Two women talking in an office.

Family Health

Counselling Was the Best Gift I Gave Myself – and My Family

Feb 5, 2018

I still remember sitting in the waiting room, imagining a chaise lounge waiting for me in the therapist’s office on my first visit. Instead, I found an office not unlike my own and a space that made me feel safe and empowered. Even so, I didn’t tell anyone about my appointments for weeks — not even my partner.

Despite initiatives designed to break down the stigmas associated with mental illness, openly discussing mental health continues to be an uphill battle for us as a society.

Once I got past the irrational shame and sense of failure I felt, my weekly session became the best hour of my week.

After an emotionally turbulent year spent dealing with illness and feeling overwhelmed with my professional and personal responsibilities, I hit a wall. I took a six-week leave of absence from my work after my blood pressure soared and I couldn’t get to sleep at night. I dialed into my company’s Employee Assistance Program to request counselling and felt like a failure.

It took about six weeks before I felt confident enough to share that I was attending weekly sessions with a counsellor. Once I got past the irrational shame and sense of failure I felt, my weekly session became the best hour of my week. It made me a better mom, a more loving partner, a more balanced employee and a more resilient woman.

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Every four weeks, we revisited a series of questionnaires that had initially ranked me as severe in anxiety and stress, high in depression, and moderate in confidence. On my final session, I ranked low in the first three, and high in confidence.

And I felt it.

Counselling isn’t about complaining about your life; it’s about enriching it and uncovering strength you didn’t know you had.

Contrary to popular belief — and even my own belief before I began my sessions — I rarely talked about problems I was having with my counsellor. Instead, I focused on goals, self-improvement and ways to improve the many relationships in my life. There were days I needed to vent about the challenges of co-parenting, the political power plays at work, or the fact my partner and I hadn’t been as intimate lately, but often I found my counsellor guiding me to a place where I could be kinder to myself.

Counselling allowed me to fill my proverbial toolbox with every tool for the job. It meant I could get things off my chest without necessarily burdening my loved ones. We role-played for important conversations I felt I needed to have with my ex-husband, my manager at work, my son.

I don’t attend weekly sessions now, but I know I’ll go back and, more importantly, I know I can go back.

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I recommend counselling to everyone I know now, regardless of whether they feel they’re working through something or not. Counselling isn’t about complaining about your life; it’s about enriching it and uncovering strength you didn’t know you had.

You can expect it to feel a little weird at first, and it might take a few tries to find someone you click with. Once you allow yourself to open up and make a connection, however, I promise only good things will come of the practice.

Article Author Ashley MacInnis
Ashley MacInnis

Ashley MacInnis is the voice, the shoes and the mayhem behind A single mom and public relations professional, Ashley joined the blogging world in 2010 after Finn’s birth. The blog, which began as a cathartic endeavour, took on a life of its own as Ashley candidly shared the ups and downs of life, love and work. She’s since received the Canadian Online Publishing Award for Best Use of Social Media (2015) and shared the distinction of Best Blog or Column with When she’s not writing, running, or building Lego empires, Ashley occasionally finds time to sleep.

She currently lives in Halifax, NS with her partner and son. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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