By Katy Mann
I started having counselling sessions earlier this year, after suffering a breakdown. I’d tried counselling in the past and gave up after six sessions. I just thought it wasn’t for me. I’m a pretty open book anyway and thought talking to friends and family was enough. It turned out it wasn’t.
It all came to a head when I read a story, similar to to my son’s death. Reading it brought back terrible memories, that I’d buried deep inside my brain. Memories that were too painful to process.
I reached out to a charity who generously funded counselling sessions for me. By that point I would have tried anything. It was one of the lowest points of my life. A friend recommended a local counsellor and as soon as I met her, I felt a deep connection. I can’t stress enough how important it is to find the right counsellor. To pour your heart out to a stranger, you need someone who you can trust, has empathy and you bond with.
It’s taken months of sessions but through talking about Charlie, I’ve also found an acceptance of me and who I am. My counsellor has given me techniques to deal with my grief and led me to the path of mindfulness. I’ve learnt to avoid knee jerk reactions to situations by stopping to think first. It’s been tough to re-learn my natural reactions but it has helped my mental health tremendously.
Now I look at myself and the impact my words have on other people. It’s very easy to get tone wrong on social media. I look at the long term consequences of what I say and how I say it and ask myself, is it worth it making that comment or that status?
We’ve just passed the eighth anniversary of my son’s death and this is the first year I have felt in control of my emotions. Grief doesn’t have an expiry date and I was putting pressure on myself to “get over it” as I felt other people expected me to. Through counselling I have realised I can accept anniversaries are going to be tough but I have the tools to get through them. I can make them into something positive. Time spent with friends or just alone with my family. The choice is ours and I don’t have to justify my grief to anyone.
I have more confidence in myself as a person. I have tightened my circle and kept the people who love me close. Those are the people who matter to me. I can be the real me with them. Silly, daft, show off, attention seeking me! Because that’s who I am and at 39-years-old I have no intention of changing.
I am now embracing who I am. If I want to sing, I will sing! It makes me feel good. My ambition was to write a children’s book and I have just completed my first one. Success isn’t important to me but fulfilling my dreams is. Writing is my outlet and is good for me.
I’ve always felt the need to please other people, to the detriment of my own mental health. Now I concentrate on those closest to me and can be a better support for them.
Letting go of negativity was a big change for me. In the past few years I became very angry with the world. I wanted to change things and my opinions always came first. Now I sit back and read more. I listen more. I can make changes to the world without making someone else feel bad about their choices.
Dealing with my grief has been the main theme throughout my sessions and I’m still a work in progress. I think mental health should be treated like any other illness and be kept in check with regular counselling sessions. Even though I have strategies to help me cope, I still feel the need to have regular sessions, to keep me mentally stable.
We all come across bumps in the road and nobody has an easy life. Just an hour with my counsellor keeps me on track and focuses me. The reassurance that I’m heading in the right direction and how to overcome different challenges I face. I find it incredibly frustrating that so many people don’t have access to this sort of care. I strongly believe it should be available quickly and easily to anyone who needs it. I wouldn’t have got through the past few months without it and full credit goes to my brilliant counsellor and what she has taught me.