The Bridge Called Counseling

i'm sitting in this waiting room for the hundredth time. my heart is beating loudly and i feel like i'm going to vomit. i've been here for ten minutes and i should have gone in five minutes ago and every second that passes is a stronger temptation to run. 

A year ago, i went to my first counseling session. 

Last week, after five months away, i went back.

Spring of last year, i started my second semester of college with my head held high and my past, emotions, and struggles carefully stuffed in a box i never dared touch. After interviewing to spend two months in Guatemala, the company i traveled through became aware of this box and asked me to see someone to go through it with me. They told me that they wanted me to seek counseling to find peace and redemption with all of the weight in my past before i spent two months in the mission field. i reluctantly agreed, not because i wanted counseling, not because i understood that they were right, but because i wanted to go to Guatemala. This is proof that the Lord uses our desires to accomplish His will for us; it is also proof that He knows His children. 

Making my first counseling appointment was easy. i hid behind the request of the company and acted (and genuinely thought) as though i didn't need counseling. 

That's when i met my counselor, homegirl.

And that's when i began learning that i did (do), in fact, need counseling more than i could ever imagine.

i call her homegirl because in the midst of walking into her office for the first time, answering her first handful of questions, and keeping myself from running away-- i missed her name. When i went back the next week, i still didn't know her name. When i would talk about her, i would casually refer to her as homegirl; a year later, i know her name but i call her homegirl because it makes me smile and it makes her more personable and i like it. 

There is this perception that only messed up, crazy, addicted, or *insert other adjective* people go to counseling. This perception, my friends, is wrong. Yes, it is potentially more common for people with big(ger) problems to seek therapy, but that doesn't mean that you need to be mentally unstable to seek a counselor. Counseling isn't just for people whose worlds are shattering. Counseling is for anyone and everyone who feels like they need to be heard.

There is some kind of common reaction that follows the phrase, "i'm going to counseling." that i personally hate. It's a face that says, "Oh, you poor thing." or "What the heck is going on with you that's that bad?" or even just the simple shock and awe. Somewhere along the road, a shame-factor was connected with therapy, which drives me to avoid eye contact with other people in the counseling office and i hesitate to say my name loudly. 

i don't talk about going to therapy for your pity, your questions, or your shock. Every time i mention my counselor, every time i tell someone that i regularly spend an hour sitting on a couch talking to a woman about the crap in my past, present, and future-- it is only in effort to show that it doesn't have to be a big deal. Seeing a therapist doesn't have to be an earth shattering secret, one of the ghosts in our closets, and it shouldn't be something anyone is ashamed of. Walking into a therapist's office is brave, because walking in there means that you're not okay with how life is right now, it means that you want more from yourself than you have now. There should be no shame factor, there should only be bravery.

There is bravery in facing our problems. There is bravery in looking our bad, be it past, present, or future, in the face. There is bravery in allowing the things that we've stuffed away to resurface in our lives so that they can't hold power over us anymore. i would be lying if i said that i feel brave walking into my therapist's office. i never do, never have, but hopefully will. In fact, i feel anxious and weak and afraid when i walk through the doors. The enemy likes me that way-- he likes me feeling weak for pursuing to be stronger. He likes that in an effort to become the strong, courageous, full woman God created me to be, i begin have anxiety wash over me. 

The good news is that i don't have to rely on my own strength. It is not Ashton's job to carry me into the office, past the waves of anxiety and shame; i have a God for that. It is by His grace that i went to counseling in the first place and it is by His grace alone that i walk into that office.

i am now seeing my counselor weekly... again. i can't say it feels good, but i can say that it feels right. It feels right to be getting help for the things i need help with. It feels good to have someone ask the hard questions, to have her look me in the face and say the things others are afraid to. It feels good to be told over and over again that what i am feeling is valid-- that feeling anything at all is valid! It feels good that i am not living life in denial of my brokenness. Counseling has been so good to me, even if i don't always like admitting that.

In our journey, we can't walk alone. People need other people. We need family and friends and mentors and roommates and cats. Then, some of us need counselors too. We need that safe place to sit and talk and feel valid and human. God created counselors to be a bridge between who we are and who He made us to be. He didn't create them for us to shy away from and treat like lepers. He made them to help His children; to help me and my friends and my mom and a million others. 

Counselors are not bad (granted, there are bad counselors). Therapists and physiologists and psychiatrists are gifted people put on earth to help others. Letting them help you, if you need them to, is one of the bravest decisions you could make.

i would not be who i am today if it weren't for counseling. i would not smile as fully or cry as freely or live as openly. i am not going to be ashamed of where i spend my afternoons once a week, because i have no reason to be ashamed that i am getting help. 

i am human and broken and i need help-- so i'm going to continue to go to counseling. i am going to continue to accept the weird looks and voices. i am going to continue to allow the Father to fight the anxiety that tries to win me over. i am going to continue to walk the road that leads to true, human wholeness.

One day i hope to proudly meet eyes with others in the office and say my name at a normal volume. 

One day i will.