How therapy helped me
Kelly writes about her experience of therapy, becoming a therapist and why she fundraises for Mind.
Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by human behaviour. As a little girl I would sit with my Granddad in coffee shops, watching the world go by and commenting on those walking past - if they looked sad, if they looked happy and wondering what was going on in their mind. It is an activity I do with him to this day.
When I was in college my life took an unexpected turn. One of my friends took his own life - as everyone was turning 18, he decided that he didn’t want to. For years afterwards I questioned myself - could I have done more? If he had spoken to me about how he felt, would he still have done it? If I was at that party with him could I have stopped him?
The questions went round and around in my head, a constant stream of “what ifs”. I managed to get through the last year of college but noticed myself changing. I didn’t want to talk, and I isolated myself because no one could answer the questions in my head. I ended relationships and friendships because they just didn’t understand.
"I didn’t want to feel the emotions I had inside, so I bottled them up and blocked them out."
When I went away to university to study Psychology and Criminology, I started to feel differently. I learnt about mental health and knew that I wanted to help people; I wanted to be the person that people could talk to when they felt they had nowhere else to turn. But then, in my second year of university, I lost my Aunt suddenly and quickly reverted back to how I had been before.
I didn’t want to speak, I became isolated and found myself using coping mechanisms that I knew were not helping. I didn’t want to feel the emotions I had inside, so I bottled them up and blocked them out until a friend suggested I speak to a professional. I thought that this was how I wanted to be, and I felt a failure for wanting to help others but not myself.
Eventually I took the plunge and went to speak to a professional. For a while I went there and pretended everything was ok, choosing to speak about my career path instead of the pain I was feeling inside. I didn’t want to open up, especially as I hoped to become a therapist myself one day - I wanted her to see me as someone who could do the role, so I was nervous to express how I was feeling.
"Through talking I slowly started to piece together how I had been feeling, and realised that I couldn’t continue this way."
I continued to go and speak about my dreams for the future until one day I couldn’t pretend anymore. I started to bare my soul, speaking about the blame that I carried for years following my friend taking his own life, the failure I felt for not being able to help him and then not being able to deal with my own emotions when my Aunt passed away. Through talking I slowly started to piece together how I had been feeling, and realised that I couldn’t continue this way. Through therapy I began to build myself back up, and realised that going through this didn’t mean that I couldn’t help others – if anything it made me more determined.
After finishing university, I trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I loved getting to see every person that came for help grow as they moved through therapy, and develop into the person that they wanted to be. Of course, CBT doesn’t work for everyone, but I show every person that I see my passion and determination to help them become the version of themselves they want to be.
"I saw Mind giving people the chance and support to change their lives – just like my therapist had given me."
I started my role as a CBT therapist volunteering for Mind. I saw Mind giving people the chance and support to change their lives – just like my therapist had given me. This made me determined to help to raise money for Mind throughout my career, to help those in need and to make sure that people with mental health difficulties never feel like they have to face it alone.
I decided to organise a music event, as I have always found that music has been a vital part in my well-being and lots of the people I see use music to help them too. When I told my friends my idea of a “charity rave” they all thought it was an amazing idea, but no one had heard of anything like it, which spurred me on to make it happen.
"I love that when I am giving out leaflets or free mix CDs I am starting conversations with people about mental health."
I spoke to a local club and they were really helpful and keen to get involved, so it seemed like a perfect fit. This is something I’ve never done before, but the club and all the DJs I asked to get involved have been supporting me every step of the way.
The organising has been harder than I expected, but I love that when I am giving out leaflets or free mix CDs I am starting conversations with people about mental health. Every time I talk about the work Mind does I have had such a positive response, and everyone I have spoken to has been curious and supportive about Mind and mental health.
Even though it’s involved some late nights and long hours, these conversations have definitely been the highlight of organising the event so far. It’s been amazing to spread the word about Mind and get people talking about mental health in a totally new environment.
I’m a strong believer in talking about mental health to anyone who will listen in the hope that I will help bring an end to the stigma around mental health, one person at a time.
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