My sessions of talk therapy back at university helped my story telling. Every week, I'd walk through one of the colleges, past the restaurant where students were sitting and laughing with each other, past the duck pond where the college cat was watching hungrily from behind the bushes, to a door tucked away behind a wall -- Counselling.
I can't remember a time in which I wasn't obsessed with my appearance. There is a harsh, vindictive little critic who sits on my shoulder and breathes his bile into my ear incessantly... He tells me I'm grossly overweight, unattractive, and undesirable. He turns my head towards every reflective surface and excoriates every lump, bump, crease and curve, imagined or otherwise... I no longer feel I have any concept of what I actually look like.
The experience of not feeling understood, or feeling misunderstood in therapy is not uncommon. It may be felt in the first or early sessions or later on. Sometimes we may find that we are not well matched with our therapist or counsellor and that the chemistry is not working. But before settling for that explanation it might be worth considering some other possibilities.
I keep collapsing into a ball of tears, mourning my father's departure (as far as euphemisms for death go, that one is bearable, don't you think?) back in September. It was followed swiftly by that of a close friend, Kate, an accomplished artist whose personal kindnesses to me had, over the years, become impossible to keep count of.
Celebrating a life can lighten the pain of loss - sharing special moments of meaning, private and public. Mixing numbness, heart break, tears of pain and the longing to hold, talk, see, hear the other just on more time with pride, joy and gratitude for what we have experienced with and because of the other, who has gone.
Often people are aware of their addictive behaviour and would like to stop or slow down. However, the illusion of the addiction can be so powerful that the fear of not being able to cope without it is overwhelming and can suffocate even the smallest attempt to take control of the situation and muster the confidence to change.
I found that the student lifestyle itself was actually pretty good for creating conditions in which depression can flourish, particularly in terms of alcohol. Students are notorious for their high levels of alcohol consumption and lots of society activities revolve around drinking, particularly in sports clubs. Alcohol is a well-known depressant and can have a significant impact on your mood.