Counselling – Taking baby steps

On Thursday’s at two pm I go to the women’s centre for counselling. It’s a safe place where the therapists are specially trained to deal with domestic violence and sexual trauma.

I have been going to the centre now for almost 18 months on and off. It’s not been easy to go because I haven’t always been ‘well’ enough. My addiction to codeine made it difficult and with all the other medications I was on it has proved to be a very difficult thing to commit to.

However, at the end of last year as I was detoxing from subutex I swore to myself that 2016 would be the year where attending my counselling sessions would be a priority and that no matter how shit I felt, I would go.

I have kept this promise to myself and despite the odd hard session I haven’t found an excuse not to attend. Instead, for the first time with counselling I have found the need to go. It’s helping me keep on the straight and narrow, not give into my frequent cravings to take co-codamol and numb my emotions.

Inside I know that it’s going to be a long, slow process to ‘healing’ my pain, but I sometimes wish I could just get it all out so that i didn’t feel this way.

Last night I needed support and called on several people. My counsellor, my tutor and my best friend. I called my tutor first because I was going to quit uni. The session I’d had earlier had knocked me hard and I was struggling massively with all the feelings, emotions, thoughts and incessant images that kept flashing before my eyes. My tutor couldn’t talk immediately so I called my counsellor and left a message to say could she call me. I then curled up under my duvet and tried to watch a TV show to help distract myself. It wasn’t working so I turned it off and huddled deeper under the covers and closed my eyes. Hugging myself and trying to remember that I’m safe, that it was ok to tell my counsellor the things I had in the session. About an hour later my counsellor called me back and helped to calm me and agreed to see me again on Tuesday next week. I’ve gone from hating counselling to seeking refuge at the centre and with my therapist. It helps to talk about how I’m doing, but it’s always hard.

A couple of hours later I spoke with my tutor. I told her I had been in a tough counselling session which had unsettled me and that I was thinking of quitting the course. I’ve found going back to uni, albeit a different course, much harder than I had anticipated. I get triggered easily by much of the course content and if that’s not the problem it’s the fact I can’t focus or concentrate properly. I finding reading particularly difficult. Things just don’t make sense and it’s frustrating. I feel like a total moron and fraud.

However, my counsellor advised against making any serious decisions when I was feeling vulnerable, emotional and triggered. That i should wait. I don’t want to leave, but I don’t want it to be so hard either. I told my tutor about all this and that I wasn’t going to leave. She is amazingly supportive and listens without judgement which makes a massive difference. She told me that I had the makings of a great therapist and that it would all come once I was ready. She doesn’t want to see me leave and has been encouraging me to keep going but also telling me that when things get too much that I should take time out and look after myself. I feel stupid for doing it, but I’m learning to do just this.

Talking to my counsellor and tutor helped but I couldn’t shake off this feeling inside. I had some alcohol to try and help but I knew I needed to talk to someone who got it and would be able to share with me that she got it. I called my best friend.

Dealing with past trauma is excruciatingly difficult for a multitude of reasons. The very first time I had to disclose what had happened, I tried to disconnect myself from the words I was going to have to say and said them as fast as I could. With that out of the way I could then revert back to saying ‘my past’ or whatever was appropriate in the right context. But those hideous words don’t come out of my mouth again.

Once this has been disclosed it’s then about saying who it was who did this. Again, it’s really hard to say it but it comes out as ‘they were family friend’s’. A neighbour, a ‘boy’ from church and another girl. At the same time disclosing your own age and theirs is important. So that gets discussed. Embarrassment and shame sweeping across every emotion that I’m feeling.

That was awhile ago. But I know that in order to talk about things and to make this ‘healing’ process start in some way I have to take a step, any step to saying more about those people who hurt me.

So in Thursdays session I decided that they needed to have names. I can’t just keep it as it is because it’s not helping me. I also can’t use those words to describe what happened. I feel my heart race and the anxiety that sits permanently inside is tightening.

My counsellor suggests that perhaps it would be easier to write this down. But Im in a different place to where I was a year ago and I struggle to even write them. Eventually, towards the end of the session I get this sudden rush of adrenaline and a push to do this. So I write down the names of the three people who took my innocence.

I am filled with mixed emotions after doing this. I’m still hugely embarrassed but now I’ve written them down I give the paper to my counsellor so she can read their names. This is a massive deal because it makes them more ‘real’. They are no longer he and she’s but they have names that can now go with the things that happened.

It also opens a crack to discuss who they were, how old they were and how old I was. It’s painful. I can see them clearly and it’s difficult to know what to say or how to process everything that’s racing around in my head. I find my words drying up and trying to change the subject but I can’t snap out of the place that my head is going. My counsellor knows I’m struggling. She can see me zoning in and out and tries to help bring me back to the here and now. She tries to get me to talk about what it is I’m feeling but I simply can’t find any words so I just shrug. I feel numb and tearful. I hate crying in front of people. It makes me feel weak and vulnerable. I try and avoid it as much as possible.

This is what I talk to my friend about. I don’t understand why it’s so hard to say words or why the names are such a big part of it, but she gets it. She feels as I do and all the fears I have she has too. I feel relieved that I am not alone and that there is someone else I know who I can talk to about it.

Disclosing and then talking about this stuff is like having to discuss the most intimate details of your life whilst your sat completely naked. If you want to talk about sexual experiences, generally it’s with trusted friends and done in a light hearted way. But when you are sat in a room with someone who knows far more about you than you will ever know about them, it’s not light hearted. These are details which are deeply personal and expose the most intimate experiences. No, there is not a need to go into all the details, but because of the shame, guilt and embarrassment that is felt so intensely eventually some details will be discussed. They have to be discussed so that sense can be made of all the mixed up emotions and thoughts going on in my head. I know that it’s part of dealing with it and putting it all into some sort of context which I can then manage in the future. Right now though, talking about any of it is too hard, too embarrassing.

I felt better talking to my friend and being able to share with her this experience. But the thoughts and emotions are still racing around. I probably need to cry but im forcing myself not to. I don’t want my kids to see me or hubby. I also don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to express everything that I’m thinking and feeling right now. I’m annoyed with myself though because opening up always tends to happen in the last 20 minutes of the session and the clock ticks by fucking fast leaving nowhere to go with the things that have been brought to the surface. Instead I’m left on my own having to find a way to deal with these emotions and the racing thoughts.

I know that this is a frequent and common part for many people when it comes to counselling. It takes time to settle into the session and when you are finally in a place to talk, time is up!

Despite my frustration with myself, I know that i took some baby steps on Thursday. As hard and as painful as they were I still managed to do something I’ve never been able to do with any professional. I’ve never gone into detail about who the people were other than to mention their sexes and ages. I haven’t disclosed to any professional about the details of what happened or how it came about. But perhaps now that I’ve shared their names and a little about who they were, eventually I will be able to untangle the mess of memories, feelings and emotions associated with each of them.

I have no idea if or when this could happen, but I do know that inside I can’t keep pushing it to the side in an attempt to deal with it. Simply doesn’t work. The band aid was ripped away three years ago when my breakdown began and it can’t be covered up any more and I know this. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

Starting this blog 2 years ago in May was an attempt to deal with all the thoughts I had. I was a ‘different’ person back then. I couldn’t handle life, the way I was feeling or any of the other crap that was going on. I was in another world where the only way I knew how to cope was popping pills like they were going to run out, drinking and entertaining stupid ideas and being quite reckless.

Now, being in the place I’m in at the moment, I’m clean and sober, trying to find the words and the courage to write those words. It seemed so much easier when I was out of it. I just wrote whatever was in my head at the time (at least that’s what I think I was doing).

It all just seems much harder now than ever before.

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