Rachel Kelly
Writer, Mental Health Campaigner, Public Speaker

In the client’s chair: The end of the rainbow

How Therapy Hel­ped - An ar­ticle I wrote for TherapyToday.­net - May 2014

Look­ing back, I’m as­tonis­hed that it took me two major break­downs, one in 1997 and the second in 2004, be­fore I began hav­ing therapy. Even though, dur­ing the second epi­sode, I was bed-ridden for near­ly a year, I was pre­judiced against see­ing a therap­ist. I thought therapy was for los­ers. My fami­ly motto was ‘Keep calm and carry on’; don’t make a fuss and don’t talk about your pro­blems. Deep down, I was also frightened of what therapy might re­ve­al. It was eas­i­er to trust my psyc­hiatr­ist and his anti­dep­ressants and sleep­ing pills.

But some­th­ing chan­ged after my second major de­pres­sive epi­sode. I knew I needed to keep work­ing at re­cove­ry. A his­to­ry of de­press­ion makes you more li­ke­ly to re­lap­se. Sub­sequent epi­sodes tend to be worse and more dif­ficult to re­cov­er from. I needed to try to pre-empt de­press­ion and minim­ise the risk of its re­cur­rence.

In the end it was my psyc­hiatr­ist who per­suaded me. A per­son, un­like a pill, can li­st­en to your story when you are well en­ough to tell it, and give you a fresh per­spec­tive, he said. There was a limit to what he and his pre­scrip­tions could do.

But, even after ac­cept­ing the need for therapy, I still thought I could bypass a therapeutic re­lationship. I first tried to teach myself cog­nitive be­haviour­al therapy from a book. Though I made ten­tative steps in being able to re­think dif­ficult situa­tions, I re­mained high­ly an­xi­ous and di­pped in and out of de­pres­sion­.

I thought per­haps learn­ing more about psyc­hotherapy would help so I sig­ned up to the Foun­da­tion Co­ur­se at Re­gent’s Col­lege. Study­ing therapy was safer than hav­ing it myself. Then I rea­lised that un­der­go­ing therapy was one of the re­quire­ments of the co­ur­se. I had no choice.­

My tutors were per­suasive about the im­por­tance of work­ing with a therap­ist. We gain our sense of self from our in­terac­tion with oth­ers. Therapy is about a re­lationship bet­ween two peo­ple, in a room and, im­por­tant­ly for me, in the mo­ment. This has be­come a key to my re­cove­ry: learn­ing to stop re­grett­ing the past and wor­ry­ing about the fu­ture; enjoy the pre­sent moment.

It took me three tries to find the right therap­ist. My first therap­ist was sym­pat­hetic and help­ful, but she lived more than an hour away and, with five small childr­en, I could­n’t find the time to com­mit to see­ing her. With my second, more local therap­ist, I was doing all the talk­ing. This can be a good approach for some but I needed more in­terac­tion and for my therap­ist to ac­tive­ly try to help me with strateg­ies and approac­hes to re­ver­se my negative thin­king.

Therap­ist numb­er three was re­com­mended by a friend with similar sym­ptoms and be­haviour to mine. Sarah wor­ked by help­ing me ident­ify my feel­ings, root them out, class­ify them and in­ves­tigate how they had sol­idified into be­liefs. By acknow­ledg­ing my feel­ings, es­pecial­ly those of anger, I came to ac­cept them, and be­came less judgment­al of myself and oth­ers in the pro­cess. Under Sarah’s super­vis­ion I would write lett­ers to my dif­ferent sel­ves and plot maps of how I moved bet­ween them and the rules of be­haviour I had created around them, many from long ago when I was an an­xi­ous child. I no long­er needed to be­have like that.

Sarah wor­ked with my own love of words. One of my chief con­sola­tions dur­ing my de­pres­sive epi­sodes, along with the love of my fami­ly, was poet­ry. When I was well en­ough to con­centrate, short, ac­cessib­le poems pin­ned me in time. They also wor­ked out­side of time, con­nect­ing me to an­oth­er per­son, some­times cen­tu­ries old, who felt the same as me. Sarah en­couraged me to use poems, and added breath­ing as an­oth­er way to stay in the mo­ment and re­duce my an­xiety.

She was both guide and in­struc­tor. Her aim was to en­courage me to rely on myself, to trust my own feel­ings and ul­timate­ly be­come my own guide.

Sarah and I ended our therapy last year, after two years. Since then, I feel I have my Black Dog on tight leash. Therapy taught me to be eas­i­er on myself, and to find a more com­pas­sionate voice. I only wish I hadn’t had to end­ure two break­downs and too many was­ted years be­fore rea­lis­ing what an im­men­se­ly power­ful tool it can be in the battle against de­pres­sion.

Black Rainbow: How Words Healed Me – My Journey Through Depression

Black Rainbow is the powerful first-person account of Rachel Kelly’s struggle with clinical depression and how she managed to recover, in part, through harnessing the healing power of the written word.

​Black Rainbow offers a lifeline to anyone seeking to better understand the experience of depression and is testament to the therapeutic value of the arts. Available to buy on Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US).