My therapist saved my life.
Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it. But it’s true.
Even all these years on, I still remember her. Her name, how she looked, dressed, spoke, her professionalism, her open, non-judgemental manner.
You see, she was such an important person in my life. Whilst I was recovering from clinical depression 12 years ago, she became the link between what was going on in my head, in my heart and the outside world. She made me make sense of what to me was a dark place. She made me make sense of an existence that I thought was futile.
Depression is all consuming. I literally felt like I was walking in a fuzzy, grey haze – all the time! Even the smallest, most basic daily tasks were a huge effort. Brushing my teeth, having a shower, getting dressed – were all exhausting.
In that fuzzy grey haze – was a constant avalanche of thoughts. Thoughts that were so destructive that my depression was just spiralling out of control. I only stopped thinking when I slept. And so I slept a lot!
I had to get what was in my head out – and one of the ways I was able to do that was to Talk!
I said things to my therapist that I would not say to anyone. Even thinking those things made me feel uncomfortable – but I knew I had to voice them otherwise they would keep going round and round in my head and eat me up inside.
So what a relief to be able to verbalise the terrible, dark thoughts in my head – and not to be judged or condemned or to be told I was wrong, stupid or evil.
My therapist not only listened, but also gave me coping skills. I use those coping skills today. I can recognise the signs of depression creeping up on me – and so I am able to call upon those coping skills and reach out for help before it is too late and I am once again consumed by the illness.
Today I teach and practice dance, mindfulness and meditation as ways of ensuring that I can hold the illness at bay.
But, the value of talking still holds high in my list of coping mechanisms.
One of the things I do want to say was that when I was referred to a counsellor on the NHS – the waiting times were horrendous. Weeks of endless waiting and then you were only allocated 6 hours of therapy. I couldn’t wait days, let alone weeks. And so I was really lucky that my partner was able to pay for my treatment privately. Immediate access to therapy, for as long as I could afford it. But, not everyone is so fortunate. It is NOT OK that only those who can afford it get the help they need. Talking therapies need to be readily available on the NHS – and they must be tailored to individual needs. We are all different, our illnesses are all different, we all need to be heard as individuals – not just as people who have a mental health problem – but as an individual person with a personal illness.
Ending my therapy sessions was something we both worked towards. Like any relationship this one had run its course. I had come to my therapist with a need – and that need had been fulfilled. It was time to let go – I could now fly – and she let me go graciously.
But that need – to be validated, to be understood, to be heard – that was the need that she fulfilled at a time when I really was at my lowest.
So Tessa, wherever you are – Thank You for listening – I know that whoever is in your care now – they too will be getting the attention and support they deserve – and that you give so well.