Last week was my penultimate counselling session. I have had 10 sessions in total and when my counsellor shows up, she’s actually a great listener. She also sends me informative sheets to read, containing practical exercises for me to work on between appointments.
Referred to her only for CBT to tackle health anxiety, it’s been a strange experience. My health anxiety makes up part of who I am and the way my broken brain deals with some things but that’s not all I am grappling with.
As we bring this session to a close, I take part in another mindless questionnaire, rating my thoughts from least to most likely in various scenarios. Last month my score was 26. Last week it was 19, that’s good news apparently. My score looks better so why don’t I feel better?
My counsellor feels I need some grief counselling, to help me deal with my sight loss journey. I’m not grieving a loved one but I’m grieving a person; my old self, my old life. What I thought I would do and who I thought I would be. Not her remit and not part of this current therapy allocation. I guess I have to go back to the start and find someone else to chat about this stuff with. Caught between wanting to finish what I’ve started and the deep seated feeling that there’s really no point to any of it; I feel a bit stuck…
What if your life doesn’t neatly fit a questionnaire? What if you have more than one thing derailing your life at any one time? What if you are not a typical representation of anything. What if you are atypical? Where do the atypical folk go?
I guess I will be emailing that question into the abyss that used to be our amazing NHS. Hopefully that will be forwarded into the void that is the mental health department. I’m going to shake that rather fruitless looking tree and see if a helpful little twig falls out.
The 5 stages of grief are; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Grief is different for everyone. Not all stages will materialise or maybe they all will, just in a big jumbled mess.
In sight loss, 5 similar stages have been identified by Retina UK as part of their new Discover Wellbeing initiative;
- Diagnosis – The day/time when a person’s world is sent spinning by a life changing hospital appointment.
- Keep calm and carry on – The period of time where you can hide your vision impairment from the world and those closest to you in an effort to hold on to your old life for as long as possible.
- Point of impact – This is where sight loss has a real impact on your life. Maybe you have to change jobs, stop driving, or can no longer pursue certain passions like you used to. Maybe your hopes and dreams, your career or ability to watch your children grow, have been thrown into question.
- Coming out as a VIP – Stepping out and publicly acknowledging your sight loss. Using low vision aids, becoming an active member of the blind community and dealing with members of the public as a visually impaired person.
- Finding a way through – Embracing your new normal. Finding your resilience. Realising that your life can still be pretty amazing without 20/20 vision.
By these descriptions, I have been languishing in stage 2 with a side order of stage 3 for years. Trapped. Scared. Not ready. I have been burying myself in between these 2 categories for ages. No wonder I feel so tired and stressed all the time.
Today I was officially discharged from my course of CBT. My final counselling session was over. She encouraged me to seek further support as she aptly explained, “there is a reality to your anxiety”. There are some individuals that fear getting sick. There are some, like me, that are sick and are dealing with multiple complex medical issues that will never go away. In my case, I have a few of these issues, together with my old pal Retinitis Pigmentosa.
After my last Zoom therapy session ended, I sat staring blankly at my laptop screen for what seemed like forever …now what? Waiting for that lightning bolt moment that never comes, I made some coffee and contacted Retina UK. Why stumble around in the dark, when there are perfectly decent torches available…