Monday, April 28, 2014

Coming to Terms with Counseling

The room has the conflicting aesthetic of a sterile professional space that someone has tried desperately to make homey. I am overly aware of how uncomfortably I’m sitting, but the couch rustles loudly every time I shift. I tell myself I shouldn’t be here, I don’t need this. But when I glance
at my little brother perched awkwardly on the couch beside me, I realize that this goes beyond me and my discomfort.

When my parents told me they were getting divorced, I went for a walk around my neighborhood and cried for fifteen minutes. I decided that when I reentered my house I would have come to terms with all my negative feeling and would be entirely able to deal with it. And for a while, that’s pretty much what I did: I mentioned my parents’ separation casually to friends and assured them I wasn’t upset, I told my parents I understood their decision and had no problem with it, I even convinced myself that the whole situation was hardly worth thinking about.

Because of my self-perceived fineness, I was indignant when my parents insisted that my brother and I see a therapist to process the separation and our newly-formed family dynamic. Though I had friends that saw therapists regularly and had no issue with counseling on an intellectual level, misguided pride kept telling me that talking about what was going on was admitting that there was a problem, and that it meant I couldn’t handle things on my own.

I maintained this stubborn perspective until I noticed the way my brother would glaze over when people asked him about the divorce, and his falsely-confident assurances that everything was alright. Finally I realized that by thinking of myself as somehow above therapy, all I was doing was buying into the destructive notion that asking for help and processing things on an emotional level somehow makes people inferior. Not only was this an unhealthy way for me to deal with what was happening, I was also enforcing for my brother the cultural notion that – especially with boys and masculine people – having  or acknowledging emotions is somehow correlated with weakness.

Now I am waiting with my brother for our new therapist to arrive, trying hard to fight my deep-seated discomfort with vulnerability and finally start to understand the strength that it takes to ask for help. Looking over at the pale, pimply 14 year old who people always say looks so much like me, I know that I have a responsibility to be the role model that shows my brother that being honest about feelings takes a lot more courage than clinging to “I can handle it.”

If you want to get in touch with a counseling service or talk to someone about anything going on in your life, Teen Link is a great place to start. You can call Teen Link at (866) 833-6546 any day from 6-10 pm or chat through 

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