Personal stories of counselling

My experience with counselling comes mainly from a GP referral after a breakdown. Before I was even allowed to see a counselor I had to be seen by two social workers in an external facility. I found this process was long and stressful as the questions they were asking were rather probing and with not being medical professionals were not able to answer any of my queries about what they were asking as they did not seem to understand fully what they were asking me. Once I finally got to see a counselor based at my GP's office due to funding they could only offer me 6 sessions then I would be on my own and have to go on another waiting list at a private counselling service. The sessions I did have were only mildly helpful as there was no time to tackle any major issues. What they did help with was managing my symptoms at home and cutting down my need for medication.

- Mandi Allsopp

I did it for my depression and my anger management, whether i didn't want to take anything away from it (put up a wall intentionally) or whether it didn't work for me I don't know. I did start writing poetry though, Its easier in most cases I think to write down what you are feeling when you don't feel strong enough to verbally tell another person. That’s why sites like post secret and whisper are so popular you're getting the stress off your chest and out of your mind without involving anyone else who may try to pry.

- Dan House

I spent my college and university years surrounded by brilliant, brilliant people, many of who regularly attended counselling. As a person so sure of myself, who I was, and what I could do, I never thought I would end up ‘in the chair’ myself, really. But a number of problems hit me, between faltering health, a stressful degree, money pressures, and many other strains associated with being a woman at the end of my teenage years.

They say that university years are the best years of your life, but as the foul moods became more frequent, I had more trouble sleeping, enjoying my life and my degree. I became more fragile, a mere shell of the person I used to be, and on the advice of a few close friends, I sought help.

My experience is with Newcastle Talking Therapies, a service you can approach directly, or be referred to by a doctor. I cannot fault it, they offer so much, making a conscious effort to suggest options to suit your life. Whether you choose to speak to someone face to face, or over the phone, there is no judgement, only assistance.

I chose, at first, a face to face service, and I will be the first to admit that I felt uncomfortable and nervous. I always thought of myself as a strong person, and saw depression and anxiety as factors that somehow made me less of a person, but I knew I’d got to a stage where I needed help. The truth is, depression is not a weakness, and anxiety is not a failing.

CBT not only helped me talk out my fears and emotions, but it set me up with a stable system for dealing with these problems on my own. It taught me effective techniques to deal with my sleep and my thought processes. For a personality like mine, to be able to regain control and make progess on my own was just as important to me as having a person I could talk to. Counselling not only helped me at the time, but taught me ways of dealing with the recurring anxieties. I became a stronger person because of it, where I thought I was weak.

I would recommend counselling to any person, although I do understand that where CBT is right for one person, it is not right for the next. I would say, with counselling, you need to find what is right for you and what works for your personality, it's the same with mental health; one size does not fit all.

- Jo Brown

Counselling was really good for validating how I'd been feeling and to understand my emotional responses to that. I am much more competent at explaining what happens to me and that gives me a sense of control with the illness.

- Chantelle Fryers

Here's my background and counselling experiences.

I'm 27 years old and was diagnosed with depression and anxiety since I was 18 years old. According to my doctor I'm a borderline bipolar patient. When first diagnosed I did have suicidal tendencies, often sat on the railings of bridges, toying with walking in front of moving vehicles. My partner at the time had to have time off work in my lowest points as I couldn't be trusted on my own. If I could use something, anything to hurt myself I would. After being on various meds for some time my mood wasn't picking up and I never really spoke about things so my doctor suggested counselling.

Experience One: I felt positive about my first counselling session, but I did feel anxious about talking in depth about past memory's. I was St a local NHS psychiatrist. I remember sitting in the waiting room, it was bright white, it felt sterile, where a gentleman constantly watched me, it turned out he was a security guard, it made me feel very uncomfortable and nervous. When called into the room, the psychiatric nurse introduced herself along with stating she speaks to everybody before the psychiatrist. I was asked various base questions about myself, personality, lifestyle, then came the more in depth questions about my mental health issues. I felt as though I was being questioned by the police, I felt hounded and pressured for answers. I was also asked random questions which I thought were pointless and also reminded me of being interviewed, "Emma, if you were a colour, what colour would you be?" it must have made sense to her but to me it's was just rubbish. I didn't like this lady at all, I didn't like feeling like a prisoner or a psychotic freak. I was asked about self harm, I answered by saying I'm not trusted on my own, I often sit on railings toying with the idea of letting go and falling but my partner would pull me back. "The next time this happens, tell you partner not to stop you!" This was her answer to my suicidal thoughts, I couldn't believe it, I asked her to repeat it and she said the same thing. This then concluded my first session.

A week passed and it was time for session two. I demanded my mom be in this session as I wanted a witness to this horrible attitude and to make sure it wasn't me being judgmental. I was asked what had changed from when I was last happy to now? I answered that the main difference was the group of people I spent time with. Her first reply was "so your saying your friends are the problem?" I couldn't believe she twisted it. "No, you asked what had changed and I said my friends, you just twisted it to say my friends were the problem!". She completly denied this and I felt my blood boil, I had to walk out of my session because I could feel myself getting more and more mad. It was safe to say, I never returned to that clinic, my doctor recommended a different place, it was ran by volunteers so sometimes appointments were difficult and at random times.

Experience Two: I went for my initial assessment. I was greeted at the door by a friendly lady, she sat me in her waiting room which looked more like a coffee shop. Bright colours, sofas, coffee on demand. I was then called in and made to feel right at home, we never went into details, just a brief description of the issues I had and my meds etc. I learnt that it was all voluntary work so the counsellors had day jobs etc and this was something they did to help others, feeling positive I made my first appointment. The week passed quickly and I started to feel anxious about my session, I bottled it, I sent my counsellor a txt and said I can't do it, I'm petrified. It was then suggested by my counsellor that we'll forget the session and go for a walk. It was strange but before I knew it I was sat in McDonald's with a coffee suddenly talking about my life. I don't know how but this lady made me feel so at ease that even I didn't know it was happening, it was like a weight had been lifted and I didn't have to struggle on my own anymore. It then turned into a weekly thing. Sometimes we went bowling, sometimes for lunch, others just for coffee. I didn't see her as a counsellor, she became a friend. I still see her to this day, sometimes I just rant, sometimes old problems arise but it has completely changed my life.

- Emma Wraxton

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