I lost someone, and years of struggling in the dark followed. Find out more about how I picked myself up, and how counselling played a part in my journey of recovery. A personal sharing by Sarah Chung.
At 26 years old, I realised that I still had no idea who I was. Since before I could remember, my mother was in the centre of my life. Everything I knew came from her, right and wrong, what to do and what not to do, I never questioned any of it. I never really had a mind of my own, and I never had to. It all changed on the night that she passed away. I was left completely lost, I didn’t know who I was anymore, it was like a huge part of my identity was now gone. I didn’t know how to cope with this new gap in my being, all I could do was isolate myself so that nobody had to see the mess I was becoming. As time went on, I started getting worse. I was experiencing horrible demonic nightmares, I entertained all sorts of negative thoughts about myself and others, I found myself spacing out and wondering how best to die and imagined all sorts of scenarios including jumping in front of a car on a highway.
Moved on in life, but not in mind
Before I could resolve the negative thoughts that were plaguing my mind and while still not having a sense of who I was, my life “moved on”, and went through drastic changes in the next 4 years, including getting married and moving out of the loving home I had known for some 30 years of my life. Within the first year of marriage and living with my husband, I struggled hard to cope with all the adjustments. The intricacies of marriage and living together with someone who is so different from me took a heavy toll on my mental and emotional health. It didn’t help that I still missed my mother immensely and would think of her by default in difficult situations.
I started getting worse again, imagining ways to end my life because I was so trapped in my own mind and so convinced that I was just an empty shell that no one could possibly love and that my life had no meaning. There were countless nights when I prayed to God that after falling asleep that night, I would not wake up the next morning. I felt trapped in a darkness that nobody could understand, not even my closest family members and friends. That was when I knew I needed help. And I needed it now.
Thankfully, a friend who knew me well introduced a counsellor to me, whom she thought I could potentially build good rapport with. I decided to give it a go, and this ended up being one of the best decisions in my life.
What counselling was like and how it changed me
Each counselling session I’ve had gave me a safe space to be heard by someone who knew nothing about me and thus had no reason to judge me. My counsellor’s peaceful and accepting demeanour also helped me to be vulnerable and truthful. It was my first time feeling extremely safe while being transparent in voicing out my thoughts and feelings.
As we explored together, she helped me to learn things about myself that I would never have on my own. For instance, she helped me to realise that the first trigger of my low self-esteem happened all the way back when I was just a toddler when the Sunday School teacher mentioned to my mother that she had given up on me because I refused to utter a single word even with much coaxing. This was a memory that I thought I had long forgotten, but while we explored together, the memory resurfaced and I came to realise that I still had strong feelings about it, I had just been keeping it locked up in some corner of my mind and did not get to process it all these years.
The human mind is so complex, made up of a myriad of complicated thoughts and experiences. What my counsellor did for me was to figure out which of these thoughts and experiences played a part significant enough to influence the preconceptions and assumptions that I had at present, and figure out if these preconceptions and assumptions were good or bad for me in the situations that I was sharing with her about. The whole process provided me with much enlightenment, as I felt myself evolving into a more secure person. I also allowed people who care about me to journey with me, this was important because it reinforced what counselling was doing for me, dispelling my negative thoughts that I was worthless.
Empowered and better equipped for life ahead, I grew from someone who had no clue about her identity to someone surer about who she is, and then to someone who could even embrace who she is. This in turn led to an increase in self-esteem and overall motivation in life.
A heartfelt message to the readers
On this personal journey, I have come to believe that counselling is for everyone. I’ve learned that the stigma of counselling does not matter. What people think about me needing therapy does not matter. Or at least, these things shouldn’t matter more than what I think of myself, my opinion (even if it’s about myself) is important too! In fact, it’s more important than what the world thinks of me. I only wish I had listened to my own needs earlier, and sought help earlier, instead of entering new phases of life while my mind was clearly not in a good place.
It is ok to need help, it does not mean that there is something wrong with you. You deserve to give yourself a better chance at overcoming your mountains. Counselling therapy can be your first step in climbing out of the darkness into the light. It is extremely useful in offering different perspectives, helping you to know yourself better, and thus equip you better for challenges ahead in life.
Let this be an encouragement for you to seek counselling help for yourself. Do you need it? If your answer is “I’m not sure”, I would say, go for it, don’t wait any longer and get swept up by life’s never-ending distractions. Go for it, it may just be the best decision you can make for yourself in life.