Soulful Saturday: Counseling

It’s hard to believe it’s already Saturday, isn’t it? Looks like it’s time for a soulful conversation! I was struggling to decide what to talk about as usual today when I suddenly came upon a youtuber talking about things they won’t promote… and something really resonated with me when they mentioned online counseling.

I’m not against online counseling, mind you. I admit I’d try it- but that’s not what I intend to talk about today. I want to talk about counseling in general, and how counseling and therapy have played a part in my life over the years. I’ve been in and out of therapy and counseling since I was six years old.

I’ve always suffered from notable anxiety, ever since I was small. I think when I went to my first therapist, it was after an incident where my social anxiety made me vomit because it got so bad, but I can’t quite remember for sure what really started me on the journey. The journey only got more confusing and convoluted as time went on though. Here are some anecdotes as to why.

My first therapist was a man- and we often played with dolls and stuff as part of my therapy sessions. It was the good ol’, ‘show me what a typical day is like through these toys’ type of thing. But, one night, I had a bizarre nightmare. The content was something that may be a bit triggering, so be forewarned before you read the next sentence. I had a nightmare that I was raped.

You’re probably wondering, how at such a young age did I know what rape was? I can tell you right now I have no memory of it ever physically happening to me. The thing is, in case you’ve forgotten… I have exceptionally strong hearing. And, it just so happened that around that time, my aunt was telling my dad about a time she was attacked, or so my father recalls. We’re pretty sure it’s from me overhearing her talk about it from across the house, looking back. But, that didn’t change that over the course of a single night I became terrified of men, including my therapist.

So after that, all my therapists were women. You probably don’t see how much more I can talk about this subject- and you’re right, I can’t talk about the nightmares anymore. But therapy has had its ups and downs in my life. I was in a group therapy at school, and one year, I ended up ruining my relationship with one of my cousins through it.

From middle school onward, I was in a special group therapy for kids with divorced parents. It was hosted by my school itself, so we kids in it were taken out of classes for our group sessions. This group continued into high school, when my aunt and uncle were starting divorce proceedings. Our therapist asked us in one group session if we knew anyone that might benefit from the group. Considering I knew how hard it was on my cousin, I mentioned he might.

That was a big mistake.

Someone went up to my cousin at school surprised to hear his parents were divorcing. He got really upset finding out I talked about it, even though he knew my heart was in the right place. For a long period of time, he stopped talking to me. All because I thought he could make use of some therapy like I had. But understand, I knew it was hard on him. He came to my room upset numerous times when visiting our grandma’s house, where I lived, when the proceedings first started. He’d always been there for me during my parents divorce and my father’s illness. He was like a big brother to me. That’s why, when I saw him suffering, I wanted to help him. And I thought I was… But clearly, I wasn’t.

Don’t worry though- we’re on better terms now. I don’t talk to him that much, but when we see each other, we chat. High school’s a stressful time enough as it is, that’s all. As adults, we’ve grown a better understanding of the past.

Therapy isn’t always helpful for everyone. Sometimes, it’s the method the therapist works with that doesn’t work. I’d like to share one anecdote about this as well. You see, I was needing psychiatric and psychological help in 8th grade. Yes, I’m going out of order with these stories, but please be patient with me regarding that.

In 8th grade, I moved across the country to live with my aunt for six months. I’d only just started psychiatric help when it was decided I’d be moving… And my aunt didn’t believe I needed it. She also didn’t think I needed the kind of therapy I was getting, or so I suspect. See, she did get me a psychiatrist- but the psychiatrist wasn’t there to deal with my mental health issues. She took me to him for ‘family counseling’. Also, ‘family counseling’ was just her complaining about the things I didn’t do as she said, and him telling me to do them.

At the time, my aunt truly believed that with structure alone, I’d get fixed up and turn into a perfect mini adult. But what she didn’t count on was the fact I was a teenager… a teenager who needed help. A teenager that would rebel if necessary. And, as I rebelled, the therapy showed it was working less and less. My aunt filled my schedule to the brim with activities she wanted me in, that I had no say over. I admit I enjoyed some of them, but with a packed schedule of school, homework, and extra curricular activities, I didn’t have time for my own thoughts or coping skills that actually worked for me.

I started to do worse in school, I started sneaking snacks (she was very against snacks and sweets, which while understandable, isn’t always the best thing to just stop eating cold turkey as a kid). I felt like I had no say in my own life, and the therapist we were seeing wasn’t making me feel any better about it. It all ended up leading to me returning home to New Jersey after just six months, with me feeling quite aggravated with my aunt. We’ve started to fix our issues together since then- she realizes she could have done things differently, and that I did really need the help she was told I needed. She even started admitting some of her own problems, which I’m very proud of her for.

The truth of the current situation is this: I do still need therapy. I see a psychiatrist, but he can only do so much. I’m working on finding a therapist that takes my insurance with my case manager’s help. I found out, also, about a specific kind of therapy that would help me most likely more than other forms, thanks to a friend. I need to talk to my case manager about that still… But the end of the story is this: everyone’s needs are different, and so everyone’s counseling should be different as well. If you need help, make sure not to give up just because your first therapist isn’t helping you enough. Try another one, who has a different method. Therapy and counseling isn’t one size fits all. It’s a lot of trial and error, and actually trying.

Are you in counseling or therapy? What kind of counseling do you find helps you the most? Share what you’re willing in the comments- I want to learn more about you, and you never know how your story might help someone else!