By Vanessa Rasanen
I am not the most private person — classic oversharer, here. It’s pretty easy to open up, to let people in, and to yammer on about even the hardest of situations with others, and I have always processed situations — especially difficult ones — by talking. If I try to keep it inside and handle it on my own, it seems stifling, suffocating.
Yet, I have also spent years upon years individually processing and analyzing my life experiences and the resulting scars. Tirelessly. Endlessly. That horse? It was beaten to death long ago. After years of self reflection, some growth, and much prayer many of my scars finally began to heal and fade to the point where I could go months instead of hours reliving the past.
And I did that without counseling.
Perhaps not the smartest move, but still, it worked out alright, as far as I can tell.
Fast forward to last year after our fourth baby was born, and postpartum depression hit hard and fast. After baby blues with the other three kiddos, this was different, scary, and unnerving. Medication helped tremendously, but my amazing husband still encouraged me to seek counseling, noting that the meds were merely a crutch, while counseling would be the key to combating it.
The problem, though, despite my oversharing tendencies, was my being a skeptic about the efficacy of professional counseling. After all, I’ve done pretty well on my own, hashing things out with friends or whoever will listen, and then working my way through the trial. Why pay someone beaucoup bucks to do what a friend could do over a glass of wine or cup of coffee?
But still, I reluctantly agreed and sought one out. And another. And another. And yet another.
Now I don’t expect counselors to be perfect or to cure my ailment immediately, but I do expect them to treat me with respect, professionalism, and some level of competency. Not too much to ask, but still… it was harder than I expected.
First was the counselor who mocked me for making church attendance such a priority and laughed at me for having such a black/white outlook on life (sure it’s not right or healthy, but I don’t think laughing at me is appropriate). Then came the counselor who spoke more about her family than seemed appropriate, though she did help shed some light on my anxiety symptoms a bit better — even if nothing she suggested really helped me cope adequately. Third was the wonky psychiatrist who insisted my anxiety wasn’t a panic attack, because I could “walk into walmart without any issue” (what???) and that my feeling broken was “such a negative outlook”. (Um, duh?). Finally was the lady who had the mouth of a sailor and mentioned all our mutual acquaintances, telling me to “say hi” to them for her when I saw them. (I’ll pass…)
Needless to say, it was a frustrating endeavor. Each time I started to give up hope of ever finding a counselor who could help, and I resorted to that same skepticism about it being worth the hassle at all.
But I forced myself to listen to my husband and my friends who pushed me to not give up. Several local friends recommended their own counselors, and I finally got squeezed into one’s busy schedule. After just two sessions with her I felt optimistic and excited to get started. I was thrilled to be working with someone with a different method of therapy (EMDR) instead of the standard talk therapy. With her help I have been able to use my visual skills to help me cope with the anxiety to the point where I can finally stop an attack soon after it starts. It’s truly amazing.
As thankful as I am to have connected with a good counselor finally, I do wish this was easier, that all counselors were equally qualified and skilled in their profession. How lovely it would be if the first, second, third, or — come on — fourth had worked out. But I suppose sometimes the neighbor who can best serve us in our time of need isn’t so easily found and doesn’t conveniently appear out of thin air. Perhaps the process of seeking help is just as important as the help we eventually receive.
Whatever the reason, the truth is sin sucks, and this broken world is hard. Parenting and marriage, challenging on their own, are much more so when your body and mind are broken by depression. But God still serves us and cares for us through our neighbors — even if it takes some time to find the right ones who can help.