• EJ Casburn was exhausted by work and had lost a sense of herself – here she shares how counselling helped her recover

  • If you would like to see a therapist or counsellor, you can find yours here 

Imagine a bath. You’d normally fill it nearly to the top, turn off the taps, then slide in and take a break from the world. If you leave the taps running and it gets too full, the overflow takes any extra water away. Simple.

If that overflow isn’t working properly though, or if both taps are on full and water is coming in faster than the overflow can take it away, the bath overflows. Everything around you gets wet. The carpet may be ruined. The water may seep through and stain the ceiling downstairs. It might get in the electrics and blow up the TV below. In short, it’s bad. No-one wants to be in that situation.

But that damage is just on the inside of the house. Outside no-one can tell everything is ruined. Everything looks normal. And of course you don’t want people to know what you’ve done.

So you don’t tell anyone. You don’t get a plumber in. You try and mop things up as best you can. You pretend you were getting a new carpet anyway. You do a terrible job of trying to cover up the water stains on the ceiling. You no longer watch TV. Foul damp spreads.

You don’t invite anyone over anymore so they can’t see what a mess you’ve made. You live amongst the remnants of your own destruction day in day out, feeling weighed down by it all, irritated, saddened, annoyed, angered, upset, helpless…

Until one day you realise you’d like nothing more than a relaxing bath.  But you’re afraid of making things even worse. So you decide to bite the bullet and call in a plumber. After all that’s their job. They see water leaks and burst pipes every day. It’s not strange for them. And they won’t judge you, after all people make mistakes all the time. They’re just there to help fix the problem and then move on.

And it’s the first step to getting things right again. Everything else seems easier to resolve once the plumber has been. Bit by bit everything gets sorted. And before you know it everything is right as rain again and you’ve run yourself the perfect bath, realising if you’d just called the plumber as soon as the bath overflowed you’d have been happily relaxing in the bath again ages ago.

The bath is your brain. 

The water is all the stresses and challenges flowing into your life. 

The overflow is your coping mechanism.

The plumber is the counsellor.

Call. The. Plumber.

My own story 

When I moved back to the UK I endured a huge reverse culture shock whilst trying to force myself to be a grown-up and the entrepreneur my parents had always wanted me to be. Although I was in a constant home and town, I still managed regular escapism thanks to the industry I chose to start a business in, travel.

Discovering new places distracted me from the mundane life and stresses of working and living alone in a place I now felt foreign in. Constantly chasing clients, forcing myself to learn the ‘hard sell’ to try and survive in a cut-throat industry, something that doesn’t come naturally to me at all, felt wrong. 

Netball was a welcome distraction, providing me the only time in my day to fully switch off my brain and stop thinking about flight delays, balance payments and ever-changing itineraries as well as providing much-needed exercise and social interaction. Reconnecting with a friend from travelling allowed another group of fierce friends to form. But these few things, along with being near family and having some of the comforts of home I’d missed whilst away, weren’t enough.

I realised that I was merely treading water in my business, and potentially just keeping going to save face. Eventually, after I realised I couldn’t cope with my head alone, I ‘called the plumber’ and had six months of counselling. Though each and every session felt extremely raw, exhausting and heart-wrenching, the counselling was highly beneficial and made me really look deep inside at my feelings, emotions and goals. He was open, easy to talk to and never judged me. Eventually we decided leaving the UK and getting a complete change of scenery was the best route forwards.

The past year or so away has been therapy in itself. I’ve been lucky enough to have a great manager in the UK who is much more adept at turning off her brain to work as soon as the day is done. Being surrounded by nature in the mountains and by the coast is good for the soul. I’ve also tried co-living and realised that being around positive people helps blow negative clouds in my head away with ease. I still have up and down days but I’m far, far away from the helpless ‘sitting at home with the damp ceiling peeling around me’ days from my bath analogy. I feel writing will help even more with getting back to my full self and have realised that the world of competitive commercialism is not for me and that that’s ok. Onwards and upwards!

EJ Casburn is the founder of Tiny Travel Rebel

Further reading

Before therapy I was selfish

Relationship therapy saved our marriage

My journey with therapy and chronic depression

EMDR therapy transformed my life

My three therapy sessions that changed everything