I have worked with a counsellor twice in my life so far. This followed two of the most difficult periods of my life. The first, when I lost my beloved Nan and her loss triggered in me some feelings I couldn’t make sense of, not just related to my grief at her passing but over who I was and how I felt about myself and my place in the lives of those around me. The second, followed my breakdown, following my brush with pneumonia, caused by exhaustion linked to a hopeless work life balance; a relentless corporate culture; my own inability to see what was happening to me; and high levels of stress and pressure, which my traditional coping mechanism could not manage. Whenever I type the work ‘breakdown’ I am conscious how loaded a word it is and how it brings with it connotations and meaning for many. The truth is, I don’t have a better word for what happened to me and I am not ashamed to write it or talk about it – not any more.
I would be surprised if I go through the rest of my life without having more counselling. In fact I would be shocked.That is not because I am pessimistically foreseeing another major low point in my life, or a setback that sends me into a downward spiral I cannot manage, but because both experiences were so positive, so helpful, so good for me. These two periods of working with Ann and Rupert – 200 hundred plus miles apart but united by their great skill in helping me – were amongst the most challenging but rewarding of my life. These two experiences of talking through my mental health with a professional who could help me make sense of it are experiences I draw on every day. They help me today and I hope tomorrow.
Today is world mental health day; a great opportunity to talk about mental health, break down some barriers, remove some stigmas and say its ok not to be ok. I have been writing and talking about my own mental health for some time and have found the process of doing that has helped me make more sense of things. I have also found it has helped one or two others. The messages, texts, emails, phone calls, quiet words in my ear in response to something I have said or written has been deeply humbling and proves once again – as I found when sitting down with a cuppa and Ann and Rupert – that it really is good to talk.