Talking for the first time

"I needed time to panic first." I tell the therapist with a smile and then a little (more) panic as I realise that is probably the wrong thing to say. I have said it as I stand to leave, and she has asked me how long it has been since I asked for the appointment to actually having our first session.

I asked in December. They offered two days later. I asked for two weeks’ away, because I needed time to panic first. (And now you’re up to date.)

The therapist laughed at my joke, and that is the moment I knew that I could trust her with whatever was coming next.

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It wasn’t an easy choice to seek help, and for once it’s not something I’m finding easy to write about, but it’s time to talk. It’s just as normal as a blood test for your tiredness or a cast on a broken leg. To make it real, to help me process it, and so maybe I can add my voice to those helping pave an easier path to understanding about our mental health. To make just one person who doesn’t ‘get’ it say: “actually, I could see you were struggling and it helped you, so it makes sense.”

For the first time in my life I have found the courage and strength to anticipate a bad spell and take steps to stop it before it finds momentum. This is a marker of what I hope to be maturity but what is actually fear of reliving depression in full whack. I’m in the early throes of CBT for anxiety and stress, and at first I was afraid (I was petrified!) but after the initial aforementioned panic that they would a) think I was lying or b) think I was worse than I imagined, it was fine.

For the first time in my life I told a stranger what was going on and it was easier than I ever imagined; once I opened my mouth I didn’t seem to stop. Therapists seem to be trained in making a space feel safe; into feeling like a safe home for the worst things you think to go. That is what I hoped for, despite all my daydreams of a chaise longue and a deep sigh as they flipped a notebook page with a fed-up fervour. Watching too much Mad Men does weird things to the brain, but I didn’t go in channelling Betty Draper. I went in channelling something closer to a rabbit attempting to cross a motorway at night.

It’s early days for me yet, but something is already shifting. We are talking through the weird corners where the fears have festered and the sadness has nested and even though they have prompted some mood swings, I have a good feeling that talking is the exact right thing for me right now.

What can I do?

So let’s talk. Let’s make life easier - even if it means that we have to leave our comfort zones a bit. (But of course if you aren’t healthy enough to do that for now, it’s totally fine.)

It doesn’t have to be in a circle, introducing yourself and telling the sphere why you’re sad. If you’re into that, go for it, but you will be the first person I’ve ever met who is.

If you’re okay, then ask after someone else. Don’t make pleasantries at the kettle, ask someone how they’re doing with their workload/partner/kids etc, and actually listen to the response. Even if you can’t offer advice, listening to them can be enough. Don’t underestimate the power of feeling heard and seen.

Call, text or email someone you are a bit out of touch with.

Hug someone that bit tighter.

If you know someone has been struggling, find a way to let them know you care; call them, be there for them, send them a letter or a postcard, tag them in something funny online. Being remembered and thought of can make such a difference.

It doesn’t matter if it isn’t talking face to face as sometimes that can feel overwhelming, but try to communicate somehow how you are feeling or give some time to someone who needs you.

I hope you have a great day.