Only crazy people need to go see counselors, right? Someone with a serious disorder or someone who has experienced intense trauma?
Admitting you are struggling is never easy and always brave. Taking steps to overcome those struggles is even braver.
I’ve talked about seeing a counselor for a while. I’ve always been a little scared of what people would think, and I still find myself whispering when I say, “My counselor said…” But the truth is, I’ve never been braver.
Counseling has gotten a bad reputation, and I think it’s because we have become so afraid of real feelings. And please don’t take me using the word “crazy” out of context I don’t like the word at all, and I used it to shed light on the stereotype those seeking counsel have gotten. Calling someone “crazy” because they are experiencing anxiety or depression or a number of other mental illnesses is never ok.
I met a girl through a women’s group I led at church, and she told me about her counselor. She spoke about it so freely and talked about her counselor as if they were best friends. I knew I had to go.
There is so much freedom and beauty in laying out all your issues and struggles and thoughts to someone who doesn’t know you and won’t judge you. To literally unload and physically feel the weight of your worries lifted. To know you are not alone and you are not “crazy.”
You’re not alone either, friend. You might be dealing with something hard or maybe you just feel emotionally exhausted . Maybe you are struggling with anxiety and depression, but you don’t want to say that because your friends and family don’t think either of those things are real. But they’re real to you. They’re real because satan is actively using them against you every day.
It’s easy for us to see people from the outside-in and stamp them with the “perfect life” label. They have a great job, a great marriage, they always look cute, they take fun trips, they have so many friends, they have a huge house…. Of course we could go on. But you have no idea what their hearts or thoughts are like. You might think that what you said to them or about them didn’t affect them, but you have no idea. You have no idea what someone is walking through unless they tell you.
We have to be mindful. Mindful is a word I’ve been using a lot lately – it means, “conscious or aware of something.” We have to be aware of what someone else might be dealing with, even if we can’t sympathize. We have to be conscious that every person has a heart and has feelings and thinks thoughts all day long. Some people think healthy thoughts, but some don’t. And when you hurt someone’s feelings, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t. You don’t get to say, “Don’t get so offended,” or, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” because the fact of the matter is those feelings are hurt. And maybe it was nothing to you, but to someone who has been shaming themselves all day, someone else shaming them can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
As I sat across from my counselor, I felt no shame. I felt so free. And I remembered that Jesus is our great Counselor. He takes all our cares and He handles them without leaving any residual of guilt. He wipes your eyes and your mind and your heart. He cares. He doesn’t judge.
I noticed her diploma on her desk and made the connection that we went to the same college. Since it’s a fairly small college, she rattled of some professors we both had. And then I asked about one. “Did you happen to know Dr. Nelson?”
Dr. Larry Nelson was a friend to all and my spiritual mentor. He was my family. He loved me just like Jesus does. She told me she had stayed with he and his wife and gone to church with them and we both shouted “Verlie cake!” which is the famous cake his lovely wife makes for students. And then we started to cry. God had set up this appointment, and I have no doubt that Larry may have whispered the idea to Him.
And then I remembered the judgment I felt in college when I messed up or wasn’t perfect enough and how people made me think that Dr. Nelson shouldn’t love me so much. And I believed it – I didn’t deserve his grace or love. But he never ever saw my sin – he saw my beauty. And that’s Jesus, guys. He doesn’t see you and see what you did last night or last week or what you said this morning. He sees that beautiful heart beating and dreaming and loving and He adores it all.
I’ve listened to so many podcasts and read so many books from authors I adore, and they all go to counselors. It’s a form of self-care and a heart-check. Counselors tell you what you need to hear, good or bad. If your heart isn’t lining up with Christ, they tell you. But if it is so lined up with Christ that the enemy is clawing at you constantly, they tell you that, too.
It’s time to stop feeling ashamed of taking steps to be a better you. It’s time to stop comparing your struggle to someone else’s and determining it isn’t as bad. It’s time to stop telling yourself that you should be happier and that you’re ungrateful for your life. Jesus has never said any of those things to you.
There will always be someone who has it worse. I saw patients going into the counselor’s office before and after me who had clearly been through serious trauma. But I never thought that I didn’t belong in the office with them. We all belonged there for different reasons, and we all deserve freedom. Freedom from sin and shame and crippling thoughts and fear and anxiety and exhaustion.
It’s time to let each other know that everything is not perfect. A friend said to me today, “The greatest ‘me too’ movement we could ever be a part of is the one we fight daily on a spiritual level.”
We are all fighting some kind of battle. But we are all overcomers because Someone already defeated every single attack that will come against us.
It sure is better to stand together with an army than to fight the battle alone. There is strength in numbers and God is surrounding you with your army – don’t go to war alone.
I plan to continue seeing a counselor hopefully for the rest of my life. She has been called and equipped to use her job as her ministry, and it’s so refreshing to see God use her as a vessel to pour into me.
I’ve said it so many times, but let me say it again – you are not alone. You’re needed and wanted and important. You are seen. You are heard. Declare that over yourself. And start seeking His heart so He can point you to your army.