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“I spent a lot of time as a teenager trying to figure out who I was. My parents used to joke that I changed my style as often as most people change their socks.

"I went through every fashionable trend possible… I was a skater girl, a goth, a trendy, an emo-kid. You name it, I tried it out. Sometimes I’d feel comfortable with my new style for a couple of weeks but, more often than not, as soon as I had taken on that identity, I was looking around for a new one.

"I thought this was something I would grow out of as I got older but this just hasn’t happened. As an adult, I find it difficult to stick to anything for any length of time. Relationships, careers, even where I live… I seemed to get restless really quickly.

"I realised that this wasn’t an ideal way to live and so started seeing a therapist. I knew I wasn’t depressed or anxious, but I wanted to spend a bit of time exploring myself and getting to grips with who I was. It was a really challenging experience but one that was extremely helpful. We spent the first few sessions exploring all the changes that I made as an adolescent and what was going on in my life at that time. Our exploration of this time led me to realise that it was about control - there were so many things in my life that were out of control at that age: puberty, mum and dad’s separation, school and exams…

"The habit of switching styles seemed to be some means of controlling one thing in my life - my appearance. I had never thought of it this way before and then started to look at my behaviour as an adult in the same manner. This was much harder and there were times when I wanted to quit.

"However, I knew now that this would just be repeating the same jack-it-in approach that I taken to jobs and relationships. When the going got tough and I felt that something was out of my control, I had a tendency to re-exert my control by taking myself out of the equation. This might be dumping a boyfriend or quitting a job or moving house… whatever it was, it was my way of trying to protect myself.

"Through exploring the issue, I came to realise that it wasn’t protecting me at all… far from it. The fear of losing my independence in a career or relationship was manifesting itself as that restlessness. The problem was, all that chopping and changing of homes and jobs and relationships meant that I had never allowed myself to put down roots.

"Counselling and therapy is not just for treating anxiety and depression. I found it a useful means of self-exploration and, as a result of the sessions, I have a greater understanding of who I am and what makes me tick.

"I am now more confident in relationships and I am beginning to feel able to carve out a career that suits me without fear of being trapped by it. I have managed to answer the question ‘Who am I?’ I am me, and I am comfortable with that.”

Taigh Sàmhchair: professional counselling and psychotherapy

Hereward Proops MBACP, registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

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