Kia Ora Whanau
So this week is Mental Awareness Week and I thought this would be a good time to address how important it is for you to acknowledge that talking about it can help.
This might be a bit of a long post so stick with me if you can. I will probably go down a few rabbit holes but I figure now is the time to say this stuff.
First off, I want to acknowledge and personally thank the people in my life who helped me get to a point where I started to address some of the issues and behaviours I was dealing with and also helped me change my view about going and seeing a Psychotherapist (PT). You know who you are.
Now I am going to keep referring to my PT as “PT” and that is because this is a form of personal trainer but for the mind.
I supposed I should start at the beginning, I hear it’s a very good place to start! Growing up I had a lot of issues and some of which were family and others were definitely all Alex!
Because of these issues I grew up to be a person who not only did not believe in talking about his problems, I would try to change the subject, or just down-play all the good advice I was getting.
It wasn’t until I had time away from an environment where I was made aware that I actually was not as mentally stable as I had portrayed/ self-deluded myself into thinking.
This time away was about a month and when I came back to the environment I was given an ultimatum to start to take better care of myself, both physically and mentally, or risk digging myself into a hole that I might not be able to get out of.
I decided to start seeing a counsellor… Then heard how much it was going to cost, and that I wouldn’t be seen for about two months. This was not going to work for me as I felt like I needed help sooner rather than later. You see I have a tendency to give up sometimes and talking about my feelings is one of those things I would prioritise … in giving up.
I spoke to my doctor at the time and they advised I should try a Psychiatrist. I did some investigative research using valuable resources … yeah I did a google search on my phone and found a PT. At the time I didn’t realise I had not actually set up a meeting with a Psychiatrist but a PT.
I got a call back telling me that I couldn’t be seen, but the PT had a colleague who might be able to help.
I contacted the PT and set up for my first meeting a week later.
The First Meeting
So I arrive at the office not exactly sure what I was supposed to do…. I didn’t see a long sofa I was supposed to lay on while I get asked about my parents or look at inkblots.
Instead I saw two chairs and a welcoming soul. I sat down and was feeling really nervous, and shameful while I introduced myself. I use the word shameful because that was what I actual had thought.
As I hinted to above, talking about my mental state and health was not something I liked doing. Because of the way I was brought up I was taught (by behaviours, not actions) not to talk about any problems. It was family or personal business and not to be shared. It is for this reason that I had the idea that I was shameful for asking for help, or seeking help from anyone.
In all of my life I have never been more happy to be proven wrong.
My PT spoke to me as a person, no judgement, no shame, just listened and offered solutions.
I started to open up, I started to relax and most importantly I started to let my guard down.
It felt really good to just verbalize the dark clouds swirling and consuming my brain. I had just started a new job and it was a situation where it wasn’t a guaranteed job, I had massive amounts of debt, my home life was … less than ideal, yeah lets put it that way, and finally my health was, quite frankly, non-existent.
I left the office one full hour later (most counsellors will charge you an hour but you only have 45 minutes to discuss) feeling like some of the weight I had been carrying around had shifted … a little.
I set up another time to meet my PT in a fortnight.
Now came the hard part …. actually sticking with it.
The Second Meeting
Two weeks later and I actually kept the appointment and I was so glad I did. I started to talk more about my life and felt more open then two weeks ago when I am sure I came across as a person that did not want to be there. My arms crossed, sitting back, angry expression.
This second week I was open and starting to be more honest about some of the things I had been doing myself. I was not yet at the point of accountability, but hey a journey starts with a single step right???
We went back and forth discussing and listening to each-other. I conceded some points, and my PT made me aware of other behaviors I hadn’t even been aware of.
All in all a good second session. Now you may be asking “Why add The Second Meeting”? well let me put it this way. There is something I have to admit to you, and that was I didn’t know what a PT was, aren’t they all the same??? So I asked What was the difference between a Counselor/ Psychiatrist or in this case a Psychotherapist?
The answer was very enlightening. If you were like me you might have thought they all have the same role. This is ok to have this idea, it is wrong but overall there is a basis for why you would think this way.
I will try to explain as best as I can remember, and hopefully this helps you clear up any potential confusion you might have if you are looking to seek help in the future.
- Counselor – This is a medical professional who usually will listen to you and may offer advice to help.
- Psychiatrist – Same as above but is usually a doctor so they can practise as well as prescribe medications if required
- Psychotherapist – This is a medical professional who will listen like both above but instead of prescribing medications, they will try solve the issues at your core and help you grow and work through them.
After hearing this I immediately thought I had made the right choice … despite my obvious mistake at the start of not knowing what a PT is or does. I didn’t want to be put on to medicine. This is not because I don’t think medications work, more because I have witnessed in my life what these medications can do to a person and I wanted to stay away from that if I could.
So how long did you see the PT for?
I saw my PT for over two years almost every fortnight. It felt good to have a safe space where I could share all my thoughts and feelings and also my fears. My PT helped change my life and enabled me to have the strength to start to change my life for the better. Now while I don’t see my PT anymore I do still keep in touch and I know that they are always there if I ever need them.
So what did you learn?
So I’m going to keep the stuff I learnt about myself pretty private but what I will share is some of the techniques I learnt to deal with my situation.
Mindfulness. I know I have previously talked about this in a previous blog post about mindset, but I can’t stress how much this actually helped me cope day to day (and even today).
For those that don’t know mindfulness is basically being mindful in who you are and of your situation, your surroundings. Sort of like being one with everything … you know like Neo at the end of the first Matrix film.
Good news is you don’t have to get shot in the matrix to be able to have the same mindfulness sense.
Acceptance. So when I say acceptance it is more in relation to accepting who you are.
When you learn to accept the things in your life and your ability to always have a choice of what your actions are then you can start to change the things you accept as what you want to change.
Control and release
Ok so this might sound a bit weird. Control and Release is more about letting go of things I can’t control, this can be people, situations, behaviours and release is more about acknowledging that I can’t control them so I should release the emotion I hold on to.
So why bring this up now?
Honestly, I know that with Covid there is so much extra stress and strain on people as well as medical professionals within the mental health field. I want people who used to be like me to know it is ok to talk to someone. It is ok to seek help.
New Zealand has one of the hardest pills to swallow. We have a huge youth suicide rate. I’m not suggesting this post will change someone’s life. I just want everyone that is feeling stressed to know that you don’t have to do this alone. It is ok to seek help and you have a choice even when it feel like you don’t.
Talking helps. Take it from someone who bottled it all up for 35 years. Make a change in your life for the better. Seek help if you need it, or if you know someone suffering, be there for them.
Be Safe Whanau and feel free to email me if you have any questions firstname.lastname@example.org.