“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
|Image courtesy of snoopy.com|
"Are you in therapy? Don’t you think you need therapy? Are you a counselor? Do you seek counsel? Do you recommend therapy for mental health?"
I have been asked various versions of all of these questions over the past few years. And I have one answer for them all: “YES!”
My desire on this blog is to always be as real as I possibly can be. Why? Because I have found that honesty with God, myself, and others is the only way to navigate life and loss and still come out on the other side (or to simply rest or struggle in the “in between places”) with faith in tact.
Those of you who have read the “About” page on this blog know that I have a Masters in Counseling and am a Nationally Certified Counselor. I do not have my license at this point. I was put on bed rest with the twins shortly after graduation while I was beginning to work on licensure hours. I also have a coaching certification.
I believe in godly counsel, both in professional and interpersonal realms depending on what the season of your life requires. For those of you who know me, this will be old news. I am very open about the counseling I’ve received. Let’s get real: God has used it and my counselor to basically resuscitate me and bring me to the place where I can say we have more good days than bad ones.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, I hope that discussing this issue will be helpful and empowering, because it is an issue that oftentimes continues to be taboo and hush-hush in our “have it all together” culture.
I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks throughout my entire life. I didn’t necessarily know what it was at every moment, but looking back it is clear I’ve been a poster child for this challenge. My anxiety maxed out both in middle school (who didn’t have a hard time in middle school??) and then again when I moved to Virginia Beach as a 23 year old newly-wed. My life was perfect on the outside. Yet as a new wife, in a new home, in a new town, with a new family, new friends, no real job leads or direction, and looking for a new church, anxiety took over for awhile and we even made one trip to the ER with a panic attack where I was certain I was dying. It is comical now but was not so funny at the time. And I know I scared my sweet husband stupid!
Many came alongside me, but one happened to be a counselor. She truly walked me through that difficult season. I promised the Lord that if he delivered me and helped me cope with my anxiety and panic attacks that I would use this cross for Him. This is how I came to pursue a degree in counseling, which on the surface seemed totally unrelated to my undergraduate degree in religious studies and foreign affairs.
Once in counseling school, a class required us to seek out a licensed professional counselor to participate in four therapy sessions as the client. We were supposed to experience what it felt like to be the client and hopefully increase our self-awareness in the process. I figured if I was going to spend my time doing this then I might as well make the most of it and work on a few things (including anxiety) during these sessions. A professor recommended a wonderful counselor who I began to see for my four sessions. Well, let’s just say I can’t even count how many sessions there have been since the original four.
And boy, did the Lord know what He was doing when he placed this amazing woman in my life. Our counseling relationship was well-established by the time Meade and I faced any parent’s worst fears: children with failing health, life in the NICU, the tragic death of a child, another child fighting for his life and later struggling with special needs, deciding whether or not to have another child when doctors recommended holding off. This counselor just happened to specialize in grief, loss, and trauma. Coincidence? I think not.
I tear up thinking about it. God truly provided for us through our counselor. In the early days after Warren went to be with the Lord and everything was still so tenuous with John, I typically would have two sessions per week. As the journey continued, our counselor helped us find our footing again…. Find joy despite pain. Learn to “sing our boys’ songs.” Grow in confidence. Learn to grieve and mourn. Learn to celebrate. Grasp how to appreciate our modified and ever-changing faith. Learn how to embrace the gift of freedom Warren has given us. And to discover we are open to life here while also looking forward to reuniting as a family in heaven one day.
When it comes to counseling, I like to say that on my good days, it is life coaching. On my bad days, it’s therapy. (Smile.) Thanks Jodi. This post is dedicated to you!
I will close with a few reasons why I love and promote counseling for myself and for others:
-It keeps me humble and helps me acknowledge I am a needy person… in need of God’s grace, in need of guidance, in need of self-insight, in need of help loving those God has placed in my life...
-As much as I'd liked to be, I'm not self-sufficient and can't figure it all out on my own.
-Counseling has stretched and challenged my faith, my views of myself, and how I see the world.
-It is always beneficial to place yourself in a position where fresh life can come in and thus fresh life can pour out. I know I do not want to become an insulated and stagnate person. This is easy to do, because we all tend to seek out what is safe, familiar, and simply “like us.”
-Counseling gives perspective... an objective sounding board, a mirror, a fresh outlook.
-Counseling is an investment in myself, my marriage, and in those I love. They benefit as I grow.
-Counseling has given me a safe place to vent yet also has prevented my heart from becoming permanently embittered or cold.
-The Lord provides in so many interesting and even unconventional ways. I’d encourage you to be open to how He wants to provide for you.
“The world is full of suffering. It is also filled with overcoming it.”
– Mother Theresa
*Prayer request for today: John has a follow up appointment with his new doctor. He will have a full evaluation and screening.