“I found myself struggling to juggle the demands placed on me. Seeing how I was quite close to actually carrying out my suicidal thoughts scared me a lot.” Adam* writes about his journey.
Last year I started a new job as a trainee teacher. After a few months I found myself struggling to juggle the demands that it placed on me. A few screw-ups at the beginning shook my confidence a bit, and after a while I started to second-guess myself a lot. I worried a lot about not being good enough for my students and soon it became overwhelming. Around the time when I started my job, I also had a falling out with my romantic partner whom I considered to be a close friend as well. I think this compounded the feelings I had about not being good enough for anyone, not being deserving of life.
I had struggled with suicidal ideation throughout my university days way before the events I described above. But I never really sought professional help because I thought I could handle it all on my own and that counselling was a waste of time. The developments above kind of pushed me to the brink and made me really consider taking my own life because I felt like I was just messing everything up.
Seeing how I was quite close to actually carrying out my suicidal thoughts scared me a lot so I asked some close friends if they knew of a good counsellor, and one of them recommended EMCC to me. I took a chance and set up an appointment to get the help I needed.
I was a bit nervous when attending my first session, but was pleasantly surprised that Sanny, the counsellor assigned to me, was herself a former teacher, so she was able to relate to my experience. She was patient and her presence calming. One of the first things she taught me was a breathing exercise to calm down whenever I felt I was about to be overwhelmed with anxiety at work. It really helped me to stop the rush and clear my mind before teaching a class, or when I had to decide what task to take on next at work.
“Grounding” and routines
Sanny asked a lot of questions about my situation and how I felt and perceived myself, not only to understand the bigger picture of what I was going through, but to also challenge the beliefs I had about what I was facing, and about myself. I think this was one of the biggest takeaways from my sessions with Sanny, to stop and reflect on how much of what I perceive of myself is grounded in reality, or if I was being overly self-critical.
She also noticed my tendency to catastrophise whenever I encountered an obstacle at work. She taught me to ask such “grounding questions” which helped me feel more in touch with the reality of my situation, instead of letting my mind run wild with the worst possible scenarios I could think of. I realised that even when I hit a bump at work or in life, even the worst outcome was not truly as catastrophic as I thought it was, and that even should the worst happen, I am still surrounded by people who care about me, and I am still alive and healthy. This way of framing how I thought about things also helped me be grateful for the good things that I have in my life, no matter how small.
Sanny also taught me that one way I could keep my anxiety in check was if I could reduce the amount of uncertainty in my life by setting up routines to help me be more systematic with the tasks that I need to do in my daily life.
In a better place now
I think that I am in a much better place now. I have continued the practice of asking myself “grounding” questions whenever I get too worried about things. I also keep a journal now so that I can track my thoughts and my frame of mind. Having neglected my physical health, I also created routines for running and exercising.
My journey with anxiety and depression has taught me the importance of mental health. In school, students have come to me for advice on dealing with their own anxiety. The journey has allowed me to relate to them and I share with them what I do to keep calm and track my thoughts, while also encouraging them to see a professional counsellor if they feel the need to.
I have since left the teaching service, but after meeting students from all walks of life and the challenges they face growing up, I feel that I would like to move into a role that allows me to play a part in looking after their emotional and mental well-being. Perhaps I may pursue qualifications in counselling or youth work.
*not his real name