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Any Port In A Storm: How Counselling Depression Can Help

By Tom Bulpit MBACP

Port in a Storm

The recent bad weather has given many of us pause for thought. Despite a long, cold, dark winter, March and April have so far given us some promise that Spring is on the way. But this week, much of the UK has been affected by heavy rain, wind and flooding.

I consider myself very fortunate to live on the Isle of Wight, however I woke up earlier this week to scroll through Facebook and see photos showing my hometown of Cowes quite literally underwater. Record-breaking high tides had come overnight, spilling past the ferry terminal and through the entire high street. Almost every business and home was affected, many flooded out with up to a foot of water in offices, reception areas and living rooms.

For many of my fellow Islanders, trade here is seasonal and relies on the tourism of the warmer months. Many people and businesses struggle to make ends meet during the Winter, when the Island effectively shuts down for many, and will use that time to refurbish, make improvements and plan new menus and activities. To then get so close to that warmer weather and for a flood like this to happen, tests much of our resilience. I'm sure many communities across the Solent have been similarly affected.

A flooded street

I am a counsellor, and not a scientist. I can't speak with any kind of expertise to what extent climate change is a factor here, nor a lack of investment in improving flood defences. But when we struggle with all our best efforts against the unstoppable force of Mother Nature, it can feel like a metaphor for dealing with life itself; try as we can, sometimes an unexpected wave comes along. All we can try and do is stand against it as best we can.

The mental health impact of weather is huge, not just least for those who are traumatised by the damage and disruption of severe events like these floods. 1 in 4 of us are believed to be affected by something called Seasonal Affective Disorder, and according to science, men are actually more vulnerable than women to it. Scientists say that we need Vitamin D from the sunlight to produce the "happy chemicals" and hormones in our brain that makes us feel positive and upbeat, and if we don't get enough of this, we have a deficiency, which makes us feel tired, low and stuck.

Like I said, I'm not a scientist, and for me it's simply being cold, wet and sluggish that often has an impact on my own self-esteem and mood. I'm sure many people can relate.

It can be hard when we're feeling low to reach out for the things that might make us feel better. That's why depression can be so hard for other people to understand; we have access to the tools that could make us happy, yet we find ourselves often unable to use them. That's what depression does, like quicksand, or a black hole, it sucks us in and tries to keep us there. Sometimes it might even feel strangely comfortable, and with that also comes chronic guilt, and shame.

Talking to a counsellor

People talk to me as a counsellor mostly because I don't know them. I'm not a part of their lives, I'm not a spouse or a friend or a family member. It almost feels anonymous, and when they start to talk to me I'm a blank slate, purely learning about them from what they tell me, and not anybody else.

I try to create a space that feels like freedom, a space for warmth and openness and honesty. I listen, I learn, I might ask questions to help me understand. And from there builds consistency, and from there, trust. I show that I'm a real human being and not a bespectacled old man in a white coat with a clipboard. I show that I care and that I empathise, and that I want to be there and try to help.

My philosophy of counselling depression, the Person-Centred Approach, believes that when you give someone in difficulty those simple conditions, they feel like they can open up to you. Even if it takes a long time. Even if they get scared and need to withdraw to take a break. And as you mirror and reflect their feelings, they begin to see themselves in a new light; an honest light, one that if I can accept them for who they are, they might begin to be able to accept themselves.

And if they can accept, they can love. And if they can love, they can find the strength to put themselves first and make the right choices for them. Choices like reaching out for those good things they've felt so powerless to be able to reach, maybe even for the first time.

And that's why I'm a counsellor, and not a scientist.

Tom Bulpit MBACP is Managing Director of The Empathy Project and a Person-Centred Psychotherapist. Specialising in depression, trauma and abuse, he is passionate about create space for people to be able to talk in confidence. You can see his profile here.

Would you like to talk to a counsellor? You can book a session with our team here, including a free 20 minute no-obligation consultation.

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