I just finished my 4th week at seminary. And it was hard. And costly. Emotionally, financially, physically.
For starters, I'm supposed to be here at this very moment:
A good friend of mine and I scheduled a trip to Napa before the semester started. I thought I'd skip class, we'd fly West and drink wine all weekend. What could go wrong?
Surprise, surprise, my professors were not aware of my plans and scheduled speaking assignments, test, quizzes, papers and initiator questions due in the two days I was scheduled to be gone.
Trip didn't happen.
The day before the first test of my rote memorization skills in a very (very very) long time, my 3-year-old decided to have all the freak-outs. She's been doing great all semester. No real issues with going to school for the first time, no big problems with schedule changes. Until this week.
My classes this week too seemed super depressing. All the content and discussion centered around the concept of "oppression." Women are oppressed, minorities are oppressed, indigenous peoples were and are oppressed, the Isrealites were oppressed in Egypt. Even white men are oppressed because they have a history of perpetuating oppression and now have to live with the guilt. (side note: I know that oppression is real. I know that it's happening and has happened. Not denying it's existence, just naming it as one of the factors this week that resulted in my need for help ... keep reading...)
Add in family health problems, marital spats, parenting challenges.
This post could go on. But I'm going to cut it off here so as not to you know, oppress you with my baggage.
Finally, I got to a point that I just couldn't handle all the "tough."
So what did I do?
First, I turned to the Bible for encouragement from verses like this one, from my friend Marie:
And I prayed. But, after a few days, I knew that the reading and praying weren't enough. I needed more.
So I turned to a counselor at school.
Because receiving Godly counsel in times of trouble is such a blessing.
The world (and sometimes our brothers and sisters in the Church) tell us that seeking counseling is something we should hide in shame. That we should sneak into and out of. That we should maybe tell those closest to us, but shouldn't share in public.
I don't accept that.
As Christians, we need to talk about counseling.
The proven benefits, from a secular medical perspective, are many:
- Talking with a therapist can help alleviate depression, phobias and addiction
- Counseling can help alleviate the symptoms of chronic diseases like autoimmune conditions, heart disease and diabetes
- Therapy can help resolve painful early life experiences, as well as assisting with healing adult relationships
At my counseling session this week, I was able to work through some of the overall stress I was feeling and developed a few strategies for how to cope with the multiple demands of ministry, publishing, parenting, marriage and seminarian work that will all be part of my life for the next three years.
As I left, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders and, as I walked across campus, I realized that counseling truly is a "good and perfect gift." One that I plan to receive as often as I need it and encourage others to receive as well.
If you have a similar story, I'd love it if you'd share a bit in the comments - or post your own link to the #NotFineFriday link-up! If we're going to remove the social stigma about mental health in our community, we need to get this conversation started and that can start with us :)