Hard and holy things

I had my last counseling session this past week. With school starting up again tomorrow, I won’t be able to make anymore appointments without taking time off work (which at the beginning of the year is not something I feel comfortable doing) since my counselor’s hours don’t extend into the evening.

She asked me how I felt about it, and I told her the truth: right now, I feel okay to try it. Of course, my “okay” might get pulverized depending upon the outcome of my next two OB appointments in the coming few weeks. But, for now, I feel like I’m on more stable ground.

I truly am so grateful, though, that I was able to do counseling consistently throughout the late spring and early summer. I feel like it’s been really helpful. That sounds trite, I know, but give me a minute to explain. I don’t open up to many people, and I hate asking for help; I hate admitting that I can’t do something or handle something on my own. Generally, I’m an internalizer — I like to process and work through things on my own in my own headspace. But that doesn’t always work. And Charlie dying was so much bigger than what I could handle on my own.

With the counselor, I believe what we did was referred to as “talk therapy”, and then also two sessions with EMDR. I feel like all of it was vital to actually processing the trauma of what happened, not just on the surface but on the deeper, darker level as well. Surprisingly to me, though I’ve heard that others feel this way, talking to my counselor as essentially a stranger was easier for me than talking to some of my nearest and dearest. Likely because since I didn’t really know her, I wasn’t as concerned about being careful of her feelings and reactions.

She listened and didn’t really comment a whole lot, and many times when she did it was to draw something out of me. She often started these threads with “I’m curious about…”. Internally, I equated that to the stereotypical “How does that make you feel?”, but I appreciated the diversity. Counseling required me to externalize, which I know I truly needed to do, but allowed me pockets during which I could internalize and mull before I opened my mouth. And it gave me space to cry. A lot. So much so that sometimes I felt like all I ever did when I went there was bawl. But I know that that was part of the processing I needed to do as well.

I needed to grieve out loud. I needed to give it a voice. And when I found out about March baby, I needed to grieve AND be terrified AND want desperately to be hopeful. It was a lot, to be honest. It still is. But as I mentioned before, the intensity of these emotions isn’t as extreme now; and though time is naturally a part of that, I really feel like counseling is as well.

I keep thinking about part of a piece written by Ann Voskamp:

“The world has enough women who live a masked insecurity. It needs more women who live a brave vulnerability.”

“The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.”

Because going to counseling, accepting that you can’t do it by yourself, exposing your heart and soul to a stranger, trusting them to help you with it — it is a brave vulnerability. It is a hard and holy thing.

You all know, I believe choice should be a thing. My mother, for years, has been encouraging counseling for me. Growing up with her alcoholism, all the of family skeletons she threw out of the closet, emotionally distant dad, horribly damaging relationship in my early twenties, etc. I always knew that therapy could hold value, she wasn’t wrong. But I also always felt that it was less encouragement and more of her pushing it on me. I had made a good life for myself despite all that crap, and I didn’t feel enough of a need to pursue therapy, and I quite frankly wanted her to leave me the eff alone about it because it should be my choice! And again, I’m not a big sharer.

But when hubs suggested counseling after Charlie, it kind of felt like a life preserver. Because I felt like I was somehow surviving underwater. And I’m just so grateful. To him, for suggesting it. To myself, for pursuing it. To my counselor, for the difference it made.

Towards the end of that last session, my counselor said to me: “I know that I only know you *this* much, but I love how your mind works. The way you think about things. I can just tell, that you love your people well.”

And I was flabbergasted. I had no idea what to say. I finally stammered out an “I try” and “thank you.” And then I thanked her for all she’d done throughout our time.

But honestly, it meant a lot. Because she didn’t know me well. And because she was an objective person and through all of my crying and trying to figure shit out and figure out how to get through, that’s what she’d keyed in on. Once again, I was grateful.

So for now, I’ll be stopping counseling, but hopefully not stopping what I gathered from it. And if I need to go back, I know that I can. Brave vulnerability and hard and holy things don’t have to just happen once.

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