I stared down at the ground and gently tapped on the door to attend my first counseling session. A recent college graduate, I was used to being a high-achiever. I typically earned A’s in my courses, finished high school in the top of my class, and attended college on a full scholarship… yet here I was asking for help. I did not want to admit it, but emotionally I was struggling just to get out of bed and get dressed each day. Everyone thought I had it together, but the stress and anxiety of trying to do it all had broken me down.
My therapist opened the door with a smile and invited me into her cozy office. I nervously sat in the chair as she introduced herself and attempted to make me comfortable. When she asked why I came for counseling I will never forget how responded, “I think I may be crazy, am I crazy?” I said. “I mean, why would anyone be in therapy unless they are crazy.”
“There is nothing crazy about needing help,” my counselor reassured. The seven words she spoke set me free from my shame. That day I began to take back control of my thoughts, emotions, and my life. I faithfully went to counseling for the next eight months and found myself feeling better than I had in my entire life.
Here are five lessons I learned in my personal counseling sessions that changed my life forever.
1) High achievers need help as much as anyone else. The pressure and drive to achieve can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Everyone expects more from someone who tends to be a high achiever and those expectations alone can be difficult to manage on a daily basis.
2) Needing help is not a sign of weakness. I thought going to counseling meant something was very wrong with me, but the only thing wrong in this scenario was that I waited so long to get help. I thought I should be able to get better on my own but quickly learned in therapy that this was an unhealthy expectation I placed on myself.
3) Time does not heal all wounds. I really wanted to believe this saying but the pain of my childhood and teen years was still impacting me in adulthood. Some wounds time actually seems to worsen, leaving a festering mess. I didn’t need more time, I needed the right techniques to process the pain.
4) Healing cannot happen in the past. When you focus on what is behind you, you end up dwelling on the hurt. Although we worked on my past, my therapist constantly kept me grounded in the moment and worked with me to develop coping skills that I could use in the now to live a better life. My therapist empowered me to view my life experiences through a new lens and address them to move forward.
5) Focusing on the problem leads to feeling defeated. Effective counseling does not dwell on problems but empowers you to uncover your own solutions. My counselor did not TELL me what to do. Unlike a doctor treating a person with medication for an illness, my counselor taught me how to find solutions within myself. I always brought a notebook and pen to our sessions because I left with a wealth of insight that prior to therapy I found difficult to generate on my own.
Counseling was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I’m still a high achiever and enjoy the challenge of setting big goals for myself, but now I am not ashamed to admit I don’t just need support I DESERVE it. I am important enough to invest time and money into my personal development. Now, years later, I have transitioned from solely being the client to serving others as a speaker, counselor and coach.
Going to therapy gave me the courage to step into my true calling and empower others to transform their lives. I personally keep a mentor, accountability partner, coach, and counselor on call…. yes, I have an entire team because I have a huge vision for my life. The people I’m called to serve need ME to be my best self – and I am not my best when I try to do it all alone. In the words of my therapist – there is nothing crazy about needing help.
Latrice McNeal is a speaker, licensed professional counselor, and trainer specializing in performance and mental wellness for high achieving leaders, professionals, and entrepreneurs. Connect with Latrice on Facebook, LinkedIn, or by email at email@example.com.