Every Thursday afternoon, I leave the office early and walk (or run, occasionally) along the riverbank path toward one of the most beautiful parks of the city – my therapist office is just off a service road crossing the park, almost hidden behind the lush vegetation. I couldn’t imagine a better-suited place for a therapy session.
A few weeks ago, a colleague jokingly asked me where I was ‘disappearing’ every week and she was rather puzzled when I answered I was going to therapy. She was even more perplexed when I went on and explained that I have suffered from depression many years ago and still deal with an anxiety disorder… I’m a quiet person and I usually look calm, but it doesn’t always reflect how I feel inside.
The truth is, anxiety is not the only reason I visit Julia every week anymore. I started seeing her in July 2016 when my ‘post-expatriation anxiety’ was at its worst and I could barely function, but I kept going long after that anxiety had vanished because it makes me feel good to do so.
Therapy is my form of self-care.
Every week, I have this one hour where I can focus on me – my thoughts, my feelings – and do so without feeling selfish, holding back or being ashamed of my accent. Julia’s office is a little oasis… When I walk through the door of this room full of books, sit on the comfy leather sofa and wrap myself in a chunky-knit throw, I feel a weight falling off my shoulders.
We discuss different things; sometimes serious, sometimes not. This is not to say that therapy is easy because it isn’t. It takes a big dose of courage and humility to admit your vulnerability, seek help to heal the old wounds and make the changes necessary to become a stronger, better version of yourself. But counselling isn’t all tears and tissues either – Julia and I actually shared many laughs!
Therapy is helping me fix the self-confidence I lost when I moved to the UK. Expatriation is full of challenges but the main one, in my opinion, is to have your own perception of yourself shattered. Suddenly, the labels I wore all my life had vanished and wherever I went I was the foreigner, the girl with the untraceable accent or ‘Edward’s girlfriend’. None of this is bad, of course, but it makes connecting with people difficult. I felt invisible, like I was no one. With Julia’s support, I’m learning to see deeper than those superficial and shifting labels, and to build my confidence based on core values instead.
Therapy also helps me put some sort of order in my thoughts. Some weeks, when something happened at home or at work and I need to see clear through the situation, I talk it out with Julia. Without ever giving me advice, she will encourage me to see things from a different angle and I can usually make my own conclusions. I often walk out of her office much lighter.
This is why I decided to open up about going to a therapist: because it’s something that makes me feel good and I believe many people could benefit from it. A certain taboo remains around counselling (and mental health in general) but it’s time get rid of this taboo and speak up; nobody should be afraid to ask for help by fear of being labelled crazy or weak. I can assure you I am neither! It doesn’t matter if you’re in for the long-term or if you just need a hand to get through a rough phase… The help is there.
- In the UK, counselling is available through the NHS with a referral from your GP.
- If you wish to find a private therapist, many online directories can help you; notably:
- It can help to research different therapeutic approaches beforehand.
- Lastly, don’t hesitate to shop around. It’s essential to be able to trust your therapist.