Tag Archives: counselling

Resilience begins with owning your vulnerability – we’re all only human after all! How I got to near breaking point.

penny robertsThis is a client’s story of courage and recovery.

I always thought and was told that I was a good planner, super organised and focused. My nickname at uni was Miss Organisation and I’ve built a career in Operations a perfect fit right..?

Last year I went through a massive personal upheaval that resulted in me losing perspective and left me wondering what the hell was I doing with my life and whether I’d got it all wrong.

This period of feeling out of control and lost started in March. A stolen purse – six years living in London and the laws of averages meant it was bound to happen to me – there’s a first time for everything… right?

Then after this came the night I left another purse and all my newly replaced cards in an Uber… never to be found. Then it was a stolen rucksack and more personal and work possessions in someone else’s hands a month later. And finally leaving another purse on a train – which even the cleaners couldn’t find!

The icing on the cake was a lost train ticket, when I had no cash and cards – I was still waiting to get new cards after I lost my purse the last time – and nearly being stranded in the city.

Until this point I had NEVER lost anything in my 29 years on this planet. The universe was seriously telling me something – stop, slow down, relax!

The irony is I’d actually been doing that albeit not consciously. At times I had felt like I was nearly paralysed by the massive upheaval that had occurred in my life but I was still acting and carrying on as normal. I was out of tune with my mental wellbeing – I needed to get back in tune!

The truth

So here’s the brutal honesty that with time, my friends, family and my therapist helped me come to terms with. I was numb / out of touch with my emotions. I was grieving for a broken marriage and selling my home – losing the life I’d spent my adult years building. I was feeling totally ashamed of how things have turned out for me at the grand old age of 29 and hiding how I truly felt.

This was not how I thought my life would turn out – but had you asked me what I thought my life would be like I couldn’t have articulated it to you. I knew I wasn’t the first person to go through this – and I sure as hell knew I wasn’t going to be the last but honestly that didn’t help me at the time.

Where to begin…

It’s tough – bloody tough admitting when you’ve not got your shit together. I felt like I was losing face by admitting I had depression – I was ashamed. If I could have hibernated at this point I would have!

What I very gradually realised over time though was that the more I talked about my depression the more I normalised it for me. I felt like I was building my own understanding of what I was going through – the tears lessened as I gained courage.

My work, friends, family and therapist were all supportive. I’ve consciously chosen to write my support network in this order – from personally who I thought would be hardest to talk to, to easiest to talk to- as I am shocked by how even conversations I thought would be tough weren’t as bad as I envisaged.

If you don’t own your vulnerability in all sectors of your life then you won’t build your resilience and support network. I was, and am, blessed with an amazing support network. Having just started a new job when this all “went down” it could have resulted in a sudden ending but it didn’t! They listened, were accommodating and genuinely cared.

Stability with my work routine was important for me and gave me a weekly focus. My friends showed me bucket loads of compassion and were there for me even when I didn’t know how to articulate how I felt. My family were beyond amazing – they helped me focus on the joy of the now (beach trips and time with my nephews spring to mind in particular) as well as planning for fun times ahead.

I’m writing this post from Chile – a dream two week adventure by myself that during dark times I thought I might not have the courage to do. What a difference a year makes!

Small steps lead to big rewards. Honesty and open communications breeds positive changes and inspiration from sometimes the strangest of places and experiences!

2017 is my year of fun! A year for me to own to positively take steps to create the life I deserve. 2016 helped me understand the challenges and heartbreak that life can throw at you from time to time. The lessons from 2016 have helped me become more resillient they’ve made me stronger and aware of how important it is to look after my mental health just as much as I look after my physical health.

I truly believe that to experience life’s true highs sometimes you need to experience it’s lows. And to really get the learnings and build resilience from such experiences you need to own them and get used to being vulnerable – it’s tough but it can be done!

The afterword

Writing and reflecting on my experience of depression briefly makes it seem a hell of a lot calmer than the turbulent time I went through. For me a combination of medical and therapeutic support has worked. Everyone is different and experiences are personal. The commonality in finding a path out is human connection – everything starts by talking and being vulnerable….

“A Must for any Parent”

The “Parents and Teens” talk, by parenting expert and agony aunt Suzie Hayman, followed by Q and A, at St John’s School, Marlborough on 22nd October 2016, was a must for any parent with children about to embark on their teenage years, or indeed any parent already in the midst of this often challenging and turbulent time. I only wish I had heard these words of wisdom long ago, both from Suzie herself, and also the teenagers contributing to the discussion.

Suzie has many years of experience counselling families and couples, and is also an agony aunt, broadcaster and author of 30 books on families, but most noticeably Parenting Teens 22 Oct 2016her own experience as a stepmother. She is a warm and wise soul, who brought clarity and calm to this topic without denying the challenges involved.

Suzie starts from the core view that the teenager’s main task is to separate from his/her birth family, while our job as parents is to manage these shifting boundaries while passing control over to the teen. And no, she does not say this is easy. Her approach is practical and pragmatic, and she makes you feel you too could manage this. She gives helpful hints for how to relate to your child in a way that enhances communication,  and on how you might approach such thorny subjects as alcohol use and pornography. She entreats us to remember that a problem might actually be our own, rather than theirs, such as our own expectations or dreams being acted out. She never pretends to have all the answers but offers a framework to work from.

The ensuing discussion brought enlightening tips from the teens present, whose overriding message was “please, just listen to us”, since we might not have any idea what our child is experiencing, as well as “be available”, in other words sometimes we need to wait until they are ready to talk rather than rushing in with our own agenda.  The wide-ranging questions and discussions from the audience could easily have gone on past the allotted time.

This well-organised seminar in congenial surroundings will, I hope, be the first of many such events. Highly recommended!

By: Anne Hutson (parent)
7th November 2016

 

img_2481

 

 

 

Working with Depression, led by Gill Bannister – 26th September 2015

On a clear, sunny autumnal Saturday last week, I was treated to a full day’s seminar on depression… the conflict of light and dark didn’t pass by un-noticed and in fact resulted in a feeling of optimism and lightness – a surprise considering the darkness and negativity of the topic.    Gill Bannister delivered her seminar with feeling and containment – two very important aspects of a therapist’s role when working with clients with depression.

Gill’s 30 years experience as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist working with depression in clients was delivered in a style in keeping with her classic training, enabling us to have time and space to think, to sit with ourselves and our difficult thoughts and feelings, allowing a process to occur.   Gill believes that depression is a result of a client experiencing loss.   The depressed client suffers from a lack of self esteem, often projecting a super-ego which is rejecting, despising and attacking.

The experiential element of the seminar was invaluable, thinking and sharing thoughts, Gill challenged us to confront our own assumptions, experiences and prejudices around depression.  A word which is now loaded with a vast array of interpretation and stigma.    We were guided through the day with exercises and discussion which enabled us to experience the core essence of working with depression in the therapeutic room – trying to get in touch with our client’s inner world.  By experiencing a 30 minute solo role play, I felt more connected and understanding of my client’s depression than I had done before and will be processing and using these insights future sessions with this particular client.

An enlightenment of depression…. most valuable.

See our future seminars at our website www.wendybramham.co.uk (seminars tab)

by: Jo Turner

29 September 2015

This seminar was assessed by attendees as 4.69 out of 5 for the overall quality of the event. The speaker was rated 4.75. Thank you to all who attended this and previous seminars, we appreciate your participation and your feedback.

Is Therapy Selfish? More perspectives on ‘healthy selfishness’

“When someone is in therapy it can seem like self-absorption to those around them, but this is a necessary and temporary state. Regular, well-boundaried therapy ideally leads to people developing clearer awareness of themselves and how they relate to others. The dynamics may change within their relationships. They may take a more equal footing in relationships that have previously diminished their self-value, or realise that there are areas in the relationship that they could give more to. The goal of therapy either way, is increased contentment for all parties, both the client and those around them – which is an act of love as well as self-love.”
Cassandra Human, psychotherapist
“On a visit to Laos recently I saw how the many statues of Buddha depict ‘The Enlightened One’ looking down. Locals told me this symbolises His focus on looking within himself to find enlightenment. Rather than this being a selfish act He believed that, in order to bring about change, we need to search within ourselves for answers. How tempting and easy it is for us to want others to change in order for us to be happy, or to look to others to carry the blame or take responsibility; and how brave it can feel to focus instead on taking responsibility for ourselves and our own decisions, life and happiness. Therapy provides a safe forum for our inner search and our exploration of the changes this can bring.”

Rachel Cooper, psychotherapist

Is Therapy Selfish? – day five: Healthy selfishness – good for us and those we care about

This week we have been tackling the question of whether, by encouraging us to focus on ourselves, therapy can make us selfish. we have suggested that in fact therapy promotes a ‘healthy selfishness’ which enables us to take better care of ourselves and helps us to form more satisfying relationships. We have also argued that this is better not only for the individual, but for all those we relate to.

We cannot take responsibility for our own happiness if we habitually or compulsively put others before ourselves. The concept of ‘healthy selfishness’ gives us permission to care for and nurture ourselves, which is particularly important if we have learnt to get love and affirmation by pleasing others. Indeed it is often those of us who protest most that therapy might be selfish, who have the greatest need of it!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our week of blogs about selfishness. Visit us again tomorrow for comments on the subject from our team of psychotherapy practitioners.

Author: Wendy Bramham
Editor: Briony Martin

April 2015

Is Therapy Selfish? – Day four: What happens when someone isn’t healthily selfish enough?

Jane* had been married for 18 years, and came to therapy with marital difficulties. She had always tried to please her husband, but recently he had become frustrated and withdrawn. The more she tried, the more selfish Jane felt he became. Jane had become silently resentful of her husband and had also developed stomach pains and indigestion. When her therapist gently commented that there didn’t seem to be “enough of her” in her life, she felt criticised and rejected. She enjoyed looking after others, she said. Surely this was a good thing? Gradually, in therapy, Jane realised that her role as a ‘pleaser’ gave her an identity, but made her self-worth dependent on another’s appreciation. Behind the role of helper she didn’t know who she was; she had become an empty shell.

Change came as Jane began to acknowledge her own feelings, needs and desires, and to believe she could exist in her own right. She started to take charge of her life, taking pressure off her husband and their marriage. The tension that was causing her indigestion also eased, because her unspoken, repressed resentment had been faced, understood and let go. Jane moved from unhealthy selflessness, to healthy selfishness.

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up our series looking at whether therapy can make us selfish. Let us know what you think by leaving a reply (above) or tweeting @WendyBramham

Author: Wendy Bramham

Editor: Briony Martin

April 2015

* “Jane” is a fictional conglomerate of many clients

Day three: What is ‘good-enough’ parenting?

Donald Winnicott, the famous paediatrician and psychoanalyst, coined the term ‘good-enough mother’ in 1953, and his thinking went on to become pivotal in understanding child development. If we are lucky as infants we will have had good-enough parenting; our primary care-giver will have responded to our needs and feelings, reassuring and comforting us in a fairly predictable and timely manner, and empathising with or tuning-in to our emotions. If this ‘good-enough’ parenting is available to us during our early years, we stand a chance of developing the ability to manage and care for ourselves through life’s inevitable ups and downs.

If good-enough parenting is not available, or we experience a great deal of loss or trauma, we don’t learn healthy selfishness and consequently get used to putting on a mask for the world, and living to please others. Therapy can be crucial in addressing this imbalance, helping clients learn to be their own ‘good-enough’ parent and to properly honour and care for themselves. In her book, Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh*, writes about the peace she found through rediscovering herself during a quiet island holiday, away from her busy life as mother to five children: “When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. …Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others.”

Perhaps it is only when we can consider ourselves as important that we can find peace and fulfillment? But why does it matter? Tomorrow we look at the impact of healthy selfishness on our relationships.

Author: Wendy Bramham

Editor: Briony Martin
April 2015

* Lindbergh AM, Gift from the Sea, 1955, Chatto & Windus