I used to think that counseling was only for those in a state of very serious depression or anxiety, or other mental illnesses. You know, for people that are in a place where they cannot function. In the past, I had sought out counseling when I had been struggling more severely with depression or anxiety, yet due to different circumstances, I stopped going when I had hardly started. Then when the storm would pass, I felt like I didn’t “really need” to go anymore. Yet, I am starting to realize that after eighteen years of trying to deal with anxiety, and at times depression, for the most part on my own, that maybe counseling is for more than just those who are in desperate need of help. Maybe less severe and more chronic emotional ailments deserve attention as well?
In truth, I have grown so much just through life experience, advice of others and learning on my own about how to better manage stress and anxiety, so I didn’t think I really needed counseling therapy. Until another emotional upheaval would happen and I would be a train wreck for a couple of days leading me to question my progress and wondering if maybe I need to get a SSRI prescription stat! It wasn’t until my last pregnancy, when my emotions were going crazy and obsessive thoughts taking over me, that I was faced with the reality that I really do need some form of counseling to function and in that way started going more consistently. It was then that I realized that while I had made significant progress along on my own, there was still a lot I needed to deal with that I was hiding deep down in my soul, false thinking and wounds of life that I was not really dealing with in healthy ways. These needed to be uncovered so that they could be healed. It made no sense to delay seeking professional help until I was at my worst, yet this was the mentality that I had. If access is available, why would someone wait to treat an injury until it was seriously compromising their health? Yet, I do this with my mental health, and I am pretty sure that I am not the only one. We all have psychological issues in some form or other to work out, wounds that we have covered up and let fester. While we may often have support people we can go to for reassurance and advice, how much more progress would we make if we sought professional advice from people that are trained in ways proven to be effective in managing mental and emotional health, in teaching us better communication skills, or in dealing with stressful life circumstances such as grief? It is still taboo to seek counseling yet, how often can a little shift in our thinking or advice on how to communicate our needs or problems a little more effectively make a tremendous difference in our lives and relationships? Why is it that we are okay with going to the doctor for a sore throat and fever, but have such a difficult time seeking professional help when we are trying to process our grief of a lost loved one, or when having difficulties with our self esteem or problems communicating with our spouse? Why do we wait to seek professional help until things are desperately out of control in our lives?
I think there is a temptation among faith filled Christians to think that God working in our lives means that I don’t have to do any of the work or that our depression or anxiety will all of a sudden just lift. While this can happen and sometimes does, most of the time, God works through the natural world to heal our ailments. God made us as a community, to help each other and so His work and His healing comes most often through other people using their gifts, knowledge and study in particular fields to help us. This is why we should not brush off seeking treatments whether through psychotherapy, pharmaceuticals, or nutritional and lifestyle counseling. This can require a lot of bravery on our part. It’s not easy confronting our deepest insecurities and weakness, and bearing out these vulnerabilities to another soul. It’s not easy admitting to them or to ourselves that we need help managing our mental and emotional health. It’s not easy putting the work into trying to change our thinking habits in order to be strong mentally. It’s so much easier to just ignore and distract ourselves from our weaknesses and hope they will go away. It’s easier to just ask God to use a magic wand to take away all our sufferings and struggles. Yet, is it easier? It seems, the more we try to ignore and distract, the more these troubles come back stronger than ever. I encourage you to take that next step in seeking help. Ask guidance from God, others you know and professionals to point you in the right direction in how to find the help you need. It is there for the taking and God is there with you, giving you the grace through these natural means.