A 2019 update: on stopping therapy and moving forward

It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog. I was surprised to find when I checked that it’s been five months, which is the longest gap since I started writing blogs in about 2013. I’ve had plenty of ideas to write about, but each weekend has come and gone without me quite getting round to it.

In one of my last blogs I wrote about (re-)starting therapy. After about six months I “broke up” with my therapist, for various reasons: I wasn’t getting the same kind of results from it anymore, it was disrupting my work schedule, and it was costing £240 a month which meant I couldn’t afford anything else for myself – all my money was spent on rent, bills, therapy, and trying to save a little towards a future deposit.

Starting therapy is difficult, awkward and embarrassing, but so is stopping therapy. I was placed in an uncomfortable position where I was trying to convince my therapist that I needed to stop my sessions. I said many times that it was becoming financially unviable, but he didn’t accept this as a reasonable response. He kept arguing that there was more work to be done, and I’m quite sure he was right (are we ever finished working on ourselves?) but the facts of the matter were that I both wanted to and needed to stop, and it took about 20 minutes to convince him of that.

When I spoke to other people who had also stopped therapy, I found that they all had similar stories. This astonished me. If I ever see a therapist again, I will try to establish from the outset that as and when I decide to stop, I want them to accept it at once. As it is, I’m now absolutely sure I’ll never return to the therapist I was seeing, as clearly the only way I’d be able to stop going without awkwardness would be to tell him I was emigrating.

The good news is that I do think the six months of therapy helped me. Since I stopped going I’ve started going to a gym a bit more regularly, and taken up an exercise on Sunday mornings called body combat – an hour of punching and kicking the air is brilliant exercise, therapy in itself and enormous fun. I’ve also found a support group for people with similar issues to myself, which is working wonders. Seeing a therapist is great in a whole myriad of ways, but sometimes nothing beats talking to people who have had the same experiences as you and genuinely know what it is like. We are lucky to live in a time when access to support groups is so much easier than it used to be – even if you can’t get to them physically, so many of them are online and even hold online meetings. The internet is terrible for many things but one of its great gifts is how easy it makes it to find your people, if you look for them.

The benefits of exercise on mental health are well-documented and I’ve written about them before, but the importance of it has come back to me in the last few weeks when I’ve done very little exercise due to illness, travelling and general inertia. It definitely makes a difference to how I feel, and how well I can cope with setbacks. I started doing the Couch to 5k app last year, got up to week seven then twisted my ankle and I haven’t managed to get back into it, which is pretty appalling considering that happened about six months ago. Coming up to the middle of the year makes me realise how fast the time is going, and although I haven’t set myself particular goals for the year or anything like that, it still makes me feel that I’m wasting time and failing.

I’m trying to fight those feelings because although I haven’t managed to restart Couch to 5k or get regular mid-week gym visits going, I have made several good choices this year, choices for active self-care which are making a difference. My attitude to my body and eating habits, whether through therapy, exercise, buying better-fitting clothes or (most likely) a mixture of all of the above, has improved enormously in 2019 so far and I’m feeling much more positive about it than I did last year. I’m thinking about the future more, which might sound like an odd statement but I realised I’ve had a habit of not thinking about the future, not planning it or picturing what I might want from it, because I’m so afraid of being disappointed. I’m slowly realising that it’s a really important thing to do, so that I don’t sleepwalk into a situation which I don’t actually want to be in.

I’d love to talk more about the work I’m doing on some specific issues, with the support group I mentioned, but I’m not ready to and I’m not sure I’d want to write about it publicly in any case. At the same time I believe that people should know more about the kind of support that there is available, so I’m leaving some names of various groups here, in case one of them is useful to somebody out there. I tried to find a good list of support groups online and it’s amazingly difficult – one of those cases where you need to know what you want in order to find it. However, this is a good starting point – it’s a list of support groups which follow a Twelve Step plan similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. To see that there are so many of one format alone shows how many exist for different problems. I’ll say it again: talking to other people who understand, particularly if you feel isolated and as if you’re the only person who’s ever had that issue, is incredibly healing.

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