The Healing Chronicles Vol. 1: “The First Step”

Posted: September 25, 2018 in Feature Blogs

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I made the appointment AND I actually went…

“All the universe needs is for you to do what you were put here to do”

I cringed when my counselor said this to me during session numero uno. I thought to myself, amidst raucous internal laughter, “Is THAT what I came here for?!”

I felt like I was talking to a fortune cookie.

That was all I needed to confirm my suspicion that this arrangement wasn’t going to work.

When the counselor came to the lobby to greet me, I was turned off immediately by his appearance. He resembled George Foreman with clothes that were entirely too big and too casual, shirt untucked. He was very loud and energetic. This is not what a counselor was supposed to look or behave like, to me.

But it would have been rude to just leave, so I resolved myself to sitting through the hour politely. I took a quick survey of his office and deduced that with his decorated military service, athletic accomplishments and sheer workplace energy level at 2pm on a Friday that I could probably get him to talk about himself for much of the session. And I did just that.

He asked basic questions throughout for the purposes of the electronic evaluation he was completing on his computer. True to my plan, I didn’t offer up much. And once he hit me with the quote about the universe, I was checked out mentally and already contemplating how to acquire a new counselor.

I say all that as if my mind wasn’t made up about him before I pulled into the parking lot though.

In reality, I had already decided that because I probably hold more degrees and make more money than whoever I was about to see that they wouldn’t be able to help me. Plus, the fact that I’ve managed to keep my bipolar under control for decades now without medication or talk therapy, I really began thinking some regular counselor wouldn’t be qualified to properly treat me.

Had I not posted Everyone Leaves, I’m not sure I would have followed through with the appointment. Although I just painted myself as poised (and albeit, smug), the truth is that I was in a bit of a panic on the way to the office. Not only is the office located in Price Hill (“Hell On Earth”, for anyone unfamiliar with metro-Cincinnati) but my emotional defenses were going apeshit.

It’s very easy to vow to do great things and bask in any subsequent praise. Whether it’s go back to school, seek counseling, get that HIV test we’ve been putting off, etc., when it comes time to act we quickly remember why we’ve been avoiding whatever and we’ll craft any excuse that might justify delaying it further.

The reality is that I am afraid of walking in there and being ordinary.

I am afraid that people will perceive me as a poor leader.

I am afraid that people will perceive me as weak.

I am afraid that I will be perceived as unstable.

I am afraid that any piece of advice I have ever given will be voided.

I am afraid of being perceived as ungrateful for not focusing solely on my blessings.

I am afraid that my recent streak of creativity will end…

…all present tense, mind you. And that isn’t likely to change as this journal ages.

In short: I’m afraid that seeking help will only make true the irrational fear that I am attempting to fix, that people will abandon me.

Being honest with ourselves can be a very tricky thing to achieve, no matter how flippantly we are advised to do it. Honesty implies knowing truth. Truth often requires context. And context isn’t always easy to process in an emotional state or when you are too immature to understand the details in between an event and our emotional response to it.

Add society to the mix and being TRULY honest within can be nearly impossible. We have been conditioned to believe that “strength” is in avoiding emotion rather than enduring it. It’s not to say that there is nobility in intentionally creating situations that will end badly. But what nobility is there in assuming that they all will?

Society had me believing for decades that I was special, that my abilities to sever ties and be unmoved by loss were indications of strength. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that these are just symptoms of a scared mind and nothing more. My conscious mind can’t be trusted so my subconscious swoops in with its fuckery. If these symptoms are indications of anything, they’re that I’ve spent no time taking risks and too much time being governed by fear of losing the very people that I ultimately cutoff.

I’m fortunate in the sense that the only people around me anymore are people that love and support me unconditionally. I’m unfortunate in the sense that none of that knowledge mitigates my panic that they’ll realize I’m undeserving of them.

A lot of people will read that and suggest the obvious, like: “oh, just talk to whomever and I’m sure it will be fine!”

Great idea! But what do I do if one of those people is a toddler that my sister was fostering and I was so afraid we were going to lose her in a custody battle that I prepared for the worst? We wound up not losing her but here I am, literally two years later, still feeling like we did. It causes me to hold back when I interact with her.

She’s three now, so I’m sure sitting her down and explaining that will be productive.

And these are the kinds of things I obsess about every 10 minutes while I am awake. So while the counselor politely engaged in my reverse-filibustering, my dysfunction timer went off in my head and I was quickly reminded that my way of doing things is what got me to this point. AND that I came to HIM, only to show up and waste my time, since he is getting paid regardless; and possibly an opportunity for someone else who would actually take the session seriously.

Bottom line: I was scared just like anyone of you reading this that knows they need help.

My goal with counseling is not to create bonds with new people but rather to repair and maintain the bonds currently in my life, if those people aren’t sick of my shit by now. I’m tired of holding back from the people that not only want to build with me but people that I would be stupid to not build with.

I’m down to pretty much 3-4 people in my circle, with maybe two honorable mentions. These are people who have done more than enough to show me that they love me and support me unconditionally. I want to reciprocate but I just can’t if I’m interpreting their actions as evidence of imminent departure.

That is another reason why “approach them about it” is problematic. They’ve done their parts already with me, what are they supposed to do with “I’m afraid you’ll leave me” besides feel inadequate or compelled to do even more to prove otherwise?

That is no solution.

It’s not fair to put them in a situation where they have to tip toe around my bullshit. When people look up to you, whether you asked for it or not, being present means nothing if you are so distant that they don’t feel like you’re in the room with them. I owe it to myself and to those people to make them feel adequate because they are and they have been. They don’t need to do any more than they already have. Because it is not a “them” problem, nor is it a “them” solution.

It’s a “me” issue and counseling is a step in taking accountability for my distance.

Oh, and I don’t receive kindness or compliments well, either. I would like for that to change.

So in realizing that this session was a chance to finally take that first step, I made a conscious decision to give myself over to the process and I started answering his questions thoughtfully and honestly.

I held nothing back.

The more we bantered, the more his quote became profound to me. The world is zero-sum. EVERYTHING in life seeks balance. The more time I spend as anything else but myself, the more I upset balance and create stress elsewhere; not only on myself but on somebody somewhere unknowingly needing me to be me. Maybe I have been upsetting your balance? Maybe you’re upsetting someone else’s?

Quite a few people have reached out to me after posting Everyone Leaves, curious to know how the session went. The most common question I have received is: “So do you feel better??”

After one visit?

Well, no. I feel worse.

Do I feel better in the sense that I made the appointment and followed through with it? Yes. But as painful as isolation can be, it is still the path of least resistance. Isolation requires the least amount of work. Withdrawing is still the easiest thing to do when faced with adversity. And now that I have to step outside of my comfort zone and actually try, yeah, I feel worse.

Add to that the feeling of vulnerability that I’ve avoided for literal decades now, my discomfort is rather high.

It’s funny because I walked out of his office and felt somewhat accomplished for going all in but I really felt like I was naked. My mind was SCRAMBLING for ways to restore my masculinity. I would have given anything for a Miller Lite and an Xbox controller at that time, whatever it is that real men do these days.

But I had no delusions of immediate relief. I think if that was feasible, more people would seek help. The lack of instant gratification definitely works against the counseling business model. But trying to undo decades of dysfunction certainly isn’t going to happen in just a few sessions, if ever.

So my takeaways:

Do I feel better? No.

Am I glad I went? Yes.

Do I look forward to future sessions? Yes.

Am I comfortable with my counselor? Yes.

Would I recommend counseling still? Yes.

The most misunderstood thing about counseling is that you leave with answers. No. The answers are pretty easy once the correct problem is identified, but that’s where the work is. Counseling is more about sifting through emotional trauma that we have normalized throughout our lives. Counseling is making sense of the things that didn’t make sense when they occurred, things that unknowingly altered the trajectories of our lives.

Think alternate 1985 in Back To The Future II. With our emotional trauma being Biff getting ahold of the sports almanac.

The job of a counselor isn’t to fix us but rather assist in getting to those places that we are afraid to go to. Or, the places that we simply lack the skills to get to on our own.

I want to thank you for making it this far with me and I hope you can find value in these journals. The feedback from you all have been amazing and very humbling! Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about anything or if you just need someone to vent to…listening is my superpower and if I can help remove some of the stigma or fear of seeking wellness, I am here for you!!

Twitter: @BBQx_

Instagram: @bbqx

Email: bbqx@live.com

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  1. […] The Healing Chronicles Vol. 1: The First Step […]

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