‘The worst time of my life’
Mick Cooper is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton. He recently wrote about a crisis point when he was 30:
‘That weekend was probably the worst of my life. I hardly slept the Friday night, just terrible feelings of anxiety and worry. Thinking over and over again what had gone wrong. A few hours sleep, then pub the next day and again some temporary relief. Then walking, walking, walking with my partner—along Brighton seafront—trying to make sense of things and work out ways forward. A game of pool in a pub in Hove. Slow walk back along the Western Road. I bought some aftershave at a chemist in Seven Dials that was my favourite for many years. Back home in the silence and the pain of it all. Moments alone were the worst, when my partner went to sleep.’
He felt like he ‘was going nowhere … It was the last closed door in a series of closed doors.’ At 30, he had failed his thesis after feeling like he had been struggling for years. I think that reflects how many people feel when life is going wrong, it just isn’t fulfilling any of your expectations and on top of all that some kind of catastrophe happens. It’s at crisis points like these – failing an important exam, losing a job, a relationship ending – that will push us towards getting help. Everyone else seems fed up with us and we feel like we are boring them with the same old issues. And NOTHING is changing. The thoughts go round and round and we spiral down an increasingly slippery spiral to despair.
Start before the crisis happens
But what if we got help before the crisis, when we realise we are struggling but haven’t hit the crunch point yet? What might happen if we work with the issues, the anxiety, the dawning realisation that life isn’t turning out as planned, and explore what’s going on underneath. What difference would that make? I see a lot of people as they approach 30 saying, ‘What am I doing with my life? Where am I going?’ And often underneath is the question, ‘Who am I?’ It’s hard to do this on your own – where do you start? Maybe it’s really hard to tell your friends or family you are struggling with the bigger picture, or you may believe they have switched off to your difficulties that never seem to end.
How counselling can help when you are struggling
The way I work is to listen first, without making judgments about what’s going on – I try to hear and see (even on the phone) you fully, to get you and what makes you tick. It takes some time, but in the process you get clearer on what’s going on for you, what’s happened to you and how you relate to other people. As we look at that and explore why, you discover more about who you are and how you want to be. It’s only then that things – you – can start to change. It doesn’t mean life will stop throwing bricks at you – we never know what life will bring – but it does mean you’ll be able to cope better and have a surer footing as you deal with people and events.
Is counselling expensive?
This might seem a daunting and expensive way of going about things. I can help with the daunting part: I am supportive and help you with the process of counselling, making sure you can get the best of it. I adapt to what you need and we review regularly so that I know you are getting on okay. The money part is up to you. If you come for 20 sessions, that’s a grand – the cost of a decent holiday – with results that last a lifetime. Sometimes it takes longer but you’ll know that’s what you want to do by then, and be certain that it’s important to you to continue.
Get in touch to see if we would work together well – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mick Cooper is now a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Counselling Psychology at the University of Roehampton. You can read how it turned out for him here