It’s another ordinary Wednesday and I’ve just made an exit from yet another appointment with my psychologist. I can’t even tell you how many appointments that now makes it.
How am I feeling? Well I am feeling a number of things. Fatigued, relieved, happy, sad, confused, emotional – seriously I have all the feels today.
It’s been a long, exhausting but rewarding relationship I have made with my psychologist over the last 18 months.
My first foray into my ‘mental as anything’ journey began with a psychologist and it began early. Our mental health is so important and I was determined to address it as soon as I could.
Seeking help from a psychologist had been on my mind literally since the day after Craig had died. Soon enough the the funeral had come and gone, friends and family were attempting to get back to their lives and it was really hitting home that this event was way beyond anything I could handle on my own. I was going to need a whole lot of help to heal and make sense of my new world. My whole world had been tipped upside down and I instinctively knew that I was going to have to dig deep in order for me to still see the world as a good place and that I could and would be happy again.
I had in fact been visited by a friend of my parents nine days after Craig died who is a highly reputable psychologist. He came to my home, and we chatted, as I literally walked him through the events of what had happened the night that Craig died. I remember when he left that I felt a sense of relief being able to divulge what had happened to me and that I was sure his visit might tide me over for another week or two. But that evening, as I attempted to get some kind of sleep, my adrenaline ran out and by the early hours of Monday morning I was in an emotional state.
I will never forget that phone call. I had been awake since the early hours of Monday morning, madly googling the opening hours of a psychology practice and waiting for 9am to tick around. I was desperate to speak to them.
Their administration officer answered the phone right on the tick of nine. I quickly blurted out that I needed a psychologist, my husband had died and that I needed help – a lot of help. An appointment was quickly organised for me the following week with a female psychologist and so my psychology appointments began.
If you’ve never seen a psychologist I guess you might be intrigued as to what happens in these appointments.
Was I scared? Do I like my psychologist? Is it structured? Do I howl from start to finish? Have I ever run out of things to say? Am I embarrassed/awkward/ashamed? Do I lie on a couch?
Well yes and no to all of these questions, except lying on the couch. While I could really do with a lie down, they unfortunately make me sit up!
In the interest of transparency I have sought the help of a psychologist before, so I somewhat knew what to expect.
However it was scary for me initially, even the second time around, and sometimes it still is.
My brain is often in overdrive and Craig’s death exacerbated this even further. I was frightened, vulnerable and naturally questioning the psychologist about everything in that first appointment. I can laugh now about the ‘Jo’ that turned up to those first few appointments. It’s not the ‘Jo’ I am now. I went in there all guns blazing, I had a problem to be fixed and I wanted that problem solved immediately. I’m sure our initial conversation went a little something like this.
Hi there, my name’s Jo, thanks for having me.
Sorry to be such an imposition, I didn’t expect to be here at all, but my husband has been quite the inconvenience and died unexpectedly.
Awful, isn’t it?
I’m just a little bit worried this might mess up my entire life.
So I am here to be healed!
And I’ll do anything you tell me to do, like anything.
Just wondering though, how long will that take exactly?
Could we perhaps do an express healing package if you have one?
I mean I have a child, I run two businesses and I’m pretty busy, so I’d really like this problem sorted out as soon as you can.
Thanks in advance.
Seriously, what was I like? But welcome to the world that is psychology and the many fronts we put on as we break down our barriers and finally come to a place of trust.
For those of you that have never entered a psychology practice I can assure you it’s just like any other waiting room. The waiting room is always a bit of a tell tale sign for me of what I can sometimes expect from my appointment. Sometimes I sit and wait and feel completely relaxed, even being so smug as to flick through the latest fashion or travel magazine. However, other times, particularly when I’ve been stressed, upset or have had some pressing issues to deal with, I cry before my name has even been called. Often though this is a good sign that something in me has been building and I’m literally bursting to get it out.
My appointments don’t feel structured, although perhaps they are and I just don’t know. For myself, I think my psychologist has just embraced whatever I’m thinking and facing at that time and she helps give me strategies to cope. I don’t go in too prepared, I tend to let the conversation flow quite naturally, unless I’ve got something that has really been on my mind and needs to be discussed.
Do I like my psychologist? Yes, I absolutely do! It can take time to build a relationship with a psychologist. I have actually been through two psychologists since Craig’s death. No, I wasn’t sacked by my first one, rather due to unforeseen medical matters she had to take some time off work. This came as a bit of a shock to me as we had spent almost a year working together. While I could have waited for her to come back from leave, I was about to reach the first anniversary of Craig’s death and I knew psychological support was needed for me through this period. So, I got a new one. And I couldn’t be happier! Prior to my first appointment with her, I was worried that perhaps I was going to have to start at the beginning. But it didn’t feel that way at all. I clicked with her right away and she has honestly opened up a whole new side of me. I am really grateful for that.
Do I howl from start to finish? Not really. Look I’ve certainly cried a lot, but it actually took a long time to really crack me. Being vulnerable can be quite difficult for me, and I often put a positive and happy spin on most things. But eventually they wore me down! I’ve experienced an array of emotions and feelings in those sessions – deep sadness, anger, happiness, break through moments, laughter, craziness and I never quite know what will come next. However, that’s the brilliant thing about seeking help from a psychologist, they will be beside you as you experience an array of emotions and help you make sense of it all.
I have no doubt that my psychology experience will not be ending any time soon. While weekly appointments soon turned to fortnightly, then monthly and now every six weeks, they won’t be getting rid of me anytime soon. I have relished in having someone completely unattached to my life that I can truly talk to and that can guide me professionally in what to do.
If life has you feeling overwhelmed, I wholeheartedly encourage anyone to seek professional help from a psychologist. Our mental health is so, so important and here are some little tips I can give to you.
- If you’re feeling anxious, depressed or overwhelmed and feel you need help, it’s best to go to your local GP and talk with them about a mental health care plan.
- If you have a mental health care plan from your GP, Medicare will cover some of your costs when seeking professional help, so be sure to ask for a referral.
- Do your research. Ask friends and family if they have a recommendation, look up websites, make some phone calls. By doing some research you will soon find what kind of practice you might feel comfortable with.
- Ensure you find someone that specialises in the area you feel you need to be treated. Be it depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, relationship issues, burnout etc.You might find this information on their website, or just call and ask.
- It’s really important that you connect with your psychologist. If you go to your session and don’t feel they are the right person for you, ask to change psychologist, you will find most practices encourage you to do so, so don’t feel any worry in doing this.
- NEVER be embarrassed about asking for help. Sure, you don’t have to take our a billboard advertising that you’re seeking help, but don’t feel you have to hide it or feel shame in it either.
- Know that by asking for help, you’re already a step ahead of most. It is a brave thing to recognise in yourself when life is getting a little too much.
- If you are struggling and cannot wait for an appointment with your local GP, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Please note I have no formal qualifications in these areas, except my own experience. Always seek professional help and advice if you’re struggling.
Special mention to Chris Mackey & Associates who have been an incredible practice to deal with for my own psychology needs and I wanted to mention where I go, in case you wanted a little sticky beak into the practice I use. Might see you in the waiting room!
Read about how Jo approached taking care of her mental health after the loss of her husband, in the post mental as anything.