I'm In Therapy And It's OK
Life's a bitch. That's one lesson I learned on my own. Coincidentally, those are also the only three words I could utter during my very first visit to a therapist before sobbing uncontrollably for the remaining 59 minutes of the session.
I don't know exactly when life started to get hard, but at some point around 24 years old, I felt something I never felt before: rage. The feeling washed over me like a flood, and I felt incapable of managing it. Like many others, the source of my rage was not unique - some boy had broken my heart. But up until that point, I didn't know I was even capable of the emotion. Overwhelming sadness? Yes. But rage? That was not something I was familiar with, nor was it something I thought I was wired to feel. In hindsight, my reaction was overblown, but coupled with the stress of law school and the pending Bar exam and big girl job, it was too much to handle. And so to the therapist I went... Filled with a bit of self-inflicted shame and embarrassment and a load I alone could not continue to carry, I signed up for a free counseling session and attempted to unload on this stranger. At the end of it I felt three things: dehydrated, better, and changed.
Since that time I have been a believer in attending counseling when life gets a little hard; and I even go sometimes when it's stable. I find that having an unbiased third party helping me wade through some of the challenging parts of life is freeing in a way. Let's face it - we all try very hard to represent to the world that we have it all together, but we all carry "stuff" that if not dealt with will continue to follow us around.
There is an unfair stigma associated with attending counseling. Our society operates under some interesting assumptions - one of them being that if you think you need counselingthat you must be "crazy" or that you have a hard time dealing with issues on your own. What I've come to understand is that admitting you need a little tune up doesn't make you crazy or unstable at all; sometimes it just makes you human.
Even though many people won't admit it publicly, some things in life are extremely challenging. Work, relationships, parenting, family issues - all of the ebbs and flows can be difficult to navigate. Although most people have a friend to talk to, it's sometimes beneficial to get guidance from someone who is unbiased and can look at situations without the benefit of knowing your history or being personally invested in you. I understand the natural feeling of fear associated with seeing a counselor. Too often the fear of going, or the fear of what you will find out about yourself, will deter you from taking this step. But the truth is, there is real power in admitting that you are just dealing with inevitable feelings about life and you need a little help. There's no shame in that. Face it - we seek help in other areas of our lives; we hire specialists to help us in virtually all other areas of our life (personal trainers, doctors, recruiters), so what is it about hiring a counselor that gives people pause?
We are plagued by a collective inability to care for ourselves. If we are willing to do anything for others, we should be willing to do anything to make sure we are at our best at all times. That includes taking steps to work out the challenges that may be stalling our progress. It may be difficult to open up to a complete stranger, and it may even be uncomfortable to face things from your past that you thought you buried. But at the end of it all, you've got one life. You might as well face your "stuff" and move on.
Photo Credit: William Stitt