Some thoughts on Therapy
This is my second attempt at writing down my thoughts on counselling, because the first one dragged me down, and I stopped pretty suddenly when I realised-
It's ironic really, because the whole reason why I stopped counselling was because there is an emphasis on the past which I couldn't stand- and there I was choosing this topic on here.
Because sitting in the room, I kept saying I didn't want to talk about the past- but they, and most other therapists for that matter, have been trained in thinking 'the past affects (and is what is affecting) your present'. To a great extent that's true, but sometimes you're just not strong enough to revisit pain when your present is already explosive.
I think talking frustrated me from that point of view. When you want a quick fix, going there and sitting for an hour seems like a waste of time when you could be distracting yourself. But my best friend tells me time and time again "you can't live by distraction, you can't live by distraction".
It's true and I've hurt myself and others by putting off the inevitable, or trying to keep things inside, but distraction is still my go-to. It's the easiest- and it's hard to think of doing anything else when you're already exhausted.
Someone told me it's been proven that 80% of what makes up whether the counselling will 'work' is just dependant on your relationship with the counsillor. In other words, quite simply 'if you get along'.
That makes more than a fair bit of sense to me, and I guess I just wanted to share some thoughts in response to that.
The first counsillor I had when I was fourteen. I remember telling the guy I was talking to at the time, "I've got to do something very difficult tomorrow". Wisely or foolishly, he was the person I most opened up with at the time, and he was the only one who knew how terrified I was.
Looking back it seems so stupid that I was afraid of that, but it was the typical 'fear of the unknown'. I took the attitude that because I was needing support, it meant my life had fallen apart (I'm sure that wasn't just this that gave me the impression, but it put the full stop on the end of the thought). That I needed help and all that felt scary- though that's not something that at all bothers me now.
The woman was plump and blonde with a sympathetic smile that seemed more a part of her job than anything else. She never really looked totally sure about or comfortable in herself, so it didn't really reassure me about the whole confidence-with-age thing. That was about the only think I picked up- as apart from that she was distant to me.
She had a pretty easy time reading my mind since I was telling her my thoughts freely, but as for her she never told me a thing. There was an imbalance in that that bothered me. I never knew if she had children, how she liked to spend her time, if she was talented at anything or if she was married. I didn't even know if she was happy (although my perhaps-overly skeptical fourteen year old guess was she wasn't).
I think what I found from that, is that counselling is meant to be a relationship. I mean if you're sitting in a room for someone for an hour on a weekly basis your going to need to have some sort of two-way relationship. I think because I was a child that was overlooked, but don't let it; it's going to be a lot more enjoyable if you're not just another slot in their day, but you get to care about each other both ways.
Most recently, my attitude has been one of resistance. I've been so resistant to the idea of therapy for years now. "I just want to be left alone" is the anthem of my stubborn brain. I even screamed at one and then walked out (just to put it out there).
Last year I must have spent seven months going once a week to a private counsellor to satisfy mum's naggings.
We even had a hobby in common, sewing, but still I just didn't relax in her company. Perhaps it's because she was so perceptive and I frequently felt analysed, she'd point out my body language and then tell me exactly how I was feeling, and it was like ehh what do I do now. Even if someone can see right through me, I always find it awkward if they point it out- and I think that's how I felt most of the time in that room. This silence shouldn't be awkward, but it just is.
But funnily enough I'm now talking to someone, and yes it is helping. It came about as an unexpected accident in my eyes, as he's a psychiatrist meant to be overseeing my medicine, and somehow talking just became a part of it.
He isn't my counsellor or therapist, but fortnightly we find ourselves sitting down and talking, with a chat about medication slotted in at the end.
What became very obvious straight away was that every appointment wasn't a rush till the end. It feels very curiously as if he has all the time in the world, and the concept of time is irrelevant to his day.
He reminds me of the way I imagine the Professor in Narnia (more Narnia references I don't know what's going on) calm, very calm, and wrinkly but wise, and not at all troubled by being old. With a posh accent and no trauma that keeps him up at night, with a deep care for all those around him.
People get easily put off and annoyed I think by posh accents, but in this case it's actually calming. He's the sort of person who reignites your faith in men with integrity and wisdom, the sort you'd want in your government- and it's comforting to know they exist.
From my experience, that statistic about the 80% doesn't at all lie. If you're thinking of getting a counsellor, don't feel you're stuck with them if you don't really feel you get along. In a way it's got to resemble some sort of friendship, we'd naturally go to friends for advice after all, so it does require the same sort of checking out (put a little too brutally).
I also think you have to go in there thinking not 'this is gonna heal me' (what my mum tells me and I'm like hehh no). But that it's more simply a space for me to say things where the person listening actually cares. It's easy to tell if they do- I'd advise to not waste time if they don't.
On the theme of therapy, animals always astound me. I have countless stories of ways in which they've picked up my emotions and gone out of their way to help, both dogs and horses alike. There's something so beautiful in a silent love language- one not based on words but only shared looks, body language and actions.
One of my ideas for the future is actually to open up a stables for soldiers with PTSD to come and be with the horses. I have a great admiration for the army and all those involved in that world. I rode military horses, and when my teacher would tell me of places she'd been to in horrific circumstances, I guess my mind would just open up with admiration. And having spoken to her and other soldiers, I know there is a great need for those who are no longer working due to their mental health, simply to receive some sort of care.
At the moment I volunteer at a farm where children with learning difficulties, mental health problems and physical difficulties are all given the chance to ride- or else simply be on the ground and build a relationship with the horses. There are also dogs, donkeys, ducks, goats (I love goats), cats, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs- and I love seeing how they bring joy to humans.
That's all I had to say and I hope it was helpful, (it was certainly a lot lighter than the first draft). I got a bit sidetracked with animal therapy, but it's something close to my heart; words are necessary, but it's not the only way of relating care. All in all, whether between a horse, man or woman, there does need to be a friendship in therapy- there needs to be a relationship.
Photos by @photo_g_ruthie