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How youth counselling helped us

imogen quote
05-02-2024

My name is Imogen and I’m now 20 years old. I started using LionHeart’s youth counselling service during my second year of university when I was 19, living away from home in a student house.

Like many teenagers, I had always struggled a bit with self-esteem issues. Although coming to university was amazing for my confidence in many ways, it also brought back some of the same issues that I would battle with when I was younger, such as body image and a lack of self-worth.

Due to a long term health condition, I have suffered with chronic back pain since I was about 11, which has added an extra challenge to life and can be very emotionally and physically draining. In addition, I was also experiencing a very aggressive acne flare-up which lasted about a year, which completely shattered my positive image of myself that I had finally developed  (I really do sympathise with anyone who is struggling with acne or similar skin problems as it quite honestly makes whatever situation you are in feel 10 times worse).

However, what had really set off the spiral of negative thoughts again was the breakdown of a very important friendship of mine. I felt very lost and betrayed and it made me question myself. I would think that if a friendship so strong and essential in my life could break down like that, then any relationship I have could be taken from me.

I have always been open to the idea of counselling or speaking to someone. I am a huge chatterbox so getting to talk at someone for an hour is great for me - but on a more serious level I have always known that some of the emotions and thoughts I have had would be better shared with a professional. I have had many friends who have used counselling services before which have helped them immensely, although the idea can seem daunting at first. 

Counselling really helped me to get out of my head - having someone who doesn’t know me, my friends, or my life, help me look at and assess the situation objectively. I am always quick to invalidate my feelings or dismiss them as too dramatic or too sensitive, but the counsellor helped me to see that my feelings are valid and it’s alright to express emotions.

It was nice to have someone be so understanding and willing to let me talk about the huge range of emotions I’d been experiencing. It made me realise how much I had been bottling up as well; I would go into a session thinking “I feel great there’s nothing to talk about” and yet somehow manage to talk away for an hour. I would feel an immense relief after the sessions, having got my feelings out of my head. 

Don’t get me wrong I definitely still have bad days, like most young adults, but I can honestly say that the combination of having counselling, an incredibly supportive group of friends and family, has helped me get out of the rough patch I was experiencing.

I’m currently living in France for a year abroad as part of my studies which I am absolutely loving. I feel so lucky to have close friends at university and at home who are always there if I need someone to talk to, but at times you do need the support of a professional who can assess your situation with more objectivity. 

To any other young person who might be struggling, I’d say you are not alone. Being young is so difficult and there is so much constantly going on in your brain that it is very important to get it out. Expressing your emotions out loud to someone you trust, whether that be a counsellor or a friend or even just on paper to yourself helps a lot.

There is nothing shameful about the way you are feeling, and there is nothing wrong with getting help! I have learnt that getting to a place of happiness can be something you have to work on, it doesn’t always just come. You have to focus on the good things in life (I know it can seem impossible when you’re at your lowest) and take up opportunities to get help even if it seems daunting.

In my bad times it has made me realise how lucky I truly am to have the people around me and the support that I got from LionHeart, which really did help get me through some pretty rough months. Some days life can seem so tough you don’t want to leave your bed. On those occasions it’s important to not be too hard on yourself - we can all have those days, but they won’t last forever, I promise. 

 

The mum’s perspective

As a parent, it’s horrible if you know your child is struggling, and you want to make sure they know that help is out there if they want it and they don't have to try to figure it out themselves.  I had difficult times as a child and teenager and recognise how things may have been different had support been available for me then. 

I’m lucky as Imogen is very open and has always talked, so she told me when she was finding things difficult. However, I hadn't realised how much as was suffering as she's always appeared so happy outwardly.

As a surveyor who’s familiar with LionHeart, when Imogen told me she was struggling I immediately suggested we try their youth counselling service. She was set up with calls so quickly and I know how lucky we are to have this service. I know from others how poor child mental health services are, with lengthy waiting lists even for serious conditions - by which time problems can become more ingrained and difficult to treat. I didn't want that for Imogen and know how important it is that issues are dealt with quickly. My hope was that the coping strategies learnt through counselling would not only help manage the immediate issue but could also be used to address issues in the future.

I feel so fortunate that we have access to LionHeart services and to any other parent experiencing similar, I would say don’t think twice about contacting them for help.

Imogen is a 20-year-old student who used LionHeart’s youth counselling service, provided in partnership with specialist young people’s counsellors Open Door. Her mum, Vicky, is a chartered surveyor.

 

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