This is a personal client story – John’s name is the only thing we’ve changed.
John started to experience what he calls a ‘build-up of issues’ during his time as a master’s student, which culminated in a ‘meltdown’ that lasted years. “I’d pushed myself relentlessly hard at university and the plan had always been to take a year out to use the time to apply for a PhD position,” recalls John. “I was fortunate; I got all sort of offers from everywhere I applied to. It sounds silly, but I was overwhelmed, and the decision of where to go to continue my career seems to have been the trigger that sort of took me over the edge – I just could not make that decision. “I now know that this was the culmination of issues that I hadn’t recognised, but at the time I was really quite unwell. I ended up having what I’d call a meltdown, obsessing over which option to take every day and asking myself whether I was making the right choice. “Every day it was the only thing I could think about – ‘what if I have made the wrong choice?’ kind of thoughts.” The decision and its consequences were so paralysing to John that he found himself completely stuck for more than two years, during which he was not attending university and moving forward with his life, the very thing he most loved and wanted to do. “That’s what this was all about – making the right choice and moving forward in my career – and yet it ended up being the thing I lost for a time,” he says. “I had three years of not moving forward, of just feeling stuck – it was almost like I had a sort of tunnel vision; I was in this very narrow world, both in my mind and, as a result, socially. I was seeing people I’d grown up with getting on in life and I was stuck in the same place,” he explains.“I’d put all my eggs in this academic basket and was telling myself everything was fine, and when I didn’t feel right I just told myself ‘as long as I keep doing well everything will be okay’. But then I wasn’t OK and I was no longer doing anything except going over it again and again.” It was around this time John started going to see Johnny at Blue Talking Therapies. Johnny helped him see things differently, in a broader context with less of a black and white way of thinking. “I love studying and reading books; I’d happily do nothing else,” laughs John. “Johnny helped me to realise that it was this all or nothing kind of thinking that was making me unhappy and showed me that minor changes could help me find the middle ground. “He helped to bring me down in terms of stress and up from the depressive stage, where I was really worried about everything – that I had made bad decisions, that my life was kind of over, that sort of stuff. “I was really worried about emailing people about my career and university options and things – I was putting pressure on myself to push forward and yet couldn’t move. Johnny helped me work at things in a different way. He’d say ‘‘at some point in the future, you want to be in a Ph. D programme at university – now let’s work backwards from that’.”