When I was 18 I went through a really traumatic period. My parents divorced and I had a very serious car accident. My car was so badly wrecked that when my mum arrived at the scene the paramedics told her that, judging by the state of my car, she should assume I hadn't survived.
Miraculously, I wasn't hurt - I didn't even have whiplash - but emotionally it was awful. I never really felt safe again. I was terrified of going in cars, I had flashbacks, insomnia and panic attacks. I lived like that for years. Doctors offered me sleeping tablets, but no one else seemed to be able to help me.
I came up with my own coping strategies - like being really busy all the time so I didn't have to think. But my boyfriend said that it really was time for me to do something about the anxiety - by then it had been 5 years and I was still having flashbacks when driving, and panic attacks about pretty much anything I wasn't in control of.
As an ICAEW employee, I know I can access caba's services, so I spoke to caba and they said that all their services are free of charge and that they could put me in touch with a counsellor. I opted for phone counselling rather than face-to-face, and agreed to try 6 sessions.
I was nervous, but the counsellor was so good. She didn't push me to re-live anything scary or go to any dark places. She just listened to me and helped me piece together what was going on. She helped me realise that all my rushing around was a way of avoiding getting in touch with myself. She also helped me to see that all the anxiety I was experiencing was around control. My parents' divorce was not at all amicable and I was forced into a situation where I was responsible for my younger sisters. The lack of control I felt around that, as well as the crash, was what I was really having difficulties with.
She taught me very simple techniques - like mindfulness, to help me stay in the moment and calm down. It was amazing, it really worked. It was only during the sixth session that I realised I'd stopped having panic attacks.
The emotional difficulty had really held me back. Seeing a caba counsellor unlocked that for me and I can see changes in every area of my life. I'm driving again now, I can sleep and I spend a lot more time with my boyfriend relaxing. I've started to focus on my strengths and be more assertive. I honestly can say that the 6 sessions have changed me and because of them, I am stronger, happier and have more ambitious goals.