One of the types of support I have chosen to take up is talking therapy. I waited for it eagerly on the NHS. It took a while, but I think it’s something I have always envisaged being helpful to me. And it has been. Infinitely.
I’ve been fairly open with people close to me about this decision, and I feel that it has been enormously positive in terms of my recovery.
What I didn’t prepare for was the huge variation in reactions to that decision. I don’t know why, but I thought that people would generally react positively; we are all individuals so it naturally follows that we see things in different lights.
I suppose therapy is still mysterious to many of us. It is a therapeutic relationship between client and therapist which aims to support an individual attempting to live with a mental health condition.
A strong, recurrent view seems to be that by taking part in a talking therapy you are dwelling on the past, not moving forwards or (this one is often mentioned) blaming other people for your mental health condition or ‘what has gone wrong in your life’? This notion appears on various forms of social media, mainly as casually re-posted generic quotes.
Talking therapies vary hugely. Psychology, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, hypnotherapy…..there are more flavours than a walkers multi pack. Some do discuss how things you carry from the past can be processed in order to move ahead. Some focus on cognitive behavioural techniques, to help you to look at things from a different angle. Some are based around the inner child. Some are group focused. They may incorporate a variety of the above or simply one type of intervention.
What has really struck me is how divisive the mere idea of them can be. It made me feel self-conscious, and as though I ought to justify myself to others.
We know that we are all unique and individual by now, right? And that there is beauty and faith in that fact? Well, I like to hope that we are making steps towards believing this, though recent world events may beg to differ.
What helps somebody through a tough time is not generic. How do some handle adversity in their stride, not only coping but thriving? Yet some have to take a day minute by minute, each moment torturous?
As humans, we can never experience each others thoughts and emotions first hand. As such maybe we could strive to stay open to whatever works in another’s recovery. If one size fitted all, there would be one medication, one therapy, one magical solution to every malaise.
OK, there is money to be made and pharmaceutical companies involved at this point (that would be a whole other essay). The options are out there. It would be freeing to be able to make use of these therapies and not have to hide them in case we feel ashamed or judged, particularly at times when we feel so raw and exposed. A time when each look may as well be a dagger, each comment a barb.
Achieving the level of insight which engaging in therapy requires is pivotal for so many souls. Anything which has the potential to derail this process much be negotiated carefully and mindfully.
It feels as though talking about mental health is becoming less frightening. It would be a constructive leap forwards if we could talk openly of our therapies and medications without fear of stigmatisation. If we share and educate about its benefits, we could perhaps move past the image of the self indulgent individual reclined across a couch. It may even help others see there is hope for a future lived well.
So, if somebody you know has built themselves up in order to take the gargantuan step towards recovery, please treat them gently. If you disagree with their choice of treatment, you know what? That’s perfectly OK. I would just wish respect and patience for each individual embarking on such an emotionally exhausting, yet potentially life changing experience. Trust yourself to know you will do what is right for you. I did and it has been the best decision I have ever made.