Sorry for my convoluted and very long post title – for some reason Green Eggs and Ham is on my brain. I had a counseling session *yesterday, and each time I go, I find myself confronted with an opportunity to grow and stretch myself – and I can choose to either take it or ignore it.
I’ve been going to counseling/therapy (I will use those words interchangeably) consistently for over 4 years. But four years ago, I was very resistant to trying it. What started out as marriage counseling evolved into me seeing great value in meeting with a therapist one-on-one.
Sometimes after I’ve told people I see a therapist, they have asked me, “does it help?” And my answer is definitely, 100%, yes! But I feel like I should elaborate on what I mean when I say it helps me. Each time I go to therapy, I uncover a tiny bit more about myself – I understand myself just a little bit better, and I start to figure out why I am feeling the ways I am feeling. Let me give you an example:
*Yesterday in therapy (it was a joint session with my husband), I brought up how I had been getting really frustrated recently that he was not helping out enough with our son in the mornings. I am a morning person, and my husband is more of a night owl. So inevitably, when my son wakes up, I am usually the first person he sees because Daddy is still sleeping. This means I’m typically the one to get our three-year-old his breakfast, answer his many questions about whatever pops into his mind, set up his favorite t.v. show, etc. The feeling this brought up for me was anger – it wasn’t “fair” that I was doing this “all by myself” (which is not true, but I am good at convincing myself otherwise sometimes). At face value, it seemed like the issue was about getting help with our son – but as we dug deeper, I realized that it wasn’t really about that. It was about me needing alone time, “me” time – time to read a book, write, and do other things that bring personal fulfillment. I was struggling to figure out how to find this alone time in my schedule, and I needed to ask for help.
Therapy gives me an opportunity to process through my feelings, talk about them openly, and without realizing it, start uncovering the real underlying issues behind the problems. (It’s actually really cool!) Therapy is something I see myself doing for a while, I’m not sure if there is going to be a “stopping point” for me. There are seasons where I go once every few months just to check in, and there are seasons where I decide that going every two weeks is what I need. The more I go and uncover about myself, the deeper we can dive into my issues and really deal with the problems at their core.
I say all that to stress that going to counseling may not be a quick, easy fix. In fact, I would venture to say that for most people who benefit from it, it’s never quick. Early on when I first was going regularly, it seemed like we always uncovered more problems than we solved. It felt like we went one step forward and two steps backwards. Those times were hard and discouraging, and it was difficult to see progress.
I can confidently say that now, those times are rare. I can look back over four years ago when I started counseling, and I feel like I’ve come so far. There are still sessions that are difficult, and sometimes the sessions surprise me because I learn something about myself that I wasn’t expecting to. Sometimes an old memory may reappear, or a discussion may trigger a particularly painful feeling, and those sessions are emotionally exhausting.
But, it’s all worth it. I promise. Find a counselor that you love, who understands and validates you. (This is easier said than done!) When the sessions get hard, keep going. If if feels like you’re just too messed up of a person, that’s okay – your counselor can help you learn to love and accept yourself.
If it’s a money issue, I totally understand that. That was one reason I was hesitant to go in the beginning – it can get expensive pretty fast. And while I don’t think any of my money spent on therapy has been wasted, I understand that some people are in a position where they don’t have any extra dollars – I recognize that being able to attend professional counseling is a privilege. (There’s probably a need to discuss alternative, cheaper options to therapy – but I won’t do it in this post.)
What’s holding you back from starting your journey towards better mental health? If you’ve never tried therapy and are still a bit skeptical of it, I’d encourage you to take Sam-I-Am’s words to heart:
You do not like it
So you say.
Try it! Try it!
And you may.
Try it and you may I say.
– Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham, slightly edited from original
Thanks for reading.
*I wrote the first draft of this post back in March, so when I say “yesterday,” I really mean much earlier than that.*