This is the story of a client who is currently having life coaching. – Dr Nick
It wasn’t until some years after I had left school that I realised a massive chunk of my education was missing. Nobody had ever taught me about mental health. Sadly, I think this is true for many young people growing up in the UK. Mental health and depression are still big taboos. Because of this, I didn’t know what depression was, how to spot it and definitely not how to live with it.
So, when I found myself struggling with my mental health during my teenage years, I wasn’t really sure what was going on.
Like most teens, I found myself grappling with mood swings and adjusting to changes in my body during puberty but, for me, that went one step further. I would experience dramatic lows and some really dark periods filled with days of self-loathing.
I’m a natural perfectionist, so I am very prone to placing too much pressure on myself. I’m also a high achiever. So when I set myself the goal of perfect grades and the target to compete internationally in my sport of rowing, there were bound to be some hiccups.
The first symptoms of my depression
The first indicator of something being wrong was when I was about 14 years old, and I was on training for my rowing overseas. And I hadn’t done that well in an internal race we were running. All I wanted to do was punish myself. I entered a cycle of blame and felt as though the only way I could rectify the situation was to despise myself for it. It seemed to me at the time, that if I hated myself for it, then I wouldn’t let myself down in that way again.
Looking back, it seems that was the starting point of a very difficult time in my life. I’m an only child and grew up with a mother who was seriously ill, so it was hard to find anyone to talk to. I remember painting my nails over and over again, simply to give me something to focus on; anything but my own thoughts. I would shut myself away in my bedroom for hours on end, getting lost in DVD box sets to provide any form of distraction from what was going on in my head.
Around the same time, I developed a misconception that I was overweight. I became convinced that my physical self was something that needed to be changed. In hindsight, it’s clear that this was all a part of my perfectionist nature, but at the time it felt overwhelming.
I soon developed a pattern of disordered eating and would spend many a day with my stomach growling, desperate to get through to the one proper meal I would allow myself – dinner. It wasn’t until this starting to impact upon my sporting goals that I found the incentive to get myself back to a healthier routine. This time around, rowing was my saviour. Through sport, I felt a part of something. I had a community around me to lift me up, a form of escapism when times got tough. And I excelled at it.
Untreated depression can return
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself battling yet another depressive period. This time around, I was at university, far away from home, and facing trauma in my personal life. After a challenging few months, I plucked up the courage to seek outside help. I connected with the counselling service through my college programme and hoped this would get me through. It was a disaster.
How to find the best counsellor
This was my first lesson in the importance of finding a good counsellor. Just like dating, you need to find the right fit for you and this person certainly wasn’t the right one for me. I’m eternally grateful to the friends I had by my side who encouraged me to continue looking for help. Eventually, I found my fit, and it changed my life.
Once I had a therapist who worked for me, the results were transformational. For the first time in my life, I had professional help. I had someone with the experience to guide me through because they’d seen it all before. I haven’t looked back since.
Over the years since I’ve nearly always had a form of counselling, if not on a regular basis, then at least to hand. As corny as it sounds like, it really is a journey, and it pays in endless dividends to have the right support to guide you through.
The benefits of effective psychotherapy
Thanks to my therapists, I now have the tools to cope when time gets tough. I know when I need a timeout for self-care and when I can keep on pushing through. I’ve discovered the power of talking things through and how to find the strength to say “I’m not okay”. I now have the courage to speak up for what I need. I’ve also learnt that I’m an introvert which has been a huge revelation when it comes to identifying my needs and wants in life.
Before I started therapy, I was terrified to admit that life was not as good as it seemed from the outside. But I’ve since learnt that nobody’s life is perfect. We all have our struggles, as invisible as they may seem. What’s important is that we take action if we need help. Life is so much easier with the right support by your side.
The first step is always the hardest. But I’d take that step over and over again because I know that it’s 100% worth it. If you’re in a similar situation, just know that you too have the courage to reach out and get support. It really can change your life.