What is it like to be a teenager in counselling?

Jane is a 14-year-old girl who wrote and illustrated this article to give us a unique teenage perspective on counselling. Her name has been changed to protect anonymity.

What is it like to be a teenager in counselling?

It’s hard to explain. Counselling is a process, it can be short or long depending on the person. For me, counselling was like talking to a trustworthy friend. Spilling the juice from a bottle that you couldn’t open because you weren’t strong enough. Some people may say counselling is useless or that it doesn’t work but, for me, it did work.

I have anxiety attacks, I used to have them on average twice a week. At first, I didn’t know what they were, I just used to cry, shake, and over-breathe or under-breathe. For me, it's like when you almost get run over and your heart leaps and then you feel weirdly cold - that’s what it feels like but extended over more time. It wasn't until one day when I had one on a coach in front of my teacher and she explained to me what was happening.  

“The only thing I can think about, every day, every waking moment is how afraid I am. There’s no room for anything else.” – Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games Catching Fire.

This is what I felt like when I was having a panic attack. When I have read about other people’s experiences, they feel numb or pins and needles. I think if I had stopped breathing during one I wouldn’t have even noticed.

When I started counselling, I didn’t even know what I was afraid of or worried about. But counselling helped me work it out. Once you understand what you’re afraid about, you can control it more and do things to help yourself.

There are different counsellors out there - I had a school counsellor first who took sides (what was talked about in the room was shared out of the room) so when I saw a private counsellor, I felt they understood me more.

Over the course of the year and a half that I've been having counselling, I've only had about four panic attacks. They are usually small ones and I have learnt how to calm myself down. I have distractions: audiobooks, oils, and counting to 1000 if I had too. Once somebody told me you can distract yourself from them, but one day you’re going to have to face them or it will build up into a giant anxiety attack; I have no idea if this is true or not, but I guess I will find out.

What did you like and dislike about counselling?

There were pauses in-between the talking where it would be completely silent, I hated that. I could hear the radiator gurgling in the background, the soft padded footsteps of a small creature walking upstairs and the small clicking noises of the toy I was fiddling with. When it was silent I would look to the floor for all of it just to avoid eye contact until they said something. 

Another thing that a lot of people say that is of no use to me is to focus on my breathing. I don’t know whether this is just me but, when I do, I get confused and can’t remember how to do it. I just start to feel breathless and eventually have to focus on something else so I can just leave my body to do it normally.

I liked letting stuff off my chest. You might not feel it straight away but, occasionally, I would realise I had stopped thinking about something I was worried about after. For example, one of the random worries that came up was wearing make-up. I really wanted to start wearing it at school but I was scared about the reaction of other students and my family.

What if I put it on wrong? How do I actually wear it?

I talked it over with my counsellor she suggested I started to gradually wear it. But I decided, with her help, that I would start wearing it when I got to college and would be surrounded with new people. Until then, I wear it at the weekends and when I’m with the people I trust. This feels like the right solution for me.

Counselling comes in different forms. I believe writing a journal or a book, making a speech and drawing is the same for others. Counselling worked for me, so just find something that works for you.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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