‘Your health is your wealth.’ This phrase has been repeated to me by media, family, friends, trainers and life coaches but is your mental health included in this? With the abundance of fitness and weight loss classes that have sprung up over the last ten years, people have begun to become more aware of how to take care of their physical health – by eating well, exercising, and sleeping properly. And although these are all extremely important, I’m not sure that the message carries across that your mental health is as important as your physical health. So today I am going to discuss the message that your MENTAL health is your wealth. It is important to treat your mental health as well as you would treat your physical health and finding the right treatment or service for your particular issue is part of this.
I began seeking psychological treatment when I was in college. I noticed that I was beginning to withdraw from friends, I was working out to the point of exhaustion and secretly binge eating at night. I had stopped going to college lectures and classes and was getting extremely nervous whenever I had to go out, meaning I was drinking to excess too. I knew that something wasn’t right and I was sick of feeling miserable so I decided to seek professional help. I secretly went trawling through the St. Patrick’s College website until I found what I was looking for – a free counsellor.
My counselling sessions were painful and fruitless. I felt like I really had nothing to talk about. I was a middle-class, white girl with no serious past problems and I felt like I was wasting her time and mine by complaining to her for an hour a week. I wasn’t opening up. I wasn’t expressing what I thought was really wrong with me. I didn’t really know how to. So I stopped going. And things continued to get worse.
My next personal encounter with a therapist was a few years later. I had graduated from college, completed a year studying abroad and had come home to Wexford to live back at home. I was working in a school as a teacher. My career was going great. All was well on paper. Except I was spiralling. I sought out counselling services in Wexford and came across ItsGood2Talk. They are a low-cost psychotherapy centre based in the old County Council buildings in Wexford Town. (Although at the time they were based in St. Iberius’ House opposite the Bank of Ireland). I began going to a therapist there and found that they were open and welcoming. I went to a few sessions and again I found I wasn’t getting anywhere. I still felt that I couldn’t open up as my therapist would only judge me. It was my issue and I couldn’t get over that feeling, despite their absolute trustworthiness in ItsGood2Talk.
I left therapy and decided I was done with all of that. It didn’t work, that therapy stuff, it only made me upset and it drained me. I came out of every therapy session feeling like a zombie.
By this stage I had developed a full blown eating disorder and was getting sicker and sicker. Therapy wasn’t working. I didn’t know where to turn to next. I gave therapy one more try. I paid 60 euro a week to go to a fantastic eating disorder specialist therapist in Gorey. However, I was struggling with the effort of driving the hour to Gorey as I was experiencing panic attacks regularly and found I couldn’t drive home until I calmed myself down.
It was then that my miracle happened. I was encouraged by my doctor to go to the mental health service in the Wexford Mental Health Clinic in Summerhill, Wexford and through their help and persistence I found a type of treatment that suited me. I would attend two hour long sessions a week with two trained therapists and work on Christopher Fairburn’s method of CBTE. (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Eating Disorders). This would turn out to be my life saver. It took time and commitment, and courage to let your inhibitions go and express yourself, but it was worth it.
Seven months on and I am still completing this programme. I am almost three quarters of the way through but now I attend once a week on a one to one basis.
Essentially, my message for this week is: Just start. If you are struggling with any aspect of mental health – be that anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or any other illness, just start on your journey to get well. Your mental health is your wealth, and as I discovered, nobody can do it for you but there IS help out there.
Your first step is to go to your doctor. They are trained professionals and are the best people to refer you to a therapy or treatment that will suit you. I know it is difficult – believe me, but if you can make yourself do that you will be on the path to taking back control of your life.
And as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to message me. I will leave a separate section with the treatments mentioned here in a new section called Where to Go.
Thanks for reading.