I’m standing on a bridge in my local park listening to water rush beneath my feet, it is summer 2009 and I don’t have a care in the world.
The bridge is a main connecting point in the park for other walkways, striding over with intent I’m confronted by a guy that wants to fight me for no reason at all.
Like the romantic I was, I told the girl I was chaperoning (walking home) to carry on without me so she didn’t have to be a part of this.
I turn my back away from the guy to walk away as conflict just isn’t in my nature, and a fist struck me across the cheek.
I can feel the hot pain crack across the curvature of my face as I hit the ground and collect other punches and kicks against the side of a car.
Adrenalin pumping through my chest and veins I run as fast as I can until I’m home, I expected to break down but I don’t feel anything at all.
All I want to do is take everybody’s advice and go back out into the real world instead of staring at the four corners of my room like I have done for the past few months.
I feel alone, afraid, and honestly just broken because am I the only person that feels this way?
It feels like no one will ever understand what I’m going through.
I’m so scared of it happening again and being attacked that I don’t do anything that puts me outside of my comfort zone.
I leave parties without telling anyone, I leave shopping trips at a moments notice, and walk out of the room at even a hint of conflict.
I make up excuses, tell lies, and feel guilty for constantly feeling like I am letting down the people closest to me for not being strong.
When I do open up to people they ask “you’re still beat up about that? It was ages ago”. Not for me, this is still happening now, today.
I’m now at college and I’ve not felt right for 2 years now, my attendance is terrible because I can’t stay in class after 12pm because I want to be at home and away from the hustle and bustle that I will have to walk through on my way home through town.
It feels like this is the way life is now, just accept it, nothing will get better, you are always going to be afraid.
I think about ending my life on a regular basis because I feel like I am backed into a corner, I have no way of curing myself.
I don’t even know if there is a problem or this is just me, and I am a let down to everyone around me.
I don’t want to tell anyone the truth because I am a man and we have to ‘be strong’, that’s what I tell myself. Even though I desperately just want someone to wrap an arm around me and tell me that it’s going to be alright.
I failed all of my A-levels which was pretty devastating for me, I felt like I had let the entire family down.
I felt like was not good at anything, and my self-esteem was at an all time-low.
I’m now in an apprenticeship program where I work 4 days a week full time at a business coaching firm, for the very first time I feel like I’m great at something.
I’m in an environment where I get feedback and I’m valued which gave me a sneaky feeling that I was going to do well in a working environment.
Problem is I’m also in debt, £5000 of payday loan debt that I have no prayer of paying off on my £500 a month salary, the money I do have is being spent getting taxis to work because I am afraid of catching public transport.
When I get on a bus or train my blood in my veins feels like magma is running through them.
My chest gets tight and I feel like I am about to throw up when I see someone that looks like they might want to hurt me.
The anxiety I carry with me every day and the weight on my shoulders feels like it is too much to bear.
I have a new job at a software company where I fix computers and the software on them as part of a team that works on a help desk.
When my best friend picks me up in the morning for work I imagine myself running out in the road as he drives down my road so I can hit by his car and let this suffering that I feel be over.
My life at home is in tatters, I barely speak to my mum, I can’t articulate to people how I am feeling on the inside because I don’t want to feel like a victim or attention seeker.
I am afraid I am the only person in the world that feels this way.
Today I have reached the breaking point, there is too much work to do, I have debt collectors calling my phone at work chasing me for money.
I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel and with tears in my eyes I walk outside to the car park and make a decision that will affect the rest of my life.
I’ll tell you how I found my therapist, it took me 0.5 seconds of scanning the profile pictures of counsellors on counsellingdirectory.co.uk and I found the person that looked like a friendly face, literally knowing nothing about her I called and left a voicemail.
I was suicidal and desperately wanted to take my dads advice to find someone to help me because he had noticed I was slipping away.
The next week I was sat in her conservatory overlooking a garden, not entirely sure what to expect, would I have to lie down?
What if I didn’t want to see her again?
What if there is no hope for me?
With all of these questions floating around my head, my counsellor put me at ease right away with how relaxed she was, how patient, calm, and willing to listen without interrupting me she was.
I felt like I could tell her anything, not right at that moment but that there was potential there for me to get to that level.
We clicked in that moment. I felt like this was an important relationship that I had started.
Finding a counsellor you are comfortable with is a bit like dating, you don’t know what to expect from this person you have never met before.
You are hesitant about telling them too much about stuff that is sensitive to you, and you are worried about potentially telling them that you want to see someone else.
The relationship between counsellor and client is exactly that, a relationship.
A counsellor is someone that you will share your greatest moments, your darkest hours, and your deepest personal insights about your life.
You will need to feel as though you can trust this person more than you can trust your family and friends.
That’s done by having a safe environment to share, someone who is non-judgemental, and someone that you genuinely feel as though you can connect with on a deeper level.
I don’t mean connect like you did on that one late night trip to McDonald’s with your cousin.
I mean a person that you feel like will listen to you, have empathy, and tell you honestly what they see in front of them even if all your friends are saying the opposite.
Let’s talk a bit about what kind of person a counsellor is. They train for any period of between 2-5 years depending on what type of therapy they practice and where.
The training is largely about them at the beginning focusing on developing self-awareness, recognising the core conditions within themselves, and getting used to sharing thoughts and feelings.
I don’t want you to put this post down and walk away thinking I know a bit more, I really want to deliver value so I will explain these characteristics some more because it’s important.
Self-awareness is about how well you understand yourself, like who is Dan? What does he want? What does he like about himself? What doesn’t he like? These all important questions that need to be thought so that we can emotionally navigate through the world and separate others wants and needs from our own.
The core conditions are congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard or non-judgementalism.
Congruence is transparency, to be able to relay honest thoughts and feelings to another person, it can be defined as being real, genuineness, or authenticity.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another person, to feel what it is like to be that person by imagining what they are going through.
This skill when practiced regularly becomes an asset for any counsellor and helps them understand what you are going through, genuinely.
Unconditional positive regard which can also be described as being non-judgemental values the individual as the person they are today, they believe that people are inherently good and want to live a life of fulfillment and so treat people that way.
Most importantly it’s worth knowing that people go into counselling because they genuinely want to help other people, they have a caring nature, are patient, humble, and thoughtful people.
The even dirtier truth is that most counsellors have had some journey with mental health themselves.
With all this in mind, it can seem like “My god I have a lot to think about”, keep it simple.
You don’t have to read this and take my point of view, I’ve taught you a bit about what makes a counsellor, go out there and google counselling, read, listen, take as much time to get schooled up on this because it is your mental health after all.
My advice is to go out there and have one session with 3 different types of counsellor.
Usually, counsellors offer their first session for free, take advantage of this opportunity and try counsellors who deploy different approaches to therapy.
There is Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), psychodynamic approach, person-centred therapy. CBT offers goal orientated therapy centered around anxiety, phobias, and disorders.
It is about solutions and helping you rewire thought processes that have not served you well in the past into new thought processes that allow you to manage your problem instead of it managing you.
Psychodynamic can be described as the foundation of a lot of the different therapy practices we see today, popularised and developed by Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud.
It focuses on the relationships in our lives and the dynamics that intertwine them, it considers that what happened in your childhood, and the relationship you had with your mother and father as fundamental to your emotional development.
Person-centred approach is all about you, what is your story and background, how do you perceive your life and journey so far.
It believes that you have a desire to seek out your full potential and that we want to strive towards that, sometimes things happen in life which block us and we become stuck.
Talking through and gaining an understanding of how it happened and how you feel about that will help you obtain the self-awareness to unblock this issue.
Ultimately it’s about you, therapy is an intimate journey and if there is ever a time not to settle it is when picking your therapist.
They will help and guide through the emotional map in your head, I know that for me it had to be someone I could say anything to, it might be different for you.
Listen to your gut or intuition it will guide you with everything I have explained in this blog today.
This guest blog was written by Daniel Udale. Daniels story is so raw and hopeful, sometimes we need to see a success story to find the courage to start our own path, and therapy is a terrifying thing. You can follow Daniel on Twitter (@moonwalkingjaba) or visit his blog: https://medium.com/@danieljamesudaleforrester.