How to Determine if you Need to Go to a Counselor

Needing help is not a sign of weakness

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

“You are just a bleeding heart,” the note said.

I just sat there staring at those words. Words that cut deeply.

It’s true, I hurt. And anyone who knew me knew it right away.

I had lived part of my life wearing a mask, pretending things were fine, though inside I was dying. I found it easier that way. I wasn’t congruent, but at least I was getting by.

But life was not made for us to just get by. Life was made for living.

Inside I was so desperately sad.

My first visit

I sat in the counselor’s office and I wasn’t nervous at all. I was there for my husband, I had told myself. You know, supportive wife and all.

I remember feeling comfortable in Celia’s office. The colors, the plants, all of it made me feel safe.

And I enjoyed talking to her. But honestly, I was surprised when she said to me, “I’d like to see you again.”

Whatever for? I thought. After all, it was my husband who had problems.

So I began a journey. And I met with her regularly and poured out my bleeding heart. And the more I talked in her office, the less I found I needed to share with others.

“Anne, what do you want?” the counselor asked me one day.

“I want the pain to stop,” I said, “make it stop.”

But Celia responded, 
 “God never promised he would stop our pain, but what he DID promise is that he would be with us IN our pain.”

I knew God, and I was a Christ follower. So I knew his presence was one of my favorite promises of his. But I also thought there might be something I was missing, and that someone would be able to tell me the secret, so I could hurt less.

Is therapy the answer?

There are so many reasons people go to therapy.

Some people grew up without a nurturing home. But if they were from an authoritarian household, they never learned to make their own choices because they were always made for them.

If they lived in a house with rage, they never learned how to express their emotions. Instead, they lived with this invisible radar that was always on, always ready to alert them. A radar without an off switch.

They grew outwardly, but inside they were still children, totally unprepared for the world.

Getting help

Going to therapy was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but one of the best decisions I ever made.

I learned why I struggled in areas where others seemed to sail through.

I suffer from PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. Because of the traumatic events in my life, there are times buttons will get pressed, and I feel like the helpless child I used to be. Just like when my dad would be enraged and start hitting us with his belt.

My heart would beat out of my chest hearing my siblings pleading with him to stop, hearing them crying and knowing I would be next. Rage dictated his actions and we never knew when it would happen. I just figured we must be very bad.

And shame took up residence in my heart.

And while my brothers got it the worst, I was overly sensitive. Just a harsh look made me shrivel up inside. 
 I remember one day, thinking of my beautiful daughter when she was a little girl. I wondered what she would have been like if she had been hit. And I felt as if God answered, “She’d be like you.”

Enter Grief

When I was sixteen, our mom had a stroke and died. So we were left with dad. One by one, my siblings left the house. And eventually I did as well, but I took my scars with me.

You cannot grow up in a house filled with rage and come out unscathed. 
Sometimes those who have been abused grow up and become abusers. But in our cases, we learned what we did NOT want to do.

In counseling, I learned about patterns and that can be broken, and about healthy ways to deal with my pain, instead of numbing it with popcorn and Klondike bars.

Why people don’t get help: the stigma

But not everyone is for counseling. There’s a stigma attached to therapy.

If I had a broken arm, people would see my cast and understand I was unable to do certain things that required both limbs. People would show compassion, and have empathy.

But when something is faulty with our thinking, and we can’t seem to function well because of our thoughts, that scares people.

But I’m here to tell you, therapy can change your life. It can transform you from being a victim to being in control.

If your car needed to be overhauled, you would either get it in the shop or replace it. Sometimes, our thinking needs an overhaul.

Why you should get counseling

1) You cannot stop negative thoughts which seem to overpower you at times cause you great pain.

2) You are afraid you may hurt yourself, or someone else.

3) You are stuck in an emotional warp and can’t seem to move forward. And even when there is movement, you end up at the same place again, but with different people.

4) When you are suffering from the loss of a loved one, and you can’t seem to process it.

Going to counseling takes courage. It’s a decision you make regardless of what anyone else thinks.

It’s a decision to take care of yourself so you can stop being a spectator of your life and become a participant.

Sometimes it’s just a short time you may need to get some help. But whatever it entails, it is so worth it.

Take it from me. My name is Anne Peterson, and I’ve been to counseling.

Call to Action

Have you ever been to a counselor? 
Was the counselor able to help you?
What’s the best piece of advice you heard?

Life is hard, so I write words to make it softer.

Download my free eBook, Helping Someone in Grief: 17 Things You Need to Know