Published on: 12 May 2023. Written by: Becky Bargh.
If you were in physical pain, you would go to the doctor, so why don’t we do the same for our emotional pain? Vitality member, David (pictured), took charge of his mental health the day he decided to access a counsellor through his health insurance. Here, he shares his experience of emotional recovery and mental rehabilitation.
Life as you know it changes the moment you become a parent – and it was no exception for David, who says it was a “game-changer” for him. But something felt out of kilter.
Rocking his young son to sleep one night, and listening to Bon Jovi, he broke down. “They weren’t happy tears,” he tells Vitality. “I completely fell to pieces; it was uncontrollable, and I knew that there was something wrong.”
His baby boy’s arrival in late 2019 had released a tsunami of emotions from his young adulthood that David hadn’t had the mental space to deal with. “It was then that I realised that I needed to speak to someone if I’m going to be any use to the rest of the family,” he says.
“It was long-overdue.”
In 2006, tragedy struck David’s family home when his mother unexpectedly passed away from unknown causes. Being just 20 years’ old at the time, David found it impossible to accept. “That was hard to wrestle with […] to die from nothing was unacceptable to me.”
To cope with the loss of his mum, David turned to exercise and alcohol. “I wouldn’t drink all the time, but I became a social animal. I would get blackout drunk at every social occasion, and that was what I became known for. But I wasn’t dealing with the issues at home.”
Being a house full of boys now, David the eldest of three sons, life at home became too much to cope with emotionally and so took the decision to move away to university. “I needed a change in my life that was what was critical at that time.” This, however, would later present its own problems.
During the next three years, David says that he felt guilty for “ditching” his dad and brothers. “It all felt quite selfish, even though I was going to university to try and better myself, I felt that I’d taken on a lot of looking after the family for those 10 months [after my mum died] and then I’d just dumped them,” he explains.
“To actually go and discover and learn something about myself, in a really positive way, in a safe space, was just incredible”
Returning from university in 2010 and moving back home to Cambridgeshire with his girlfriend, now wife, David wanted to make amends with his family and build a new life.
But at the announcement of their engagement in 2014, the already fractured relationship with his father had not improved in the time after returning from university, until it eventually collapsed.
“Because we did not live under the same roof anymore, we didn’t talk enough about what was important, and we were unable to work through our challenges, and the end result was that he would not be at our wedding,” David recalls.
“That was something I just couldn’t deal with at the time.” Almost a decade later, David has had no contact with his father.
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Tackling mental health issues
Looking back to the end of 2018, David had stopped drinking altogether and was moving forward with his wife when discussions began about growing their family.
After his son was born at the end of 2019, David recalls feeling “wrong”. At a time when he felt he should have been as his happiest, becoming a parent had stirred up emotions from his past that he could never have predicted.
And so – after being reduced to tears by an American rock band – David realised his mental health struggles had reached their zenith, and he would have to be proactive if he was going to get better for the sake of his family.
“I didn’t want to start drinking again, but I needed a way to deal with the thoughts I was having,” he recalls. It was at this point he reached out to Vitality to access care for his mental health.Through his health insurance, David was prescribed eight sessions of counselling, which would begin face-to-face, before going virtual – due to Covid.
“I knew I was going in there looking for help. Same way if I went to the doctor with stomach pain or an injury, I was going into that session looking to help myself and make myself feel better, because I wasn’t feeling good prior to that.
“And, as I said, it was long overdue. So, that was my mindset, to go in there and work with what the therapist was telling me.”
Vitality members with our health insurance can access eight online or face-to-face Talking Therapies sessions per plan year. Treatments available Talking Therapies include counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Arriving, though, David told his therapist that he was looking for a new coping mechanism, but he was surprised when she rebuffed him with: “What if you don’t need a coping mechanism?” And so, his emotional recovery began.
“I felt a lot of guilt towards [my mum’s] death, even though it wasn’t my fault […], all I ever wanted to do was to say ‘sorry’, and I used to torment myself and beat myself up about it,” says David.
“I carried that pain for too long. It was years too long for what it should have been, it’s all too often just seen as normal because it becomes your daily routine to carry your thoughts and those experiences.”
“The counselling has helped to put my mind in a much better place to help support my boys ”
David doesn’t deny aspects of his therapy were difficult. Unearthing past experiences and coming face to face with his struggles was no easy feat.
“I understand people are nervous [about therapy], the pain that it unearths, and there was a bit of pain to go through from my side in those sessions, but I had such a want to work to work with the ideas that the therapist presented to me and to move through it.”
Want to become a member? Visit vitality.co.uk.
Today, David is in a really positive place, and while it’s a difficult to relive, he constantly reminds himself of that without his difficulties, his life might not have worked out with his wife and now, two boys.
“I am far more in tune with myself to not even let things get so far again, now that I’ve had counselling.
“I realise that talking to someone or just to myself and going back to the learnings helps me stay on track, and that’s the thing with the counselling, you can take the lessons away and repeat them.
“I’ll forever be indebted to those sessions that I had through Vitality just because it was so needed and so great to come out of.”
“Overall, the counselling has helped to put my mind in a much better place to help support my boys now that’s what is incredible with it, and why I’m such an advocate [for therapy].
“It has been a rough time in the past in my life and there are always going to be memories with my mum and thoughts about what could have been with my dad. But I can’t change that, I can only control what I can control, and, ultimately, do the best by them.”
At Vitality, we understand the importance of taking control of your health. That’s why we offer mental health support for our members through our insurance plans.
To access support and care for your mental wellbeing, log into Member Zone, where you will find a number of options; whether you need urgent help, online support or want to access counselling sessions. Qualifying plans apply.
Or, if you are not a Vitality member and want to find out more about our plans, visit vitality.co.uk.