“I’m seeing a counsellor.”
My face burns and I look down at the floor. I don’t want to see the pity reflecting in your eyes—I know what you think. At least, I tell myself a story about what you think.
My counsellor taught me that. He also explained to me what other people think of you is none of your business,which is a gem that fits this scenario particularly well.
It’s a mantra I’m still working on—I’m not there yet.
The stigma of there must be something mentally wrong with me or I’m not able to solve this problem alone, therefore I’m weak or stupid or damaged still applies to counselling, even today in this supposedly enlightened society of ours.
I want to set the record straight once and for all, so gather ‘round my friends and hear my truth: therapy is brave. Therapy is empowering. And therapy is sexy. I’ll tell you why.
Therapy is brave.
From the moment I sat down in that chair, I knew I was opening a can of worms in the deepest, darkest region of my soul—a can of worms that, once unleashed, could never be re-sealed again. It was a big decision. One that would have me questioning my thought processes completely, my fundamental beliefs and feelings about my life, my relationships and my childhood.
Everything I thought I knew, and all my mechanisms for getting by in this world were discussed, dissected and sometimes destroyed, and to let that process unfold takes some serious tenacity.
Every bone in my weary body screamed at me to run away—to stay safely wrapped in the warm cosy blanket of ignorance, to bury the feelings deeper where they couldn’t hurt me. I stayed in that chair. And I returned to it every week for a year. I’m still there today.
How many people can honestly say that they have stood their ground as their demons surrounded them,tormenting them in the darkness? Who among us has found the courage to gaze, with fearful eyes, into the void that we try so desperately to compensate for, and acknowledge the emptiness that lingers there?
It takes a certain kind of brave to sit with the agonising pain of grief as it crushes your chest—to acknowledge guilt, to accept loneliness, with tears streaming down your face. My voice cracks with emotion, but I talk on regardless, bringing my monsters to life with my words and then trying to find the strength to begin to slowly slay them. Until I can see them and accept that they are real, I cannot fight them.
There is a warrior in all of us waiting for that opportunity.
My counsellor lets me pour out my hurt in a torrent. There is no judgement. He encourages the floodgates to open and is a witness to my distress, to my story. We all need a witness in this life. I believe it’s one of the reasons we connect with others so deeply—to know that someone cares enough about us to see us, to really see us for who we are as we move through life’s journey.
He questions me in ways that make me think beyond my comfort levels, to see an alternate perspective. My current ways of thinking have not always served me well and he is not afraid to push me hard beyond them, even if it makes me cry.
My insides have been pulled out, examined, cleansed and put back inside on a weekly basis. Exhausting? Yes. Valuable? Beyond measure. I am more myself than I have ever been, which is the best gift I could have given myself in this thirtieth year of my life.
Therapy is empowering.
Coaching and mentoring are seen as the path of the enlightened, the driven, and the achievers. Counselling, on the other hand, is perceived by many as an inability to cope with the world. I have news for you, ladies and gents; counselling is a form of life coaching, too.
It gives me the ability to recognise negative patterns and behaviours, and the tools and awareness to deal with them without melting down. It lets me get comfortable with ambiguity and to sit with my sadness without dissolving into it to a point where I can’t cope or recover from it.
I can apply these lessons across the board: at home, at work, walking down the street. I can understand the motivations and fears that drive people and myself, which is powerful beyond words.
I’m still learning, and I make mistakes, but I am more aware of them now. I’m only human—I still get angry with people, but I ask myself what the positive intention was in their behaviour. I finally understand that no one in this world has the power to make me feel anything.
I create, promote and allow the feelings and behaviours that I want in my life and I give to myself the things that I want to experience.
Don’t love me? Fine. I’ll love myself enough for the both of us. Knowing that no one external can take that feeling away is liberating.
Therapy is sexy.
There is nothing more attractive than a person prepared to own his or her shit. We are all messed up in some way or another; it’s just a matter of how, and to what degree. To accept that fact is to be a real adult in this world—to take responsibility for our own happiness and to stop blaming others when life is hard, or when they don’t meet our expectations.
If a man is willing to face his issues, my god is he a man in my eyes. If he is able to work on himself with the intention of becoming the best version of himself that he can be, for himself, and subsequently for his relationships, that is a serious turn-on. I know that he is going to show up for me, for his family, and he is going to address the issues that he doesn’t want to pass onto his kids.
A good father is hugely appealing.
The fact that you care about your mental health is as significant to me as you taking care of yourself physically. Mental grooming is way more important than working on your washboard abs (though I won’t deny, I like those too).
We don’t have to be perfect; heaven knows that I’m not. We just have to be willing to participate in our own growth, and that will speak to my mind, my soul and to my body in ways you could never imagine.
Originally published here at Elephant Journal