Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 of us will be affected this year with a mental illness, yet there is still a stigma surrounding the subject. Today is Time To Talk Day, a day dedicated to encouraging people to get together and talk about mental health.
The saying goes: ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and I believe there’s a lot of truth in this. If you’ve ever felt physically lighter after talking with a friend then you’ll know what I mean.
Giving our thoughts a voice helps us to rationalise our feelings. When we sit in silence, we suffer as things build up and become overwhelming. We can wonder where to even start or worry that someone will think we’re overreacting if we say something, so we often don’t say anything and hope the issue resolves itself. Unfortunately, this isn’t the healthiest way to handle your emotions, and it’s also not fair to put yourself through that when you have people around you that would no doubt love to help.
Whether you call a friend for a coffee and chat, head out for a walk and talk, or ask a colleague to have a cup of tea with you in your lunch break, there’s usually someone in your life who will be pleased to lend an ear. If that feels quite daunting, it’s good to know that there are also many charities whom you can call and discuss your feelings anonymously, such as Mind Charity and The Samaritans.
Discussing how you feel with a friend provides support and an alternate point of view, offering a different perspective on your problems. Perhaps you can talk it out and find a new way of viewing the problem or agree on the first steps you can take to making things better. In the name of leading by example, I wanted to share a bit of my own journey in the hope that it encourages someone else to speak up.
While I’m extremely fortunate to have fantastic friends, family and partner, I reached a point last year where I needed to talk to a professional counsellor about my thought patterns and default behaviours. As much as the other people in my life were (and continue to be) a great support network, I needed to talk to someone who understood the psychological side of things so I could start to think and act in a healthier and sustainable way.
I told only a handful of people closest to me that I was going for counselling and I remember at the time feeling like I’d climbed a mountain to get to the point of accepting that I needed help. It took me weeks to build the courage to let them know the news that I’d reached this point of helplessness. I think it’s really important to recognise and celebrate how much strength we muster when reaching the point of seeking help.
The first step is often the hardest, and I’m pleased to say that once you take that daunting, scary leap, you realise it’s going to be ok and you can shrug some of that pressure off your shoulders. Each step you take now leads you closer to calm and happiness.
I initially said “I’m just going for four weeks”, but ended up regularly seeing my therapist for 10 months. It was an investment in my mental health and not only did we work on the things I thought were issues, but also on the underlying beliefs that I held as truths and carried with me each day. Together we were able to join the dots from losing my Mum when I was a child to work, relationships and self-acceptance. The non-judgemental space my therapist held for me was educational and refreshing.
Counselling is something I’d recommend in a heartbeat to anyone considering it. It’s incredible how simply talking has changed my whole life. I no longer always see myself as a burden or coming second to other people’s needs. I’ve reconsidered truths I once held, completely let go of other ways of thinking and am starting to take charge of my own thoughts and wants. It’s a journey, but it’s a great one to be on.
If this resonates with anyone, I implore you to not wait until breaking point to seek help. Think of it this way, if you’re so overwhelmed and feeling helpless, you won’t have as much strength to pull yourself out of it as you would if you weren’t as far down that spiral. This is especially important if you seek counselling services through the NHS. The waiting list can be several weeks before your first counselling appointment from being referred, which, trust me, feels like years when you need to speak to someone right now.
If you’re seeking private counsellors as I did, you have the luxury of working with someone who fits your bill. I was able to find someone who practised in holistic therapies, is an accredited counsellor and experienced within a 15-minute drive from home. I used the Counselling Directory, which I’d recommend if you’re in the UK.
If you want to join the conversation today, please use the hashtag #TimeToTalk. I hope this helps someone out there. We’re all beautiful souls that deserve our place on this Earth.