Michelle Fanning explains how counselling helped her get her life back on track
The reason I sought counselling with MS-UK was because I was suffering from anxiety and depression.
I had lost my zest for life. I was feeling sad crying all the time and not looking after myself. I was in a very dark place and I did not like the way I was feeling. I knew that I needed professional help and support to enable me to get better. I desperately wanted to be myself again and get my mojo back.
I was offered counselling services by my GP and my workplace, but I was reluctant to take them up as I had an underlying fear that things may be shared with my employer. Anxiety can cause you to feel paranoid and mistrusting. I know that this would not be the case as counsellors are bound by confidentiality and would only breach this if there are safeguarding concerns, but this was how I was feeling at the time.
I wanted to use a service that was completely independent and I found out that MS-UK offered telephone counselling, which I signed up to. I was fortunate that they were able to offer me an appointment a few weeks later with a counsellor.
My safe space
I found the counselling sessions offered such a safe space. I was able to talk about how my anxiety and depression impacted on my life.
It was valuable to have someone who was non-judgement and had a good understanding of mental health issues, and how stressful situations can impact on multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms and cause relapses or flares.
The counsellor used cognitive behaviour therapy and provided me with strategies to help me better manage my anxieties and depression. We worked on short-term goals, for example, the importance of self-care and daily routines and then explored some longer-term goals.
The biggest changes that I experienced as a result of having counselling was the feeling of having some of the weight lifted of my shoulders. I had been carrying around these feelings for a while and felt lighter just by having someone I trusted to talk and share my inner feelings with.
The counsellor helped me look at the underlying issues which caused my anxiety and depression and then gave me the tools to enable me to cope and manage better. My confidence had been affected and we explored my strengths and I started to feel more positive and began to value myself again.
I know that it is going to take time to fully recover but I am hopeful that one day I will. This will all be in the past and I will have a brighter future.
My family noticed the changes in me especially when I was making the concerted effort to get out of bed each day. I had started to take care of myself and was washing and dressing.
My appetite improved and I started to eat regular meals and gained weight. I stopped isolating myself and started to go out of the house and became more active, even if it was just for a short walk to the park to get fresh air and connect with nature. I was no longer crying and my family said I appeared more cheerful in my mood. The darkness of the depression was starting to lift. The changes in my mental and physical health became noticeable to those closest to me.
My relationship with my children improved as they could see the effort and I was trying to make and it made them feel happier that I was trying to get better. I had found a church where I was able to forge new relationships and receive spiritual healing and reconnect with God. My life was beginning to get better and new opportunities were arising.
I would say to some with MS and who is struggling to cope to please access the MS-UK Counselling service. There is no need to suffer in silence and feel alone, there is a saying “a problem aired is a problem shared”. Just pick up the phone and get the help you need.
Click here to find out more MS-UK Counselling