If you had a broken leg or perhaps a pain in your right foot. If your whole body was itching or even if you just felt unwell, you would (if you had any sense) go and see your doctor. It is as simple as that. Quite often, the cure for most ailments is medicine or even rest. Sometimes more drastic treatment is required, but the majority of human ailments are entirely treatable.
What of your emotional problems? What should you do if you feel depressed, lonely, afraid or just unable to cope with life? You can’t stick a plaster on a panic! You cannot literally cut out a damaging experience from your life and the subsequent fears and phobias it may give you. A pat on the back won’t take away your inhibitions or your lack of self-esteem. Like any other ailment, left to its own devices, an emotional problem will usually only worsen and begin the slow process of destroying your life. What is more, because your feelings are completely locked within the hidden world of the human brain, nobody will ever know what you are suffering.
Most of us live easier lives, compared to our great-great-great grandparents. Healthcare is such that we are almost guaranteed a healthy existence, with the prospect of living longer than previously possible. These are, of course, physical states of being; a healthy body will last you and carry you throughout your life. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are emotionally well. Emotional wellbeing is so often overlooked and people find it so very difficult to seek and gain help that they often do suffer in silence. There is great stigma attached to mental illness (personally, I prefer to refer to it as an emotional problem – it sounds far less intimidating). Some employers (including some public sector ones) tend to discriminate against those who seek help for their inner difficulties, rather than soldiering on as though nothing was wrong.
I want to share my own experiences of talking to someone who can help.
Counselling is good. It is very good. It is helpful, essential, natural and too often overlooked. It is about healing the mind of its turmoils and scars that have built up from the experiences of life.
A counsellor is someone who listens. They may be a female or a male – and it is up to you to decide which you feel is more suitable to you. However, gender doesn’t have to be an issue – just like your GP, they are accustomed to listening to personal problems in a dignified, professional and sympathetic manner and your gender is of no issue to the help they can give you.
As with a friend, it is important to be able to find a counsellor with whom you feel comfortable. However, this isn’t necessarily difficult; they do tend to be empathetic, sympathetic, friendly and kind. It is just a matter of your being able to appreciate that they are there to help you and that anything you say to them is confidential. This is something absolutely essential: they respect your dignity and privacy and you will never be fully identified to anyone else. The only condition they do make (which one must appreciate) is that they have someone to whom they can talk and discuss matters and, in so doing, they will identify their own patients by either an assumed name or some other method that is pretty much guaranteed to ensure your secret(s) are safe!
A counselling session usually lasts for an hour. It is very important that a set time is made and adhered to, because otherwise it may overload the counsellor – also it is important not to try to just blurt out every aspect of your life in one session. For a start, the counsellor would be emotionally and physically drained and also you, the patient, would have no specific goals to work towards. Bear this in mind, especially since your counsellor is also only human!
There is absolutely no sense whatsoever in seeking counselling, only to claim to be too embarrassed or just too stupid to open up and confide in them the things that are affecting you. If you have a deeply embarrassing, sexual problem, they are fully capable of listening and understanding, without making you feel embarrassed or stupid. Remember, it is their job to try to make you feel better! If you do feel ashamed or embarrassed, tell your counsellor. It is all about how you feel and what is going on in your mind. I am certain you will find their response to be reassuring.
So how do you talk about your problems? Simple. How do you tell your doctor that you hurt your leg while running for the bus? How do you tell your best friend about the dreadful holiday you just had? You don’t necessarily have to think about what you’re going to say, you just say it, because your mind knows how to. If you do this with your counsellor, those important feelings trapped within will soon begin to surface and, with a little gentle guidance and a few well-chosen questions, you’ll find you will start to lose your embarrassment.
It works for me and I also like to listen to other people, because I just may be able to help them to better understand themselves and heal the emotional distress they are suffering.
It is a truly healing experience, to be able to properly communicate with someone who genuinely understands. Once you have overcome your initial concerns and fears, you will gain confidence and begin to move on in your life, towards being the real and wonderful person you know you are!