It took me too long to ask for help.
I went on my weekly grocery shopping trip, and reached the end of the last aisle after snaking my way through the store. I checked my list, which to my surprise had one item remaining un-crossed-off. I thought I had found all my items while traipsing through the shop, but I realized that I had not come across one essential item – gluten-free pizza dough.
Standing at the shelf where this item usually resides, I scanned the products from top to bottom, to no avail. Figuring I must have missed it somewhere in another aisle, I pushed my cart back towards the baking section. No luck. I determinedly weaved through each possible aisle (figuring that it wouldn’t be with the cleaning supplies or pet food), on the lookout for the final product to complete my grocery adventure. I spent about 20 minutes scouting the aisles in search of the small tan package, and re-searching when I came up with nothing. Exasperated, I finally searched for an employee who appeared able to help me.
Within 30 seconds of getting this employee’s attention, asking for assistance, and bee lining behind him directly to the product, the pizza dough was in my cart and I headed towards the checkout counters. He knew what he was doing, and I realized that I could have asked him for help a loooong time ago.
I’m sure that if I searched each aisle diligently enough and really focused on each box, bag, pouch, and jar, I would have found the pizza dough eventually. But the thing is, I didn’t have to do that.
As a counselor, my job is to help people in a shockingly similar way to my pizza-dough-finding savior. As we work towards self-betterment in the ways that we know how, we may eventually work our way to healing and find things that help us thrive. If we commit to pushing through lots of trial-and-error, we can make improvements over time. But counselors can help make this process SO much quicker and easier. Trained to understand human thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, mental health counselors can recognize patterns in our lives and guide us through interventions to increase our overall health.
While I wish this could be a perfect analogy, I do recognize that there is a bit more nuance to mental health than the layout of a grocery store. There is no one-size-fits-all for mental health, and there are countless options for things that might help someone, including meditation, a change in diet, behavioral reinforcement, thought replacement, medication, and the list goes on and on and on. So, while counseling still largely consists of trial-and-error, it is done intentionally, with evidence-based practice and immense support of someone who truly wants to see us succeed.
In my experience, something that has taken me years to discover within myself has been noticeable within one session with a counselor. After describing all of my futile or only somewhat successful attempts to improve aspects of my life, my counselors have been able to help me figure out new thought processes and impactful strategies that actually work for me, tailored to my unique individual experience. It astounds me every time!
I waited 20 minutes to reach out at the grocery store, but we can ask for help at any point. At the beginning of something new, we may feel more comfortable having a support system help us navigate through the experience right from the start. With something we feel semi-confident about, we may want to first try our hand at the task, and then reach out for assistance if we need it. We may push through something right to the end, and then decide that we want to talk about it with someone. It is never too late to ask for help.
Like the grocery store employee who dropped what he was doing to walk me to my gluten-free pizza dough, counselors are available to help us wherever we are at, with whatever we are going through. All we have to do is ask.
In Joy, Monica
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.