I was talking to BFF2 today who is starting his own journey into counselling and was trying to explain my own journey.
I know enough to know that I want to be a happier person but I’m hazy on the details of how to get there or what I need to achieve on the way. I know I need to like myself more, to have more confidence in myself, to be able to walk tall. But I don’t know how.
The first step, as in with an addiction and probably many mental health issues is to acknowledge it; to say I have a problem and I want help to find a solution. I did that, about four years ago.
The second step is to find help. For me I was lucky in that BFF1 was way ahead of me and had found a wonderfully safe, comfortable and affordable place to go so off I went.
After that it’s a lot less clear. I spent over a year focusing on my childhood, talking it out and discussing the whys and wherefores of my parents’ actions, understanding them but also looking at what that meant for me. What I did was very much mapping it out, rationalising it, intellectualising it, unravelling it. This was and is very important but it was only the first stage.
The following year we looked more at how I felt. I stated at the beginning of that year that I wanted to be able to cry in my sessions because I hadn’t reached that point and felt I needed to. We started talking about how I felt about stuff rather than understanding them. It was thinking about not why my father said something, but how that something made me feel. This was harder but it also felt warm and fuzzy. I wonder now whether my counsellor could have pushed me more but I also think I needed to start to explore how I feel quite gently. I felt I was in a very safe place and that was also important. I had my first dip into Intuitive Eating and for me my most mammoth achievement that year was to enjoy my birthday and celebrate it well for possibly the first time ever.
The year after is the current (academic) year that I’m in. I have a male counsellor for the first time and that’s different. I should point out that I’m at a training institute so I get a new counsellor each year; I’m not chopping them into tiny pieces. I’ll need to have another male counsellor to work out whether it’s him being different or his gender.
I am starting to understand how much my childhood had affected me in the long term. Not the superficial, but still important, understandings such as bullying making me feel lonely and isolated but understanding how that permeated through my life in far more ways than I had thought possible. I need to feel it all the way down, not just in my head or in my heart, but down to my toes.
I had thought I understood what was going on in my head, that I had a fair understanding of my childhood and what it meant. I am realising that I’ve only scratched the surface of what it meant and continues to mean. I need to dig deeper still.
I also feel I haven’t talked enough about my adult years. I haven’t forgiven myself for them, for all the might haves / could haves / should haves that I didn’t have. I haven’t talked about those years I don’t want to talk about. I stopped writing the auto-biographical posts when I reached that point in time. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to feel those emotions. I don’t want to bring them up again and discuss them in counselling and to let those emotions out.
My counsellor is pushing me, asking me questions I can’t answer. I’m having to dig deeper, to the point where I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how I feel and I don’t know where I’m going. And that’s hugely frustrating. I’m feeling lost. I no longer have a plan; a list to tick off. I know where I want to be but not how to get there.
And maybe that’s the next stage. Not being sure of where the future lies and instead having to grope towards it in the dark. There is no map. Counselling is not linear. I was brought up on 5 and 10 year plans, with milestones to be ticked off and achievements noted. I need to accept, feel and acknowledge that there is no map, that what happens in sessions happens, that the dice fall where they may and that, in turn, is part of the journey. I also have the sneaking suspicion that once I can get my head round this, the idea of not having a map is going to be enormously liberating.
I still haven’t cried in counselling.
The note I wrote myself at the end of my last session said “liberating myself from having a plan; throwing away the map”. Coincidence?