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.


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

  1. 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.

  2. 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!)

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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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