Talking therapy - Sarah's story

Sarah tells us her personal story

How talking therapy has helped me grieve

Looking back, it feels like my mum had been ‘ill’ ever since I was old enough to form memories. When I turned 12 my mum’s health took a turn for the worse, and after many years she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Finally having a diagnosis had felt like a victory, but that lasted for all of three minutes before we were hit with more bad news. She had primary progressive MS (this is where the disease gradually gets worse over time) and eventually she lost the ability to do anything for herself. A year after her initial diagnosis, she sadly passed away due to complications she experienced after surgery.

How grief affected my mental health

This event more or less defined most of my life. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to have a ‘regular’ academic and social life. I was fifteen when I was first caught self-harming and admitted that I’d been experiencing suicidal thoughts. This led to my dad taking me to the doctor who assessed me and explained that I was experiencing depression. They prescribed me anti-depressant medication and put me on the waiting list for counselling. My first counsellor was a lovely lady who really did try to help, but I just didn’t want to open up. Eventually I just stopped going and for a while I decided I was ok. This was when I stopped taking my medication.

Ignoring the problem

In the years that followed, my mental health started to gradually get worse. It’s no surprise that it started getting worse when I moved to university. Having so many new, overwhelming experiences, I soon found myself encountering symptoms of anxiety on top of everything else. It started to feel like I was drowning, unable to come up for air. I went back to my GP and ended up on a higher dose of antidepressants and was advised that I look at talking therapies again. I brushed it off, thinking it would never work for me, and decided to solely depend on my medication instead.

I was battling my mental health for at least three more years before I couldn’t take anymore. I’d had enough. I was being gripped by anxiety before I started work every day, I’d started experiencing nightmares and an increasing number of flashbacks to losing mum. It often felt like I was being physically dragged through my life and it was all so heavy in my mind. I was willing to try anything to help myself feel better, even if it was talking therapy.

Getting help

Putting my pride aside I met with a new therapist, and something just clicked. After a few sessions with her I found myself opening up, and examining things in a way I hadn’t before. It took time to understand that I hadn’t been ready to explore my grief before. I’d spent a lot of time running from it. Talking therapy has helped me to start addressing my worries and fears. Now, it’s helped me to finally allow myself to grieve healthily. I know that I’m not better yet. I still take my medication and I still have a session twice a month with my therapist. There’s a lot I still haven’t processed or worked through. Therapy can be hard. However, I know that because of it I’m already in a much better place than I have been in a long time.

Looking back

It takes time to know when you’re ready to explore things through talking therapy. Having a good rapport with your therapist helps and in time you may find that you’re able to work with them to understand more about your mental health. It may not be for everyone, for some people it might not work. If it doesn’t, that’s ok! Everyone is different and there are other options out there to help support your mental health. Personally though, I’m so glad I gave it another try. I feel like it’s given me a part of myself back.

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