If you’ve been following my journey through this blog, you will know that I am currently training to be a counsellor on a masters course. I don’t have long left now, 4 weeks to be exact (NO, DON’T MAKE ADULT YET!) and the whole experience has been amazing. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that, I have learnt so much about myself. I am so much more self-aware and have been able to become more accepting who I am.
I remember when I was first presented with the rather personal interview questions for the counselling course via email where I was invited to share my own experiences with mental health. Nobody was forcing me to be completely honest and open but this has been a huge, if not the sole reason, for me wanting to pursue this career. I remember feeling completely torn about what to answer. Aren’t counsellors supposed to be these fully functioning, cured individuals? If I was honest about my own struggles, would I be branded as mad and my application cast aside?
In the end, I was honest in my answers. I opened up and explained why my own struggles had led to me choosing this career path and lo and behold, I wasn’t branded mad. My application wasn’t cast aside and here I am, so close to finishing the academic part of my degree. The biggest revelation I have had on this training course is that I am NOT alone. Many people who go into a job in the mental health sector have had their own struggles in life. I have had the amazing opportunity to talk with other like-minded people who understand where I’m coming from. It’s the most honest I’ve ever been in my life and I feel like that has transferred over into my life away from the course too.
The best way I can describe it is that it feels like I have found other members of my team. I didn’t know they existed or at least, where to find them. People are so closed about their mental health. It’s not something that we talk about in day to day life. This makes it so incredibly hard to find the other members, those that have been struggling too; maybe for similar reasons or maybe for completely different reasons. They ARE out there but until you meet them for yourself, it’s so hard to believe that they are.
Meeting other members of the team hasn’t just been limited to my course either. For instance, through this blog I have received various comments and messages from you lovely people who identify with what I’ve been writing. Hearing from other real life people who totally get it has been such an amazing and unifying experience. As well as this, I’ve also been watching various documentaries that I may have shied away from before. I’ve watched stand-up comedians using their own experiences to reach out to others. I’ve read people’s autobiographies that have felt like they’ve taken the words right out of my mouth. I’ve listened to podcasts where I’m always astounded at how many members of this team are out there. (On a side-note I’m thinking about writing future blog posts on these podcasts because they really are so powerful!)
I have found this community of people that I never knew how to connect with before. And by doing that, I have felt less isolated and more, well, normal! We always think that when we look at others they have it so much better than us. You know the ones. Those who seemingly have everything and more. But do we really know what’s going on under the surface? I will always be so touched and overwhelmed when someone opens up and says: “me too” when I least expect it. As Telegraph journalist and ‘Mad Girl’ author Bryony Gordon says: those of us who have mental health difficulties make up a ‘We’. Our ‘We’ exists even if we don’t know who they are yet. Those members are out there. You are NOT alone.
We are in this together.
P.S. Bryony has actually set up a group called Mental Health Mates to give us the opportunity to meet the other members of that ‘We’ through walking and talking! If you think this is something you’d like to learn more about or even get involved with you can find the website here.