This post is a continuation of previous blog, Between Two Worlds. Click here to read the first installment.
“I think I’m going to be sick…”
I was driving to my first counseling appointment and trying to pep-talk myself. An idea so foreign to me, I was trying not to hyperventilate at the thought of opening up the tidal wave of emotion I was feeling and openly discussing all of what was going on in my head. Ordinarily, you’d have to threaten me with a shotgun to talk about feelings. But here I was, about to pay somebody a pretty penny to hear me vent for an hour. But these weren’t exactly ordinary circumstances, were they?
I checked off a number of items from the list of symptoms on my new patient paperwork sheet:
- social anxiety: check
- depressed mood: check
- loss of motivation: check
- difficulty concentrating: check
- crying spells: check
- racing thoughts: check
- persistent sadness: check check check
For a minute, I thought about not checking anything in a last-ditch attempt to convince myself that everything was fine. In the end, I think my never-ending practicality won out: “Why on earth would you pay all this money to come get help if you’re going to keep lying to yourself? You’re the only one standing in the way of getting better.” I resolved to be honest with myself for once and give the counseling thing my best try.
My counselor came out to the waiting room, greeted me, and took me back to her office. I’m not sure what I expected. A leather couch to lay down on and talk from, the counselor carefully jotting down notes about all the things wrong with what I was saying. Thankfully, that was not the case at all.
“So this is your first experience with counseling?,” Kristi asked.
“Yeah…,” I nodded, still looking around, taking it all in, gauging if I could really stick this out or if I should make a run for it before we had to start talking about real things.
“How did you find my information?,” Kristi asked.
“Umm…honestly, I just Googled adoption therapy in Nashville and there weren’t many options. The site I was on had pictures of each of the counselors from the search results and I chose you because your picture didn’t look crazy. You seemed pretty normal.”
“Thanks,” she laughed, putting me at ease. “So tell me what’s going on…”
That was about all the prompting I needed. The words wouldn’t stop coming. It was like trying to drink from a firehose. I told her everything. About going to Korea for work. Unexpectedly reuniting with my birth family. Returning home to the States. Feeling completely wrong. Guilty, angry, exhausted, sad. Like I was out of body. Like I was truly going crazy.
She’d stop me from time to time to ask questions. Not in the cheesy way you see on sitcoms, but like she actually cared about what I was saying. “And how did that make you feel?”
I’d stop and smile sadly and try to dance around the answer. I’d say something like, “I’m not sure…” or anything I could think of to avoid the truth: “Sadder than I’ve ever felt before. Sadder than I ever knew was possible.”
Kristi would challenge me. She taught me about how my facial expressions weren’t mirroring what I really felt. Why would I smile or laugh when she asked a question, if inside I was dying and feeling so horrible? Eventually, I realized she wouldn’t let me BS my way through this thing. She wanted to actually help me in a real, tangible way. And in order to do that, I had to be honest with myself and with her about how I felt.
Over the course of my therapy, I had major highs and lows. I was going once a week, although, I really needed to be going more often. (My funds just didn’t allow it.) Sometimes, I would have a really good week. I’d feel like I was making progress and be encouraged to see the results of the hard work I was putting in. Other times, I would collapse into tears as soon as Kristi closed the door to her office. Sometimes, I was so upset, I couldn’t even get words out. Sometimes, there was nothing that could be done to comfort me and Kristi would just sit next to me and we would cry together.
I saw Kristi every Tuesday after work. On the evenings after our appointments, I would typically cry all the way to the townhome I shared with roommates, then lock myself in my room for the whole night, and cry some more. I’d literally be in the closet. It was the furthest space away from everyone else and I didn’t want my loud sobbing to disturb them. I would close the door, sit in my closet, bury my face into a stack of pillows, and cry until I couldn’t cry anymore.
I will never forget those moments because I’d never had an experience like that in my life before. I’d never been honest with myself. Never allowed myself to feel things that were too scary, that I was desperately afraid of. Never acknowledged the grief I’d carried around for over 20 years.
I was not truly myself for awhile. It took time. In that time, I lost a lot. Most of my “friends” abandoned me. I wasn’t the fun-loving, happy-go-lucky Whitney they had always known. Honestly, I was just so depressing to be around. In a way, I don’t blame them for leaving me, but in another way, I really do.
But I can’t begin to describe all I gained through counseling. A healthy, truly happy Whitney for the first time ever. A new understanding and appreciation for the realm of counseling, which I’d long misunderstood. A better relationship with my adoptive parents, to whom I finally opened up to about all that was going on. A peace of mind and spirit that surpassed anything I knew was possible. And eventually, a husband. A best friend to whom I could be my true self with and who would support me and stand by me for better or for worse.
And I would never trade any of that for all of the world.
This series will continue next week as Whitney gets down to the nitty-gritty of those tough therapy sessions with Kristi.
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