The Medical and Counseling Care Center (or MACCC for “short”) is a bit off the beaten path. Tucked away behind Moody Colosseum, you can get there without fear of any acquaintances- well meaning or nosy- asking about your health: medical or mental. It took me maybe a ten minute walk to get there from my house.
After passing through a pair of sliding double doors I walked up to the front desk, greeted by the receptionist’s ever present smile. Some days I smile back. Some days I wonder why she keeps smiling after seeing the expression on my face. “How are you today?”, she asks. “Well I’m here to meet with a therapist, so probably not too hot”, I think. “Good, thanks”, I say. And I smile back. She’s only trying to be kind after all.
After signing in I take a seat in the waiting room with four girls and a TV. The TV is usually playing some old movie I’ve never seen before. I think it is on mostly to try and diffuse some of the awkwardness in the room. Everyone is trying very hard to avoid eye contact. Some are sad. You can see it in their empty hands and empty eyes. They are not trying to hide anything from anyone. Others are very involved in their phones. That includes me. There is a decorative sign sitting underneath the TV that reads, “You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.”
My counselor walks out with a quiet smile on his face and invites me to follow him. I walk into his room and sit down on the infamous couch. We talk for about an hour. He asks me some hard questions. Questions that make me think about who I am, and wonder if who I am is different then who I want to be. Sometimes our conversations make me uncomfortable, sometimes they are are revelatory, but I always feel like I am growing. Like I am seeing myself in a mirror for the first time and am both frustrated and yet pleasantly surprised by what I see.
At the end of our session we shake hands and I walk out the door. The world has not changed, but these conversations continually change the way I see the world. Maybe you are in need of these conversations. Maybe something hard has happened to you, and you feel that the past has dug it’s fingers in so deep that you will never be able to pry them out. Maybe you find yourself running in an endless loop, repeating patterns and habits that you know are hurting you. Maybe you are hurting others. Or maybe you’re just sad, and you’re not sure why happiness seems so far from you.
Whatever you may be struggling with, getting help is worth it. It’s worth overcoming fears of inadequacy, or fears of embarrassment. Getting help doesn’t make you less of a man. It doesn’t mean you are an overemotional woman. It means you are willing to stare reality in the face and confront it. Maybe you don’t need help but you know a friend that does. Let them know that this is okay. Sometimes that’s all the hurting need to hear. It’s okay. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to be broken. It’s okay to reach out for help.
You don’t have to be on the brink of a mental breakdown to go to counseling. If there’s something troubling on your mind and you want to talk to someone about it, do it. Ask around and you will likely be surprised to learn how many of your friends have someone they might recommend. Counseling is not a black hole that you will be stuck in forever. You determine when, where, and why you go. You’re in control. Going to counseling is not admitting defeat, it is choosing taking the first steps towards victory.
This is not something to be ashamed of. This is not something we should shame others about. Let’s create a culture in which recognizing your struggles is a sign of strength, and not weakness. This culture can create beauty. This culture can save lives. And maybe creating this culture starts with each of us being honest with ourselves, and with others. So I’ll take my own advice and unashamedly admit:
Today I went to counseling.