When things get hard, I run.
It’s a pattern I’ve known all of my adult life. Whenever things felt tough, I could visit home from Uni, retreat to my blog when I was forgotten about in real life, take a job and move almost 6000 miles abroad to ‘escape’ heartache… But there comes a time when you should confront your fears and hardships. And this year that’s exactly what I learned and did. Or am trying to do.
I’ve sort of known that I really needed a helping hand or listening ear for a while. But fear of judgement – particularly raised in an East Asian immigrant household where mental health had always been a taboo topic – often clouds my mind and that’s exactly what happened. I’d ruminate in the shower, talk my friends’ ears off and skirt around issues, brain dump in blog posts and feel instantly vulnerable, but nothing helped and it felt like I was spiralling. But guess what? The answer was right in front of me all along.
Several helpful Twitch streams and Be Messy Be Magic posts later, I decided to look into and start counselling.
Counselling has been a huge help for me and my busy mind over the last few months. Whilst it may not be the answer for everybody, I’m finding it to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. Being able to comfortably speak to a third-party has been invaluable. Not least because they’re genuinely the experts, but, on a personal level, I don’t feel as though I’m burdening my loved ones anymore. I’m learning I was never a burden in the first place. It took me a little while to find the ‘right’ counsellor for me, and it certainly hasn’t been an easy ride. Here are some small learnings from my journey starting counselling.
It’s emotional. Duh. I didn’t expect to be crying SO much during (and after!) my counselling sessions, but I do and that’s okay. In fact, it feels like a weight is lifted each time even though I’m unsure what that weight is. In my experience, I’m never pushed to open up when I’m not ready to but as little things are teased out each time, I find a good ol’ cry really does help. Healing and growth are painful journeys, but I’m starting to feel excited about the steps in front of me.
It’s reassuring. For some reason, I’d convinced myself that I’d attend a counselling session and the counsellor would write me off as a lost cause and hand me over elsewhere. I suppose that links to trauma that I’m just starting to work through, but I feel so supported and reassured by my counsellor. I’m grateful to have an incredible support network in my life, but being able to openly talk to a third-party – as it were – about my experiences and begin untangling some of the emotions entwined within them has been so great. Through a number of therapies, it’s been transformative to be look back at experiences and start to understand how they’ve affected me today, and begin to make small steps towards where I think I want to be.
Taking notes helps. As a keen journaller, I write about my feelings, mundane moments and big events on the regular. They’re just mind-dumps, though. Often if something particular tugs at me and I can’t understand it, I make a note and bring it for one of our virtual sessions. And the feeling afterwards? It’s as though a weight is lifted and I can see a little more clearly. I only wish I had even more regular sessions!
It’s not linear. For many of us, linear mindsets are all we know. You find a problem, solve it, and move on. But actual, genuine real life is not like that at all and that’s why we often struggle with the tougher times. My own journey has been very up and down, back and forth, but the path has been incredible and I truly can’t believe how far I’ve come.
It doesn’t mean you’re weak. Part of my urge and will to run when things are hard is that I don’t like to feel weak or vulnerable. As a first-born woman of colour, it’s ingrained in me to be strong. But it’s fine to feel like you need help. In fact, my counselling journey is making me stronger; it’s giving me building blocks to be a tiny bit stronger each day. Hand on heart, I already believe that everyone should access therapy and/or counselling as part of general living, and I’d love to make it a mission of mine to make these services more accessible.
And I suppose my message to you, if you’ve found this post, is not to completely shut off the idea of seeking help. I didn’t know I needed it until I did.