Mid -August. Driving. I pulled my car to the side of the road, opened the door and threw up. I was completely overwhelmed at the thought of seeing my counsellor.
I had allowed plenty of time to arrive there early. I didn’t want her disapproving of me, and now the delay was going to make me late. I slammed the door shut, wiped my face and drove as fast as the law allowed to her door, resisting the temptation to run the other way.
I was a nervous wreck. I had lain awake the night before, worrying about the session, dreading it. And now I was being sick out of fear.
My counsellor was a lovely lady. Expensive, given that I’d barely been able to work for months. But lovely. And I’d found her through the BACP. Yet each week I dreaded my time with her just a little more than the week before.
I had been groomed by a seemingly charming, respectable man with an apparently good – no, terrific – set of values. He had so much in common with me that he felt like a mirror of my good bits. And I felt I could learn from him, lean on him.
I had inadvertently named him publicly, on Facebook, without knowing what he had done. My world had come crashing down around me as his other targets and previous victims came ‘out of the woodwork’ to greet me. He was a million miles from the loving, faithful, principled man – the good man – that I had believed him to be.
The act of naming him had allowed him to claim I was harassing him. Soon my groomer was claiming to have become my victim, and I had inadvertently become, in the eyes of the law, a harasser. (Fortunately this was limited and the police took no further action. In all honesty, from what I can gather he’s used this time and again. But I didn’t know that at the time.) My life quickly sank into a world where things were upside down. With other personal pressures added to the pot, my sanity, patience and finances were stretched to the limit.
Police. Court cases. Revelations. All were taking a heavy toll on this single mother of two with an existing health problem, things happening in the family that I don’t particularly want to discuss here, and a cancer scare (later to prove a false alarm) which came with some painful tests.
I needed some help to manage my way through it.
My chosen counsellor was a psychotherapist. She wanted to help me understand why bad things kept happening to me. Suddenly, on top of the traumas I was already facing, I was now also trying to explore past bad relationships, bringing them to the surface. I felt worthless and blamed. Was this somehow my fault? I felt chaotic (my life was in chaos) by comparison to her bleached, calm, organised and punctual life.
I had not understood that counselling comes in many forms. Sure, I knew there were different types, but I had no idea of the impact that choice could have.
I couldn’t carry on. After that session I found the courage to call the counselling to a halt. I howled all the way home, feeling that if a counsellor couldn’t understand how I needed some support, no-one else was going to.
A friend then suggested, I met Caroline, a life coach she’d seen. I wasn’t especially hopeful, but life changed radically. Caroline has a psychology background, didn’t push me, recognised my trauma and introduced me to a technique called havening. She treated me with respect and tried to find a way forward, to help me make sense of the rabbit hole I’d inadvertently fallen into.
I later discovered that havening is a technique often used with PTSD sufferers – something I was yet to be diagnosed with. I left the life coach, Caroline, far more hopeful, forward looking and a lot less self-blaming.
In just one session I had a set of tools to help me navigate the minefield I currently inhabit.
Picking a therapist or counsellor is a big thing, and I’ve now been lucky, through my doctor, to find a brilliant therapist who I trust and like. She has me on a path to recovering from the PTSD and ‘low mood’ I’ve inevitably been left with.
Help IS at hand!
Firstly, I found a great article here to help unravel some of the choices: How to choose a therapist, a step by step guide
There are some places to begin the search here: Sources of mental health support
And…ta dah…drum roll please… we have an amazing Counselling Psychologist, Wendy Gregory, who is not only highly qualified, but has direct experience of grooming joining us at CAAGe. Keep an eye out for more in the next week or so, but in the meantime you can see her brand new YouTube channel, The Wendy House, here: The Wendy House. You heard it here first!