Finding professional help when you are not at your best is a daunting task, to say the least. I mean, here you are, an emotional train wreck, forced to get out there in the world and find someone who is going to help you NOT be an emotional train wreck. Which means, you have to start meeting new people when you’ve been existing on a diet of corn chips and pancakes and your personal hygiene has taken a backseat to more important things. Like sitting around and staring at the wall.
Most people don’t realize that help is something you have to shop around for. The chances of you walking into the office of the first professional you meet and having an instant connection are pretty slim. And this is a frustrating process. Because when you need help, you need it now. You don't have time to waste.
I’ve come to realize that those of us who have experienced loss, whether it’s a spouse, parent, or child, can sniff out those who have not. I remember going to my first therapist after my husband died and to be honest…I really wasn’t that crazy about her from the beginning. There was just something about her that hinted to me that the closest experience she’d had with death was when she put Fluffy down 2 years ago.
But I was in such a fog at that point, I didn’t trust my inner voice that said, “Walk away. Grab your purse, that useless grief pamphlet she just handed you, and one more piece of that cheap candy and get the heck out.”
The moment I woke up was when I told her that I had gone to dinner…not a date…dinner with a male friend of mine about 5 months after my husband died. Immediately she said, “You’re not ready to date.”
Now, how in the hell did she know that?
I had only met with this woman a few times. We had gone over some things…my past with my husband, my relationship with my family, my sudden bout of retail therapy…but I really didn’t feel like she knew me. And now that I am a few years past my initial grief, I have come to realize that it’s very normal for some people to date not too long after the death of their spouse. Not everyone does it, but some do. It’s a personal choice.
And it wasn’t a date.
That was the moment when I realized that it was hard enough to deal with the judgments of others while you’re trying to figure out how to grieve the “right way.” I certainly didn’t need it from my wacky therapist.
After that experience, I was a little nervous about trying this again. But it got to the point when I really needed somebody. So I gave it another go. And the second time around, I struck gold.
My point is…we shop around for everything in life. We try and find the best price on produce. We are on a constant mission to find the best fitting jeans (something that still escapes me). You wouldn’t just walk in and buy a car without doing a little research and giving it a test drive, would you?
So why would we do any less when it comes to our mental health? I mean, it’s taken me 3 years, 2 therapists, and 3 different grief groups to find the magical combination that understands my brand of crazy. But now that I’ve found it, I know I have someone for every little breakdown I might experience. She knows my past now and the things I’ve gone through so when I go in, we can just pick where we left off. I might see her twice a month, or I may not see her for 6 months. After seeing her once for a few months straight, I knew I was doing better when I went in and all we talked about was the books we were reading. At that point she just said, “You call me when you need me.” And you know what? I do.
What can I say? Welcome to professional grieving. The pay stinks, but you’ll always have a job.
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© Catherine Tidd 2010