TL:DR – went to counseling. It sucked. I’m going to find a better match.
So, I’m sitting here at the moment.. eating cereal with a fork because there are no more spoons.. trying to figure out what I have to do for the day. Dishes, obviously. I hate that when I get into a funk, there is a cascade of things that stop getting done–cleaning being one of the first. Next is cooking, working out, eating right, and then showering. This is probably a good thing, though, because when your hair is gross and you have nothing/no way to eat–you’re motivated to do something about it.
I don’t know why but cleaning up and seeing my accomplishments always makes me feel a lot better. One of the first things on my to-do list today includes blogging about the first steps. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, and a lot of silence about my most previous post. My WordPress entries get shared to my facebook page (and all of the friends who choose to click the link) so a majority of my entries are superficial and at the very least entertaining (I hope?) So, for me to now be posting something so heavy is a little nerve wracking. Hopefully the friends who choose to read it will talk to me.
One of the things that’s difficult about starting counseling is figuring out where to begin and what you want to talk about. On Monday, after work, I was asked to do just two more things and I was in tears over it. They were simple things. Easy things. But it was after a day of non-stop pressure to get everything done–missed breaks, looming deadlines, everyone needing everything right when they ask for it and drop anything else you’ve been asked to do because my need trumps their need. Is it understandable why I broke down into tears? Partially. But that also happens when I listen to sappy songs or see insurance commercials. Stress is stressful and like a judgy parrot in my ear my mom has always told me “you don’t handle stress well.” That kind of stressed me out.
Tuesday, I woke up and I was still just run down. A Kelly Clarkson song (Dark Side) came on the radio and I was a blubbering pile of mush. I went to work because I was supposed to meet with my manager about a deadline that I missed. I closed the door and tried to tell her in a level voice (which was probably hard to understand as I kept feeling overwhelmed) that I need to take the day off and I’m finally going to ask for help.
She was very supportive. She gave me the day off, canceled all of my meetings, told me to take as much time as I needed, but to make sure I clued Jeff into the situation and make sure that I’m not alone.
“I’m not in danger,” I replied, “you don’t have to worry about me.”
Apparently this sounds rehearsed and was not believed (really) by anyone who heard it. So, to make sure they weren’t fussing over me, and because I was going to tell him anyway, I called Jeff on my way back out to my car and told him I was not working that day and that I was finally going to ask for help.
When I got home, I had to have basically the same conversation with him that I had already had that morning with both my mom and my boss, and he was the third to react in much the same way “If you need the help, get the help. I’ll be here for you.” This was followed by my favorite kind of Jeff-hugs–the uber gentle yet strong ones that say he’ll hold me up if I can’t hold myself up.
I idled for a while, waiting for him to go to work and not quite realizing that he wasn’t going to leave.
My employer offers an Employee Assistance Program through ComPsych and so I just sucked it up and made the call while he was there. They did an availability search and signed me up to see the first person available. The next day.
“Hi, yeah, it’s Jeff. I’m not coming into the office today. My fiancee is having a bit of an emotional break down and I’d like to stay with her.”
Jeff and I just chilled out, napped, watched House and Dr. Who and Supernatural the rest of the day.
I worked from home for half the day following, and spent some time looking into this person they had referred me to..
Her website used a lot of fluff words. “I take a strength-based approach in counseling. We not only bring our problems to counseling, we also bring our problem solving and coping skills” I found myself judging this person, even though I had never met her and scoffed heartily at this statement. Coping skills?? COPING SKILLS?! I HAVE no COPING SKILLS! That’s why I’m going to come see you!
Still, though, the hardest part is always taking the first step. Even if she wasn’t the best fit for me, she was someone who was highly educated and presumably cared about helping people.
I found my way to a waiting room…nicely appointed, I suppose, if completely outdated. I sit anxiously and browse Pinterest on my phone until someone says my name.
I look up, say ‘Hello,’ and they disappear around a corner. I know their name and they know mine based on the 3rd party appointment, so I suppose no introductions are necessary. Assuming I am to follow this person, I find myself in an office with the same sort of outdated decor. She hands me paperwork, but all that I notice are the stains on her shirt and the ramen in the trash. There’s a dreamcatcher by the door.
They say that first impressions are the ones that get the most weight. No matter how hard you try to make up for it, a bad first impression isn’t going to get better. Still, though, I was there for help. She had handed me the paperwork to fill out and sent me out to the waiting room to get it done. After jotting down the above, I started looking through the pages and there was more fluff-talk and then some serious questions, which I answered to the best of my abilities. Jeff was written down as my fiance and emergency contact, stress was identified as the reason for my visit, etc.
I didn’t go on to elaborate that 1-2 hrs was during the work-week and that on weekends, I can play for 8+ hrs at a time. Nope. I wasn’t here for addiction counseling because it is a hobby, not an addiction. But, it was another point against her being a good fit for me.
When I returned to the room, she ruffled through the pages and thanked me for filling them out. Then she set them aside and asked what brought me to counseling. Stress. I briefly defined the stressors in my life (I listed off various items but summarized that I have felt overwhelmed in the past and just wanted the tools to deal with stress better).
I made the mistake of mentioning that starting BCP helped me to even out so that I wasn’t so extreme during that time of the month. Even though I emphasized that I was looking to develop some personal skills to handle stress and to dissipate it on my own, she latched on to meds like a bulldog with a bone. OOH! MEDS! MEDS ARE THE ANSWER! I’m off the hook! her face practically shouted. She mentioned that she thinks medication may help me and that she can’t prescribe it herself but that she can give me a referral for these really reliable folks she works with that are just right down the road. … I had been there less than 10 minutes and expressed quite clearly “I don’t think that’s the right option for me right now. I am looking for tools, not medication.” So then she went on about how previous patients have had success, and made it out so that everyone who gets on the pills are happy and fulfilled in their life. I asked if there’s any way to test to KNOW that I need medication and she said no, talked about the side-effects that could be experienced and said “You would have to take it for a few weeks before it reaches therapeutic levels and if you don’t see an improvement, they can always try the next type of medication for you.” I deadpanned and repeated that I don’t think it’s the right option for me right now. “Well, I’m not going to twist your arm and make you take medication, but I’m still going to give you this recommendation and you take it with you. Your primary care physician can make the referral, too, if you change your mind.” And her face made that “I’m awesome and just fixed your problems but you don’t know it yet” expression.
Medication isn’t going to take the stress out of work and its myriad of demands, college and its never-ending work-load, self-confidence issues partially impacted by a past relationship issue, sick cats, obligations to see family and friends even though I’m so busy all the time, lack of ability to lose weight even though I’ve been trying, financial woes, wedding planning, etc. I was trying to illustrate to her that I have a helluva lot going on at this time, but that I didn’t have very good ways to cope with it and I didn’t feel like I could stop doing what’s important to me — seeing friends/family, going to school, going to work, taking care of kitties, or wedding planning.
You know what she latched on to? My relationship. Even though half of the relationship was missing from the room. She wasn’t listening to me, and now had actively taken a stance against my significant other. And that FACE!! That “I’m right, but you just don’t know it yet” face..
I called an end to the session and declined to reschedule when she asked when next I’d be in.
Never, if I can help it.
The important thing here, though, is that it was not a waste of time. Making the phone call, getting a referral, asking for help, and then actually keeping the appointment when I felt a bit silly about it in retrospect–THOSE were the hardest things. Seeing this ill-fitted match is the worst that could have happened, but that just illustrates to me that it gets better.
The next step is to clarify what I want, what I need, what my goals are, and how someone else can help me to realize them. I’m going to have to call for another referral, but this time I’ll be clear in what I want vs. what I don’t, and I’ll screen their websites before I make an appointment. I may be giving up on that woman as a match, but this isn’t over, not by a long shot. I may be “feeling better” today than on Monday, but I’ve already stepped over the line–I’ve already declared that I need better tools to manage my stress and taken the step towards getting them. I’m not going to give up now just because my first attempt didn’t work.