Today I had my first online counseling appointment.
Through the years, I've had a variety of therapists and counselors. When I was first put into the foster system, I remember quickly going through a progression of therapists. I think some of the first ones were a bit freaked out when I told them that I was going to be the next John the Baptist before the second coming of Jesus.
If you think I have issues now, you should have seen me then!
The summer after my first year of college, I started experiencing some pretty severe mood swings and occasional situational depression. Nothing serious, but enough that when I asked Emily out for the first time, she said, "Eh, not so much." She rightfully knew that I needed to spend some time getting mentally healthy before entering into a romantic relationship. So I went back into therapy, and started to explore how to healthily live with the trauma and loss I had experienced.
Almost three years ago, I became a father. I felt so grateful and blessed to bring a child into this world who would grow up in a far better situation than I had started in. Audrey's parents wouldn't be suffering from addiction. Her parents would be married to each other. She would grow up hearing about the Gospel. She would grow up away from poverty and violence and abuse.
But I also knew, deep down, that I still needed to talk through my past and my present with a professional to ensure that I would be the best father for my children that I could be. But life was busier than ever, and there was nothing "wrong," so it didn't seem like going back to therapy was necessary yet.
Then, last year, I stepped into an interim pastor role for my church. Overall, the year went great, and I loved the experience. But as the level of responsibility in my life increased, so did the likelihood that I would miss a night's sleep. Or that I would feel angrier more quickly than I used to. Or that my tank got to Empty faster than before.
But again, nothing seemed too wrong. And life was only getting busier. So counseling would have to wait.
We then had our second child. Emily took maternity leave as an opportunity to meet with a counselor herself, and she had a great experience. This further increased my desire to go back to therapy. But I just couldn't quite get around to it.
And then my brother died last month. And every previous reason to go back to counseling surged to the surface, but now with a force multiplier called grief. I couldn't wait any longer. It was time to meet with a counselor.
So, today, I met with a therapist via DoctoronDemand.com, which does teletherapy. It was a great experience, and I plan on continuing with regular sessions.
Admitting all of this seems a bit like baring my soul, but that's why I think it's important to talk about it. Just like there's nothing wrong with getting a physical or an annual check-up from your physician, there's nothing wrong with seeing a counselor, even when everything is "okay." And especially when it's not. You don't have to wait for tragedy to strike to justify getting therapy. Your mental health needs regular care just like your body does. And that's fine.
I'm telling all of you this as a way of saying that Christians should get counseling. Pastors should get counseling. And we should be willing to talk about it more so we can continue the process of destigmatizing mental health. Admitting that you need help and then seeking that help isn't just fine. It's good. It's necessary in the path of pursuing health and maturity.
I hope that my bit of transparency can encourage some of you to take the steps necessary to pursue health and wholeness. Let's journey together.