Laura: a story of I.M.P.A.C.T.

“In the two years or so prior to seeing Mark, I had surgery for cancer and developed an intestinal condition. Before that and for more years than I care to remember, I was suffering from what I now know to be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as the result of two traumatic incidents. My professional life, while successful, was ruining my health. I had avoided therapy because I saw it as a failure, but despite my best efforts my antidepressants weren’t helping. I was suicidal and if I’m being honest, it was only the thought of my husband and children that stopped me from going through with it. My health became so poor that my GP reluctantly had to take my driving licence away from me. Looking back, losing my ability to drive was the worst thing of all. Gone was my independence.”

I is for IMPACT

My GP asked me to reconsider therapy, so I went on a counselling directory and saw Mark’s photo and profile. In our first session he asked me why I had chosen him. I told him that in his photo he looked kind. I understood the meaning behind the name of his business, so in addition to kindness I told him I also needed him to accept me, to not judge me, regardless of what I came through his door with each week. Although it took me several months to finally talk about some stuff, I knew that I had to if I was to get better.

M is for Meaning

I’d always seen myself as a miscalculation on my parents’ part, an error. My parents were very young when I was born, and this was the conclusion I came to. Mark made a connection between my poor mental health and the dim view I had of myself. The knowledge he shared with me about identity and emotions was a genuine missing piece of the jigsaw. Mark talked a lot about my negative self. He suggested that this was who I thought I was and that our job was to get me to see otherwise. I’ll admit I found this confusing at first as, if this wasn’t who I was, then who was I? As it turned out, I was the one who booked the first therapy session. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas—Mark said—and negative selves don’t book therapy sessions. Understanding that my negative self would not have accessed therapy because therapy is a threat to their dominance, put me in contact with the parts of myself which I now realise were responsible for my recovery.

P is for Patterns

Therapy helped me to identify one particularly destructive pattern. I did not consider myself as important and was unable to do positive things for myself. For example, I often left work very late— sometimes in the small hours—and I would wait for a night bus to take me back home. Despite earning more than enough to pay for a taxi, I saw such expense as an indulgence. This pattern of self-neglect was also reflected in my prioritisation of others. Focusing on patterns helped  me correct this pattern (and others) which was not helping me. I had habituated the pattern that I could only be a good person if I helped others. I was simply the person who everyone else went to because I never said “no” to a request for help. This pattern in my relationships was, I believe, killing me.

A is for Acceptance

Prior to therapy, I would never have considered myself a good person, someone with esteem and worth. In therapy I came to accept that I was not a mistake. Hearing Mark tell me, repeatedly, that I had worth as a human being eventually sank in. I either accepted what he said or had to accuse him of lying. I also came to accept that other people and life events had to share some responsibility for who I was and the life I had led. This had been pointed out to me before, but accepting it felt like an excuse. So I stopped rescuing and providing for everyone else. The fear that putting myself first sometimes would result in people abandoning me never materialised. There were some who didn’t like being told, “no,” and they disappeared from my life, but if that was a bad thing then why did I feel better? I still gave a lot of myself to my friends and family, but I got the balance right between them and me. I came to accept that fundamentally changing my approach to myself and my life was not a mark of failure, but one of achievement.

C is for Challenge

While my overall health was improving, I knew I had to find alternative employment if I was to make a full recovery. This meant changing career. This was not a new realisation, but simply thinking about what this would involve caused me to have panic attacks. I came to see that it was not the goal of changing that was overwhelming, but my strategy to achieve it. Over time, I developed a realistic, achievable approach to changing my career that satisfied my need for progress without causing me to panic I would never find one. That was my worst fear, that I would never find one. Everything else depended on this outcome and I can’t tell you the relief I felt when I knew it would be possible. Mark found a level of challenge that I could accept. Once I knew it was going to happen, I was able to start thinking about what I could do next. This was another challenge, but I had a large network of contacts that Mark suggested I tap into. One of those resulted in the role I am doing now.

T is for Transformation

At the end of therapy I was fundamentally a different person leading a fundamentally different life. Virtually everything has changed: my career, the number of hours I work, my relationships and my health. Two great days were when my intestinal condition was brought under control and I got my driving licence back. I initially chose Mark because he looked kind, but his IMPACT model showed me where I had been going wrong and what I could do about it. I changed my career and I am now a mentor working with disadvantaged young adults. I walk my dogs and enjoy my holidays. And most importantly my family no longer have to worry about me being around.” Laura

Getting support

If you are inspired by Laura’s story and would like to know more about our IMPACT approach to mental health and wellbeing please get in touch.