Did you ever wonder?
The other morning I was at my gym getting my workout in before my workday. One of the women sharing the weight room overheard the end of a conversation I was having with another patron. When we were done talking this woman asked me the following:
Woman: “What is it that you do?”
Me: “I’m a therapist.”
Woman: “What kind of therapist?”
Me: “I’m a mental health therapist.”
Woman: “I have a question…I’ve always wondered what do mental health people do when their life is too much? They’re not immune to life circumstances, right?”
Me: “Thanks for noticing. Right, We do get hit with life, just like everybody else. And many of us seek outside help and go to counseling and practice self care when our life seems a bit too much to handle.”
Woman: “I often wondered. That’s reassuring.”
Later that same week I was walking with a new friend. I mentioned going to my own counselor and an insight I had from my most recent session. She seemed perplexed and stated: “That’s weird, I didn’t even think that counselors need to go to counseling…”
Burst that bubble
These two proximate interactions made me realize that perhaps there is a mystique associated with being a mental health therapist. Maybe magically by going to school and learning theory and clinical skills would eliminate the need to deal with my own anxiety, fear, transition, stress, grief, illness or what have you. I think at one point in time, I thought that too— with enough knowledge I could out think and ward off the “bad stuff” that happens in life.
As much as I’d like that to be true, that simply isn’t the case. You can’t out learn, out reason, out pray, out exercise, out run, out control, or otherwise exempt yourself from bad stuff happening. It doesn’t work that way. And honestly I don’t know that I would want it to. Brene Brown talks about moments of connection happen when we share our vulnerability. If we are immune to things that cause fear and shame, then we may in fact be unable to engage and connect deeply with others on a truly human level. I know I am validated and feel heard and understood when someone shares their similar experience and how they managed that difficulty. I am encouraged and given hope that what I am experiencing can actually be dealt with and lived through. This person sharing their experience, is still alive and still able to tell me about it.
This is true hope.
So if by admitting that I too experience all the colors and flavors of life; including the dark and sometimes bitter and that seeing my own counselor helps me to gain perspective, learn new skills, become honest with myself, forgive myself and others, be supported with changes I need to make, process trauma, effectively deal with stress, learn new relational skills— then I happily admit it.
I want to banish the idea that counselors are magically spared challenges. Or that we don’t practice what we preach. Change is hard. Grief is heavy. Stress and overwhelm can seem all consuming. Know that there is value in asking for help and recognizing that your counselor is as human as you or the next person. I have to practice and do homework too. And it is good.