When I was in college I wanted to go to counseling because it was free and sounded cool, but I didn’t think I had any reason to go. I was so cute and unaware back then.
Fresh off the boat from college I went to India, where I experienced beauty and poverty. And, for the first time, anxiety.
When I came back from India I went through culture shock. I didn’t think anyone was a Christian because if they weren’t living in the dumps of India with the poor, how could they be? Exactly.
I moved to Nashville, where life lost all meaning. The desk I stood behind at work, meaningless. Playing games with friends, meaningless. Christians? Meaningless. (Because no one was really a Christian.) Everything was meaningless.
Eventually I realized that maybe I needed some help, because I couldn’t shake it off. Google helped me find a counselor, and on February 10, 2009 I emailed her the following:
My name is Hope. I’m 22 years old, and have recently moved to Nashville. I obtained your name and email address from the Fellowship Bible Church website. I’ve never had anything to do with counseling or whatever, but am wondering if maybe I should give it a try. Are you trained in existential crisis situations? That’s what I have diagnosed myself with. Anyway, if you can help me I would be most pleased.
I remember sitting next to my best friend Erin on the couch and whispering to her that I was going to counseling, like it was a dirty secret or something. Suddenly it wasn’t cool anymore. It was embarrassing.
It also was no longer free. ($90 an hour, yowza!)
The following week I sat down across from Kendra with tears streaming down my face and asked her what the meaning of life was. She didn’t tell me. Instead she asked me what I thought it was. What a trick! I remember blubbering something along the lines of volunteering or helping people, but I answered it more like a question (volunteering? helping people?) Like, c’mon Kendra, just tell me what the meaning of life is. Instead she said “mmm” and “tell me more about that” and wrote lots of notes on her yellow notepad.
She agreed I was having an existential crisis and said she would love to see me weekly. I was proud of myself for nailing my diagnosis, but knew I couldn’t afford to keep seeing her.
Because of that, I never went back.
Thankfully, in one of those weird and wondrous ways, life did start to have meaning again. I found joy in the little things, like bare feet and coffee shops. The weather warmed up and I laughed more often.
A few months later I left for the World Race. When I returned a year later I moved back in with my parents. Things weren’t going so well between us, so I begged my mom to go to counseling.
We met with Jim a handful of times, and he helped us learn how to better understand each other. I’ll always remember how he taught us to affirm the other person’s emotions, even if you think they’re wrong.
That was in 2010, and I haven’t been to counseling since.
…until recently, that is.
I’ve had the inkling for a few months now that God was going to reveal some stuff to me and bring me into deeper layers of healing, I just didn’t know how that was going to happen.
Then I had a run-in with someone at work, and after processing the situation with my roommates I realized my reaction was likely linked to my childhood. Oh joy.
After praying about my reaction and asking God for more revelation/healing in that area, nothing happened. I found myself Googling counselors once again.
I found Lynda. Since Kendra and Jim both made me cry, my test for whether or not she was “the one” was if she made me cry at my first appointment.
Also at my first appointment she asked what 3 things I wanted to work on. “Oh, um…I have five,” was my response. That was a lie, I actually had six, but I half-heartedly added the last one in the waiting room so I decided not to count it. Also cause I didn’t want her to know I had six (…too much?)
My list has to do with guilt, sensitivity, childhood, and boundaries… to name a few.
I’ve met with Lynda three times this month, and each time it’s a breath of fresh air. She sits across from me with her Chihuahua on her lap as I tell her what I’m processing, where I’m stuck, where I’m rocking it, what I want to work on and so on and so forth. I get to talk to someone who knows NOTHING about my life except what I tell her. And she gets to objectively speak into the things I mention / give me tools to live better. Dream team.
This time I’m not embarrassed to go to counseling, instead I talked about it openly, casually, as if it’s an everyday activity like going to the gym or something. “Can we move our lunch date back? I have counseling at noon.”
Or I write a blog about it.
I’m not embarrassed because now I believe it’s a strength to admit weakness in your own life, and I believe it’s a strength to ask for help.
We all have weakness, we’ve all been wounded and we all need help, so I think everyone should go to counseling at one point or another. Life is hard and these people have been trained, yo!
Sure, it costs money. Sometimes health insurance covers it. For some people it’s a matter of prioritizing what you value/how you spend your money. For others, it could mean taking on a few more shifts at work. If your financial situation is super tight, there are a few options to explore (that I know of…there may be more.) Interns cost less ($30) and if churches have counselors on staff sometimes they offer it for free. I have a friend who can’t afford counseling, but her church gave her the money to go somewhere. Also you don’t have to go every week…but something is better than nothing, in my opinion.
If you can, give it a try at least once.
I see Lynda again on January 9th, and I’m already taking notes of all the things I want cover.
Here’s to a new year and emotional health…
*If anyone wants to ask me further about counseling, you can email me at Hopestillfloats@gmail.com.