Mental Health Mishaps

I’m fighting for joy, but life has felt very heavy.

I am struggling. This year has dealt me hard challenges back to back to back. I have fought my very hardest to maintain my physical balance, strength, endurance, and coordination through therapy and exercises. And I’ve had to do the same with my mental health… admittedly with less success.

I have taken advantage of the employee assistance program at my place of work as well as private counseling when I could afford it. I have been given some truly bogus advice over the past year, like when I was advised to take my freshly repaired surgical foot to the ocean… um, hello infection risk? I’ve also been told that I’m totally mentally healthy even when I was sharing how overwhelming and dark my year has felt.

After one particularly difficult bout with anxiety, I made an appointment with a new counselor at a clinic where I’ve attended previously with excellent success. This was going to be the piece that was missing that could get me over the speed bump toward health.

The session went swimmingly. I shared about my year and challenges, fears and disappointments. I cried. She listened. My feelings were validated. Probing questions were asked. Finally, I thought, this is what I’ve been missing.

Our hour drew to a close and my new, sweet counselor began to wrap up our time together saying, “Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability. I can tell that you are working hard to process everything you’ve been though and I am honored to be a part of that journey, Kimberly.”

I froze.

Kimberly?

I knew I had a choice to make. I could either correct her awkwardly right now that my name was actually Kelly, not Kimberly… or I could answer to Kimberly for the duration of our therapeutic relationship.

I corrected her. She apologized.

It was an honest mistake and I could show grace. But I left feeling unsettled. It felt like that one misspoken word created a void of disconnection and undid all the hard work we’d done for an hour. It made me feel unknown on the most basic of levels. It made me wonder if this connection would stick.

But then I had an epiphany.

Counseling is not just about what happens in the office or at the appointment. It’s about the dozens of conversations that may start inside the counselor’s office, but extend far beyond the room that make me feel seen and known and loved and joyful. It’s about connection — not just one on one in a predetermined space, but the natural threads of connection woven with all the people I love in my life.

Just like physical therapy, the true work doesn’t happen in just one hour a week, it happens in the other 167 hours.

I realized that I’d shared my story of this mental health mishap with so many friends this week. We groaned, laughed, and imagined what it would have been like if I hadn’t corrected her!

My counselor is trained, skilled, compassionate, and human. She can make mistakes, as we all do, and that doesn’t negate the power of talking, sharing, and working toward health. She can ask good questions, see patterns I may have missed, and encourage me to do the work. She provides exercises; I do the work.

Kelly (and Kenny and Kimberly) are committed to doing the hard work and forging steadily onward toward health! I’ll just wear a name tag next week.

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