I started to feel so low that I found simple aspects of life difficult”

I wanted to write about my experience of having therapy at The Retreat. I’m a man who struggles with anxiety, of varying levels and sometimes it’s really hard to keep under the lid. I ended up choosing to leave a career I loved as I was struggling to deal with stress and anxiety that came along with it. I’ve always been embarrassed about being an anxious person and found it very difficult to talk about it constructively. I am the type of person who worries what other people think and have previously thought that having talking therapy is somehow admitting weakness or that I have some serious problem. Embarrassment and humiliation are two very strong emotions for me that I don’t react well to. Having to admit my difficulties just seemed to make that worse. I know we are living in a culture now where it is OK for men to admit when they struggle with their mental health, but still for me it seemed like a really big hurdle.

I have previously had individual CBT and although I found it helpful, I didn’t get very far in helping myself. I was able to identify areas that I needed to work on but I found it really difficult to apply what I had learnt in a real-life context. As they were individual sessions, I over-analysed everything that has been unpicked and didn’t know what to do with the information. I left this thinking that talking therapy just wouldn’t work for me.

Recently I have found myself feeling really low, even though I am now in a new career that is making me much happier and that I really enjoy. After starting to feel like I wasn’t fully in control of my emotions any more, I decided to speak to The Retreat for help. I had started to feel so low that I found simple aspects of life difficult. It was a big deal for me to make that decision, but all of the staff I spoke to instantly put me at ease and explained everything clearly. After having my initial assessment, it was suggested to me that I have my therapy with my partner (of 7 years) present at the session. I was initially horrified and very hesitant about the idea, as I worried this had been interpreted as ‘couples therapy’. I thought this implied that there was something wrong with my relationship. It was then very clearly explained to me that this was not the case, it was still MY therapy, but my partner was brought into the process so everything that was going on was clearly communicated. The idea was that my closest person could support me fully if they are allowed into the discussion and hear that same advice I am hearing. It was designed to help me to communicate my anxieties in a more useful way. The idea of it was to start working on certain areas now, before it got to the case where we may actually need relationship therapy in the future.

The one thing that I found enlightening about this model is that I didn’t have to finish a session and have that post-session awkward conversion where I had explained what was discussed. As he was present, none of that happened, and instead we spent the time after a session continuing the conversation that had been started in our sessions. Naturally, it resulted in us talking about quite deep and important topics, more so than we had ever done before. My initial hesitancy was soon no longer an issue. I thought my partner and I were good at communicating however we learned that we weren’t doing this often enough or properly sharing how we were really feeling. I found that totally enlightening. Over the weeks, we worked on how to properly talk to each other, and to find time to share our worries and anxieties away from distractions. My partner also got a lot out of the sessions too, along with better understanding my needs when I’m feeling particularly low or anxious.

The process helped me to learn things about him that I genuinely hadn’t considered before. Time was also taken to get him to open up and talk about his own anxieties. This process of realising that others feel anxiety and I am not alone has really helped me to understand my anxiety. I found it weirdly comforting to discover we both have anxieties which are harboured in different ways. I worried beforehand that I was going to be put in the ‘hot seat’, but never did it feel like that. We were both made to feel like equals where we could both talk about anxieties. Fundamentally, by letting my partner in, it gave me a way to help deal with difficult situations in real-life and made me feel like we could deal with difficult situations together.

The therapist we worked with was extremely skilled at helping us unpick and talk about things I found difficult. They also helped me to see the good qualities and abilities I have. Each week we focussed on one topic and had time to talk about events that had happened in the week. They had an excellent way at being able to give feedback, constructive suggestions and advice that lead me to believe that anxiety is OK. I never felt patronised or belittled; it was a really positive process and I have come out of it much more knowledgeable about myself. I do think that both my own mindset and our relationship has benefitted from the support we have had. I still have days where I feel anxious, but I now have an outlet and feel like I’m much more able to tell my partner about it when I do. Most importantly, it’s part of me and I’ve learned to embrace it.

For anyone considering therapy, I would strongly recommend giving it a go, even if it’s something that doesn’t feel natural to you. Talking about your emotions doesn’t make you weak, it makes you better prepared for life., Also consider letting someone like your partner into the therapy with you. Although it feels exposing, you would learn so much more about each other and strengthen your relationship. It’s OK to be an anxious person, as long as you can recognise the signs, have someone to support you and have a way of managing it.

For further information about having Therapy at The Retreat York click here: Individual Therapy | The Retreat York or click here to leave your details and we will contact you. Contact Us | The Retreat York