The global pandemic has expedited the use of telemedicine across healthcare. What once seemed cumbersome, expensive and a decade or so down the line is now standard and no doubt here to stay in some form or another.
Since March this year, I have had telephone consultations with both my GP and MS healthcare team, and despite a few hitches, they were successful. Yet when I received a letter informing me that my long-awaited PTSD therapy was now ready to be scheduled and it would be conducted entirely online, I was more than a little hesitant. Discussions about trigeminal neuralgia or balance issues were one thing, but baring my soul on a video chat?
I was sceptical at first
I thought hard before accessing the online portal to accept the first appointment. In the back of my mind I knew that if I didn’t take the offer I would go to the back of the queue or be removed from the service altogether. I had nothing to lose from trying it, and if it wasn’t for me I could always withdraw. For me, mental health is as important as physical health –if not more so.
I took forever to prepare for the first session.
What should I wear?
Would the cat jump up onto the computer?
And just how would I begin to talk openly with someone I would probably never meet in real life?
I worried that facial expressions and body language would be hard to read and I would feel silly talking aloud in my own living room to a vision on a screen. The sheer distance of it made me feel uncomfortable.
I had my eighth session last week and I can confirm that my initial fears were unfounded. There were no technological hitches, the cat behaved herself and after a brief period of awkwardness, it all felt completely natural. Perhaps I was lucky that by the time my first appointment came round, we were already a few months into the pandemic, so I had had plenty of experience of a whole new life lived online. Everything from my university tutorials, to book club and MS social groups had moved online. Why not this too?
The advantages of going ‘online’
There are many positives of this form of mental health therapy. Years ago I visited a real-life counsellor and would dread the journey there with tumultuous thoughts. The reception, the nervous, embarrassed glances from others in the waiting room, the fear that the tears would still be flowing afterwards. Looking back, perhaps this made me more reluctant to open up fully and explore unresolved issues.
Living with MS has made all physical journeys much more difficult, as they need plenty of planning and contingencies. The stress of finding a parking space, being too early or too late, bladder issues – they all conspired against me. Given these circumstances, it was always going to be difficult to relax enough to address deeper problems.
There is something empowering about talking through the most incredibly painful parts of your life in the knowledge that you are entirely safe at home, in your own environment. And if you need to cry, to be able just to sit in a comfortable contemplative silence or simply step out into the garden straight afterwards..
No journey, no stresses, no unnecessary interaction with anyone else – this was just about me, the therapist and an absolute focus on recovery.
As the sessions progressed, I felt more able to speak freely and it was surprisingly easy to build a positive relationship with the very real human at the other end of the connection. The more I opened up, the more I knew I was actively helping myself come to terms with life events. Together we worked out ways to make them easier to comprehend and manage.
This form of therapy may not be ideal for everyone, but I would recommend trying it at least once before dismissing it.
NPS-IE-NP-00094 October 2020