2 Spuds in a Pod

Looking after your mental and physical wellbeing.

Category: Counselling

Being a strong person

I have always considered myself to be a strong person, and fairly confident. Always being a bit of a loner, doing things my way without being too concerned about other people’s opinions.

Fast forward to when I had my breakdown, I felt anything but strong or confident. I felt mainly that I was a failure and good for nothing. Looking at it now, how on earth did it get to that point?

The job

I will always hold work accountable for this to a large extent. Obviously you can argue that I should have left and sought alternative employment before it got to that point, however I got so stuck in my thoughts that the only way was to continue working where I was. Needless to say, I had gotten to such a bad place that there simply was no alternative, and I simply did not have the energy to do anything about it. I kept thinking that it will get better, I will get there, give it time and the job will change and I will be happy at work again. Right, well it does not work that way, does it?

Banging your head against a brick wall

When you do a job where you work against your beliefs then this grinds you down. Being a police officer can be a very good job, and I did thoroughly enjoy it the first few years. It is when you cannot do the job for which you signed up for but continue to bang your head against the brick wall that this starts to wear you down. In my case it meant I went from a happy and strong person to someone good for nothing who just cried all the time. We are all different and I know a lot of very good police officers who are really good at their job and really enjoy it. For all of those, I know as many who are on a slippery slope to depression, anxiety and mental health issues, if not there already. So although there were other things that brought this on in my case, the police service as a whole has an awful lot to answer for.

A strong person

Ever since I started my journey with mental health issues, I have struggled with a lot of things. One of the big things was thinking: ”I am a strong person, how on earth did this happen to me?”. Probably also coupled with: “I can’t believe this is happening to me”. I also did not know what was happening, other than crying all the time.

Help

Going to the GP helped in some ways, with time off and getting medication. I was put on the waiting list for the community mental health team. Hearing that the waiting time was two to three months, Helen took matters into her own hands and found a private psychologist for me to contact to arrange talking therapy sessions. Within a couple of weeks, I set off for my first appointment. Needless to say, this made me even more anxious. I told the psychologist what had brought me to the session, and she told me about depressive illness. She also said this is something that happens to strong people. When I heard that, I cried again and more. I felt such a relief. I am a strong person!

The limbic system

The counsellor told me about something called the limbic system (for a fuller explanation of what this is, please read more here).
She explained the limbic system is the control centre of most processes in the body, including temperature, sleep, hormones and keeping your mood at a steady level. Imagine the limbic system as a fuse box: when it gets overloaded, the fuse blows. Stress is the most common cause of overload . Lazy people do not get depressive illness, simply because they do not do enough work. Strong people just keep on going until something breaks. When she told me all of this, it all made sense. This was crucial in my recovery.

Self loving

To all you lovely people out there whose confidence has taken a knock and you feel down in the dumps, please know that there is a way out of it. You need to start loving yourself and be as nice you yourself as you are to those around you. Start by saying no, exercise, be outside in the sun, and eat well. Also take time to do the things you love, especially if you no longer do them.

More importantly, if you cannot cope on your own then you must ask for help. There are many people and places who can help you. Know that you are not alone. Please let me know if I can help.

-Rosita

Change unhelpful thinking habits

I am starting to enjoy my CBT sessions. During the last session we started looking at unhelpful thinking habits, and this was again an eye-opener. It is obvious that if you keep thinking these negative thoughts, nothing good will happen. It is a learnt behaviour, so in order to get out of it you need to re-train your thinking habits.

The forgotten tool belt

Part of last weeks homework was to look at diary for challenging negative thinking, and to complete a few of these. I managed to come up with a great example as I unfortunately made a bit of a mistake at work. To me it was not anything really bad: I had forgotten my tool belt at a customer’s house so needed to go back and collect it.
I fully understand from the company’s view that it was time wasted. I had to pick something up that I should have remembered in the first place. There would be a knock on affect for the rest of the day. On the other hand, we all make mistakes and I do not have a habit of leaving things.
As soon as I realised I had forgotten it and that I needed to speak to my manager, my brain went into overdrive. The thing that worried me about all of this was how my manager would react. In my head I thought that he would shout at me, tell me off, put me on an action plan, have me fired, complain that I was not of any use, say bad things to me and be very disappointed in me. This would lead on to me feeling down and bad for the rest of the day.

Mindset

So this was my mindset when I called him. Of course, he reacted in several of the above anticipated ways. Not bad enough to have me fired, but certainly very disappointed in me which I could hear in his voice, telling me to learn from this which annoyed me as it’s the first time in a year I’ve done this, saying it’s just not good enough and so on. I was left feeling very down and bad about this, much like I had done before calling him. This then impacted the rest of my day in a negative way. I was also stuck in this negative way of thinking, and could not shift my thoughts.

Better way of thinking

The idea with CBT here is that you try to challenge your negative thinking in a particular situation and come up with an alternative and much more helpful thought. Using this example, a better thought would be: he is entitled to be annoyed, and how he puts that across is just his way of communicating. Do not take it personally.
My rational brain tells me this is obviously a good way of thinking. As I am typing this, I am no longer anxious about it and it is pretty obvious that this thought is a much better one. I understand it and agree with it. Of course he was annoyed, I would be too. I would not speak that way, which says more about him than me. I also do not take it personally. After all, it was only a forgotten tool belt and the impact of this meant an hour of my day was spent retrieving it. In the big scheme of things, it could be a lot worse.

Change your way of thinking

My way of thinking in the above example is a classic example of catastrophising, which is one of the unhelpful thinking habits. To think that I would get fired over this is just that: believing that the worst possible thing would happen. By becoming aware of your thinking habits, you can then start to challenge your way of thinking and look at the situation in another way. As with any habits, this requires work and consistency. It can be done.

Next time

When you notice the unhelpful thinking, take a few seconds to analyse the situation and identify the negative thought.
There are always better and more helpful thoughts, find them and replace the negative thought with the helpful ones. Then let it go. In order to get better, you need to change your way of thinking. Simple, yet so hard. But it can be done.

For a great source of CBT, head to https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/

-Rosita

There is a shift happening

The last few weeks have been ok. The one thing I am doing different is speaking to a counsellor on a regular basis. This in turn is allowing for my perspective to start changing ever so slightly, and it is making a real difference. It meant I was able to stand up for myself whilst on the phone to my manager the other day (as I did not agree with what he said), something Rosie from the last few years would not have done.

Counselling sessions

What I really appreciate about speaking to a counsellor is that he does not know me. Yes I go there on a regular basis and we talk about very personal stuff, but that stays there when I leave. I spend a lot of time in between reflecting on a multitude of things, such as life, work, relationships and so on. So pretty much anything goes. I guess that is one of the purposes of a counsellor, that they start tapping in to you. This then causes a lot of thoughts and realisations to just come out. It opens up different avenues and it is liberating.
Because he does not know me, and I know he will only ever be part of my life as “the counsellor”, I feel completely at ease when it comes to speaking to him about everything. That would not be the case if it were someone I knew on a personal level.

Answering somewhat awkward questions

As part of the last session, I was given a list of ten questions to answer. Examples of questions are: I feel I have someone to speak to, I have made plans to end my life, I feel it would be better if I was not here, and so on. Now these questions have a purpose for the counsellor, to see where you are and how well you are doing (or not) so they can help you the best.
I scored very low (which is the good end). I knew I felt pretty good, I had tried all day to think of something to talk to him about in the session and had not come up with anything. So I knew there was nothing bothering me at the time. He brought a few things up that I had talked about before, and helped me to put it into persepective. He helps to provide explanations to things which is great.

Difficult questions

I am now used to answering these, but it has taken a while. I remember the first time still, and I can’t really describe the feeling. It is as if you are so unwell that you can’t see what is happening, or that your behaviour is causing such concern to others. Imagine this: you’re at your doctor, trying to explain what is happening and how you feel, telling them what you can and can’t do, when they start asking difficult questions. Are you suicidal? Have you tried to kill yourself? Do you want to kill yourself?
It really hit home how bad I was at the time for the doctor to ask this. Now before you ask, I have never been in such a bad place. Just that they asked made me feel a lot worse. I spent so many years asking others these questions as part of work, and now I had to answer them myself. I did not like that one single bit.

Shift in perspective

Once you start seeing things from a different angle, no matter how miniscule, your perspective starts changing. It feels liberating, I can already see and feel that there is a shift happening and it makes me feel amazing. I’ve been so stuck in my habits, wants, wishes, ideas, work and life, you name it. I’m not sure if was the depression or anxiety causing it (or both) but it’s just gone downwards. Beeing able to shift how I see things is a game changer. Trust me.

NLP

The NLP day also helped a lot, and continues to do so. I will come back to this once I feel I know more about it and feel more confident. For now I will just say that this will help me shift things more.

I feel hopeful, positive, energised and I worry less. It also meant I could question my manager the other day when I did not agree with him, something he told me later he enjoyed and thought I did well for doing so. Rosie from a few years back would not have even thought to do that.

There is help out there. A lot of it, we just need to find what works for us. We are all different, with different life experiences and different needs. If you want to get in contact please do and I will help to guide you in the right direction.

-Rosita

Time for reflection

The last couple of years have been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. I have had help from various people and professionals around me, all with their specific purpose at the time. As you might have seen in a previous post, I decided I needed to reach out again and ask for help (read this blog here).

CBT

I have now started counselling and CBT, and I am excited about both. This is very personal to me, but I also feel that I want to share some parts of it as I believe that is important. I had a long chat with the CBT therapist about all events leading up to the juice-incident (read about this here) and this caused me again to put in to words how I felt. I believe (in my non-professional opinion) that my anxiety took over a long time ago, leading to a downward spiral of negative thinking which then literally made me depressed. When I initially made contact with the CBT clinic there was an assessment with lots of questions about how I felt. The therapist gave me feedback on this, and the score for anxiety was by far greater than depression. To me that makes a lot of sense, and also confirms how I feel. The aim is that she will provide me with tools for dealing with my anxiety, and this is very exciting.

Counselling

The counselling is a talking therapy, and it is different from the one I had previously. As the counsellor pointed out, and that I had not thought of, it was more looking at tools to help me get through the day. What we are hoping to do now is getting to the bottom of why I feel the way I do. He is a nice guy and I feel comfortable speaking to him. It is difficult too at times. I realise I’ve spent the last few years not really thinking about things, or reflecting. I have simply just existed if that makes sense. One reason for this is that it is the easiest thing to do. But it does not mean that it is healthy. I’m very good at not talking and bottling things up, however that is all changing now.

Stand up for myself

There are a few things I really want to work with for myself. The one thing that stands out right now is that I always feel that I have to go along with what other people say and do, that I find it so difficult to stand up for myself and say “you know, that does not actually suit me right now”, or “I don’t agree with with that”. I feel that doing or saying anything that rocks the boat is just so difficult, so difficult that I just agree with what people say. That in itself is clearly not healthy. I feel it is certainly a huge factor contributing to me feeling the way I do. When you constantly do and say what others do or say, or expect you to do, then it’s easy to understand that I feel that I’ve lost myself along with all confidence and self-esteem. Again, this is something which is difficult to talk about, but then I feel that I should. This feeling is not based on what others expect of me, which is a nice little learning example. I also feel that by writing this down, I become more committed.

So there we are. If I was to give you one piece of advice, it would be to speak up for yourself and do what is good for you. Do not bottle it up.

Keep moving

I am looking forward to continuing my journey towards a happier self. That is what it is, a journey. I feel I was stationary for quite a while and I am now moving again. And speaking of moving, it is time to put my trainers out and head out for an outdoor gym session with the other spud this morning. It is raining but that’s fine too.

I hope you all have a good week. Please feel free to get in contact if anything here has bothered you, or if you feel that it has been good to read about my experiences. This journey is not a book with precise directions on how to get better, we can all learn from each other!

-Rosita

The road to recovery part 2

Helen’s journey

As we said on Saturday it is time for Helen to give her road to recovery.

My journey

As I have said in a previous blog I suffer from something called Functional Movement Disorder and Dissociation Behaviour. There is a lot of information in that blog about signs and symptoms. Today I want to take you through what it is like to have counselling.

What is a counsellor?

Counsellors are the people who will help you navigate the traumas of life and the curve balls which are thrown at us.  As we have said both Rosie and I have had counselling over the years, and we have different lengths of time in using it as well.  Rosie has had both private and NHS based practice whereas mine was private. My counselling was every week for around two years before I discharged myself.  Counselling has given me the information I needed, my trusty pack of cards and I have been helped through some tricky life turns.  My counselling ended several years ago. In the future if I need it I would go back.

I was scared!

An experience of work place bullying and a loss of identity lead me to counselling. Turning up up to a clinic I hovered outside for a few minutes waiting for my feet (and confidence) to walk me through that door.  My feet eventually took me in, and I went over to the reception desk where I said something along the lines of “I have seen on your website you have counselling facilities, I have no idea what kind I need but I think I need to speak to someone”.  The reception asked if she thought it was a general talking therapy of something called cognitive behavioural therapy.  I said it was probably more a talking therapy as I no idea what the other one was.  I said talking would be a good place to start and if I needed the other one then I was sure that would become apparent.  The receptionist recommended a particular person and an appointment was set up for the following week. 

The counselling room

The following week I turned up in that waiting room and waited for my allocated time.  My counsellor appeared and I was taken upstairs to a room at the back of the building.  The room was red with a big floor to ceiling window and a net curtain.  Through the window I could watch the planes going into London Heathrow too.  Also, in the room there were two armchairs along with a desk and a desk chair.  I decided to sit in one of the armchairs as it looked comfortable.  Next to the armchair was a smaller table with a box of tissues on it.  

A room of safety

This was to become the room of safety, whatever was said in this room was not going to be judged.  I could say whatever I wanted and all that was going to happen was listening from my counsellor and talking by me.  One particular session I sat in my outdoor jacket and winter hat, I can’t remember the ins and outs of why but the counsellor didn’t even bat an eyelid. I was safe so we continued. As I have said it was a safe room at the time, I needed it.  

What did my counsellor do?

My counsellor listened to whatever was troubling me on that day, helped me navigate my troubles back into a reasonable thought and sometimes offered a solution to the problem.  They made me do the work, they didn’t turn around and say this is what you should do, and this is what I think is right. I liked that approach and it worked for me.  

Over the two years

As I have said I was there for about two years and we navigated a lot of different topics from work to family to travelling to love to relationships to Rosie (I had met Rosie a year in) to what other people think to exercise to LGBT issues to what makes me feel good and so on.  I am not going to go into the ins and outs of what was said as that is a very private matter.

My family

Do not let anyone push you into telling you what has been discussed within a counselling meeting.  If you are happy to tell them then do so but do not feel obligated and pressured to do so.  Also, remember that you may not want to tell someone (counsellor, friend or family member) on a Tuesday but may be willing to tell them three weeks the following Tuesday.  The time needs to be right for you.  I am a thinker so I will get to the subject but there may be a gap before I do so.  Many of my friends have referred to me as a closed book or a cryptic clue person.  They are probably the one thinking back now going “oh yes” and now have a good laugh about it. 

Today

Today I have my wife to listen to my rants, issues, personal feelings and so on. I also have my family and friends who I turn to. I learnt through counselling that asking for help is ok. No one is going to judge me for doing that. Depending on the situation I willing tell you the ins and outs of something. However, if I don’t feel like it I will say so and that is fine too.

It needs to be right!

Counselling may be recommended to you to help you. Here is my advice: don’t be ashamed or afraid to take it. Obviously different counsellors have different ways and methods of counselling and that is up to them.  The situation needs to be right for you, no one else.  Just you!

Questions

As we have said both Rosie and I have been through counselling. If you have any questions just send us an email or Facebook chat. We are more than happy to help you out.

-Helen

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