Pictured: a man with his head in his hand during a counselling session

Counselling: three steps forward, one step back

One of the important items in my multi-step plan to beat this spell of depression is getting back into counselling. I had been on a waiting list for about three months but now I’m three sessions in and it’s completely knocked me on my ass.

The wait

I don’t make very much money in general and at the moment I’m on unpaid leave, which meant I was very limited in choice when it came to counselling services. Fortunately, my wife did some research for me and found a donation-based service in Arklow a mere four minutes away from my doorstep.

I got the call about six weeks ago to say that a spot had opened up so now all of my Mondays are dedicated to counselling: the morning is spent psyching myself up for it, an hour is spent with my lovely new counsellor and then the rest of the day is spent recovering.

Three sessions in

Since taking time off work I had been really making progress with my mental health. I was getting back on top of household chores, leaving the house semi-regularly and really working on my quest for joy through lots of old loves like reading, writing, blogging and following online D&D campaigns. But now, with three counselling sessions under my belt thus far, I have to admit that I’m really struggling with opening up old wounds.

Last week in particular was really difficult and I can’t put my finger on why. We didn’t talk about anything too scarring, just a few relationships that have changed over the years, but by the time I got home I was completely physically overwhelmed with the stress of opening up.

I needed a nap in the afternoon and by about 9PM I was exhausted with a pretty bad headache, which would later turn into a migraine. At about 3AM I woke up to vomit and then I alternated between sleeping and vomiting until around 9PM that night. It was absolutely horrendous. Nausea kept me from moving too much or using screens to pass the time while I lay in bed. All I could do was sleep or wait to feel better.

I lost three days last week recovering from that counselling session, which has made me really scared about going back.


Yesterday was session number three and I told my counsellor that I wanted to tread lightly to avoid a repeat. He was entirely understanding and didn’t push me, but I still somehow wound up talking about much more difficult subject matter – some childhood stuff that I never quite worked through and the main reason I find myself in this current mental health low. It was a hard conversation, and I didn’t even tell him the worst of it, so the worst is perhaps yet to come.

But! Despite the exceptionally hard session, my recovery was much quicker, thankfully. I spent the rest of the day in bed sleeping and/or whiling away a pretty bad headache, coupled with some mild nausea. And that was it! No vomiting and no symptoms spilling over into today and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. I think if I had found myself in a repeat of last week, I would have had to put a stop to the counselling because it just hurt too much.

So today feels like a free day to me, a day that I wasn’t expecting to have. I thought I would be lost to illness but instead, I want to make the very most of every second of today.

That, of course, starts with writing this

I haven’t been able to blog for the last few weeks because I’m dealing with some family stuff that I can’t share and it would have felt like lying to omit the worst of what I’m going through. But I’ve definitely noticed a downturn in my days since I stopped blogging; it was clearly helping me so I’m going to try to recommit to it as much as possible. I have to keep my family stuff private but I’ll try and find a way to navigate that in my writing because it’s very clear that writing is a big part of my recovery.

As for counselling...

It’s been a rocky start, but I know that counselling is ultimately worth the hard work of opening up. The difference between this week and last week has taught me that maybe I need to prepare my body better for going into counselling.

Each session will put me through the wringer both emotionally and physically, I know that, so I have to be ready. I have to make sure that I get a proper night’s sleep every Sunday, and ideally, make sure I get plenty of nutrients throughout the weekend as well. I can’t help how I respond emotionally yet (that’s what the counselling is for, after all!) but I can get my body in better condition to fight the physical side of my illness.

So that, friends, is my current plan going forward. I haven’t given up yet.

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