I’m a trained Pastoral Counselor. That means I’m capable of helping people with their troubles by applying Biblical principles. For as long as I can remember I’ve had the ability to provide personal and professional advice to others, often on topics where I’ve had zero experience. That’s confirmation that it’s not me speaking, but a divine gift from above.
My program advisor, Dr. Buffy (not her real name, but she jokingly called herself an Evil Spirit/Demon Slayer) was instrumental in my training. I grew personally under her guidance. I can vividly her Dr. Buffy’s voice as I type this.
“Fluffy, the people we help will drain the life out of us. It’s important that counselors, especially those living alone – have something else living in our surroundings to help breathe fresh life into us. It can be pets or plants. You can’t have emptiness around you. And you must be covered in prayer. Never let your spiritual guard down.”
In my current job it’s inappropriate for me to offer spiritual counsel, so my work was often done with co-workers and colleagues. I welcomed any and every opportunity to counsel, as I saw it as doing God’s will. It was so easy to do and pretty fun. I still followed Dr. Buffy’s advice, and kept plants in my office at work. I’ve always had pets so that wasn’t an issue for me at home. My prayers were conversations with God, often verbal and other times in my personal journal.
On the other hand I rarely talked about what was bothering me. I didn’t easily trust others with my feelings as I’ve been burned by “friends” I thought were for me. My two family confidants (Yoli and Leigh) died within years of each other, and I missed their keen ability of making me open up and speak from my soul. With Mr. B living in Arizona and Denise starting a new marriage with her husband, I became an expert at hiding hurt. Oh, the masks I wore rivaled any from Mardi Gras but they were unhealthy. I’d mastered the art of emotional deception.
“Oh yeah baby, now if I appear to be carefree
It's only to camouflage my sadness
In order to shield my pride I try
To cover this hurt with a show of gladness.” *
February 2015 was very difficult month for me. I had several experiences that I allowed to steal my joy and my peace. I’ve battled fear and anxiety in the past and they were creeping back into my life. At times the feelings came so strong that I was unable to sleep at night. I prayed, asking God to take the anxiety away, to help me not be fearful. Reading the Bible, praying the promises of God, and spending time in worship were futile. Nothing worked and I felt tormented. In my heart I knew God was with me and would never leave me, but my mind couldn’t grasp it.
During a phone conversation with my friend Dani she sensed something was not right with me. She asked a few probing questions and I slowly pulled down the mask, allowing the tears to flow easily.
“Just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my sadness hid
Smiling in the public eye
But in my lonely room I cry
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around.”*
“Fluffy, you are at a breaking point. I want you to talk to my Doctor. Her name is Dr. Youngston. She’s a licensed psychologist and she can help you. She helps me and I’m sure she’s covered by your insurance. You need someone to talk to – you help others and now it’s your turn. Are you ready to take that step?"
My training kicked in again - I was ready. Dr. James O. Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change came to mind, and I was at Stage 3 – Preparation. That meant I was ready to take action within 30 days (see http://www.smartrecovery.org/resources/library/Articles_and_Essays/Stages_of_Change/Stages_of_Change.pdf).
I spoke to Dani on February 26th, and saw Dr. Youngston on Saturday March 7th. I’ve lived my life being for others what I wished I had for myself. I finally had a person other than God I could open up to. Dr. Youngston was my bridge over troubled waters. My road to recovery had begun.
If you are battling fear, anxiety or depression please don’t suffer alone. Reach out for help. Talk to your doctor, school counselor. The National Alliance on Mental Illness can connect you to local help and their number is 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). Don’t let the term “Mental Illness” embarrass or shame you. I speak especially to those of the Christian faith. It is not a sign of weakness to talk to a psychologist. God put them there for a reason.
* Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
Question: What physical person can you reach out to at your lowest points?
Scripture: Psalm 20: 1-5