People begin to heal the moment they are heard. Finally, I’m letting someone hear me, and I hope you do, too.

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