The HR Juggler

The 25% Club: My Counselling Story

Posted on: January 22, 2013

counselling 2

This post is part of the 25% club series dealing with the topic of mental health, particularly as it relates to the workplace. Some of the posts, like today’s, will be accredited, others will be anonymous – all have a powerful impact and help to shine a light on a topic that we need to talk about so much more than we currently do. Today’s post is by Graham Frost, who you can find over on his blog or on Twitter @grafrost.

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In the early 1990’s I was in my mid-thirties, in an unhappy marriage that I couldn’t see my way out of, working five or six 12-14 hour shifts a week on the railway. People who knew me at that time tell me that they feared for my sanity. I was on a treadmill of my own making, and couldn’t see a way of stopping it.

My wife worked for the railway too, we had met while working together, and she had been taking a lot of time off sick because of the stress and depression caused by her very unhappy life. I had married her because I thought I could make her happy, yet all I had managed to do was to make myself unhappier. I used to seek the company of other unhappily married men, so that we could bemoan our lot in life together.

One day, my wife told me that her manager had suggested that she might go for some counselling, to help her on the road back to work. I was happy to hear that she might be taking a step forward, and supported her in anything that might help her to deal with her troubled past. I did notice a difference in her after the first counselling appointment; she said that it had been such a release, being able to talk to someone completely non-judgemental about what was going on in her life.

After the second or third appointment, my wife came home and said that she thought it might be a good idea if I went and saw the counsellor too. I didn’t really think there was any reason for me to go, but I was at a point where I would do almost anything to try to make our relationship work, so I agreed to look into the idea.

In order to make this work, I had to go and see my manager, and persuade him that I needed counselling. I didn’t think I could pay for it myself, and, as far as I knew, it wasn’t available on the NHS, so what other option did I have? I knew my manager well, he was a decent man. When I told him that I also wanted to go for counselling, he looked at me in amazement.

‘But there’s nothing wrong with you, Graham, you’re a model employee, you’re always here, you’re one of the most reliable, hard-working people we have!’

Eventually, I managed to persuade him to arrange some counselling sessions, paid for by the company, on condition that I ‘didn’t tell anyone’. He made the arrangements with ‘Personnel’, as H.R. was called then, and I attended my first counselling session a week or so later. It was the first time I had talked to anyone about everything that had ever happened in my life. All the stuff about being brought up in a fundamentalist Christian cult, leaving home at 17, my brief life of crime, Borstal and my cancer story came out over the first few appointments. My weekly counselling hour became my ‘me time’, something I had not experienced for a long time. My counsellor was marvellous – she was convinced that I had been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for years.

I see that period in my life as the start of the second phase of my life, when I realised that I could do anything that I set my heart on doing. I did escape from the unhappy marriage, I did put together and work with the best customer service team that I possibly could, and I did go on to have a second career in Learning and Development, all because someone helped me to sort my mind out.

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If you care about mental health and want to make a difference there are lots of things you can do

  • visit Mind’s website and check out their excellent corporate resources
  • take the ‘time to change’ pledge
  • attend our event with Mind on 5th February 2013 at 6pm
  • share your story and read those of others as part of this blog series. If you would like to contribute, please contact me via Twitter (@AlisonChisnell) or through the comments section on this blog

3 Responses to "The 25% Club: My Counselling Story"

Well done, not easy at all

Thanks Dave – the hardest part was walking through the door of the counsellor’s house, after that it just got easier and easier.

[…]  I recently wrote a guest  post for Alison Chisnell  @AlisonChisnell  – on her HR Juggler blog, which you can read here […]

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