One client’s story about how SICCT helped him

When your life feels as though it’s falling apart you have two options. You give up, submit to the darkness that seems to surround you, or you lift your chin up and try your best to make it through. However, in times of madness, and in times of sorrow, I believe it’s possible to come to a place in which neither option seems possible. A void if you will. This is where I found myself a year or so ago. I lacked the motivation to hold my head up high. I also lacked the courage to give into the darkness. I found myself torn, beaten and left bleeding on the outer planes of existence, blind, and unaware that I was giving in to my darkness, letting my demons take control over my actions. I struggled to sleep. I struggled to eat. I drowned my sorrows in alcohol and drugs. I did nothing to better my situation or my mental health. ‘Take the dog for a walk’ or ‘Go lose yourself in nature’ didn’t seem appealing anymore. I was depressed. My depression was fueling my anxiety and my anxiety, and panic attacks were fueling my depression. A vicious circle to say the least. I had no tools to deal with my grief or my sorrow. My darkness seemed to have won, and I wanted it to win because I didn’t want to feel scared or alone anymore. I didn’t want to feel anything. But then something happened. I saw a light.

That light was my mother. She was the light in my darkness, at the moment when I had no eyes to see. She encouraged me to get help and I immediately did just that. I looked high and low. Made what seemed like millions of crippling phone calls and finally I was given the number for the south island centre for counselling and training. Affordable counselling. I had drunk my money away and was already in a world of debt so this seemed like an easy choice to make. Little did I know then what would come of it. Who I would meet there and how it would change my life for the better.

My schedule did not really allow me to make it to sessions during the day and the kind woman on the phone had asked me if I would feel more comfortable speaking to a man. I immediately said no. For some reason I didn’t feel comfortable talking to a man. It was then that she said, ‘well i guess you’re stuck me with me’, in a far more professional manner. My counsellor eventually helped me gain my eyes back. Our first couple sessions were quiet. I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do. How I was supposed to act. Which filter to speak through or which mask to wear. But she kickstarted the movement and asked to hear about my past experiences and my present symptoms. I didn’t waste any more time and dove into my life story. Sessions later I had finished and It had felt good. I was still battling with depression, and still having Panic attacks regularly, but I had been given hope.

I had night terrors of a tower at the top of a mountain path at the end of a cemetery. Every night I would go there, more scared that I ever thought possible. Always walking to the massive wooden door, and, upon trying to enter, was pushed back in a gust of anger and screaming. I was at first afraid to talk about my dreams, but as time went on I eventually went on to discuss them. I initially had thought that my dreams were a metaphor, and I wasn’t wrong, only, I had something backwards. See, there cannot be light wit out dark. No yin without yang. I assumed that my demons (or my darkness), had abandoned me and locked themselves in this tower, leaving me half a person and alone. I was wrong. I had been living through the eyes of my demons the entire time. I had locked myself in that tower, as a small child, years before. And I don’t blame myself for not letting the demons in.

We had a breakthrough. We had something to work with. We identified some of the key reasons that I locked myself in that tower. It truly did all stem from an early age, So we set off on a journey that I now know will be life long. My counsellor offered me a generous amount of exercises, loaned me books and gave me articles written by professors who taught at universities that I had never even heard of.

The following months would be filled with reading and journal writing. “I am” and “I deserve” exercises, and positive affirmation notes started to cover my walls. I was starting to understand who I really was; How I had come to this aformentioned “void”. We dove deeper into my past and uncovered that much of my childhood was a struggle and with the help of my counsellor and my homework exercises, my deep seeded issues began to surface and became something we could address together.

With much patience and perseverance, I could finally see. I had my eyes back. I worked hard. I worked on forgiving those in my past who had done me wrong. I focused my mind on strategies and coping skills that would cut down the amount of panic attacks I would have daily. I was healing. I started to feel more in tune with my life, but tTyronehe biggest and most painful thing I had yet to do was forgive myself for I too had done myself wrong. I needed to heal that child locked away in me – the child I had abandoned for a life of partying and a “live fast die young” mentality. I needed to give that inner child his freedom and allow him to “grow up” into who I knew I needed to be. My counsellor guided me through a visioning exercise to create a safe space in my mind – a place in which I could invite my child self to sit with my adult self and have an opportunity to learn what he needed – what he had missed out on in his life and heal him. It took months and at times I felt it was hopeless but my counsellor was there. I had a place to turn to, and someone to help me through my frustrations. She helped me to realize self-worth, something I had never before experienced. She helped me to come to a state in which I actually believed, whole heartedly, that i meant something, that I was a good person and that i was genuinely kind and compassionate. She showed me that I was a human being who was allowed to make mistakes and I would learn from them. She helped me to forgive myself, and with that i am forever thankful. She helped me to learn that I could love myself, and slowly, I began to believe it. It all came down to belief. Not in any higher power, but belief in myself.

One day, months later, I woke up. I hadn’t had a panic attack in months. I felt amazingly good about myself and didn’t seem to have a worry in the world. It felt good to be me. It felt good to live and laugh, be happy and primarily content. There were good days and bad days but that’s the same with every human on this earth. One particularly bad day though, i felt the need to return to my safe space. I closed my eyes, practiced my exercises, took deep breaths and returned to a surprising scene. My safe space was still there, as beautiful as ever, only, the child parts of me were no longer there. One by one they had become a part of me. Piece by piece I glued myself together and for the first time so far as I can remember, I was whole.

My experience at South Island Centre is one I will never forget. One that I will always treasure because I was helped to give my own self a second chance. I am my light, but I am also my darkness. Learning to balance those two will be a life long journey but never again will I give up on myself. I will pay this gift forward to others; pay it forward to those who need the help they so richly deserve. Because of this experience I’ve decided to go back to school and study to be a counsellor – I’m not sure what that will actually look like or how long it will take but it will happen in my life time, and I will do my best to give those in need what was given to me, a second chance at learning what it means to be whole, what it means to truly know yourself and what it means to love yourself.