The struggle to find a good counselor, one who meshes with you and helps you through the difficulties and pain of learning to be alright again can seem never ending.
But keep at it.
Somewhere, out there, your own unicorn awaits.
There is help.
I gave up on counseling a few years ago.
I’d gone to see a pastoral counselor during my bout with postpartum depression. It had been helpful….
And also not helpful. At one point my husband and I went in together and we found ourselves diagnosed with our very own disorders—diagnoses this counselor, who did not have a psychology degree of any kind, was not qualified to make. And then… we were proselytized to. Both of us have strong faith convictions, but they didn’t line up just so with the theology this counselor believed to be the most therapeutic.
I watched the trust seep out of my husband’s eyes. And it fell out of my own too.
A few years later I would try counseling again. I went to one session with an individual in mental health on base. I didn’t click with her. I couldn’t imagine opening up to her. And I was intimidated by her request to look into the three types of therapy she might offer me and ‘pick one’ the following session.
I cried when I left her office and decided right then that I didn’t think there really WERE people out there who could help you walk through hard things in the way that I once believed. And if there were people like that, I decided they had to be unicorns. Once in a life-time sightings of mystical creatures steeped in mythology.
Then I met the amazing counselor who attends the Her War/Courage Beyond retreats. She was the one that I first verbally vomited my entire story to. She was someone that I knew another good friend trusted. Hearing about their counseling relationship made me believe that maybe this person could listen. I signed up for a session during my retreat, skeptical, but figuring I should at least give it a try.
It turned out…. she was a unicorn!!! She listened to it all. Every bit of it—even details I thought it was probably ridiculous to include. And then she helped me make sense of some of it… and find my place in where to go next.
After the retreat I thought about counseling, but I told myself, surely that was my once in a lifetime experience with a rare mystical creature. Surely it was. Lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice.
When our team began working for Her War, we were encouraged to call for a session or two of counseling to know what it would be like to walk someone through it. I’d been there/done that and it hadn’t been great so… I resisted.
Recently though, things have felt pretty stacked for my family. The deployments have taken a toll. The last reintegration hit us hard. My family has been struggling in ways I didn’t anticipate. They need me to be strong for them and to help them navigate getting help. My husband and I have both struggled in our own ways. And you know the military…. The needs of the Navy continue marching on, regardless of the challenges you and your family may be facing.
I started to feel that someone should be ready to right the family’s ship when it started to list. Someone needed to be ok enough to maintain some stability. And, as is so often the case as a military spouse, it pretty much came down to me.
I called Courage Beyond, and they were able to find someone in my area.
As I waited for the appointment, I shared with a friend that I’d taken the leap to try counseling again. I told her how nervous I was. I said to her, “This has to work. It just does. I need a unicorn!”
After I received the counselor’s name, I decided to do my homework. I looked her up. It turned out, she was the only counselor in town that didn’t have a picture or a descriptive profile of any sort listed on the internet.
I told my friend about my search and how I worried it might mean she was scary, or internet inept, or had such bad reviews she didn’t want a website kept up.
My friend didn’t skip a beat. She said, “Nah. She’s probably a unicorn, and can’t have a picture of her sparkly hair up on the internet.”
In case you were wondering, she didn’t have sparkly hair. Or a unicorn horn.
But she did listen. She listened to a whole lot. In fact, I said things that I never imagined I would say. I talked until I felt spent.
Then I went back the next week, and I talked some more…
It’s been interesting this time. This counselor feels like a really lovely fit. I expected homework. I expected to come out of her office feeling like a puddle… A puddle with homework. I figured I would need a lot of work to get put back together again.
But that hasn’t been the strongest thing to come out of the sessions I’ve had so far. Instead, what I’ve left with each time has been a sense of my own strength. I’ve come away realizing that I DO have a lot going on yet again in my life…. But that I have been using the tools I’ve gleaned over the years pretty successfully.
At first that threw me—because didn’t that mean I didn’t really actually need counseling? If I was doing ok juggling it all, why would I keep going?
But another friend told me to stick with it. I have.
Coming out of those sessions feeling strong has given me the chance to trust myself in a way I don’t often.
Rather than sitting in a place where I am reflecting on my own brokenness, I’ve had the chance to reflect on my strength. And it’s this trust in my own strength and in my ability to chart my course with safety and accuracy that is helping me to carry me through…. And helping me to keep my family’s boat upright as I’d hoped.
We don’t always get the unicorns when we try these things. I know this. But I am incredibly grateful to Courage Beyond…. It took me years—literally years–of wondering if I should make that phone call to give counseling another shot. I finally did and found that it’s worth trying again to find the right fit and to get whatever help I might need to keep my course straight and true.
If you need help, please ask. If you can’t ask, or keep asking until you find someone, please let a friend or family member help you keep fighting for your own sanity.
1 (866) 781-8010 Web: http://couragebeyond.org/
Consultant Line: 1(800) 342-9647 Web: www.militaryonesource.mil
Military Crisis Line: 1(800) 273-TALK (8255)
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE
1 (800) 273-TALK (8255) Web: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE
1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) Web: www.thehotline.org
NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT HOTLINE
1 (800) 656-HOPE (4673) Web: www.rainn.org
NATIONAL CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE
1 (800) 4-A-CHILD (422-4453) Web: www.childhelp.org
NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN
1 (800) THE-LOST (843-5678) Web: www.missingkids.com
Note: Many of these have options for those with communication
needs such as Español only or hearing impaired. Check the organization’s website for details.