Cherie is a friend of Seaside Writing’s founder, Alex Christopher, from high school. Cherie is a practising counsellor and mental health support worker and constantly considers how to improve herself to be able to help others. I have always felt that is a beautiful, to the bone, honest writer. In this piece, she shares her struggle with writing and also the freedom she feels in penning things about her experience as someone who has suffered mental illness and someone who finds the space to support those that come to her. Writing can help many career types. And the sea can soothe too. 

“Write”, I urged myself. “Just write.

“Just sit down with a blank page and let things fall out of your head. Don’t think about it. Just do it. That’s when you’re most raw, most honest, most profound.”

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so lost and so settled in my life. The deeper I dive into my own personal growth and spiritual journey, the more out of touch I feel with so much of the world. I uncover deep wounds and heal them, I explore new perspectives of old opinions and play with their application in my life, yet the more I try to explain it, the more crazy I feel. It’s hard to pull yourself out of your own world, where you’re learning and hurting, and healing and trying to understand why you are. Most times, I don’t WANT to reconnect with the world. It’s hostile out there. It’s selfish and unjust, and cruel. But when I do reconnect, I find smiles, mutual exchanges of energy between strangers and excellent coffee.

My life at the moment is a bit… I’ll find the word later… my days consist, through supporting my clients, of revisiting my darkest hours. Seeing myself in my clients tears and anxious fidgets. My days, spiritually and energetically are so controlled. I hold space for clients without saying a word and allow them to feel things that they normally don’t make time for, or feel silly for feeling, or wanted to avoid. Sorry. Sometimes you gotta feel them. And I’m right here with you.

Of course this has had an impact on my inner world. I’m seeing so much severity and cruelty in the stories these beautiful women are sharing and I feel blessed to have made it out the other side of black holes and self destruction. I’ve recognised some guilt coming out of that too. Guilty that I had such an incredible mother to literally keep me alive through those days, nights, weeks that I was staring helplessly into the abyss. She held my tether and let me stand there as long as I needed to, but when I collapsed, she pulled me towards her instead of allowing me to tumble over the edge, and resuscitated me with unconditional love. Guilty, that I’ve found incredible connections with therapists and not had to spend half my energy FINDING one let alone working with one. Guilty, that I had the education opportunities that I’ve had. Guilty, that I’m using my hardships to see right through all my clients’ defenses and protective words.

It’s the guilt that has been eating at me.

Apparently.

Guilt was my go-to emotion. Guilt was what I worked on for so many years with my therapist who has helped shape who I am as a mental health worker, and who inspires me to be an incredible counsellor one day. Guilt. And fear. Fear I’ve worked through a bit with timeline therapy and hypnosis more recently… but guilt… guilt because I had ALL THIS and still managed to struggle with anxiety, depression and eating disorders. What right do I have to feel like that when I’ve lived such a charmed life? Only child, incredible humans for parents, ponies, puppies, music, whatever extracurricular I wanted.

Of course, this guilt is unfounded, irrational. It’s the same as feeling guilty for getting cancer, or MS, or a head cold. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate between socioeconomic groups, or ethnicity, or religion. Mental illness is an illness. I fought mine with support because I was MEANT to get through it and flourish. Because I’m MEANT to support these people now.

When my clients ask me if I’ve ever felt like I just wanted to stop existing, I can, and always do, respond honestly with “yeah. Yeah I have. It’s a really dark place to be, and I’m sorry that you’re there. I’ve felt that.” I don’t want to make them “feel better”. What they’re feeling now is valid, and real, and important. And they need to know they’re not alone feeling like that, that they’re not weird, broken, unworthy.

Weekly, I hear “my life sucks, sorry” at least 3 times. My vibration increases, my breathing slows, and I offer them some of my energy, (Silently. There’s so much of my work that doesn’t involve words). My life sucks. I remember saying it. Feeling it. Thinking it. Always told I was ungrateful and spoilt… No! My life, inside my head, was a fucking nightmare. Constantly telling myself awful, hateful things. “You’re not worthy, you fucked up, you’ll never make it out of here, you’ll never achieve anything, give up, fatty, no one will love you with a chin like that, a nose like that, a belly like that, hands like that, a face like that”

Now I hear my clients indicating that their head is telling them these things and my heart breaks for them. No one is louder than your own inner critic, your own self doubt. They scream at you. Inside your head becomes so noisy and impossible. People tell you things from the outside that get run through the “hate-filter” in your head before you hear them. Then people get angry that you didn’t listen to them…

Sometimes my heart remains heavy. If I’ve had a hard week myself (like this week), I tend to stay a bit too connected to my clients and my heart feels a little weighed down. Writing this made me realise that I’m carrying some stuff that isn’t mine. And now I can work on letting that go before I get to my next client, so I can support her fully.

“Write”, I urged myself. “Just write”.

First published here.