My Journey to becoming a counsellor
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.— Carl Jung.
As I sit down, not only to write this blog, but to begin the long journey towards qualifying as a certified counsellor, I can’t help but consider the things that have brought me here today.
Of course there is the bigger picture: the fact that mental health is one of the biggest issues facing our society at this time. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the last week alone would have experienced some form of mental health problem. There is the fact that depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide, or that in 2018 a staggering 93% of young adults polled reported having felt “overwhelmed or unable to cope within the past year”, or that suicide continues to be the most common cause of death for young men in both England and Wales.1
These are just some of the statistics that go to show how issues relating to mental health are some of the biggest facing our generation today. I could go on. It only takes a short search to see the far reaching ramifications of the mental health crisis and its effects upon us all.
But it is not only the negatives that attract me to this course of action. Not only is it a time of great struggle, but one of great hope. Whilst a large amount of the stigma around discussing mental health still remains, we are beginning to fight back against this. We now see issues surrounding topics such as suicide, anxiety, body image and depression entering into public discourse.
Those that suffer, do not always do so in silence.
I have seen individuals struggling with thoughts of suicide feeling safe enough to share their stories through social media. Whilst it is still horrible they are having to go through such struggles, it is hugely comforting to know that we are moving towards a culture in which they feel free to speak out, and their strength is something I can’t help but look up to.
As prevalent as issues surrounding poor mental health are, I can’t help but feel optimistic in regards to the direction things are going. Even if at times it seems like we’re swimming in shit, the tides are definitely changing. It’s like somebody keeps punching you in the face. It hurts. It fucking hurts. But if you look carefully enough, between the fists smashing repeatedly into your battered nostrils, you can just about make it out. You’re not alone. You’re not the only one, it’s the same for us all. And whilst it sucks that we’re all still getting punched in the face, you feel a bit better knowing you’re not the only one.
What a beautiful future it is. One where we are all being punched together. Unity in pain.
Silliness aside, I am serious. Despite society’s imperfections, I sincerely believe we’re going in the right direction. I work on a busy sales floor. The kind of place where competition and targets are king. In times gone by, any talk of feelings would be unheard of in such a place. But during my time at work I have discussed topics regarding mental health and well-being with numerous colleagues. Whilst a stigma remains, it is slipping. Communication is winning, and with it, we are better equipped to fight against issues revolving around poor mental health.
So yes, I find myself not only drawn towards this course of action by the growing necessity for change, but the shift in gears towards it. We are simultaneously living through a mental health crisis and revolution… And I simply have to play my part.
A bit about me.
My life has struggled somewhat in terms of direction. If I had to describe it in a single word, aimless comes to mind. At university I took English. Why? I likes it. Not for any specific purpose in regards to career, I simply enjoyed it. After uni I briefly considered doing a PhD, that didn’t last. I got a job at a school and before I knew it, I was training to become a teacher. Why? Why not!
For the most part, I did love teaching. One thing is certain, young people are fucking awesome! They’re hilarious, full of energy and always guaranteed to make you think, “What the fuck?” at least once a day.
The issue came with the school system itself. I find it interesting that the place we send our children for most of their time growing up, is a breeding ground for stress and anxiety. I saw pupils and teachers alike all struggling. The workloads drilling into the psyches of the teachers, which then filtered down into their classes. If I learnt one thing it’s this… Schools are toxic, and I had to get out.
After I left teaching I felt like I’d lost myself. I left my fiancée and my mental health suffered. My head was racked with migraines from the stress and anxiety. It took months of soul searching and even some counselling for me to feel anywhere close to myself. After a while I began to feel “well” again. I was able to live my life without thinking I might pass out, or die at any minute from whatever tumour I’d decided had taken root in my brain.
It is at this point I took some time to just be me. This consisted of:
- Getting punched.
- Jumping over some fire. (For reasons…)
- And running further than anybody should really run…
Throughout this time I began to feel so much better. I wasn’t stressing over things and began to love what I was doing. The issue came with work. I love my hobbies and my life, but work just seems so empty. I tried to join the Navy but failed the medical due to my anxiety and ended up working in call centres. Whilst I am making money, it just seems so meaningless.
So this is where I am today. This is what has led to Be Better and my decision to train as a counsellor. In wondering where I want to take my life, I realised something. The last few years have been built around finding myself and learning to live my best possible life. From running ultras, to stepping into the boxing ring, I have focussed on pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and always reaching for new heights.
I am one of the fortunate ones. After slipping to my lowest point, I have come out the other side stronger than ever before. It is for this reason I want to work towards helping others make the most of their lives. Each day I push myself to be better. Whether that means running further, breaking new ground, or simply realising the pain I sometimes feel is a normal part of everyday life, and use this to take ownership of my struggles without ever allowing them to define me.
This has taken the help of my friends, family and an incredible support network that surrounds me. Not everybody has this, and sometimes those that do, aren’t able to realise it. By stepping into the world of counselling I hope to help others to navigate the paths that lay before them. I can’t ever offer all the answers. But hopefully, I can point others in the direction of the questions that matter.
This blog is my contract.
In writing this blog, I hope to take ownership of my future. In sharing my goals I hope to maintain the necessary accountability in seeing them through to fruition. I shall be posting updates on my training, and journey to certification. The ups and inevitable downs.
I also hope to share my own advice alongside discussing various topics in relation to mental health and well-being. Am I an expert? Fuck no!
But is anyone truly an expert in living well? Who knows.
We’re just a group of fools taking punches to the face, and maybe, just maybe…
When we share our experiences, we can all pull through this together.
For anyone struggling, who feels they may need some extra support, stay strong, here are some numbers you may wish to try:
Anxiety UK – 03444 775 774
Calm (For men aged 15-35) – 0800 58 58 58
Mind – 0300 123 3393
Samaritans – 116 123
Rethink Mental Illness – 0300 5000 927
1 https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-suicide (Accessed 16th August 2019)