Sometimes you can feel like the last thing you ever want to do is talk about how you feel. Maybe you would rather shut yourself away or go for long walks or loose yourself in a book. Perhaps some days you can’t bring yourself to get out of bed, to open your curtains, to look outside. Sometimes you have a good day, sometimes you have a bad day. Let me start off by saying, never feel bad about the bad days.
By 22 I had seen five different types of therapists/councillors since I was 14. So in 8 years I was able to take a tour of what the NHS and sometimes not what the NHS are offering to help our mental health. I thought it could be helpful to share the people I spoke to, the methods they had and what I found helpful. I’ve chosen to keep this blog post picture free, because I find with mental health posts the writing is usually the reason you are reading and I don’t think any photo could summarise anything I’m talking about here. Here is my list.
• The very first person I spoke to was a lady who worked for an age 14-25 counselling service, I was sent to her via my doctor when they diagnosed me with OCD and with possible depression. This service was free, provided to me by the NHS and it was the first time I had spoken to anyone who wasn’t family or friends about how I felt. My sessions were an hour long (I think) and I would just sit and talk to the same lady once a week about my week, my mental health, my feelings. She wouldn’t say much back and she wasn’t actually allowed to advise me, but it felt good to vent to her. At the end of our time together she gave me a stone to put in my room and whenever I looked at it, I was to remember the work we did together. I have since gotten rid of the stone, because on reflection I don’t remember what I took from these sessions. I think at the time they were a safe space to go for me to talk to someone, it was what I needed, it just didn’t offer me any permanent solution.
• My next step was to visit a hypnotherapist, this one was not on the NHS, we paid per session for me to try this technique. I would sit in a big comfy chair once every few weeks and I would be ‘hypnotised’; except I wasn’t being hypnotised because I couldn’t let me brain reach the relaxed state the woman wanted me to be in. So I never felt like I took from this what I was meant to. The goal was to find out what was triggering my OCD deep down, why I really felt like this. The hypnotherapist was going to get these answers by asking me questions when I was in a half-conscious state and I would answer yes or no by holding up a finger on my left or right hand. Because I never truly fell into this ‘hypnotised’ state, I don’t think I ever really answered her from my subconscious. It’s a shame this one didn’t work for me, because the same women helped my mum make significant progress with her needle phobia. This just proves this step wasn’t for me.
• After this I felt like I just needed someone to talk to again. The lady I previously spoke to through the doctors was now on maternity leave, so I went to my school for help. I was assigned to the school councillor and she was the nicest lady, I really felt like she cared. I don’t think we achieved masses and I think she would probably have said she was unsure why I was there. I suppose she was used to being sent the students who were throwing chairs across the classroom and skipping lessons, not the sixth form student who just wanted somewhere safe to talk. For this reason I think my visits to her became more of an informal chat, giving her a chance to converse with a student who was mature and wanted to talk and me a chance to speak to an adult who understood. At this point I had unfortunately told the wrong person at school about my OCD and at age 16/17 they were teasing me about it and mocking me when they could. I think the lady I spoke to at the school in this time was just another ear to listen to me, but she was kind and I liked our time together.
• It took a while for me to think to see someone again after these sessions ended, when I did it was fleeting and something I have blanked out of my memory because of how brief it was. When I started university my boyfriend of four years broke up with me and it triggered every bad feeling within me. I went to the university councillor, who saw me the very same day and tried to help me as best she could. I think she probably just thought I was a dumped teen who needed an ear. I did need an ear, but not just because I had been dumped, it has caused me to fall back into the person whose OCD ruled her and depression dragged her down. I don’t really know how I came out of this one, I think I pulled myself out of it because the councillor was too busy to see regularly.
• The final time I sought help and the most recent was during probably the saddest time in my life. I saw two different people, but for the same process, cognitive behavioural therapy. I had studied this in my psychology classes at school so I knew what it was, but it had never been offered to me before. I went to the doctors initially and they told me I sounded like I had depression, they advised I go along to this. Looking at my history of preferring to just have a chat with a councillor I asked if this was an option, but at this time I had moved areas and the options given to me in this new town were different. The CBT was my only option, so I gave it a go, twice, but months apart. For those of you who don’t know, CBT is a process that tackles one issue at a time and breaks down exactly how you can train your brain to stop feeling the bad feelings. It is essentially a how to guide for making your brain behave.
The sessions were long and filled with questions about how I felt, my actions, my worries. The main reason I did not continue with this course of action through my own choice was because at the end of my very first session, after telling the therapist how awful I felt; how depressed, how desolate and abandoned, they told me I in fact had anxiety and that by the end of the sessions they would fix my phobia of the dentist. I was a bit speechless at this point, I had gone here with the goal of feeling happier as a person and less hopeless, the dentist whilst yes was an issue, was something I had dealt with for years. I don’t have anxiety, I worry, but I certainly wouldn’t class it as anxiety, so I was very surprised to hear this conclusion. I didn’t book another session. When I did finally feel I needed to speak to someone again, I was put through the same process with someone who didn’t understand my issues at all, safe to say I didn’t return.
I am still unsure to whether I have ever been a human with depression. I am very careful when using that word because I am a human with OCD and I hate it when that term is used in general conversation without consideration to its meaning. But depression, I don’t know, I have had periods where I and those around me have thought yep, this is depression, which I have referred to in this post. But perhaps it’s all circumstantial. I have ups and downs as anyone does, I don’t feel the need to label the reason for them. In the past when I have fluctuated, I have gone and spoken to someone, that has always been the best path for me to go down.
I’d be interested to know how you have tried to help your mental health, what methods have worked for you? I hope this post was somewhat interesting, be you someone trying to find somebody to talk to, a parent trying to understand, or someone that has experienced this all like I have.