On Wednesday February 7th, 2018, exactly six months ago from today, I walked into a brick building in Springdale, Arkansas that read Waterstone Counseling over the double glass doors. An iPod played soft music and it smelled like one of those fresh linen diffusers. A paper questionnaire was waiting for me in front of a soft, gray couch. On it I answered a few general questions about my family, my personality, and my experiences. I checked boxes for divorced parents, for being a perfectionist, having anxiety, and for disordered eating. The very last question asked about any other recent pertinent information, I wrote “graduating college and moving.” And then after hesitation I shakily scribbled, “sexual assault.”
I was full of so much fear, guilt, shame, and self-hatred, sitting in that little waiting room. I was in such a dark and scary place. It was only February and I was already starting to fail most of my classes. I was hiding from loved ones and I was destroying myself. But I’m writing this today because I’m not in that place any more. I’m writing this because I am stronger than the girl who sat in that waiting room, weighed down by trying to carry every single burden by herself.
But most importantly I am writing this today because the things I have been struggling with are not rare. Many people carry these burdens and they carry them alone. So I am writing this today to maybe let at least one person know that it doesn’t have to be that hard, things can get better, and burdens aren’t meant to be carried by yourself.
My amazing therapist that I met that day helped me to find so much grace and hope in a time that things felt so hopeless. She made sure that my voice was heard, when I wasn’t willing to share it with others. She fought my guilt, shame, and fear with acceptance, perspective, and wisdom. She reminded me that I am never alone. I am where I am today because I made the decision to sit in that little waiting room 6 months ago.
My best friend, Lauren, picked me up from my house, drove me to Springdale and sat in the waiting room that day. Then she drove me home and reminded me that I am loved and that things will get better.
So from this shorter post, there are a few things I want you to take away.
- If you are struggling – you are not alone. You are not broken. And you don’t have to break under this pressure. Find your voice and find someone to share it with. Maybe that is a friend, maybe that is a counselor or professional. There is nothing wrong with either option. Just talk. And don’t stop talking. Your voice is important and it is worthy of being heard and it is valuable. You will probably even realize that your voice can make a difference to another.
- If you aren’t struggling or if you don’t understand – be a Lauren. Check on your friends and loved ones and make sure they’re heard, make sure they aren’t alone. Be the person that hears. Be the person who asks, trying to understand as best they can. Be the person who loves. Be the person who is willing to drop everything, drive them to their first therapy appointment, and sit in the lobby as support. Be a Lauren.
- Be kind. You never know what another human being is going through, whether they are your best friend or not. Practice kindness and compassion even to strangers you pass on the street because a simple smile or word of encouragement can go a long way.