I won’t divulge how many times I’ve sought the help of a counselor, therapist or support group in my life. I will completely lose my credibility in those of you who judge against the idea, if I haven’t already…
The reasons why I’ve gone to them really don’t matter, but it’s something I’ve taken advantage of ever since I was in college. Learning early in life about the effects of my mental state to my physical body, I often sought holistic ways to train my brain (like breathing exercises, meditation, etc). When I made a choice to walk through the doors of a counselor/therapist/what have you, it was because I came to a point where I couldn’t fix me (or a situation) by myself. Sometimes my surroundings couldn’t change but I needed an outlet to vent in, I needed someone to assure me that I was doing everything I could possibly do correctly even though it all felt horribly wrong. Sometimes the intention to visit was simply me seeking an outside opinion (maybe specifically from a person of the cloth) about a godly way to handle a situation, other times it was an attempt to fix a personality trait that I sensed was holding me back or giving me trials I didn’t need or want.
In ALL times, it ALWAYS seemed more appropriate to tell an outsider what was happening in my life so I could get an unbiased opinion. The opinions or insight I received wasn’t from a person who had a vested interest in the outcome and they were better able to point out my flaws and shortcomings in ways that my closest friends and/or family could not. If the venting was about someone I cared about, it seemed more appropriate to tell a stranger so it didn’t feel like gossip.
Most of the counselors have been decent, yet only one has been outstanding. A great deal of that I think has to do with the fact that our personalities and interests jived but I think a lot of it had to do with me. I was more dedicated. I was more interested in change. I was ready to grow, to become, to evolve, to TRANSFORM. You can’t transform yourself if you are doing the same things over and over again in honest attempts to fix problems (I’m sure you’ve heard the definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over but expecting different results).
The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. – Proverbs 20:5
So many people talk openly about their physical health… about their new diet or exercise regimen, or maybe their latest health ailment. Yet, you rarely hear people talking about the latest self-help book or what they are learning from their therapist/counselor/advisor. I wonder why this is. We have nothing to be ashamed of. There are more people walking around on psyche drugs than ever before (who likely need to be seeing a therapist in tandem with the medicine if they aren’t already) and yet we don’t want to talk about our issues. The paranoia… depression… bi-polar disorder… PTSD… any of these things caused by something that happened in childhood, or simply a chemical imbalance or maybe a freak accident. Or lighter stuff like anxiety, indecisiveness, avoidance, relationship problems, health problems that are affecting us mentally and emotionally or grief. Yet, no one talks about it, or we don’t know how. Too many people are fronting that everything is fine.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. – Proverbs 11:14
I get it, we can’t exactly introduce ourselves, “Hi, my name is Jack and I have agoraphobia.” Or, “Hi, my name is Tammy and my mom beat me as a child.” Or, “Hi, my name is Justice and my husband has cheated on me.” I realize this. Yet, in those closer circles where we can, we SHOULD. Because here is the thing… if we are going to love one another, then we need to allow people to feel love. People aren’t going to feel love if they feel alone, or alone with their problems and guess what… If you share your story, people will share theirs. It is amazing to me how much deeper my friendships have gone these past few years all because I was very open about what exactly was happening in my life. I was also very open about having a counselor help me sort it all out and stay sane.
If people don’t begin to lose the idea that therapy is for the weak, or for the grossly deranged, depressed, or excessively abused, then they will cope in a variety of ways. We see coping people every day in the form of: alcohol abuse, drug abuse, prescription drug abuse, over eating, over working, computer (phone) addictions, porn addictions, gambling addictions, etc. Many of those kinds of coping mechanisms are born from isolationism. People don’t want others to know about the dark secrets of their soul, and they can’t figure out how to address the issues either, so they find ways to cope and that’s it.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
I was talking to my husband the other day about the concept of therapy/counseling. I said that people I talk to who need it, and are encouraged by my/our stories, will tell me, “well, I’ll wait and see. It’s not that bad.” For marriage counseling, how bad does it need to be? When one person files for divorce? When there’s an affair? When the children are having issues because of the fights in front of them? Until the fights get so bad that one person hits or slaps the other person? Do you wait until this happens more than once? Ten times?
For individual therapy, do we wait until we start becoming physically ill with or mental issues? If we don’t have a diagnosable mental illness, should we wait until we think we’ll get diagnosed with one? Do we wait until our spouse slaps us with divorce papers? Do we wait until we’ve squandered all of our money on little things that bring us joy instead of figuring out why we need the junk to give us joy? Do we wait until we realize our anger has pushed everyone we love away? Do we wait until we realize we cannot formulate a decision on our own, without asking our best friend? Do we just sit and wait until our spouse finally decides to get counseling with us?
Let me tell you, more people have a counselor/therapist or are in a support group than you think (not nearly enough, however), and the ones that judge those who seek help likely need some counseling of their own. Just like I wrote recently about critics, EVERYONE has an opinion but not all opinions need to penetrate your heart.
Just because I’ve blasted to the internet that I’ve sought therapy, doesn’t mean you need to tell a soul when you go. There are resources out there for you, I guarantee it. There’s all kinds of 12-step meetings, support groups, counselors who specialize in certain things, therapists, Christian therapists and even pastors and priests trained to counsel people. A friend of mine recently told me that she’s in a support group almost 40 minutes away so no one in her town would know her story. I know of others who did the same thing as they sought help in 12-step meetings.
There’s no reason to wait. We aren’t getting any younger and those issues aren’t going away. Your people deserve a healthy and whole YOU! You won’t be judged by a therapist. You won’t be ridiculed for past decisions. You will be welcomed with open arms. … and pray for good and whole people in your life to share your stories with. You will be amazed at what that kind of vulnerability and honesty does to a relationship.