When you’re clinically depressed, it’s often a prescribed drug that steps in to take the edge off of your symptoms. Like a diabetic person needs insulin, a depressed person needs medication to subdue overwhelming emotions and encourage a rise in serotonin levels. There’s no doubt that the right medication (however hard it may be to find the right one for you at first) is the first step to stabilisation.

The next step is the one I have found the hardest, but it faces the issues that depression stems from and provokes so that one of these days, I may be able to live my live without being dependent on meds. The way to do this is through counselling sessions.

helping hands
Credit: Gina Lee Counselling

As we’ve spoken about before, depression takes many forms for many reasons. My own issue started to shine through at university: I knew I was losing control of myself but I couldn’t tell anyone why because I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. Some time later, I was pushed into the oblivion after a long-term partner assaulted me in the middle of the night in a country lane.

It was the beginning of a hellish time, and it became more apparent that this event had not only triggered a new level of emotional trauma but a dangerously warped view of relationships, of men and – perhaps most worryingly – a complete severance of emotional connections offered by others. Upon realising that I was sabotaging relationships (of all kinds) while simultaneously burying myself in more work than I could ever hope to complete to hide from what was happening in my personal life, my mum came by a recommendation for a great local counsellor.

She booked my appointment for me, sent me off with £40 for the session and we crossed our fingers that this woman might be able to piece together the thing that broke me that night as I lay at the mercy of someone I loved. Most would find it pretty pathetic to be privileged enough to have someone pay for this for you, but a stepping stone to me actually going was to not have to worry about the finances involved at first. And if she’d already booked my appointment, there was nothing I could do but go.

Finding a counsellor

Not everyone is lucky enough to find a counsellor they get on with first time around, but I was one of the select few. Jean* has a voice that’s as soothing as waves crashing on a tropical shore; one key personal trait that I lock into and look forward to hearing in my next session. This small factor offers familiarity and comfort, something I think it’s important to establish to overcome the ebbing fear that I’m going to have to open up about something nasty eventually. If you have any reservations about your counsellor (the counsellor themselves, not the actual questions you’re being asked) then it might be best to try a different one. It’s so important you feel comfortable enough to open up properly – otherwise you’ll halt your own progress.

Opening up

That brings me to the inevitable hard stuff. I’d be lying if I said that tears hadn’t poured down my face from the off, because although the first session is normally a general analysis for your counsellor to gauge what it is they need to work with (and indeed if you should be there at all), they need to know key events that have taken place and led you to this appointment. I had no problem explaining what happened to me that night, but ever since I’d had emotional attachments to the sound and sight of the man’s name, certain music, films etc, and though just having to say his name out loud was horrific she could see the extent of the damage. Three months down the line we still haven’t taken on the details of the night and grappled by the horns with it – but that’s ok. We’re working our way up in manageable steps, and though I know I have to face it soon, Jean’s guidance means that I face this safely.

Due to the level at which I suppress issues and emotion I don’t notice when I’m heading towards an emotional crash. Jean uses our sessions together to help me identify patterns in my behaviour so I can begin to manage my depression and cope with it better. She also works with medication in mind, and can help identify how anti depressants are helping or hindering my state.

Real life progress

It’s strange having to report every aspect of your life to someone on a frequent basis, but it’s equally reassuring – a good counsellor can help you identify what’s going on right now and help you cope with issues at hand. Having someone there to justify and quantify feelings, spot a pattern of behaviour that can be changed for the better and to play devil’s advocate develops another level of thinking after a time, and eventually you get to “play counsellor” with yourself in everyday situations that you face.

Wondering “what would Jean do?” in the face of a challenge helps me cope, because she sends me away from each of our sessions armed with a little more understanding, and a little extra capacity to think differently about my situation. She’s built me up to be stronger, and without her I would quite probably be letting my past ruin my future.

Want to know more?

Head to www.counselling-directory.org.uk to find a counsellor near you.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

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