Remember last October when I was feeling completely wiped by fatigue and low? I bucked up enough at the time to get myself to my GP and ask for help, he referred me to some counselling sessions, and six months later, I’m having them.
There have been ups and downs since but the fundamental low thoughts remain the same. I had a course of counselling sessions in 2015 when I had a huge amount of change to process – using a wheelchair, moving jobs, leaving London, moving to my parents, ending a relationship. In hindsight I don’t know how I did it, and I think the counselling was mainly damage limitation at the time. But I remember useful snippets of it.
Now, three years on, I’m more settled, have grown more used to being disabled, so feel more able to isolate negative thoughts. I had the first of eight sessions of counselling with a nice woman, surely very experienced. I think one important merit of a professional external counsellor is just being able to vent. Reveal your most ugly thoughts without having to worry about the impact you’ll be having on the listener. I spend a lot of energy trying to limit the worry and hurt caused by my condition on family and friends. No need with my counsellor.
So I started, I got upset, I got mad about the unfairness of it, and I unexpectedly got carried into anger about people needing counselling for anxiety (I have several friends who’ve been in this situation). I know everything’s relative. I know children in Damascus have it worse right now. But it’s easier to compare myself to peers around me than strangers on the news.
So out came the verbal vomit of how I struggle to feel sympathy for anxious people with good lives. How I say all the right things but deep down I know I don’t mean them (and then feel guilty). How I’d love their problems. And my counsellor then started explaining how limiting anxiety can be. I didn’t need her to justify her job, nor am I completely lacking in self awareness to my insensitivity… for one hour couldn’t she be on my side?!
In session two I went in calmer, I’d given myelf a stern talking to beforehand. Counselling is only one person sitting with you listening and trying to help. Expecting someone else to have magic answers is a mistake I’ve seen others make; of course it fails. I think you’ve got to go in trying to find ways to help yourself, nothing can happen if you’re passive – even a lottery winner buys a ticket. When I didn’t like her answers, or got angry, or upset, I tried to think of why. She picked up common themes which I’m returning to: lack of spontaneity, frustration, a negative outlook. Nothing new to me, but interesting to see which topics spark them
I remain unconvinced, but having waited so long I know I need to try to get the most out of it, and I’ll persevere because people who love me think it’s important. But ultimately we’re all faced with an impossible conundrum: MS is unrelentingly terrible, and there’s no fix.