“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word “happy” would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”

-Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist, 1875-1961

I’m going to go talk to a therapist on Friday. To help me with my grief. I am really relieved now that I have the appointment. Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in someone else’s swimming pool and I don’t know how I got there or how to get out….and I suspect there are sharks nearby. The appointment is like spotting the ladder.

I have been to see a therapist a few different times throughout my life. When I was contemplating a divorce in my 20’s, therapy helped me define the problems and make some important life decisions. After my divorce and a few other missteps, therapy allowed me to drill into what was driving my poor choices and begin making better ones. Greg and I went to pre-marital counseling the few weeks we had between when we met and when we married, and then we kept going for a couple months afterwards. We went back to counseling about a year and a half ago when the reality of parenting littles, parenting not-so-littles, and dealing with aging parents became a bit more than we were comfortable dealing with on our own.

To put it mildly – I believe in therapy. I do not believe it is for weak minded people. I do not believe therapists trick you into doing what they think is the right thing to do. I believe that it is a sound and reasonable step to take when life gets to be overwhelming. I believe that talking through your problems with a person who is not in the middle of them is the best way to see the forest AND the trees.

Even with all of that being 100% true, I find myself wanting to defend myself (“Tell them you don’t go ALL the time,” I keep suggesting to me.) But to be honest – given unlimited time and budgets – I probably would go every other week or so for, you know, forever.

We are fairly predictable people – really predictable. It’s sad, I know. We so love to think of ourselves as totally unique individuals. We are that, too, but more so in the fingerprint category than in the ‘how we react to big life change’ category. Going to a therapist allows us to tap into a vast body of research dating back centuries. It allows us to find out that we are not alone and gives us quick access to ideas and suggestions that have worked for a lot of people. Now, maybe some of them will work for you and some of them will not – but better to walk up to a salad bar of choices, than forage in the forest for the occasional pine nut (no pun intended:).

When it comes to therapy I usually choose to see female, Christian therapists. I like to go to someone who has a slight possibility of having been in my shoes. I like someone who immediately has a broad idea of my foundation – it kick starts the process.

(As an exception, Greg and I went to a couple that did pre-marital counseling and we went to a male therapist this last time. I think for men, it is harder to go to therapy and be comfortable, so you have to really talk through and decide what works best for you and your spouse if you plan on going together.)

But normally – I prefer female therapists, just a personal choice. You may feel differently. I think it varies too, based on your history and what you want to talk about. Another thing to keep in mind – you won’t click with every therapist. The first therapist I ever went to was a horrible match, and she may not have been very good at her job…everyone isn’t a valedictorian. I have went to a couple others since then that are surely fantastic therapists for other people, but we just didn’t click. The good thing about ‘playing the field’ when it comes to therapy is that you don’t have to break up with them directly – you just don’t schedule another appointment. Easy peasy – on to the next option. So, I say this to encourage you – if ever you decide to go talk with someone, don’t feel like you have to stick with someone if it doesn’t feel right, but don’t quit after the first mis-fire either, try someone else.

Once you do find someone, I won’t lie, it is kind of odd at first. You are walking into a stranger’s office and sharing things that you are hardly comfortable thinking about, much less talking about. But they have been in that position thousands of times – they are good at helping make you feel at ease and walking you through the process. It isn’t like TV – they don’t just sit there and wait for you to decide to talk. They have questions and draw you out. Only the first visit is a little awkward and then you have established a base to work from. It gets easier.

So, I’m writing about this tonight because as I made my appointment I was struck by the feelings I had going in to fill out the pre-admission paperwork yesterday – insurance and things like that. Parking in their parking lot and walking in felt different then if I had been across the street going to my regular doctor. I felt a little self conscious – and I LIKE therapy. I can imagine that for anyone who had never been it must be so difficult to walk through those doors. Then I started thinking of people who could really benefit from it, that don’t because of what people may think. So I wanted to write and say – I go to therapy and I’m not ashamed.

Now, in writing this I fully acknowledge that I may not be the poster child of ‘normal’ that one wants to relate too. Maybe some of you are thinking, “News Flash: We could TELL. If you aren’t in therapy – who is?!?” And to you I say, “That isn’t very nice. You should go talk to someone about your judgy-ness issues.” But to the rest of you I just wanted to say – If you feel like you need to go talk to someone – go do it! There is nothing wrong or weird about finding life too heavy to lift by yourself sometimes. Life is too heavy to lift sometimes. That is normal. We have erroneously made faking it normal. Faking that we can shoulder the weight of the world? No one can do that.

And the final thing I will say is, I believe in my deepest being that God has been with me every time I have gone to talk with someone. Not only was going for help not a weakness of faith, it was a statement of faith. I believed that God would be in the room and would lead me to people that would heal me and draw me closer to Him. It is the same way I will feel if ever I need to seek medical care for some life altering condition – going to a medical doctor is not believing that God can’t heal – it’s believing that He will use the doctors to do so.

This concludes our January 2013 PSA.

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