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to wonder whether my 'problems' are important enough to justify counselling?

18 replies

manyfloweringjasmine · 25/06/2015 11:52

Not sure this message should go here, but I need advice. I am considering going for counselling. I am in my 40s and I don't even know how to really classify the 'problems' I have. I am not depressed, I am optimistic about life generally, and I recognise that in almost every respect I am very fortunate.

What I think I struggle with is low self-esteem. I don't feel crap about absolutely everything, but I can recognise a pattern in my life where whatever I achieve, it is never enough. I feel like I am constantly striving to make myself feel like a worthwhile person, usually through work, but never getting there. When I experience a knock back at work (and I have just had a bad one), it causes me real mental anguish. For example, I have just done something that has made me unpopular with a certain group of people and I feel desperate about it. When these 'crises' happen I lose emotional energy for my kids and my husband, and feel bad about that. I do get back on my feet and sort of limp on and think I'm doing OK, until the next 'crisis' happens. Sometimes I think if I didn't work at all or just did a less stressful job I'd feel better, but then remember that I'd feel crap about myself for failing at that.

I think people who know me would say that I can be a bit anxious and down on myself, but on the whole I think I come across as a fairly well functioning person. And I DO function. Often I'm happy! It's just inside I often feel quite worthless.

Anyway, honestly, is this just something that lots of us live with? Is it just that work IS stressful? I am thinking about counselling but don't know if this just seems really self-indulgent, whether it could help, or even whether the counsellor would wonder what the hell I am complaining about. Sorry this is so long.

OP posts:

sliceofsoup · 25/06/2015 12:02

My experience of counselling is that it is for everyone, and just because your problems are not "as bad" as someone else's does not mean that they are not problems for you. My counsellor is in no way judgemental, and meets every one of my issues with the same level of concern and empathy as the rest, no matter how minor.

Work is stressful, and I would say a lot of people do live with issues like yours, but those are not reasons to not seek help. Why should you live with mental anguish when you could do something to help it? Even if it is just recognising where your feelings of low worth come from, and developing strategies to deal with that, I think it would make all the difference to your life. It is not self indulgent at all.


PicaK · 25/06/2015 12:04

Everything that sliceofsoup said.


SDTGisAnEvilWolefGenius · 25/06/2015 12:05

You don't have to wait until you are at death's door to go to the doctor with a medical problem, and in exactly the same way, you don't have to wait until your mental health problems are really bad, before seeking counselling.

To continue the medical metaphor - going for counselling now is the equivalent of taking a short course of antibiotics for an infection, rather than waiting until the infection is far more serious and you need hospital admission and IV antibiotics.

It's also worth considering that low self esteem might be contributing to you believing you don't 'deserve' treatment/counselling/therapy - but that is a skewed view of reality, and in fact you absolutely DO deserve to get the help you need now.

I have had depression and low self esteem since my mid teens, and last year I had a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and I can honestly say it was amazing - it really helped me to recognise the self-sabotaging, unkind-to-myself thought patterns that have become so much of a habit, and it taught me ways to take back the control, and to handle my own symptoms.

If you don't know, CBT works on the theory that our thoughts, our actions and our emotions are three sides of the triangle, and each can influence the others - so having negative thoughts about yourself, for example, can make your mood lower/depressed - but the flip side is true too - by changing your thoughts, you can help raise your mood. Breathing exercises really helped me, as did visualisation. I can visualise the depression as a weight, filling my skull - and then I can imagine that weight lessening and lifting - and I feel a sense of relief. When my therapist taught me this, she suggested picturing the negative feelings/depression as a colour - a dark, unpleasant one - and then 'seeing' as the colour changes, at the edges at first, and then across the whole mass, until the dark, bad colour is driven out altogether by the lighter, happier colours. That didn't work for me, but as soon as I realised I 'saw' the depression as a weight not a colour, I got a handle on how to visualise it improving - if you see what I mean.

The bottom line - you are worth it. You deserve good mental health, and I would absolutely encourage you to go and get the help now.

Even if it is 'just' that work is stressful (and I put that in inverted commas, because stress can be really damaging) then I believe that bad stress, damaging stress isn't something you should have to put up with - and if some therapy helped you to manage your stress, so that you coped better with work, and by extension, with home life too - that would be a good thing.


Earthbound · 25/06/2015 12:08

I agree too. There's not a tick list of things you have to have experienced to 'deserve' counselling. If you feel you have issues that a counsellor could help you address then of course you are 'justified' in seeking that help.


OTheHugeManatee · 25/06/2015 12:10

If you're paying, you can be in therapy for anything you like. FWIW I've been in therapy for 6+ years, it was an absolute necessity to begin with but I'm continuing now more for personal development than anything else. There's no rule that says you have to meet some kind of misery criteria before it's allowed.


Mrsjayy · 25/06/2015 12:12

Nobodies distress or upset is worth less or more than anybody elses please dont think your problems are trivial and not worth it they are, seek the help you need Flowers


manyfloweringjasmine · 25/06/2015 12:12

Thank you so much for these replies they make me feel a bit tearful. Thing is, I have been like this all my life. I struggled with eating disorders in my teens and into my twenties. I got a handle on it but even now would have to admit if I was really honest that I still have some disordered thinking in my approach to food. But re: work, often I think that I find work stressful because essentially I am crap at it. And no amount of counselling is going to make me better! Which is what I really want to be. But then maybe the point of counselling might be to help me feel OK about just being OK?

OP posts:

Lottapianos · 25/06/2015 12:18

OP, I think you will benefit very much from counselling for the simple reason that you're interested in it and feel like this might be a good time for you to start. I've been in therapy for 6 years and it's been life changing - sometimes incredibly painful but by far the best thing I have ever done for myself.

From what I hear, lots of people first see a counsellor / therapist with a vague sense of something not being quite right, or feeling a bit 'stuck'. It's also common to question whether you 'deserve' counselling, or to worry that you might be making a big deal out of something that you should just be 'getting on with'. Counselling is a totally wonderful thing for anyone who is interested, so please don't feel that (as other posters have said), you have to be at death's door or at the end of your tether before its appropriate for you. Good luck with it!


OTheHugeManatee · 25/06/2015 12:19

OP, you sound a bit like me. I was determined that I didn't need therapy throughout my teens and twenties, because that was for people with 'real problems', even though I struggled with eating disorders and what in retrospect was definitely depressive episodes. I can honestly say that finding a trustworthy shrink and really investing in my own mental wellbeing has been the best decision I ever made. It's also done wonders for my performance at work, as I've become more confident and better at handling both positive and also difficult/confrontational situations constructively.


manyfloweringjasmine · 25/06/2015 12:26

Thanks so much again. Any advice on finding a 'good' counsellor? Or do I go and meet a few and see who I get on with? I did try counselling once when I was in my early twenties and hated it, which might be why I have not tried since. The counsellor cottoned on to the fact that my parents were divorced in the first session and wouldn't let it go. I thought she was barking up entirely the wrong tree. Maybe she wasn't though ...

OP posts:

Mrsjayy · 25/06/2015 12:29

You could go to your gp and ask for a referral or reccomendation


OTheHugeManatee · 25/06/2015 12:33

Go to the UKCP or BACP websites (these are the accrediting bodies for therapists in the UK) and use their 'Find a therapist' pages to search for someone accredited in your area. This will make sure you see someone who is properly trained and accredited. Also bear in mind there are lots of different approaches. In brief, CBT is a solution-focused approach that is based on developing your rational (cognitive) mind away from patterns of thought that are causing you problems. Long-term therapy (which covers most other types) is generally more about exploring your background, thoughts, sometimes dreams or fantasies, and helping you work through difficult experiences or patterns that are causing you trouble. Only you know what's going to suit you better.

I would also say that you shouldn't feel awkward about trying a few people out until you find someone you click with. There is lots of evidence that therapy works, but as far as anyone can make out its effectiveness is based on the connection between client and therapist. If you really don't connect with someone, it's probably not going to work, so don't waste your money - there's no shame or guilt in holding out for someone you want to work with, so trust your gut and find someone else Smile


ilovesooty · 25/06/2015 12:42

If you want to try counselling I agree with others - there isn't some kind of "deserving" criteria.

You could also look at the Counselling Directory entries for your area. Counsellors have to provide copies of their qualifications and certificates to be included and some counsellors prefer to advertise there. I simply didn't get enough enquiries through the BACP site to justify continuing the expenditure.


OliveCane · 25/06/2015 12:45

Definitely go for it.

You can self-refer to organisations under the NHS, so you may want to consider that if you don't want to take the GP route.


CakeLady1 · 25/06/2015 12:57

You've got to nothing to lose, but a lot to gain. Go for it


PeppermintCrayon · 25/06/2015 13:04

Going to a counsellor for help with low self-esteem is no more self-indulgent than taking your toothache to a dentist. And you'd still go even if you thought other peoples teeth hurt more, right?

It sounds like you're in distress. Feeling worthless isn't something to just live with Flowers


SorchaN · 25/06/2015 13:34

I find work stressful because essentially I am crap at it
That's the kind of self-sabotaging thinking that CBT can help with. I'm not your employer, but I suspect this isn't actually true. Crap employees are those who steal from the company, bring the company into disrepute, take credit for other people's work, bully co-workers, etc, etc. - the kind of thing that precipitates warnings and termination of contract. Most employees are fallible (human) but generally pretty good.

The counsellor cottoned on to the fact that my parents were divorced in the first session and wouldn't let it go.
Sometimes counsellors can be quite intuitive about things that clients are uncomfortable facing up to. If you didn't want to talk about it, there might have been a reason for that (e.g. too painful to think about).
Or perhaps you wanted to talk about something else instead and you felt frustrated that the counsellor wasn't intuitive enough to guess what it was. Either way, it's sometimes useful to think about why you don't want to talk about something, or how to bring up the stuff you'd rather talk about. (This is all from a psychodynamic perpective, rather than CBT.)

From what I've read, the most important thing is to find a counsellor with whom you have a good 'fit' - the theoretical approach they use is less important. So be prepared to 'interview' a few before you make a decision about who to work with.

Good luck!


SorchaN · 25/06/2015 13:35

Sorry - slow typing and cross post with Manatee.

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