When I was ‘diagnosed’ with depression last year, my GP and I decided medication and depression counselling was the best treatment plan for me.
I’ve never been to see a counsellor before so I was a little bit apprehensive as to what to expect. Crazy Clare had just started seeing her counsellor so I asked her what happened at her first session.
“We just chatted and got to know each other. She asked a lot of questions.”
And that’s basically what happened . . .
During my first session, my counsellor told me about herself and said, “This is only going to work if you trust me and you feel comfortable talking to me!”.
I cried in that first session. Actually, I cried in every session. And believe me, it’s not a bad thing. It’s exhausting but I felt so much better for it. So here’s the first thing I learnt at depression counselling:
1. It’s OK To Cry
I’m one for burying emotions and pushing the tears down. So much so that when I do try to suppress the tears, it physically hurts. My throat tightens and there’s this pressure in my head and neck.
So it was good, even nice, to cry and let it out. Especially in front of someone who wasn’t going to judge me or think I’m weak for crying.
And don’t worry . . . counsellors always have plenty of tissues on hand!
When I did cry, my counsellor would ask me, “What’s happening there? What’s going through your head right now that’s making you upset?”.
One session in particular, I bawled my eyes out. You know . . . the ugly cry with snot running into your mouth!
I cried, actually sobbed, for a good five minutes and my counsellor gave me the space and quiet to let me get it all out. And I did. It was exhausting.
When I was done she asked, “So what was that all about? Why are you so upset?”.
“I don’t want this. I don’t want to be depressed. It’s not me. It’s not who I am! I read a mum’s blog about depression and she was in her fourth year of it. I’ve never wanted to kill myself but if I’m still feeling like this in four years time, I will seriously consider taking my own life.”
I said all of this while blubbering. It upset me saying it out loud. To truly open up and tell someone what was going in my head . . . uncensored.
And she replied, something like this . . . “If you think you have depression, you have depression. If all your thoughts are about your depression and how you don’t want it, you’ll have it. You’re giving those thoughts and feelings power!”
Right then I had an AHA moment.
2. What You Think About You Bring About
I used to listen to The Secret which is all about positive thinking and affirmations. So I got home from the session and started listening to the audiobook again.
It really helped. Changing the way you think about things . . . turning the negatives into positives and retraining that internal chatter.
Believe me, I still have a LOT of work to do in this area but I feel more aware of my negative thoughts these days. And the following is still loud and clear, and needs some serious work . . .
3. “I’m Not Good Enough” is a Load of Rubbish
In the first session my counsellor picked exactly what was going on with me. She refused to give me the answer then and there, but after a few sessions it was obvious to me.
The overlying thought to everything I was feeling, the reason I was in such a bad space, was the continual thought of ‘I’m not good enough!’
When we worked through that I realised the failure I felt for so many things was because of that consistent thought.
- The My Fun Box business isn’t a success because I’m not good enough.
- Rascal doesn’t eat vegies or try new foods because I’m not good enough.
- I’m putting on weight because I have no self control and can’t be bothered to exercise . . . I’m just not good enough.
- I’m trying to be successful at two businesses, raise two boys under five, be a loving and supportive partner, run a household . . . I’m failing at it all because I’m not good enough!
So how did we work through this?
4. Give Up The Fight With The Big Hairy Monster
One visualisation technique that resonated with me was the big hairy monster . . .
Imagine all your negative thoughts, bad memories and the internal battles make up a big, hairy monster. The big hairy monster is on the other side of a deep ravine. You’re holding the end of a rope and the monster has the other. The monster is super strong and is trying to pull you into the ravine.
So you’re constantly pulling and fighting and battling with all this bad stuff. The big hairy monster.
You’re exhausted from the ongoing battle. And while you’re busy fighting this big hairy monster, your life is happening behind you and even passing you buy. You’re missing all the good because you’re so busy fighting the bad stuff and the stuff you can’t change.
How do you win the fight?
Let go of the rope! Then turn around and put your energy and focus into the present . . . into your life.
My biggest learning . . . The never-ending battle is with the thoughts. I have to acknowledge the thought, the fact it is just a thought and I am not my thoughts, and try to change the relationship with the thoughts.
5. Focus On Values Not The End Goal
My Silver Fox and I had a conversation about what makes me happy. We concluded that achievement equalled happiness for me.
My counsellor asked, “But what if you don’t reach your goal? Does that mean you’ll never be happy until you achieve everything you want in life?”
She went on to tell me a story to illustrate the situation.
“Imagine I live in America with my family and we are going on a road trip to Disneyland. As you can imagine, my two kids (one boy and one girl) are super excited.
Now, my boy is like you . . . He’s goal orientated so the whole time he’s asking, “Are we there yet? How much longer?”
My girl is the opposite. She’s looking out the window and admiring the scenery. We’re playing I Spy and enjoying the journey.
Next minute, the car breaks down and we’re stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. How do you think my boy reacts?”
“He’d be feeling like his world had ended!”, I replied.
It’s okay to have goals but how do you find happiness on the journey, to achieving those goals?
The answer: through values!
Here’s an example of something we worked through:
I want to be a good mum. But what does that mean to me or what does that look like to me?
Giving them cuddles when they need and ask for them. Listening to them even when they’re annoying me.
My counsellor pointed out to me that the values I’m talking about are compassion and respect. So if I live by these values every day, it doesn’t have to be 24/7, I’ll feel like a good mum most of the time. It makes so much sense to me.
Oh, which reminds me and means an extra thing I learnt from depression counselling.
6. I Answered The Question, “Who Am I?”
Through all the fog and numbness of my recent bout of depression, I kept asking myself, ‘Who am I and what am I meant to be doing with my life?’
My counsellor had taught me I am NOT my thoughts. She also told me that everyone I know and love has their own version of me. And I obviously have my own version. I think I’m this while my sister thinks I’m that.
Who’s version is the correct one? That got me stumped because if I choose mine, does that mean my sister’s version is wrong?
So when we worked through my values, my counsellor was like, “That’s who you are . . . You are your values! You are honest, creative, compassionate and respectful.”
I smiled . . . actually I beamed when she said this. This gave me so much clarity and strength.
Whenever I doubt myself and start acknowledging the internal chatter, I go back to my values.
I am not my thoughts, I am my values! So much power for me in that.
Until next time, take care!
Have you seen a counsellor or psychologist for depression or mental illness? Comment below with the most valuable technique or strategy you came away with.
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