Michael’s Story

“My first experience of Beacon Counselling was in 2019. I had been referred to Beacon through my GP. Although I wasn’t sceptical about how counselling could help me, I thought that, as an older man whose trauma had happened 30 years previously, perhaps I had missed the boat. I remember that the initial consultation felt easy and not intrusive – my counsellor wanted to know information about my circumstances and I felt that they gave me the space to allow me to tell my story. This was repeated during the subsequent counselling sessions and it felt very client-centric; allowing me to recount my experiences at the pace that I felt comfortable with. My counsellor then gave me practical tips and techniques which I could use to help me to manage my anxieties.

An older gentleman is sat outdoors on a bench facing the coast whilst reading a book

My counsellor became a trusted advisor and someone that I could share information with that I had internalised over many years. My counsellor explored with me other areas of my life experiences that helped me to make connections and understand their impact on me. Having been able to apply the techniques that I had been made aware of during my counselling sessions, my counsellor suggested that a method of therapy called EMDR might be useful to tackle a particular life-event that I had not ever dealt with.

In 2020, I returned to Beacon Counselling in order to discuss whether EMDR might be used to address the post-traumatic stress that I had been trying to manage for over 30 years. In 1989, I was at the Hillsborough Disaster which left 96 football fans dead. It was a life impacting event; something that I was completely unable to discuss or even hear about without being reduced to tears. Although I had not been physically injured that day, I had reached a point in my life where I knew that some of my reactions to everyday situations were directly related to the scenes that I had witnessed.

After 30 years of feeling guilty that I had not been killed that day and being unable to process the injustice of what happened during the intervening years, my initial counselling had allowed me to make the connection that I really had been mentally scarred and that it was ok to seek help to try to begin to heal.

A therapist was assigned to me and we had an initial discussion to determine if we both felt that EMDR was an appropriate intervention for my circumstances.

Initially, I had doubts that it was going to work; particularly as the sessions needed to be held via a video call due to COVID-19 distancing requirements. I had never before recounted my experience of that day as a continuous account from beginning to end.

For the rare times that I had discussed them with friends or family, I could only recount small windows of information – in hindsight, this had been my way of protecting myself from how it made me feel. The thought of recounting my experience as one whole account left me feeling exposed, uncomfortable and vulnerable and via video it somehow made this even less appealing.

As I write this now, I realise that this might not seem attractive to someone who is reading this testimonial but I feel it is important to be brutally honest at this point. It wasn’t easy and I did want to walk away from it. However, I also knew that walking away from the issue was what I had been doing for most of my adult life and I had reached a point where that no longer worked; the impact of how PTSD affected me was not healthy and it was beginning to impact my relationships. I no longer wanted to be in a position whereby hearing something on the radio or television, I could be reduced to uncontrollable tears or reacting aggressively when I felt vulnerable in a given situation. Usually, my actions to situations would end up hurting those that I loved most and this negatively impacted how I felt. I owed it to myself, and to my loved ones, to give it a chance.

Having decided to do so, I attended the first session, then the second, the third and so on. I am so glad that I did. The therapist was patient and showed empathy. Again, I was allowed the space to tell my story at my pace. I was able to stop when I didn’t want to go any further with telling my story. The EMDR methodology was used to help me to reprocess how I remembered certain events. It allowed me to confront images and information that I had previously boxed off in far off places in my mind. Even during the first session, I got a definite sense that what I was doing was enabling me to change the relationship that I had previously formed with those images and this continued throughout each session as I felt able to reprocess more and more.

I won’t ever forget the events of 15th April 1989. Strangely, I’m not even sure that I want to forget them – I have a complex relationship with everything about that day. However, I am now in such a better place in terms of how it impacts me. I am no longer bound by it and I know that it is not so close to the surface that it can disarm me and leave me completely exposed. I am saddened at what happened but I have been able to go through grief which has been an important part of my healing.

I am so thankful to Beacon Counselling, the counsellors, the therapists and the team that supports the operations. Beacon’s services have had a significant impact on how I manage life and how I interact with other people, as well as myself.”

Adult Services Client

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