In April, I wrote a blog about my struggles with Mental Health (you can see it here ). I think it’s safe to say that this was possibly the biggest turning point for me in the past I don’t know how many years. Let me explain.
About a year ago, I started seeing a wonderful counsellor. I was obviously terrified, and a friend bribed me into booking an appointment with the promise of freshly baked cookies (gets me every time). Anyway. So I’m sat in this counsellor’s office, thinking about the fact that I have to tell a stranger everything about myself. I knew, as I sat there, that I needed to sort some things out, and that what I was experiencing wasn’t just going to go away. That’s why I needed to be there. Anxiety isn’t just a feeling, or a mood. You can’t just think happy thoughts and ‘stop worrying’. It just doesn’t work like that. Anxiety affected me in such a physical way, and, due to external circumstances, it was getting worse. Some days I’d be OK, others I would struggle to walk down the street without feeling physically sick and I’d really struggle to breathe. Panic attacks were becoming more regular too. Basically, I was just having a rubbish time really.
So – in the counsellor’s office. I expected when I went in, that she’d give me a step by step guide on how to stop having anxiety, and in no time at all anxiety would no longer take any part in my life. Turns out that is not what was going to happen. At all. Instead, I was greeted with more questions than answers, a whole load of talk about the past, oh, and a substantial amount of crying. (One thing I probably should mention at this point is that going through the process of counselling is tough. It’s so emotionally and physically exhausting – my body had so many reactions to the emotions that I was feeling, so that I felt physically drained after a bad day. Oh yes, and it gets worse before it gets better. But that is OK! I digress.)
As I got to know my Counsellor more, she became more than just that to me. That place was my safety net. Walking in there, I knew I was safe to have whatever reaction I needed to have, and I started to learn how to deal with the emotions I was experiencing before the physical reactions needed to kick in; I learnt that it was OK to feel emotions, that I didn’t have to feel the need to hide them away anymore; and most importantly, I was reminded every time I went in there of God’s love for me, and of the pain he felt every time I suffered. One instance that I will always remember is, after discussing a topic that was really painful for me, she cried. It’s strange really. I just didn’t expect it, but in her tears, I suddenly realised that what I was going through actually was really hard, that there was a reason to cry about it, and that it was OK for me to cry about it too. Man, what a release. So, we worked hard, discussing tactics on how to get through the bad days, and how to rationalise what was happening. And it did get better.
I decided that anxiety wasn’t going to define me, and that it wasn’t going to stop me either, so I wrote my blog. I know it’s not ground-breaking, but it was for me. The blog enabled me to find the words that I’d been looking for, for such a long time, and it helped me to start the conversations with my family about what was happening to me. It also let me use my pain to help other people, which really did feel worthwhile. It was a turning point for me, and it made me realise that things were on the up!
Cut to 5 months later. On Tuesday 4th October, I had my last counselling session. I can’t quite believe it’s actually happened, and I’m so sad that, if all goes to plan, I won’t see my counsellor again. BUT, all that hard work, all the tears, and the hurt, and the exhaustion, it’s paid off. I’m not rid of anxiety, but now I have a fool proof (ish) plan of how to be OK. I’ve also learnt that being OK is just what I need to be. I don’t have to be great all the time, sometimes I can have a bad day, other times I can just be OK. But, do you know what, I’m so happy to be OK. OK suits me. So, I’ve written myself a strategy book. It’s called Emma’s Book of Doing OK and it’s got a list of things to think about if life doesn’t quite go to plan. It’s got bible verses, worship song lyrics, and the all-important blog. It’s a year’s worth of hard work squished into one little notebook, and it is fabulous. It’s my link to my counsellor, and my link to my rational self (who doesn’t always show up at the right moments).
I realise at this point that I’ve rambled on for ages about me, and barely spoken about God. Wow. There are a lot of lyrics in my book about chains being broken. It’s God who has broken those chains of anxiety. I give all the credit to God for giving me the strength and the courage to work through this. It’s God who is continuously giving me perseverance to remember those strategies, and work through something that could bring my life to a halt. Without God at my side through this, I may as well have not bothered. Thanks to the love and strength of God, I’ve become more confident in who I am. I stand up straight (you know, who actually cares if I’m tall?), I don’t doubt my abilities, whether that’s intellectually or emotionally, and I’m starting to be comfortable in my own skin. ‘I’m no longer a slave to fear’ – the fear of going out of the house is still going to pop up every once in a while. I’m still going to have those days, but I know that actually, at the end of it, I’m going to be OK.
‘I’m no longer a slave to fear – I am a child of God’.
Time to wrap up, I think. To you, the reader of Blog 2.0 – thank you. Thank you that you’re taking the time to read this. Thank you for whatever support you’ve given me (even if you don’t realise it). I’m so excited for what’s ahead, and feeling slightly less terrified about the bumpy road. I know it’s still going to be tough, but I feel more prepared now anyway!
Pray for me?
EDITOR'S NOTE: "I'm no longer a slave to fear - I am a child of God" is part of an incredible song written by Bethel Music. If you've not come across it, have a listen. If you have, listen again.
Blog by Emma Allison a second year music student, passionate about sharing the love of Jesus, and excited to play as much music as possible for the glory of God.