Making Sense of a Tangled, Traumatized Mind — Part One

Last summer, July 25th to be exact, something awful happened. Something so terrible, that my mind did not know how to process it. And so, I didn’t. Instead, I was acting on auto-pilot, unable to think clearly. I’m not sure if I ever made a conscious decision to shield myself from all the thoughts running through my mind, or if I was actually being assaulted by so many emotions at once that I just couldn’t make sense of it all. What I do know, though, is I was traumatized and not really sure where to go or what to do next. So, like any good Millennial, I Googled it.

My roadmap for recovery began here.

There was a lot of information. But the gist of it all was “Tell someone and get help.” Well, I had already told my someone. My husband. So I was headed in the right direction here. “Get help.” Okay. I called my OB-Gyn and set up an appointment to get tested. Then, I called every phone number listed on the first page of Google results when I searched “trauma counselor in my area.” I left messages on most of their voicemails to schedule an appointment. (Did I mention that I called them all around 6am? Of course no one answered! Clearly, my mind wasn’t working properly.) I figured the first one to call back would be the winner. Roughly 3 hours later, at a normal business hour, the first counselor, Bekah, called back and said she could see me and my husband that night.

I had never been to counseling before. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was nervous. I was scared. I was anxious and vulnerable. I didn’t want to tell my, very raw, story again. But, Google told me I needed to. So I did. We show up to the counselor’s office, which is really a converted red brick, split level home with offices in each of the rooms- all with “Do Not Disturb” signs up- and the waiting room set up in what would have been the living room. “What an odd place to have a waiting room.” I thought. But again, I didn’t know what to expect from any of this, so I just went with it.

Actual image of counseling office. Photo credit: Google street view

Bekah turned out to be younger than I expected. Short, dark brown hair. Almost olive complexion with a pretty face and small frame. She had several tattoos, wore fashionably “hip” clothes, and seemed too cool to be a stuffy therapist. She insisted that we didn’t discuss the trauma, yet, and instead “just get to know each other; See if we’d be a good fit”. Wow. It had never occurred to me that we may not be.

Here I was, sitting on a leather couch in a room that looked like it could have been a dining room at one time, dutifully following Google’s instructions, and my brain kicked in for a second. I hadn’t even considered that this help might not be the help I wanted or needed. I had forgotten that I had a say in how I handled this. Interesting concept. Ten minutes into my first counseling session, and it already seemed to be working!

Thanks to my friend, Jessie, for introducing me to Brené Brown’s wisdom.

So, I kept going. Keeping things very general, we started a conversation. It almost felt like a first date. Granted, it was a first date with a very broken individual (me!), but a good “tell me about yourself” experience none the less. My husband and I told her about how we met, where we worked, a little about our 2 kids and our families. She in turn shared about her education and her background and a little about her counseling style. Occasionally, she would appear nervous and would noticeably correct herself, saying things like “I shouldn’t say that. I meant more…” Something about her imperfections and inexperience made me instinctively trust her. She was human, too.

After our Q&A session, we discussed insurance and finances, and then she asked us to contact her if we wanted to continue our work together. And that was it. I survived my first counseling session.

My husband and I drove home that night mostly in silence. We had already decided by the time we reached the car that she was the right person for the job. The rest of the car ride home, at least in my mind, was spent thinking about that job and what it would entail. I didn’t realize exactly how long and difficult a journey I was about to begin. But, of course, I wasn’t thinking clearly.