Monday, 30 September 2013

Confronting the Fears and Speculations of Counselling

With Mental Health Awareness Day just around the corner (10th October) I thought now the appropriate time to write about what some may consider a taboo subject – counselling.

I completely understand the awkwardness surrounding the topic. Counselling is an extremely intimate, personal experience that not many people would be happy to openly discuss, especially on the internet. I, however, am not afraid to delve deep into the mystery and stigma associated with an unquestionably beneficial service.

In an attempt to loosen the grip on those ropes of tension by which counselling is grasped by you lot, I wish to speak to you about my own bout of therapy. As many of you may already know, and as I have already shared with you in previous posts, I have experienced my fair share of trauma these past few years. Although I am proud to say I faced a large amount on my own and pushed through, I would’ve fallen more than a few feet short had I not made the decision to speak to the school counsellor. I will never forget that day because it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I was the definition of an absolute wreck and I felt less than worthless. Going into her pokey room that afternoon with nowhere to hide, I firmly believed no amount of professional help could save me – I was already dead inside.

I spent over nine months battling through each little war I faced into. During that time I was asked to leave the school, which I undoubtedly refused to do. I was appalled that an institution who supposedly had a care team watching my every move could even suggest I run away from my problems. As part of an “agreement” which would allow me to remain a student in the school, I was obliged to attend counselling with an alternative counsellor outside the school walls.

By the end of the nine gruesome months I had attended sessions with three different counsellors, only one of which I actually benefitted from. Despite my unsuccessful encounters with the other two, I would not be here writing this today were it not for that one counsellor that stood by me through my darkest hours. You won’t be surprised to hear that the one counsellor I hold all the gratitude towards is the first one. The counsellor I chose to speak to without any outside influence.

From my own experience I can tell you first-hand that counselling really did save me. I had other outlets I relied on too, obviously, such as writing, music and speaking to friends, but nothing helped me more than the realisation that I needed professional interference. Counselling is useless and a complete waste of time if you don’t believe you need to be there. Anyone can be pushed into an hour a week of some stranger reminding you in polite terms how fucked up you are. The only time that is beneficial is when you agree with them from the bottom of your heart and you’re not kidding yourself. For one particular counselling service I was placed on a six week waiting list, just for one session. If you’re not committed to the help you’re receiving don’t waste your time, or theirs. There are plenty of people out there dying (quite literally) for the opportunity you are being granted and ironically taking for granted.

What I’m trying to say is that when you open up to the idea of counselling, the rewards at the end of your final session are priceless. One thing I learned from my time there was communication. I always struggled to express my feelings in the correct manner, leading to a massive build-up of frustration within me. Even a few weeks into the sessions and I could feel an improvement – both mentally and emotionally. I felt the knots inside of me begin to untangle themselves. Another lesson I learnt was how to trust in someone. I don’t mean the ‘I trust you with my secret’ kind of trust; I mean the ‘I trust you will save my life’ kind. I finally found someone I knew would remain loyal to me no matter what I told them, no matter how I spoke to them, and no matter how awfully I treated them on occasion. I realised that regardless of how problematic I was, this person would never stop believing in me. In my case, this person was a female. But having worked with both male and female counsellors I believe it’s simply down to whoever you connect with first. For me, it was a woman named Grace. A complete stranger when I initially spoke to her who became my saviour overnight.

If it was up to me, every faculty of education would provide a counselling service for students all year round. You can’t predict when someone will need help. Feelings aren’t timetabled; you can’t expect someone to avail of the services simply because they are only on offer this week and it’s either now or pay for it privately outside of school. Counsellors should be employed in every school and by this I am not referring to career guidance teachers who claim to be a “guidance counsellor” on the side. No, I mean an official counsellor whose only concern is the mental wellbeing of the students wearing that particular uniform. In my school we are currently being assigned slots in which we must decide our careers with the guidance counsellor. These slots are fifteen minutes long. If my school can only afford to designate fifteen minutes per student for the entirety of the school year to career advice, how can anyone expect a student to approach this teacher to discuss personal issues which may take longer than the assigned time to resolve?

One day when all schools have a full-time counsellor in place, I hope students are less afraid to speak out than we all seem to be right now. It’s great to see the progress being made in promoting suicide awareness, but could we not take it a step further and do something which could possibly prevent it from happening in the first place? Maybe if counselling wasn’t seen as such a shameful service more people would be brave enough to make that one decision that could save their life. Young people in particular need to stop being so scared of asking for help. I’m not alone in saying that you will not regret it. I think one of the best feelings of my whole experience was knowing that if I ever did relapse, I had a safety net there to pick me up again.

If there is anyone reading this and considering getting professional help, I would encourage you that the sooner you speak up, the better. It can be a long road to recovery but the journey you are taken on is so worthwhile. I learnt more about myself in those nine months than I ever could have in my seventeen years. I can promise that you will too. The only regret you’ll have is that it took a seventeen year old ex-counselee to persuade you to seek the happiness everyone in this world deserves, including you.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Rumour a Day Keeps the Gossipers at Bay

I have found that in the past few months there have been a few people relentlessly conjuring up rumours about me in an attempt to destroy my relationships. These people, who I have fantasized punching on more than one occasion, mean absolutely nothing to me. Therefore I should mean nothing to them, right? It appears not to be the case. Being so fixated on my life, I would imagine they spend a good 70% of their time plotting ways to attack me and make my life miserable. Though they have fantastically failed, their games are becoming quite like a vexatious kid bouncing a ball outside your window while you try to watch Grey’s Anatomy. At first, it’s cute and laughable. But after four or five bounces you just want to take the ball, stick a knife into it, and throw it into a heap of cow shit in the field next to their house.

I find rumours a little hard to get my head around. By that I mean I don’t understand where they come from, why they are created, and who could be bored enough with their own life to take such a profound interest in someone else’s. If you’re that bored, why not make up something about yourself and spread it. It could become a new trendy hobby, or something. What fascinates me the most is the depth these stories can reach. The amount of detail included is phenomenal. The location, the individuals involved, their names, their cats’ names, their shoe size, the time of day, the TV show that is usually on at that time that they should’ve been glued to but they weren’t because they were too busy having a threesome blindfolded with a horse in a swimming pool. Literally, you people that come up with rumours should be accomplished authors by now, ‘cause your imagination is fucking flawless. If you want an outlet for your thoughts about others, make a blog – it’s great for talking shit about people and getting away with it. Don’t talk shit verbally, that’s just rude.

On a more serious note I’d like to ask why exactly people take such pleasure in spreading rumours. Is it a sadistic behavioural problem? Do you need help? So you started a rumour and it circulated the town in an enlarged game of Chinese whispers – what have you personally gained from it? Recognition? No. Respect? No. Friends? Temporarily, maybe. A reputation? Yes. A good reputation? No, you’re a shit-stirrer. All that leaves you with is the knowledge that you’ve fucked with someone’s life. Does that make you happy? If yes, you have a sadistic behavioural problem and you need help.

In essence, spreading rumours is like taking drugs. Once is never enough and the pleasure is never satisfactory. So you do it again and again, and eventually it becomes second nature to you. But after a while it looks like you’ve sniffed too much powder and society notices the bullshit beginning to shoot up your nose at the same rate that it’s flying out of your mouth. People begin to wonder where you obtained all of the information you’re sharing and question how much of their own information you may have already twisted into a finger-lickin’ good story. When these people realise that what you’ve been telling them are in fact lies, where do you go from there? No credibility, no dignity, no trust, and no respect – you’re undeniably pathetic. And what do you have to show for it? A career in children’s fiction, perhaps.

 As I sit here writing this, I can feel the frustration bubbling inside me at these dynasties that enjoy tampering with peoples’ lives. Then I start to think of the other folk who keep the rumours alive. The gossipers as I like to call them. Are they partially to blame? Of course they are. They’re the oxygen that fuels the fire and keeps it burning lives. Now I’m not claiming executive powers here and suggesting I have never gossiped. I could not claim to be a woman if I hadn’t. Gossiping is healthy to a certain extent. But when you hear a rumour that you know isn’t true and you decide not to confront the people discussing it, you may as well have started it. You may not have produced this rumour, but you’ve bloody well endorsed it.

Rumours are most definitely an issue amidst our young generation. We seem to have mastered spreading stories as if it is some sort of art. Especially if you dislike the person whom it is referring to. God, I could write a whole other blog post on potential rumours about people I dislike / borderline hate. If these persons I dislike continue to aggravate me further I might just consider it. NAMES INCLUDED. I just love being cruel, it's far too much fun. (I have a sadistic behavioural problem and I am getting help).

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Lyrics That Define My Life

It has become quite apparent to me that when I am lacking the inspiration to write, I turn to music as an alternative source of expression. Then with a little encouragement, I decided I would dedicate a blog post solely to lyrics. By this I mean I’m going to share with you my all-time favourite lines from songs on my iPod, and explain to you why it is that I love them so very much. If you fear my musical interests are not to your liking, fear not – this is entirely focused on the words, not the thundering drums or screaming, hell-bent vocalists.

“Tears stream down your face, when you lose something you cannot replace” – Fix You, Coldplay

I’m sure you’re familiar with these lyrics taken from one of the most iconic songs of the’ noughties’. Pretty self-explanatory this one – if I listen to it with enough concentration on the words, they make me cry. Shocker I know, I never cry. I think I actually cry even more when I play it on guitar. I get way too into it.

“Is this what it feels like, finding out that I’ve got the guts to say anything” – Guts, All Time Low

As one of my favourite songs by this band, this line fills me with self-belief and the strength to keep doing whatever it is that I’m doing. Be it helping a friend, sharing my opinion or even writing these blogs, all it takes to get me really pumped is a listen to this song; that line in particular.

“Bid my blood to run, before I come undone, save me from the nothing I’ve become” – Bring Me to Life, Evanescence

All that comes to mind when I hear those lines is sitting in the car park in Tesco late one evening over the Christmas holidays a few years ago, hating life. It was the year I woke up Christmas morning and spent over two hours crying in bed. How depressing, right? It also reminds me of my younger cousin once ripping my sleeves open in front of my whole family so he could “check me”. How thoughtful of him. Little shit.

“You shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titanium” – Titanium, David Guetta feat. Sia

Ah, Titanium. A song that continues to plague me to this day. Not that I mind, though. Ever since I played it for a girl’s Leaving Cert music practical, it has literally haunted me. I hear it everywhere. But like I said, I don’t really mind. It reminds me of some good memories and even begins to make me regret the bad ones. And besides all the personal shizz, it’s still a tune.

“Life’s too short to even care at all” – Cough Syrup, Young the Giant

Most people, myself included, probably wouldn’t know this song if it wasn’t for Glee, which is why I have linked the Glee version, and also as that is the version on my iPod. I like to think that I live by the message of this lyric but as always, life happens and not giving a shit becomes less of an option. I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m usually forced to care because when I don’t care, I’m very much a bitch.

“When everything feels like the movies, yeah you bleed just to know you’re alive” – Iris, The Goo Goo Dolls

Has my life ever felt like a movie? Yes. Have I ever bled just to feel alive? Yes.

“I kissed a girl and I liked it” – I Kissed a Girl, Katy Perry

Catapulting Ms Perry onto the music scene, this song was released in 2008 when I was in 1st year of secondary school. I guess when I used to sprint upstairs to listen to this song every day after school we should’ve all put two and two together.

“We started out; I’d forget your name. The more you smiled at me, the more I lost my way” – Roses in the Summertime, Keywest

A girl. Small bit shorter than me. Quiet. Dark hair. Funny run. Observing her. I like her. What’s her name? Where’s she from? Nice smile. Good teeth. Does she have a boyfriend? I want her. Could she ever want a girlfriend? Could she ever want me? Hmm. Challenge accepted.

“I promise I’m always there, when your heart is full of sadness and despair” – Footprints in the Sand, Leona Lewis

Friendships are more important to me now than ever before. Especially since a few have shipped out and started college. The thought of losing them is terrifying. Which is why I felt a surge of relief and emotion come over me when my best friend played this song and told me she thought of me when she listened to it. I’m blessed, I know I am.

“And I know I may end up failing too, but I know you were just like me with someone disappointed in you” – Numb, Linkin Park

I have failed people many times in my life. More than the average person, I would imagine. People had expectations of me and I disappointed. But I’m not the first person to let someone down, nor will I be the last. Don’t set the bar so high for someone if you can’t reach it yourself first.

“A certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all, but it’s a damn good place to start” – Same Love, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert

I remember being told about this song by a friend way before it had been released. I didn’t think much of it – too political for my liking. But then it hit me just how significant that song could end up being and how much support it could garner for the cause. For same-sex marriage. Now when I hear this song it makes me feel all warm and gooey inside. I’m a small part of a massive community. And I couldn’t be any more proud.

“The truth never set me free so I did it myself” – Careful, Paramore

This line reflects and sums up my whole experience of bullying in my school. I spoke the truth; I had no reason to lie. I was supposed to be the victim. I was supposed to be forever grateful to my principal for making the pain stop. I wasn’t believed. I wasn’t helped. I will never be grateful for anything that person does for me. She could’ve saved me and she didn’t. I saved myself. I got myself through it, no-one else did. I guess that explains why I still hold so much anger towards that individual.

“Explain to me how it came to this, take it back to the night we kissed” – Before the Worst, The Script

This somehow became my heartbreak song a few years ago and subsequently I tend not to listen to it anymore. Too many emotional scars formed during these three and a bit minutes.

“I know I’m finding it hard to breathe, and I’ve been drowning in my own sleep” – Rescue Me, You Me At Six feat. Chiddy

Sitting in the middle of one of my Junior Cert pre-exams, head down on the desk listening to this song. Not caring about the task at hand. Too focused on the pain of being alone and misunderstood in a room full of people that claimed to know me. Then being asked to remove my Paramore hoodie thinking to myself, is that really all you teachers are concerned about? Not the tears streaming down my face, no?

“All the times that we shared, every place everywhere, you touched my life” – I’ll Always Remember You, Hannah Montana

Yes, this is Hannah Montana. No, I’m not ashamed to say I was a fan. This is a song about parting ways with high school friends after ‘graduation’, so I never imagined I’d be listening to it at the end of 2nd year knowing that was goodbye to my best friend of eleven years. I knew I shouldn’t have missed her, but I did.

“Still I fight with my pen in my hand held tight, writing protests songs tonight, ‘cause I’m still here” – Learn My Lesson, Young Guns

Kind of reflects my story, doesn’t it? Except I’m writing blog posts, not songs. Close enough.

“Let ‘em wonder how we got this far, ‘cause I don’t really need to wonder at all” – Still Into You, Paramore

Where to start with this song? God, I think this could be our song. So first of all we have proved the whole county wrong by still being together now. Fifty-nine kilometres apart, an hour and a half bus journey away, and 14 months in the bag? I think it’s safe to say we’ve silenced the sceptics. It’s surely understandable so to tell you I cried hysterically when Paramore played this as their final song at their Dublin show two weeks ago. It’s our song, though. I had a right to be totes emosh. Isn’t that what happens when you’re in love?