It takes courage to accept that you may need to contact a counsellor

depressionWe all have times when we wish we could get it together, and that’s why I called my counselling practice Getting it Together. Despite our life experience, our many personal skills  and our resilience, at times we all need some help. Life doesn’t always turn out as we plan. Sometimes we get low because of the past, or the present – or even looking toward the future.  We find ways of coping which aren’t that helpful. Stress and anxiety tend to make life hard going.

So if you feel you could use some help, make the phone call, send the email. Once you take that first step and we’re 10 minutes into the initial session, you’re likely to feel a huge sense of relief and be able to look forward to making the positive changes you have wanted.

Can spring be far behind ? Or why do I feel like working through my depression is one step forward and one step back?

imageThis morning saw some flurries of sleet and snow. Just as we begin to believe winter is done  with us and the spring bulbs offer some colour in the garden. A metaphor for the journey of depression . Not linear but more like a dance.

Clients are sometimes dispirited when their symptoms don’t get better week on week. Rather , like Spring, they experience glimpses of their healed selves . The selves they have perhaps known in the past who had energy and the inclination to engage with life . To live life in abundance .

Symptoms of depression vary from person to person . However , depression is characterised by thought patterns that maintain a depressed mood.  When we are depressed we generally have negative thoughts about ourselves, our experiences and our future . This negativity  can be reflected in our response to the times during therapy when we seem to have made no progress. So it’s important to look to nature to remind us that nothing stays the same . Spring always DOES arrive. The bulbs flower. The sun shines again. Therapy teaches us a new dance which we can enjoy whatever the weather – or life -throws at us. Step by step, sometimes forwards , sometimes backwards and sometimes sideways.

 

The pros and cons of change

IMG_0418Most of us resist change. We know what we like, and we like what we know. Sound familiar?

For many families, the next week or so sees the beginning of another school or college year. BIG changes, first day at school, first day in a new class, first day at college or university or even the change to an empty nest.

It’s all about both letting go and moving forward. Learning to embrace change is an important life lesson, so how can we build our resilience muscles? Resilient people have skills to help them face positive and negative life events. The first step is to accept the things we CAN’T change, and recognise the things we CAN change. By overcoming difficulties in making changes we develop 6 important attributes:-

  • Strength
  • Intelligence
  • Insight
  • Creativity
  • Tenacity

So, whatever the changes may be in your house over the weeks to come, try to see any problems as challenges. As a way of building resilience muscles. Ask yourself what are the pros and cons of staying the same, and what are the pros and cons of accepting change. Good for adults as well as good for children.

Please Listen…

It seems obvious, but it never fails to surprise me what an enormous relief it is to be listened to. I meet people from all walks of life whose initial distress can be overwhelming. At the end of our first session they are often greatly relieved and reassured too. They have had the empowering experience of having the space to tell their story and be listened to. I wonder that this appears to be such a precious gift, both to give and receive. Our lives are so busy that we can struggle to make time to really listen to, not talk, about  what matters most even with those closest to us.

I came across this poem many years ago and used it at the beginning of courses designed to train new counsellors:-

When I ask you to listen to me

and you start giving me advice,

you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me

and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way,

you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me

and you feel you have to do something

to solve my problem,

you have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen!

All I ask is that you listen.

Don’t talk or do – just hear me.

Advice is cheap.- 20 cents will get you both

Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper.

And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.

Maybe discouraged and faltering , but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can

and need to do for myself,

you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact

that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational,

then I can stop trying to convince you

and get about the business of understanding

what’s behind the irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious

and I don’t need advice.

Irrational feelings make sense

when we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works – sometimes-

for some people, because God is mute.

and he doesn’t give advice or try to fix things.

God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself

So please listen, and just hear me.

And if you want to talk,

wait a minute for your turn,

and I will listen to you.

22 for 22 or Talking to your GP or counsellor about distressing symptoms

My son is currently working as an extreme medic in a challenging environment providing essential health care in Kurdistan. He has a passionate commitment to improving the welfare of military veterans with PTSD and has been raising awareness through a challenge called 22 for 22. The number 22 is significant as it is the number of US veterans that commit suicide every day. Sadly, this is reflected in the British former service community too.

However, PTSD is by no means limited to those who have served in conflict areas. A wide range of distressing events from childhood abuse to road traffic accidents can result in trauma memories triggering distressing symptoms years after the initial events.

It can be nerve wracking to talk to a GP or counsellor about these distressing symptoms, so it helps to prepare what you want to say before you go, particularly when you want to explain several different psychological symptoms . Being clear will help your doctor or counsellor offer the best way forward for you.

If you have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, either recently or some time in the past, the following checklist may give you and your health care professional a helpful basis for your first appointment:-

First briefly describe what happened and when.

  1. I have symptoms of reliving the traumatic event: Have bad dreams or nightmares about the event or something similar to it; behave or feel as if the event were happening all over again; have a lot of strong feelings when I am reminded of the event; have a lot of physical sensations when I am reminded of the event
  2. I have symptoms of avoiding reminders of the traumatic event: Avoid thoughts, feelings, or talking about things that remind me of the event; avoid people, places or activities that remind me of the event; ave trouble remembering some important part of the event.
  3. I have noticed these symptoms since the event happened; Have lost interest in, or just don’t do things that used  to be important to me; Feel detached from people; find it hard to trust people; Have a hard time falling or staying asleep; Am irritable and have problems with me anger; Have a hard time focusing; Think I may not live very long and feel there’s no point in planning for the future; Am jumpy and get startled easily; Am always on guard.
  4. I experience these medical or emotional problems: stomach problems; Bowel problems; Female problems; Weight gain or loss; Chronic pain; Headaches; Skin problems; Lack of energy; Anxiety; Panic attacks; Other symptoms.

If you checked off some of the symptoms above, you may have PTSD. Your GP or counsellor will be able to explore these with you and make a diagnosis . You will then be in a much stronger position to work towards a treatment plan.

For more information about PTSD go to www.nhs.uk or www.mind.org.uk

 

 

 

 

Sexual problems for a tenth of young UK men

coupleAt least one in 10 of UK 16-21 year olds questioned in a survey of 1,875 sexually active and 517 sexually inactive people admits to having a distressing sexual problem in the last year. The findings have been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. This would suggest that young people sometimes need help beyond the usual focus on preventing sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.

Psychosexual therapy can address problems like climaxing, erectile dysfunction and lack of interest in sex for young men. For young women the most common problem reported was difficulty reaching a climax.

I wonder to what extent  these difficulties are a reflection of sex education in and out of our schools, and also one of the effects of media portrayal of sex?