…just let that sink in. I really mean it. Absolutely everyone should go to therapy, I believe that. We are humans and over time we become broken. We get worn thin, over worked, over used, over tired and often times we never take care of ourselves.
I see the mind as a muscle, it has to be worked out just like any other muscle. I wish people could talk about working out their mind like they talk about bro lifting at the gym. I wish people would take cheesy selfies outside of their counselors office and post them with a cleverly placed caption like: “It was hard to get out of bed this morning but I’m glad I did.” Or, “My journey to badassery begins here”. I sure wish people talked more positively about their experiences in counseling so we could squash the stigma that places such negative connotation on taking care of your mental health.
I was a late bloomer and didn’t see a counselor till I was in my 20s – it was the BEST thing I ever did for myself. I had a remarkably good childhood but I also experienced a little darkness that needed desperately to be discussed. I wasn’t comfortable bringing it up to people I love because I am always happy, and it’s my belief that I’m expected to provide light in all situations. I don’t mind setting this expectation for myself. It can sometimes be a lofty goal but mind over matter has gotten me through some of life’s hard-hitting moments. I often joke when someone exclaims “you sure light up a room full of people, Andrea”….listen, that’s arson, and those people are witnesses. 🙂
My first truth about therapy: I cried through my entire first appointment. Not a little sniffle and dab my tears and talk through it, it was a full on ugly cry. Words were not a thing. I muttered “I’m sorry” a couple of times but I didn’t speak of any of my problems, I just let the hurt from those problems come out onto my cheeks and into my hands. Strangely enough, looking back, it didn’t even feel awkward.
What I took away from that appointment was this: These people are professionals and I was a thousand percent sure I wasn’t their first ugly cry rodeo clown they had in their circus. Not ever, and not even that day for that matter.
On the sidelines it seems a little insane to pay someone to listen to you speak at them when you could likely find any person at any bar who might do the same. You must remember this: that hour, in that office, it’s about you and your feelings without distraction or a single interruption. That in itself is part of the healing.
My counseling experiences have varied over the years. Finding a counselor you trust and can be honest with is important in this very fluid life process. I bring this up because it is SO important you are comfortable with who you see. You have to be honest with them because there is no point otherwise. You also have to be open to vulnerability and constructive criticism. If you walk in there thinking they won’t ever tell you you’re wrong, you won’t be happy. They won’t discount your feelings, they are there to help you understand these feelings. Guess what, your feelings MATTER! I’ve been called a manipulator and I’ve been told I joke far too often about things that I shouldn’t joke about. I take this stuff to heart because I know I need to. I want to be a good person but I also want to be in a good head space and treat myself well. I want to care about myself, and I think this is important for all of us.
I also want to clear the air on what to expect in a counseling session. I have yet to experience an awkward appointment. I can’t stress this enough: these people are professionals, this is what they do for a living. Somehow it feels natural to spill my guts in there, and I know it’s because THAT IS WHAT THEY TRAIN FOR. Don’t be nervous. Don’t worry or wonder how to talk about something because I promise it will happen.
Talking to a friend or someone in your family will never compare to what a good counselor can do for you if you connect well with them. I think I can safely say I’ve had therapists save my marriage, other friendships, and even my life.
I openly talk about my counseling experiences because I hope I can help someone someday. I particularly want to talk openly about marriage counseling, likely against the wishes of my husband, because he isn’t the open book I so clearly am. However, if you’re reading this he has given the “go-ahead” on the share…because I wouldn’t do that without his blessing.
Marriages aren’t like the movies or the books. They just aren’t. Marriages last 40+ years when movies last a couple hours. There are some married couples that show affection more than others, and some that show none at all. Neither side of the spectrum is better than the other. What’s better is loving where you are. Some days I think marriage should be a paid gig because of the sheer volume of effort put forth, and other days it feels like a beachy bike ride on a cloudless day.
My husband and I could not be more different personality-wise. Nevertheless, we love each other above all else. I believe in our love and the strength of it and often I think how lucky I truly am. There have been times we both forgot how important it is to put the other person first, sure. There have been times we have gone days hardly talking to each other, and times that we have made each other cry. Those days seem magnified because the truth is, most of our days are lovely. I really think marriage should be with someone who never expects you to be anyone but you, and that should be easy. It’s not always easy, but the idea is.
I will spare the details but one may say, like most marriages, there came a time ours was broken. I stopped trying. I didn’t even want to talk to him. I was so unhappy I almost didn’t recognize myself. I stopped doing anything productive within our relationship and turned my back on “us”. This simply is not fair. I gave up. There were moments I wasn’t sure I would make it. I didn’t know who to talk to and I didn’t know how to start a conversation with him. In this moment I fell into the darkest place I’ve ever been, it was scary, and I was very alone. That darkness was foreign to me and I never want to allow myself to get there again.
I need you to understand something here. I absolutely hate admitting this but it’s something I can’t leave out. When I mention this being life-saving for me, I mean it. If you know me, I know this will surprise you. And, if you love me, this might break your heart… when I say “therapy saved my life” I mean it. The darkness I found is somewhere I never want to go again, I imagined driving my car into a lake or off a bridge more than once. That place scared me, and I never thought I, of all people, would ever feel such pain.
When my husband realized the seriousness of the situation I got the call from him saying, “I will do anything”. And he did. I asked him to find a marriage counselor and make an appointment. If I had expected ANY more out of him during MY struggle, I would have been an asshole. That man was no holds bar. He stepped up to the plate, broken, bruised, worn right out and he played his best inning yet. Could we have seen the same outcome if I just mustered the energy to stand tall and have one tough conversation with him, we will never know. There are times I feel tremendous guilt for my handling (or lack thereof) but we move on, and either way we are better for it.
We waited three months to see the counselor he decided on because she was so highly recommended. He insisted on seeing her, and I was willing to do whatever he thought was best. This needed to be his idea. I’ve been to many counselors and had wonderful experiences, he on the other hand had quite the opposite.
I’m so happy we waited because she is wonderful. The first session was tough, and the second got easier. We haven’t really “learned” much because we know most of this. That’s the thing, you know it but you still have to practice what you know. You see, over time it’s easy to get into the doldrums and roll with the motions of each passing day. It’s easy to brush off a bad mood or hide in the shower and cry it out alone then put on that 1600 lumens smile when you walk out the door. What’s hard is doing the work. We get homework from our therapist and we make sure to do it. We have been putting her tools to use and it has changed us forever. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such relief.
This process showed me a lot about myself and about the people in my life. I realize you’re never too old for surprises. I’m not surprised by my husband’s handling of the situation because I know the human he is, and I’ve never doubted how important I am to him. That may sound conflicting on the surface but remember, this was my darkness, not his. Friends and family will surprise you at different moments, right and wrong, and it never gets easier. Over time relationships still need work, always, when you give up and simply conform to “what is” your judgement becomes clouded. You should never turn your back on the friend or spouse you want to be. You should always stand tall in what you want and give that away. Give your best to the people you want important relationships with. They may never know where they stand unless they are boldly told, God forbid you get lazy at the moment they need you most and things are forever changed.
I undoubtedly know everyone could benefit from therapy. I think there’s something to be said about being dauntlessly told “your feelings are not wrong but you might actually be some of the problem” and not just owning it, but doing something about it. If nothing else I want you to read these words and trust that I mean them with every single ounce of my exploding giant heart: if you feel sad, unsatisfied, unmotivated, unlovable – find a counselor. If you are in a relationship and you feel sad more often than happy, find a counselor. If someone you love wants you to go to a counselor with them, GO. You absolutely have to go. It will not be the worst thing you’ve done and if the relationship matters, this could be your way of saving it. Not going does more harm than just giving EFFORT. Sometimes we have to get uncomfortable to get back to our good head spaces. I can’t stress this enough.
I will never be willing to give up on life with my husband. At this point, 22 years of my life. That’s a lot of life. That’s 22 years of Christmases, birthdays, new years celebrations, losses, gains, tears, triumphs and everything else. There aren’t many memories that don’t include him and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I simply can’t fathom life without him in it.
In closing, please remember, you are not less of a human if you go to counseling. You might feel like you are falling apart or you’re utterly mad or a complete mess, I assure you, you aren’t. All you are is someone who wants to own their life again and be happy. LIVE THAT TRUTH. You deserve it. And I sure hope you do it for YOU. After all, you are the only person you have to live with forever, so make sure you do you the right way.