There is a small but important part of my story that I have chosen to share beyond my inner circle. It started as a letter to my daughter living in my womb. It became a way to be a vessel for a little girl who could teach us all a thing or two. When her body left this earth, her story was unfinished. And so I wrote and shared and wrote even more.
I credit my survival of many dark hours to the following:
Faith//I never understood what it truly meant to have faith until life became uncomfortable. 30 years of undeserving comfort built my foundation, but never before had I felt I needed God. It was more like a partnership. I would focus on making the “right” decisions and He would bless them…Oh, if only I could go back and have a little chat with my younger self.
People//I learned a lot about people. I’ve learned it’s easier for most people to celebrate than grieve. Somehow, we were surrounded by an astounding number of family and friends who are the definition of showing up. They showed up over and over and over again. They know the story of Audrey by heart because they were there. And in countless ways, even after she was gone, they have continued to selflessly show up.
Writing//It became many things. An outlet. My therapy. A connection. An escape. It provided a space for me to gather all the incessant thoughts and release them from my fatigued mind. I was surprised by how effective it was. The thoughts and feelings were liberated and set free into the abyss of the World Wide Web so I could keep moving.
Something started to change recently. It wasn’t as distinct as a paradigm shift; it was subtle and bothersome.
I had so much to say. I became overwhelmed and ultimately stuck. It wasn’t Writer’s Block because, of course, I’m not a writer. The harder I tried the more my wheels just kept sinking and spinning.
Frustrated, exhausted and full of tension, I felt like a mess.
I had a fleeting thought that maybe it was time to meet with a professional. But even thinking it to myself made me cringe.
A shameful voice inside me uttered, “You don’t need help. You need to get it together. What’s it going to take for you to be content? No one wants to listen to you whine.”
I see you, Satan.
The truth is, I didn’t even know where to start. I didn’t know anyone who had done anything beyond premarital counseling. I felt a sense of shame saying to a friend, “So, I’m thinking about seeing someone for counseling, know anyone good?”
It’s a little more awkward than asking their recommendation for a hair stylist or pediatrician, is it just me?
Then one day, by no accident, a door opened for me to discuss all of this with someone I trust. What I learned is that this person took the same step and now sees counseling as an important part of life maintenance. I slowly opened up to a few other people and learned that I was in good company. I began to gain confidence in the idea.
It took me some time to finally make the call. But I did.
The day of the appointment left me feeling nervous and anxious. The idea of telling this person my life story sounded exhausting. But I valued that she would be an unbiased, new pair of ears. I feared the label. I didn’t want to be defined as this or that. I wondered if going would make me feel crazy.
I parked my car and took a deep breath. “Just be open”, I thought, “be willing.”
What I learned in the first 55-minute appointment was that I wish I had done this earlier.
But I wasn’t ready earlier. I didn’t think I needed it earlier. I was ready when I was ready.
There seems to be this invisible fence that surrounds “counseling”. I walked along the perimeter, thinking that crossing over was a bad thing. I believed that needing or even wanting to be counseled by someone wiser than me meant that I had failed.
I can’t figure out the hush. I’m often reminded that humans unite in their pain. There is a difference between sharing and complaining. I’m interested in suffering well together. Not everyone is, I appreciate that.
We get haircuts, we bathe, we exercise, we read, we get annual check-ups, we go to the dentist…we maintain our lives. I didn’t understand this before, but what do we do to maintain our minds?
For me, I’m crossing that invisible fence. I’m fighting against the stigma. My brother reminded me just today, “Let your mess become your message.” Writing is a part of me now. I can’t turn it off. But it is one-sided. And, as forthright as I am, I’ll always remain somewhat guarded and protective. I don’t have to do that with my new friend.
I always loved my guidance counselors growing up, I’m eager to have one now, as an adult.