Movember: A personal story from one of our trustees
I’ve been drunk in hypnotherapy; belched on in a reiki session (practitioner apparently expelling my abundant negative energy); nearly fainted doing the Alexander Technique; found healing in trauma reduction; and recently had life-changing epiphanies with an existentialist therapist.
Probably sounds like I’ve had a lifetime trotting round various therapeutic modalities and methods. But not really; apart from the hypnotherapy one, the others have all come in the last decade. Before then I was tediously cynical and resistant: therapy was merely the vogue thing to do to be like your favourite US sit-com or drama star.
Desperation got me involved and over time I moved through the gears of tolerance and acceptance to eventually embrace the benefits. I think what that actually means to me is that I finally valued and prioritised my mental health. At the heart of this understanding was redefining what strength meant to me. I had to replace ideas of grit, fight and determination for acceptance and asking for help. I thought I could do this life my way and alone – I was wrong.
I’m a bit of a bore on it these days and will talk to anyone on the subject. I’m pretty sure Uber have me tagged with a warning to drivers. That said, it still astonishes me what can be discovered by just chatting. Over this last fortnight, I’ve had trips with an Afghani driver who opened up about his trauma; a Yorkshire bloke who told me of his days on the street; and a wonderful young Ghanian man who was also a key worker at a mental health institute. This last man listened politely, made intelligent enquiries and reflective observations. The conversation was more interesting than the movie I was off to see. I asked him if he’d ever thought of training to be a counsellor (he hadn’t) and I told him why I asked. I swear that I saw him light up and begin thinking about the possibilities. I’ll probably never see him again, but I believe something happened on that journey.
Mental health workers come in all forms. When I think of the tough and often harrowing shifts the team of support workers at a complex needs centre for homeless men in Westminster put in, it marvels me. Just being there for a day exhausted me. I think of the nurse, a giant-of-a-man, in my rehab, who’s compassion shone when I quietly told him my sheets needed changing. I think of the community connector hosting reading sessions with the disenfranchised of Haringey and watching them come alive. And I think of the therapist who reached into a hidden part of me earlier this year when I was in deep emotional turmoil.
The UK’s mental health industry is rich and varied, full of unsung heroes – and an industry that is growing. Saying that confuses me: makes me sad that it’s needed but hopeful that the issues are being recognised and help is there. Though there needs to be more.
Traditionally, I’m a lover of the festive season but I approach this one nervously. Last year, a close family member declared her suicidal thoughts to me just two days before Christmas Day. She’d hidden it fairly well but gentle enquiry opened her up. After spending two and a half hours on phone with a local Crisis team on Christmas Eve, she thankfully turned the corner. She’s not quite embracing the world of counselling and support yet but she’s at the acceptance phase. I’ll take that.
Would messages from the newly launched Baton of Hope, the biggest ever suicide-awareness campaign ever staged in the UK, have reached her ears? I think they might have, yes. I certainly hope their message gets through to more people.
For me, I’m taking care of myself as the nights darken and the adverts get more insistent – that said, I’ve nearly done all my present shopping and filled my diary with nice things to look forward to!
Lastly, for anyone struggling with their mental health my advice is to talk. Start with anyone. Your cat, neighbour, friend, family or a professional. Whoever it is, it’s a start and from such beginnings healing can come. As Baton of Hope say: “It’s time to talk.”
Author: Seán Robinson (TCF Trustee)
We provide a BACP accredited counselling service, however if you are in crisis, please call the Samaritans who are available 24/7 on 116 123 or call 111.