When I passed my degree last year and qualified as a Counsellor, I experienced some mixed and confused feelings. On the one hand, I was very proud of myself and grateful that I'd got to the end in one piece- but there was also a feeling of sadness that came with it.
I had to ask myself why I was so sad. This was such an achievement - I had worked so hard to get my degree and I should have been really happy! On reflection, it seemed to be the fact that I was grieving for those lost years when I was suffering from crippling anxiety and depression. All those years when I didn't think I could achieve anything and that I was less than average. I realised that I could have achieved a lot more, and should have valued myself a lot more.
It took me a while to come to terms with this:
RECOGNISING THE PROBLEM
Passing my degree proved to me that I was a capable person
But it also triggered a sense of loss within me of what I could have done with my life with a little more self-belief. I have been an anxious person for as long as I can remember and this is more than likely down to strict parenting and bullying at school. Consequently, I was always shy and uncomfortable with new people and always avoided meeting them if I could.
This didn't change until recently meaning that a lot of my life decisions have been made looking through this lens. A lens which brought about protecting myself from feelings of inferiority, keeping myself safe from increased levels of stress and remaining within my comfort zone.
Consequently, I fell into my first job and stayed there for 20 years, I never aspired towards promotion and had very little self worth. Also, most of my relationships were based on a "this is as good as it gets for you" scenario so they proved disastrous. This lens had devastating and far-reaching impacts!
I also discovered alcohol which gave me a confidence I had never experienced before which also brought it's own problems. (A future blog)
A LIFE CHANGING COURSE
The person I was at the end of my degree course was very different to the one at the start.
I was learning new things about my new trade, but I was also learning new things about myself. Self-reflection is a large part of any counselling course and I started seeing a new way of living my life. I considered myself differently, to one of having value and an ability to make a contribution to the world.
As I grew in confidence and as a person I also discovered what type of Counsellor I was becoming and where my interests lay. I dared to think that I could make this choice for myself and go in the direction that I wanted to go in.
The working model that made the most sense to me was that of Gerard Egan's Skilled Helper Model.
A simple but effective model of What am I doing now? What do I want to do instead? And how am I going to get there?
I applied this to my own life:
HOW AM I GOING TO GET THERE?
Breaking the problem down
When you have a condition like anxiety or depression your options are reduced by a great deal. Every situation has to be carefully managed and micro-managed before hand. Every outcome has to be considered and analysed to the nth degree.
In my case, it was always the easiest and most pain free option (if there was one) - one which involved me avoiding the situation, hiding away and firmly closing my front door to the outside world. This was the way I coped with stressful situations, which was counter-productive and dragged me further into my shell.
Looking back- increased options emerged gradually, which is understandable as I was working on a lifelong mind-set. CBT techniques proved useful such as journaling, not avoiding the smaller stressors of life and breaking the big problem into smaller ones (smaller to conquer).
To use a humorous example - baby steps in "What about Bob:"
The long-suffering therapist (Richard Dreyfuss) to Bob (Bill Murray) suggests the technique of "Baby Steps" to overcome his anxiety and fears. In my own life I wrote the objective down - the possible frightening aspects of it - and a non-frightening way to deal with it.
I had been living a life of disempowerment and of very little autonomy as I had always been told what to do, that I was worthless and wouldn't amount to much. The bullies controlled me, they were in my head and on my shoulder casting self-doubt over all my life choices.
They made me feel inferior and I was actually helping them by believing them. I was bullying myself.
After that lightbulb moment I vowed to not help them anymore. I discovered that these were distorted cognitive thoughts which had ruled my mind and my actions for years and years.
With more studying self-reflection I was blown away by the fact that I had been suffering mentally at the hands of people who shouldn't have had that influence over me anymore.
My perception of myself changed and so did the way I looked at others - they weren't superior anymore! My world was reframed and I liked myself for the first time.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
Is that I empathise and understand what you are going through to a great degree.
What is most important is that I respect your autonomy and your right to make your own choices. I am a Skilled Helper who will help you to work out what is right for you.
If you want to work with me to achieve this -call me on 07743 368747 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment. Or for more information click here.