I went to see my counselor for our final visit yesterday after work. God bless her, I saw her four times. Did you know that is the AVERAGE season of care? Meaning, most people see a counselor 4-6 times before taking a break for, like, a long time (or forever). Don't worry if you want to go more, or if your counselor suggests you go more, but one reason a lot of people don't start counseling is because they are afraid they will never finish. Nah, that is not the case. They are too busy and your insurance is too picky. Speaking of insurance, I have a huge deductible, but the $90 some I paid each session out of my HSA was well worth it. That hospital bill can wait.
I want to share a little about what happens in counseling because I think that is a reason a lot of people don't go. It is not the "bare your soul" that a lot of people think. In fact, most of the time it is quite specific to the issue to go in with. For example, we talked a lot about my struggle to accept the changes to my life that having another (crying) baby demand. We talked about bitterness and forgiveness and God and love and perspective and grief (dog-gone-it I wanted to breastfeed so bad). And I might literally have paid her just to sit and cry and say "I hate it" without being judged for an hour. My eyes burn just typing that. I mean, I love my kids deep down in my being. My heart beats outside of my body when I see them. They are the best. But I can say that and also say that it has been hard, too hard for me to try and function at home and be a good wife and teach and take care of Dekker... without professional help.
I want you to know that going to counseling does not mean you have a poor support system. My husband is incredible. My parents, in-laws, small group, co-workers, girlfriends (oh, my girlfriends I love you), even neighbors are wonderful people who I could not do life without. Going to counseling was a gift to them-- it said "I know you can't meet all my needs. I know you are not neutral. I know you are not professionals who can, or even want, to listen to all this and try to help me sort it out. Thank you for the support you have given me." Going to counseling does not cheapen my supportive relationships at all. Quite the opposite, in my opinion. Going to counseling said to my husband (and kids), "I don't want to be crazy, crying, frustrated, bitter, grieving, and a total unjoy to live with all the time. I love you more than that. You deserve more than that."
Finally, counseling works. I don't know what it is, but it does. I have been to professional counseling three times in my life. Once just out of highschool, once right after I got married, and now, after the birth of my second kid. And for the record-- I should have gone after Dekker, but I was too embarrassed-- which today I tearfully find ridiculous. Also for the record, after looking at that list, I think maybe life transitions are just hard for me. There is a voice in the back of my head that very clearly says "Buck Up. Women everywhere have been going through this for decades. All babies cry. All babies fuss. All mom's have some depression and "baby blues." No one has a postpartum experience exactly like they dreamed. At least they make formula. Do you think all the other moms went and spent $400 to talk to a counselor? No, they were at the grocery store and play dates and investing in the lives of their family. They are too busy trying to find the positive to sit and cry. Life is hard, Sister, so get over it already." But do you know what I did with that voice the second time around? I told her to Screw Off and I took care of myself.
So, most people don't share about counseling on the world wide web. And I respect that. But I also think that sometimes we have to bring things out of the darkness and say "so long" to secrets and guilt and shame. The nursing doctor told me to see a counselor and I shrugged her off. Then my OB suggested it. I told her "I am a counselor you know." She said "I am a doctor, you know, and sometimes I still need to see a doctor." That did it for me. I can not, simply can not, toot my horn about the benefits of counseling, about erasing the stigma associated with counseling, about how the people in counseling are not "crazy" because they are at least "together" enough to make an appointment and get themselves there... without taking my own advice. I believe in the profession. I believe it works. I know that as a provider, and this season of life I was reminded of that as a patient. Praise. The. Lord.
So I see Dena Crosby at Great Oaks Counseling. If you need a referral I hope you will call her. Counselors do not do medicine (you need to see some type of doctor for that), but she does one heck of a job as a "talk therapist." Tell her if you want to talk about God and Jesus and the Bible. I hope you will, because she gets it and will remind you of truths you might have forgotten. But she will not minimize your issue and say "Just pray harder." Yesterday I went for my final appointment. I feel good enough that I almost forgot! I was sitting at work thinking that I still had an hour to finish some grading when all of the sudden it dawned on me that I had to run out. Please note that this is a major change from our first appointment, where I watched the clock all day and wondered if I could make it until 4:00 to talk to someone, and if I might run into someone I know or a former client (gasp), or if I might just give up on the idea before then. (I did not. None of the above.)
Yesterday I was pretty put together, if you ask me. Sure, I was still in maternity dress pants, but they are cute Gap black slacks that I paid way too much for, and they are baggy. Does that count? And I wore a necklace. It kinda matched, but still-- hellooooooo, I had jewelry on. And matching socks! And heels! And I had got out of the house without a break-down before work AND got there early! I _basically_ didn't cry, but who cares if I do. And as we are wrapping things up and even just chit-chatting a little, she says to me, "Stefanie, I think you are at about 30%. You are recovered physically, emotionally, spiritually... about 30%." The look on my face must have gave me away. She asked, "Do you think that's too low?" I thought about that for a moment. I thought about my fear and my pride, and what a humbling season of life this has been. I thought about my sweet boys and how much I adore them-- all three of them. I thought about my marriage. My selfishness. The tears that still well up about, oh, 300 times a day. About my girlfriends who I only hope one day to be able to repay for their generosity. My parents, my in-laws, the encouraging texts from family I get. I thought about the sadness I still feel sometimes, but not all the time. I thought about how overwhelmed I feel, but that I have a new feeling of I can do this.
Then I answered.
No. I think 30% sounds great. If I feel this good at 30%, I can't wait to experience the next 70.
We hugged. She said my file is "open... come back anytime." She even said that sometime down the road I might want to see clients again, and that their office supports lots of part time gigs. She encouraged me to go "all in" to motherhood, marriage, work, and life. It was the great ending to our meaningful time together.
Here's to the next 70%!
"The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out." Proverbs 30:1
"My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19
"But those who wait upon God get fresh strength." Isaiah 40:31
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; BUT those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40: 28-31
Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
On the journey,