When I went to university, I found that I really struggled with the exams, even though I had top grades in my coursework. However, it still came as a surprise to me when I failed two of my exams and so I went to the Student Support Services for help. They suggested I should have a proper evaluation to determine whether I have dyslexia. By “proper evaluation” they meant a neuropsychological assessment, although at the time I had no idea what this is. So, without any expectations I turned up to my appointment. I was initially informed that this assessment aims to assess how my “brain works” in terms of how good my concentration and memory is, how quickly I process information, etc. I was first asked some general questions about myself, such as age and my educational background, and afterwards I was asked about my current difficulties at university.
Then the assessment started, with the examiner giving me the instructions of each test (which were like games and puzzles) before I had a go at carrying it out. When she picked up that I was a bit worried about my performance, she was very encouraging and reassured me that there is “no pass or fail”. She kept motivating me to continue and perform at the best of my ability. After almost two hours, the assessment was complete. A few days later, I received a report with the examiner’s findings, which I handed over to my university. As it turned out, although my cognitive skills such as memory and concentration are good, I am processing information a bit slowly. As an adjustment, I was given extra time in the exams which made a massive difference to me. I am now reading for a Master’s degree and I haven’t failed an exam since.
It can be difficult to find people who will take care of you and be near you without the need for personal gain. In the past, I experienced difficulties with relationships not only with my friends but also my family. My family and I didn’t have very good relationships and this made me feel sad. Before starting therapy, I thought that other people were responsible for my emotions. Therapy has helped me to understand that I am responsible for this. All people are different and we have to accept others with their positives and negatives. Therapy, and most of all my therapist, helped me to understand that the most important thing is to be good to myself, to understand my mistakes, and try to only spend time with people who love and take care of me. It was a beautiful experience and I would do it again, because I changed and I learned to understand myself better.
Stress, past choices, concern about the future, death… I strongly felt the need for assistance and a second opinion, so the decision was not difficult for me. I kept notes about my past and my choices, and during the sessions, I had to explain a lot about myself and my personality. It was helpful that after every session the psychologist gave me some questions to think about, to help understand my character. I got angry at myself because I realised that I should have requested help to work on my issues earlier. It was never a boring experience since the whole procedure seemed like exploring new lands, looking inside me. The therapist was asking me questions, and through my answers, I was realizing what was wrong or what was just fine and that there was nothing I should worry about. I just had to be honest about everything. If you are in pain, you cannot go to the doctor and pretend you are healthy, whilst expecting him to offer medical treatment. Looking inside you is not an easy process. You need somebody to accompany you on this journey, so that when you are disappointed they are there to make sure you will not be distracted from your initial goal. It definitely worked for me. That relationship with the therapist never ends. It is like a life long ’friendship’. You invest in a person who is always there for you and when you catch up later, they are there remembering everything and in a way, they do know you better than anybody else.
A year ago I visited a psychologist for the first time. At the time, I was not just negative towards psychological therapy. I was averse towards it. Having always been the “mature, strong and intelligent one” I was thinking there was no way I could not deal with what I thought was “normal stress” at the time. I was aware I was under pressure with work and within my personal relationship, but we all go through hard times at some stage in our life, don’t we? Not all of us have to visit a psychologist! These were my thoughts at the time that kept me suffering in silence whilst struggling to find a way to tame my stress. Soon, I couldn’t get a decent night’s sleep, I was making mistakes at work, which didn’t go unnoticed, and I had become irritable – everything and everyone was a nuisance. I had become so unhappy that my aversion towards a therapist was suddenly less than the aversion I was feeling towards myself. So, I started seeing someone who, of course, I found utterly annoying! He was just sitting there prompting me to “tell [him] more” every time my answers were short. He would just listen to anything I had to say. It occurred to me that it didn’t even matter what I tell him – he would still listen. How annoying! And this question he kept asking: “what do you think this means?” Well, if I knew I wouldn’t be here, would I? As you can see, I wasn’t doing that well in my therapy. However, I continued to go, until the day that I cancelled my appointment an hour before I was due to go and my therapist told me that he would still have to charge me as per his policy. I was furious. I decided to go to the session, tell him off, pay the bill and go! I had my life to sort out and couldn’t waste any more time with him. That was my plan and so I did it. The moment I entered his office, I started telling him (or shouting to be more accurate) all the hassles I go through every day and how inflexible I thought he was when only once(!) I had to cancel our session. When he asked me what it was that made me so angry about this, I answered without much thought “because my partner always does this!”. Boom… The coin suddenly dropped. “my partner”, “always”, “this”. Why have I never put these words in a sentence before? I started crying uncontrollably as everything started making sense. This is what they call in therapy “breakthrough”. I was in an unhappy relationship, in which I was not feeling understood. In order to avoid conflict, I was going along with what my partner always wanted, which gradually built up a lot of negativity within me. At times, when I was pushing for something I wanted, my partner would be inflexible and this would cause me great distress. Suddenly, my stress, anger, defence and resistance started making sense. I had never admitted this to anyone else before, let alone to myself, and now saying these words out loud made all the difference. Now, I was ready for therapy. I felt lucky having someone to work with who would listen to me – no matter if at times I was right or wrong, reasonable or unreasonable. Someone who would help me to start thinking in more helpful ways. About six months ago, I felt in control of my life and ready to be the “mature, strong and the intelligent one” again.
Most people would not think that they needed the help of a psychologist and, probably, would never visit one of their own accord. When I was suffering what I thought was an ordinary ‘mid-life crisis’ the idea of psychotherapy did not pass my mind. I just became more stressed and angry and rude and drank too much until something triggered a visit to a psychiatrist. He, luckily, did not identify anything wrong but described me as a bit ‘unbalanced’ and suggested that I should have a discussion with a ‘therapist’. So I found myself a few days later not lying on a couch but sitting in a comfortable armchair with a cup of coffee and trying to express what I felt about my feelings in general. It is surprising how difficult this is and I suppose the ‘art’ of psychotherapy is to extract this information without allowing it to be distorted. I thought I was able to express myself very well but it turned out that I could not get to the bottom of my own feelings and it was this same inadequacy that was causing all the anger and stress. It can apparently cause depression too. I performed a sort of test to assess my ‘personality inventory’ and we identified that there were certain facets to my personality that provoked the anger, but because I was unable to recognise it, let alone express it, the stress was building up inside until it created a sort of explosion of provocative behaviour. Of course there was a lot more to it all than that and basically the ‘rebalancing’ was not to understand but just to realise my feelings, aim to be myself, live in the moment, take a few risks and follow the path of laughter. “You cannot intellectualise feelings”. That, in a way, was a revelation. But having a revelation alone does not guarantee that it is possible to counteract years of ingrained behaviour. I found I needed intermittent support and reminding because it is not easy to learn a new pattern of behaviour when you are no longer a child. This support continued for about 2 years until what might be described as a ‘life changing event’ altered my environment so much that I was distracted from previous problems. But the traits are still there and waiting to emerge. I can see that I may need to find some other sympathetic and experienced psychologist to review the problems in the future.
Even though I never thought that therapy would be something I would need, “stage of life” problems led me to the office of a therapist. My problems had to do with some major life changes I was going through (change of country of residence, whilst completing one stage of my career and trying to move to the next stage) and decisions I needed to take (whether or not to end a long-term relationship). Changes and a decision that together felt overwhelming! I needed help. So, I decided to start therapy, which turned out to be a very wise decision. Even though I did not feel like we made much progress in each session, looking back after a couple of months I realised that the ground we covered was tremendous. Let alone looking back after a couple of years! During therapy, I learned a lot of things about myself that I had not realized before, for example, that I have a need to be perfect. Therapy ended after three years. It was time very well spent – I would recommend it to anyone who feels like life is overwhelming.
I have always been anxious about what other people think and say about me, especially when giving a speech in public. I had thought of therapy many times, but I would always say to myself that I could make it go away; I couldn’t. I visited three psychologists at three different times in my life, but I could not open up. I felt more frustrated and helpless after every session as each just gave me short-term solutions to my anxiety (such as beta-blockers), and after a couple of sessions they would say that I was fine and I did not need therapy. But I needed to learn how to cope with anxiety in the long-term, and most of all I needed a therapist to guide me through this. I have finally found this help. Cognitive behaviour therapy is working for me, but it is not an easy process. It is rather hard to change my way of thinking and reacting to various situations. I have reached the point of quitting many times only to change my mind again days later. It is therefore important to find that one therapist who you can feel comfortable with, who will keep you on track and help you go on whilst respecting your personal space. Therapy has helped me improve and continues to do so and therefore I would definitely recommend it to others.