Counselling is still a subject many don't feel comfortable discussing, even though at some point in our lives many of us will require support for various mental health issues.
My own need for support became obvious as I was called up for the cancer battle, unaware, unprepared and enlisted into a situation I hadn't signed up for, not only did I have to fight it, but once the cancer was gone I had to process how I was going to live past it and not let it define me as a person.
Once diagnosed, you are faced with lots of information to process in a very small space of time, all while you simply aim for one outcome -to beat it. What you often don't have time to do is process how you feel, I had no time for emotion or crying because I was too focused on beating the disease I had been dealt.
As a result of this, the Friday I was told my operation was a success was followed by one of the hardest, loneliest weekends I'd ever known; it was at this point that the exhaustion and upset from the previous six weeks began to burst out of every cupboard in my head I'd shut it away into. The two days after my 'all clear' left me shocked and inconsolable as the reality of what had happened finally hit home. It should have been the happiest weekend celebrating being cancer free but instead I began to realise I was only just starting to come to terms with what had happened to me.
It was the start of December, my Birthday and Christmas were on the way and I couldnt leave the house without welling up into tears, the thought of going back to the job I loved petrified me, listening to people moan about tiny 'problems' infuriated me; how was I supposed to settle back into my old life and move on when I felt like such a different person? I could tell people around me were wondering why I wasn't jumping for joy. It was as this point I realised that if the overwhelming emotion was happening to anyone else I would tell them to go and seek some support, so finally I did.
Through Macmillan, I contacted a charity run counselling service called Positive Action on Cancer (PAC) who found me someone to talk to, the lady I worked with made me feel really comfortable and praised how I'd got to the point I was at, but reminded me that even the strongest of people need help sometimes, she could see the pressure I put in myself to get better quickly, quicker than I was emotionally able to; she was a kind natured, confidential person I could go and vent to, she helped me realise what was important, how to prioritise my own needs before others and consistently reminded me of the enormity of what I have faced when others, even the people closest to me began to forget.
I didn't go to a counsellor because I felt I had no one to talk to, I had plenty of kind family and friends all ready to listen. I went because I needed an impartial, unbiased person to help me work out how to move forward, someone who didn't want to make me tea and cuddle me (however lovely that is) I needed someone who understood the issue I was faced with and helped me deal with it; this is the difference between support from family and a counsellor; I can say things to her that I often can't say to my boyfriend or family for fear of worrying them anymore than they already are, there's something's you just can't say to the ones you love.
I still see my counsellor monthly as I continue to adjust to everyday life, I imagine I will continue to see her for a long time, at least until I finish this clinical trial. My family and friends know I still go, which also reminds them I'm still not 100%.
It is important to remember that whatever the issue, there is no longer a stigma around counselling. It does not make you unstable of put you into a taboo category; realising you need that extra crutch during and after hard times is a great thing; for me it's one thing I couldn't have got by without.