I noticed it again today on my way home. I’ve noticed it many of my days here of late. The voice. The one that knows me all the way through; whispering from within of what is true in my mind and heart. Skipping all the excuses and the “bs” and cutting straight to what has been simmering for some while.

She found me in the car, two beautiful and yet squabbling children in the backseat, and she urged me to get back in it. Right then. Right where I was. Just pick up the phone and make the appointment. Just make the call.

Reader, I am a giant fan of counseling. I believe in and have personally benefitted from the gift and health that it can bring.

And still. I am called in a million different directions that can keep me from picking back up when my truest voice whispers that it’s time.

That is simply what’s true.

The first time I gave it a try, I had been contemplating it for a solid year. Knowing it was needed and would be so deeply good and painful and helpful and hard. And yet, it took me a year to dial the phone and make the appointment.

I finally made time and scheduled childcare and paid hard-earned money and cried real tears and said very honest things. And I labeled it all my summer of health; I see now I  needed a tidy bow on the whole thing. My summer project. A summer to work toward health in every realm possible, but particularly my mental health (i.e. paralyzing anxiety).

And it was. It was just that. A summer of hard and real work. And a summer of becoming healthier than when I began. A gift in all senses of the word and a toe in the pond of what it means to open myself up and ask for help in my deepest places.

My second round of counseling was years later in the dead center of a seemingly unending pandemic. Childcare was far harder this time and little kids don’t sit quietly while momma zooms with a counselor (at least mine didn’t), so scheduling a quiet 45 minutes was harder. Not impossible, but certainly harder.

But that voice. It pushed hard that an outside perspective and offering of tools and insight was absolutely necessary. Right then. My need this round was situational, not purely deep-rooted anxiety, but I had come to the end of my rope in my attempts to manage it alone.

And counseling helped. It helped in the moment and keeps helping still. I return to those tools and conversations on the regular, despite having ended my sessions after only a few months. 

So, when I noticed the voice again today I really stopped to listen. And it seems that for me perhaps my sweet counselor might just become a more regular part of life. A rhythm that points me in a healthier direction. Never one to remove the hard or uncomfortable or downright impossible, but one that provides clarity and truth and tools to walk forward in health and not mere survival or worse, isolation.

And while this all feels personal to me, perhaps it isn’t at all. There isn’t a person in my circle of friends or family or work life who isn’t hurting in some big way.

We have been through it for years now. Years.

And the hard hasn’t let up. It shifts in shape and form, but it seems to be making its home in all of our days. The tag-along friend we never asked for.

And I guess I just want you to know that making the call and asking for an appointment and saying the hard things out loud to someone who can bring some good is just that. Good. Helpful. Life-giving. Light in a dim and, at times, dark world.

It is not shameful or selfish or too much or any other lie that comes to mind to those of us who know we need it.

It is health. It is light. And it is certainly allowed. If you need permission, here it is.

There are a million options of varying price points, but can I just tell you it is worth whatever sacrifice it brings? You are worth whatever sacrifice it brings.

Listen to the voice when it tells you it’s time to ask for help. Push shame into the shadows and pick up the phone (or click the mouse) and let the light in.

A few practical tips that have been helpful to me in working with a counselor:

Bring a journal and pen: I have gone back time and again to remember tools my counselor gave me or truth that she pointed me to. A journal helps where your memory might fail.

Say the real thing (not what you think they want to hear): It’s a waste of time (and money) to do anything different. They have heard it all, so get to it and don’t hold back.

Do the homework: At times my counselors have asked me to do something in between one appointment and the next. It is generally some of the most helpful work because it is in the middle of my real life.

Continue or go back as frequently as feels necessary: I am finding this permission for myself and it is so very freeing to know an option of care is there when I need it.

Let someone in: Tell a trusted someone you are going and doing the work. It is helpful to you to open up in that way and it is helpful to the world to know that counseling is good and helpful and normal.

One last thing:

If online feels like your best option, I have personally use Betterhelp and found it to be incredibly beneficial and helpful. They are so quick to assist if finances are an issue and scheduling is incredibly flexible, which worked out so well for me when nap time was my only option.

If finances are an issue and you go to a face-to-face counseling practice, ask about their sliding scale of pricing. It’s worth it to ask and most practices will happily provide more affordable access when needed. Please don’t let money keep you from mental health.