By Rachael Gieger
“I’m scared to be here because I’m afraid it means I’m crazy.” These were some of the first words that spilled out of my mouth as I looked at the kind face of my university’s counselor.
“No, dear. You’re not crazy.” Something in her simple words, her tone, her kind smile reassured me.
I was sitting in her office due to an overwhelming battle with anxiety, a battle which was far too common in my community of women. The pressure of discernment, schoolwork, and life decisions looming over my head was enough to make me crack. It was too many days of waking up with my mind racing and going to sleep feeling like a failure that drove me to finally seek help, a move I almost didn’t make out of shame. I felt that therapy was for people who could no longer function or experienced some extreme trauma--which, it is useful in those cases as well--but just because it helps extreme cases, doesn’t mean it can’t help less extreme ones too.
It occurred to me, sitting in that blue armchair, that perhaps this was just like seeing any other doctor. If I had back problems, I would go to a chiropractor. If my heart was off, I’d go to a cardiologist. But instead, something was broken in my mind, and it needed healing--and this is what it looked like. That first round of counseling transformed my perspective of the practice; this therapist was there simply to teach me how to reign in the many directions my mind went. The methods she taught me are ones I still use today--it didn’t fix everything, but it at least allowed me to silence my thoughts long enough so that the Truth could speak.
I think we, as Catholic women, like to fall into the mindset that if our prayer life is in order, everything else will be too. In a sense, this is true--if our day has its foundation in prayer, we will far more easily see the workings of God and love Him. But prayer is not a fix-all solution, and when our minds and hearts still run amok despite our daily rosaries and holy hours, it’s so easy to be disappointed in ourselves.
I decided to go through another round of therapy right after college graduation, after feeling a lot of old fears and worries rise up in my last semester. Instead of walking in ashamed this time, I walked in with a sense of excitement. It was a chance to meet the Divine Physician again, to allow Him to remove whatever was blockading my joy. I told this therapist that, metaphorically speaking, I had already had quite the surgery, and just felt the need for some physical therapy. I didn’t have a defined, clear issue--I could just feel myself not living fully and wanted to know why.
The question “why” led me into a beautiful journey of allowing Jesus’ words and thoughts to overcome my own, His strength to break some of the patterns I was living in, and His healing to silence lifelong fears. This therapist didn’t stop at the present struggles, she dove into my history, my personality, my strengths, and my joys with me. There were so many things I thought about myself, life, and Him that I had never called to question, and when I finally did, I discovered they were very well-disguised lies. Some sessions were filled with joy, others were exhausting.
We all have brokenness, sisters. Sometimes I wish we didn’t, but that would take the beauty out of being redeemed. It’s easy to say that the wound you have is too small to actually be affecting you, you’re just sensitive and weak, forget it. In a way, it’s safe to stay in the mindset you’re in, because even if it’s not the fullness you’re meant for, as least you’re used to it. Therapy means admitting that maybe, just maybe, you don’t have control of yourself all the time, whether in big ways or small. That can be terrifying. But it’s only in confronting the chaos that swirls inside of each one of us that we can finally allow Him to reveal His order.
If you’ve been thinking of trying therapy and have been waiting for the signal, I hope this is it. Your wounds and brokenness aren’t small and insignificant, and they don’t mean you’re insane. A faithful therapist who understands who the Healer is can offer a path to Him that leads to some seriously lasting freedom. Don’t let shame stop you from walking it.