I’ve been seeing a counselor. Do you know how difficult it is to find a counselor? Not that there aren’t enough of them, because hoo boy, there are. I mean how difficult it is to select a counselor, I guess. I just kept typing random things into a search engine, feeling about as much self-pity as it’s possible for a person to feel. It’s such an overwhelmingly intimate, humiliating thing to ask for help, it felt unspeakably wrong to be doing it via Google. But what are the alternatives? There’s no Yelp for that shit. Or if there is, I couldn’t find it. Eventually I came to a site that listed counselors by their specialties. It had photos, bios. I stared at faces and tried to imagine myself sitting in front of them. Talking. Oh god.

Making the call was the hardest thing in the world, except maybe for actually going to the first appointment. I could imagine what my body language looked like to her. My hands twisting in my lap, my lips pulled over my teeth as I kept biting down as if to stop the words I’d come to spill.

Even in that first session, there was an eventual sense of lightening. What a terrifying relief it was to sit there and say things, things that hurt and pulled and snagged. Secrets tumbled from me. Afterwards I had the same sort of feeling you get after being violently ill: weak and emptied and somehow grateful.

So now I see her once a week. I am always uncomfortable when I first arrive, overly polite and formal and nervous. Then we transition from the small talk and it’s … I don’t know. It’s maybe like walking into a pool, in a way. With each step I unburden myself a little more. She talks, too. I like that about her, she isn’t the sort that waits in silence and only says things like, “And how did that make you feel?”

I spent my life, pretty much, thinking it was indulgent and silly to pay someone to listen to you talk. It was a pussy thing to do, is what I thought, if I’m being honest. Even though I’ve unraveled parts of my soul behind the relative safety of a computer screen, and I know exactly how healing such actions can be.

Now I realize: there is such a power to being vulnerable in front of another human being. To opening up and telling someone the things that drag me down. It’s scary. Devastating, even. And then it’s like being rebuilt, a little at a time. The ugly shit that makes me feel so broken is out in the open. It doesn’t take up the same kind of space when it’s acknowledged. And oh, that feeling of acknowledgement, it runs deep and wide. I am here and this is me, is what I’m essentially saying, when I talk to her. I am listening, she says. You are here.

Comments

60 Responses to “I am here, this is me”

  1. Pete on July 23rd, 2013 7:59 pm

    Good luck, it’s a long process but well worth it.

  2. Melanie on July 23rd, 2013 8:03 pm

    Acknowledgement, and a kind of validation. That I’m *not* an awful daughter, that it’s *okay* to not have very many good memories of my childhood, that I’m *allowed* to feel the way I feel. It was freeing.

  3. Amanda Brown on July 23rd, 2013 8:04 pm

    Linda, this is amazing: your bravery, and your writing. Seriously. Your posts blow my mind every TIME.

  4. m @ random musings on July 23rd, 2013 8:04 pm

    I’m so glad you found a counselor that you connect well with. good luck.

  5. joaaanna on July 23rd, 2013 8:10 pm

    Good for you. This is a huge step. I need to do it myself. It feels very freeing. Good for you.

  6. Honeybecke on July 23rd, 2013 8:12 pm

    Yes! Hugely brave of you! You are doing the hard work and I celebrate your strength.

  7. Erin Baebler on July 23rd, 2013 8:20 pm

    That’s a giant leap, Linda, and it sounds like you found a good one. The way you described it made me think of it as letting the darkness see the light. And, you are the one who needs to hear yourself say all of that stuff out loud–she’s there to help it reflect back to you. So that it can become the right size–not the overly inflated status it takes on when it’s trapped inside.

  8. Dawn on July 23rd, 2013 8:38 pm

    Not sure how to put it non-cheesily, but you have been working toward your own Best Linda for the many years I’ve been reading. (I remember waiting through a long hiatus and then you announcing what would become Riley! It’s been a while.) I appreciate that about you as a person, and the combination of beauty and frankness in your writing really moves me. (I also appreciate your profanely hilarious writing, to be sure.) I am reading. You are here. I am grateful.

  9. sooboo on July 23rd, 2013 8:47 pm

    This was lovely to read. Rebuilt is such a nice way to put it. That is exactly the work a good therapist helps you do. I know a lot of people think it’s weak to go to therapy, but it gets you places in your life you could never get to alone. It takes a lot of strength to ask for more in your life. I love that you are so open in sharing your path with strangers. You are helping a lot of people, I’ll bet.

  10. KB on July 23rd, 2013 9:46 pm

    Good for you, Linda. The thing about therapy is that it forces you to focus solely on yourself and your own thoughts and feelings for 50 solid minutes. Moms spend so much time taking care of everyone and everything else, often putting themselves on the back burner . . . year in and year out. Having a weekly appointment gives you the chance to take care of yourself which, in the long run, will benefit everyone in your beautiful family.

  11. Kris on July 23rd, 2013 10:19 pm

    I’m so grateful to you for writing this. I keep feeling like I’m searching for something, when I think what I’m really trying to do is figure out how to ask for help.

    In full disclosure, I teared up a little reading this. Okay, a lot. These goddamned secrets that we carry around because we don’t know what else to do with them. I’m proud of you for finding a way to let them go and find some small measure of internal peace.

  12. Elle on July 23rd, 2013 10:35 pm

    Man I felt exactly the same when I was looking for someone, I called three people but it took me months to just search and search then choose who to call and then finally make that call.
    My first session I was sooo nervous and shy, but man when I started letting it all out and tears came rolling. My therapist used to say ’some days you will dread coming here and that’s normal too’ sometimes I feel better after a session and other times confused but the more I give myself time to process things discussed I feel it’s all helping me become the person I want to be in the future.

  13. Brandy on July 23rd, 2013 10:39 pm

    Keep going:) One foot in front of the other!

  14. Donna on July 23rd, 2013 10:42 pm

    I am soooo proud of you. Everyone needs and should get therapy sometime. You rock so hard.

  15. Jillian on July 24th, 2013 4:35 am

    Good for you. You’re a strong role model for your kids. I’ve been saying for years that we (women, Americans, humans, whatever) should see a mental health professional once a year, like you see a dentist or an ob/gyn, for a check-up. I don’t know that I’ve ever met anyone who couldn’t benefit from a little talk therapy. Humans have created talk therapy institutions throughout our histories– pastors, pre-medicine doctors, intimate domestic help like ladies’ maids– so you’re just continuing a tradition that has unfortunately been weakened in our modern culture. Good luck.

  16. Eric's Mommy on July 24th, 2013 4:52 am

    Thank you for sharing with us Linda, you are beyond strong.

  17. Dawn on July 24th, 2013 5:50 am

    It must be something to actually know you in person. I hope it’s helping you to share what you can in this space. I know it’s helpful to me to read about your struggles and see you working on them. It gives me hope. Thank you.

  18. Kristin on July 24th, 2013 6:21 am

    You’re so awesome! Can we be best friends, or what’s the deal…?

  19. Angella on July 24th, 2013 6:27 am

    Love this, friend. And you. xo

  20. Anne on July 24th, 2013 7:16 am

    Oh yes, I know that feeling. I’m glad you’re feeling good about seeing someone. It helped me a ton in the past.

  21. Maria on July 24th, 2013 8:47 am

    I’ve been in and out of therapy since 2008 and back in steadily for a few months now and this: “And oh, that feeling of acknowledgement, it runs deep and wide.”

    So much.

    Absolutely understand how scary the hard parts of this are and how much work the work is.

    Glad you’re talking about it. I feel like every vocalization of this process has the potential to help someone else pick up the phone.

  22. Amy on July 24th, 2013 9:43 am

    It took a disintegrating marriage to get me into therapy–and it has made all the difference. My marriage has actually survived and is so much better, 1-1/2 years later. I still dread going there most weeks, and I still often cross my arms in front of me and force myself to make eye contact. But I go, because I know it is helping me, and helping my husband, and helping us together. It is a difficult, complex process as it forces me to let go of so many dysfunctional coping skills that I hold on to like armor. Yet I am so grateful to our therapist–she has given me the incredible gift of being able to not only love and forgive my husband–but to do the same for myself.
    So, good for you. I am so happy for you.

  23. whoorl on July 24th, 2013 11:06 am

    I just went through the same process of trying to find a therapist. (How many minutes could I possibly stare at a stranger’s face on the Internet? Many minutes, it seems.) It took a lot of trial and error, but I think I found a good fit with the third one I saw.

    Thinking of you while you maneuver all this. It’s hard, dude.

  24. Elizabeth on July 24th, 2013 11:45 am

    I am going to my first therapy appointment today, in about three hours, and I am terrified. Legit. Terrified. I could not spend more time in dire imaginings if what it will be like if I tried.
    This post feels like such a gift to me in this moment. Thank you so much for writing it.

  25. Noelle on July 24th, 2013 12:51 pm

    You should start a Yelp for “that shit”! What a brilliant idea! Good luck with therapy – you deserve to be happy.

  26. Kristen on July 24th, 2013 1:00 pm

    I have been in therapy for a few months now and it has helped me immeasurably. What you said about being vulnerable is so true. I have the hardest time being vulnerable with those closest to me, so this has been extremely hard, but also extremely rewarding.
    Good luck Linda!

  27. Mariya on July 24th, 2013 1:26 pm

    Really brave piece. Finding the right therapist can take a while, but, when you find her, she’s worth her weight in gold. My own therapist has made me a better mother and person; and has been invaluable in a crisis.

  28. LD's Mom on July 24th, 2013 1:38 pm

    I finally built up the courage to see a counselor when my marriage was failing. You captured the same fear, relief, and feeling of acknowledgement that I experienced through the process. I hope it continues to be a very good thing in your life.

  29. Christie on July 24th, 2013 2:50 pm

    Counselling was seriously the best money I’ve ever spent. But also that hardest thing to do. So worth it though!

  30. Deb on July 24th, 2013 3:53 pm

    good for you.

  31. C on July 24th, 2013 4:05 pm

    I shall need to quote for this.

    “Do you know how difficult it is to find a counselor?”
    –sorry if I start frothing at the mouth so early here, but OMG YES, Yes I DO know how impossibly hard it is! YESSSS.

    “I spent my life, pretty much, thinking it was indulgent and silly to pay someone to listen to you talk. It was a pussy thing to do, is what I thought, if I’m being honest.”
    –THIS–THIS TIMES A MILLION (like I said, pls to excuse the froth for a second). YES. I am SO GLAD you wrote that out…SO GLAD.
    And, besides more omgYES, thanks.

  32. SJ on July 24th, 2013 5:54 pm

    I have been thinking about your journey as I’ve been stepping closer and closer to beginning mine. There are things in my life that are failing, and I need to talk to someone. And I will.

    Thank you for your braveness, and your vulnerability.

  33. Maura on July 24th, 2013 6:39 pm

    Before therapy I dragged around two images of myself. The ugly, shameful, guilt ridden, etc. one and the competent, ambitious, caring, loving, etc one. slowly I have been able to merge both images of myself and see that I need to embrace them both in order to fully love myself. I kept pushing the ugly image away, but until I really looked at that image of me and the pain behind that image I remained stuck.

    It is terribly hard to ask for help. It is humbling, but it is also so freeing. I’m glad you have found someone you are comfortable with.

  34. Christine on July 24th, 2013 7:19 pm

    You are the most searingly honest blogger I know, and you write it beautifully. Thank you for keeping us with you.

  35. Julia on July 24th, 2013 8:08 pm

    Yes yes yes. (As usual.) yes to all of it. Well done! Keep up the hard work!

  36. Angela/@antiangie on July 24th, 2013 9:47 pm

    I saw a counselor in grad school and it was so helpful. So, so helpful. I am glad you’re doing this for yourself. High five, Linda.

  37. Emily on July 24th, 2013 10:14 pm

    I am proud of you. Proud of you for taking this step. It was one of the single hardest things I have ever done (12 years ago) and one of the most rewarding. I wish you all of the of the healing, growth, and happiness possible in the world. You deserve it. Don’t forget that. You deserve it!!!

  38. anon on July 25th, 2013 12:59 am

    What C said.

    I called and made an appointment. I’m going to see a counselor tomorrow about postpartum depression. Thought I could handle it on my own (and counseling is the pussy thing to do, right? ;)). Thanks for this.

  39. Leslie on July 25th, 2013 5:38 am

    Two years of counseling almost twenty years ago. Helped more than I can say and taught me so many things about myself. So brave of you to begin this journey.

  40. Stephanie on July 25th, 2013 7:04 am

    I’m so glad you have found a counselor who gives you the kind of experience you need. I believe most therapists have varying balances of “empathetic listening and feelings validation” versus “calling you on your bullshit.” Every person needs a different balance, which is why it can be so hard to find a therapist with whom you connect. It sounds like you’ve hit it out of the park on your first trip to the plate, which is wonderful. And for the record, I completely agree with everyone who has said that counseling changed their lives; it did the same for me.

  41. Jessie on July 25th, 2013 7:57 am

    It takes an incredible amount of strength and courage to admit you need help, and to shine the light on those softest and most tender spots. You are doing a wonderful thing. Best of luck to you on your journey.

  42. Victoria on July 25th, 2013 1:04 pm

    *hugs*

  43. yaya on July 25th, 2013 5:35 pm

    awesome post. I saw a counselor for 1.5 yrs, best work I have ever done on myself, for myself, for my family & my life. BIG props to you…I felt the same way: formal & polite at every greeting and then you just dive into that deep rolling ocean and come out exhausted and relieved….

  44. NancyJ on July 26th, 2013 2:12 am

    I want to hug all of you!
    Many many times I’ve felt I just needed someone to talk to – about the way I felt about myself, my husband, our marriage. Never did though. I’m glad you are!

  45. Jess on July 26th, 2013 7:07 am

    <3

  46. H on July 26th, 2013 11:11 am

    I found a wonderful counselor in January through the same method, and she is perfect for me. I always felt “wrong” or “bad” for feeling the way I did about some issues and it has helped me so much to hear “that’s OK” and “that’s expected” and “you’re not WRONG” but here’s how to look at the issues in another way.

    I’m so glad you found someone too. Keep up the great work. It is so hard, but so worth it.

  47. simon on July 26th, 2013 2:20 pm

    I went for a while. My therapist never said anything, and I caught her dozing off once. I was pretty much wrapping up at that point anyway, so I called it quits.

    But it was great while it lasted. I learned to recognize things about myself that should have been obvious, but I didn’t realize it until I said it out loud.

    You’re right. It’s a strange and terrifying and fantastic process.

  48. Lesley T. on July 26th, 2013 11:45 pm

    Your analogies are always so perfect.

    I hope therapy continues to help you sort out and cope with everything that’s been weighing on you.

  49. Redbecca on July 27th, 2013 4:43 am

    Admitting you need help takes courage; doing something about it takes more. Good for you, Linda! I’m glad you’ve found someone.

  50. iris de mallemarok on July 27th, 2013 3:52 pm

    Understanding your shortcomings and doing something about them are two entirely different things. Hurrah for you for tackling them.

  51. Kelly on July 27th, 2013 9:05 pm

    There REALLY ought to be a better way to find the right counselor. Years ago when I needed a marriage counselor, all we had to go on was the list from the insurance company. All they told us was the phone numbers and addresses. We had no other information to go on and ended up with a terrible fit. And a few years ago when I needed somebody, I had little more than that to go on. The fit was so-so, but a good bit closer to what I was hoping for. We really need better ways to find the right kind of care for every specialty.

  52. Vanessa on July 28th, 2013 5:05 am

    Absolutely one of the best things I have done but yes, so hard to find a good fit. I saw someone for a year or so and found it helpful but excruciating. Changed jobs and states and after some more turmoil, found another counsellor and she was amazing! Possibly I was already in a slightly better place but she was so much more no nonsense than the first which was a better fit for me.
    But enough about me. So proud of you for doing it. It’s hard work but worth it. Just like going to the gym – hard to get there but you always feel better when you leave. (or at least that was what I would tell myself!)

  53. Joy on July 28th, 2013 7:41 am

    Good for you, Linda!

    I avoided going to therapy for years even though a very good friend of mine swore by it and told me how wonderful it was. Even after a terrible 9 months of brain surgery, my mother dying, my father getting cancer, my good friend getting cancer, and 9/11 happening (I’m in NYC), I STILL didn’t go to therapy. It wasn’t until I had a complete breakdown that I finally went and BOY did it help. I just thought I had to buck up and be strong. I’m so over that feeling now. If I need help, I seek it out.

    I’m so glad you’ve found someone you like.

  54. Sarah on July 29th, 2013 6:28 am

    I’ve thought this so many times while reading your posts, whether they have made me laugh or tear up or smile in solidarity because yes, I know what you mean – thank you. Plain and simple and heartfelt – thank you.

  55. Christine on July 31st, 2013 2:33 pm

    Is it weird to be proud of you? does that make me an insta-douche? I’m very sorry if it does. But I know how it feels to pick out the therapist, and then go to the therapist, and how hard, very hard, it is to admit that you need the help for whatever aspect of life that it is. And I also know how absurdly proud and how much better my husband is doing now that he has sought out therapy and is otherwise managing his demons.

    So, there it is, I am proud, and hopeful, and wishing you lots and lots of good things.

  56. Lauren on August 6th, 2013 11:41 am

    I started therapy two months ago prompted, like others above, by a disintegrating marriage. My husband had always propped me up and that was so unfair, to him and to me. I had to start doing the work myself, whether or not he leaves. Your words resonate so deeply. Thank you, Linda.

  57. A long time reader on August 7th, 2013 12:18 am

    I have to say, it’s kind of funny but people just seem to be on this “journey” lately. I don’t know what have sparked it in some, but for me, it’s been a divorce. A bad one. One in which even if I had a blog, my ex would take anything I say and thwart it to his liking. One’s grief should never be fodder for one’s gain. Ever. Sorry. I feel like I’m oversharing. But you know what? I’ve gained a impeccable amount of new friendships and faces that I may never have gained if I didn’t go to therapy. My sense of self was lost. My career plans had to take a back seat. (One test away from gaining the degree I needed, can you say Holy Shit? That just happened last week. And then seeing my ex get promoted, dealing with bullying from ex and anyone under his radar, since I was too shocked to even defend myself. And after all of that, I’m getting clarity. I look back and say yes, I went through that. I crossed that river not with perfection, but with persistence.
    My therapist while I was in a relationship with a person who was a recovering addict (red flag, ding-ding-ding), was kind of waspy, but she tried to hurry me along and come to find out she was dying of cancer. But I’ve found a great therapist, just picked her out of a list on the internet. She’s younger than I, which feels a little odd, but it works. Had a few big aha moments. And the work is light years beyond what I had with my therapy before.
    Thanks for sharing.

  58. Amy B on August 7th, 2013 9:01 pm

    Aww, man. I just love you so much. I don’t mean to shortcut my own experience when I say that yes, I had that issue when I sought theraphy, and yes, I felt that same way my first appointment. Because I can say honestly, it’s the single best most responsible, most loving thing I’ve ever done for myself. I’m so happy you’re in my life. Let me know how I can help you.

  59. andthentherewere10 on August 9th, 2013 4:40 am

    I know how hard it is to find a counselor. My husband and I looked and looked for a long time – for the same reason you sought one {him}. Once we found a good one, our life changed. Oh man is she expensive. And doesn’t file our insurance. But our life has totally changed. We look forward to his therapy. Good luck! Thanks for sharing.

  60. Frannie on August 22nd, 2013 9:07 pm

    I had a therapist when I was married, but it wasn’t the best. My ex took everything I’d say and twist it. I came out, in the densest fog, two babies. He went off with his just divorced coworker and it was all my fault. here wouldn’t be any counselling, or ever. I go to a group Hope and Healing and at first, I was all, This is going to be weird. But damnit, these people had the same things happen (behaviors in spouses/exes who were addicts or manipulative). To feel that support, a 180 from the isolation I felt and that my ex relied upon-thank God I’m here.
    Good luck on your journey. Rely on which you have a safe place to land.
    I’m damn lucky to have made that call. It helped me create boundaries (certain people cannot contact me) all because the work I did. How’s that for oversharing?

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