Three ways counseling has changed my life.

“If it matters let it matter,
If your heart’s breaking, let it ache,
Catch those pieces as they scatter,
Know your hurt is not in vain,
Don’t hide yourself from the horror,
Hurt today gone tomorrow,
If it’s fragile, let it shatters
Let it matter, let it matter”

Recently, I found myself belting out the latest song from Johnny Swim. But only when I looked up the lyrics did I realize “Let It Matter” is than just a catchy song…it is my anthem I’ve been singing for the last year and a half without knowing it.

Don’t you love it when it feels like a song was made just for you?

This is a difficult blog post to write, but my hope is to give others courage through it. I’m admitting I’m not perfect by writing a post about why I started going to counseling...but you know what? That wasn’t a secret anyways. We are all humans who experience hard stuff. What I truly hope is that this post gives you insight into how the Lord has grown me these last two years, and that it reminds you we are all fighting our own unique battle. I began my journey after realizing I experienced trauma from brain surgery five years ago - we all have our own unique battle and I pray that we can begin being more vulnerable with each other because vulnerability isn't weakness ya know; it's courage. 

Here are three ways to see counseling a bit closer--three very real ways it has helped me, and which I hope it might help you, too:

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1. You have someone listening to you.

This wasn’t something I realized was a gift at first, but over time, as weeks became months and months became years, I realized how good this was for me. My counselor went from being a stranger to someone whose opinion I value greatly; someone who listens to me (and whatever is on my mind) for 60 minutes twice a month. This is a gift I did not appreciate when I started.

I started realizing I was talking less about myself in other parts of my life, which has helped me be a more “present” friend. This doesn’t mean I don’t tell my friends what’s going on and how I’m growing, but I’m not spending the majority of our time talking about everything that is bothering me or what I need advice on. I’ve found it has really helped me to have a “sounding board,” if you will, for my life. Someone who doesn’t know the people I’m talking to, who can offer advice from a completely different perspective. It’s the best.

2. You give yourself room to think.

I haven’t been very good at journaling in the past. Big life moments happen and I say to myself, “Oh surely I will remember how I’m feeling right now, no need to write this down.” Well, as much as I’d like to brag about my memory, that statement is not as true as I’d like it to be. Life happens and I often find myself hurrying on to the next things without much thought of what just passed.

This is probably the biggest reason I began counseling. Two years ago, I found myself having anxiety over something that had happened five years earlier. Five years. That’s a long time. I realized that by going from my internship to my senior year of college, from college graduation to a long-distance relationship, and from my engagement, wedding, and marriage to relocation to a different state, all one after another, the last five years had passed by without me even noticing it.

Counseling has helped me process the last two weeks of my life, every two weeks. It forces me to slow down and really think about everything. I absolutely love being forced to process life and how it reduces my anxiety. (Still working on the journaling…)

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3. It’s ok to “treat yo’ self.”

One of the biggest gifts my counselor gave me was teaching me how to feel every emotion. This might sound strange, but I didn’t know how to “be sad”. I mean sure, I cried at chick-flicks and goodbyes but I didn’t know how to really “feel sadness”. She (along with the movie Inside Out) taught me that in order to feel true joy, you have to experience sorrow or sadness. This is a hard truth to learn when you are Miss Smiles” and someone who genuinely loves to laugh.

After many of our sessions in the first few months, she would send me off with a hug and say, “Now go get ice cream and tell your husband you just need to be sad tonight but then tomorrow, you begin to move ahead.” Those were healing words: someone not only giving me permission to be sad but teaching me to accept it and yet, not letting me live in my sadness. Because there is a difference. Sadness is allowed when you don’t sulk in your circumstances. When you feel the hardship of life but with God, there is hope for tomorrow. His mercies are new every day.

So what came from her advice other than healing words that freed me greatly these last few months? A “treat yo’ self” tradition...but it wasn’t ice cream. I went to Taco Bell after each session for my two hard shell tacos. We all have that thing that helps us, right? I would go to Taco Bell, sit in the parking lot, and eat while processing everything we’d just talked about. We also began joking that counseling was part of my weekly workout, so now I also view my Taco Bell treat as a reward for working off those emotional calories ;)

It’s hard work digging into our hearts but man, is the reward sweet. I know that everyone experiences freedom in their own way, but my hope through this post is that it helps break down those stereotypes of counseling or therapy. I'm 100% team therapy and the more we talk about, the more I hope we break down those barriers.