There are Many Things that I Would Like to Say to You
But I don’t know how…
I do know how. But that doesn’t make it any easier. So I’m going to get straight to the point:
I broke up with my counselor yesterday.
I’d forgotten what that was like – to break up with someone. To tell another person you’re pretty certain he or she no longer has a role in your life. It feels pretty shitty. But also pretty good. Because, while I don’t want to hurt her personally, I know – in my guts – that this was the right move for me.
Of course I took the typical chicken route and did it via awkward voicemail.
I figured since we hadn’t slept together, I was still following acceptable breakup protocol.
And I might have called during a typical appointment time, so I knew she probably would not be able to answer the phone. I know. You’re thinking my cojones are like the size of bb pellets right now. And you’re probably right. Because instead of confessing the truth – confronting her with the real reason I wanted to break up – I left a rambling message something akin to, Umm. I need to cancel my appointment for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the short notice, but I think you said you need 24 hours, so hopefully this works. Umm. I think I’ve decided counseling just isn’t something I want to do right now. Soo yeah. Call me at this number if you have any questions.
Counseling just isn’t something I want to do right now? That’s the reason I gave her? I’ll admit that part of that excuse rings true, but that’s not even close to the real reason I’m certain our relationship won’t work. And it’s not me – it’s most definitely her.
I knew it by the end of our second appointment.
I hadn’t really felt a “click” from the beginning, but considering I’d never seen a counselor before and wasn’t even sure if there was supposed to be a “click,” I wanted to stick it out and give her a chance.
But, like I said, by the end of date #2, I just knew.
At the risk of potentially alienating some of you lovely readers, I’m just going to go ahead and tell you something about me in case you haven’t already figured it out: I’m not a particularly religious person. I wasn’t raised that way, and no one since has been able to convince me that any particular religion is right for me. Or just “right,” period.
I’m sorry if this upsets any of you, but trust me – people have tried to convince me to “join up” with certain religions. Sometimes it feels like I’m being heavily recruited by several competing sororities and some are telling me, “Sign with us because we have the BEST social events,” or “Our philanthropy is TOP notch – we’ll spend your money wisely” or “WE have the nicest church, so you know God loves us best.”
And I’m sitting there thinking, really? I consider myself a spiritual person. And personally, I don’t feel the need to sign up for any particular dogma that (I feel) might keep me from growing and learning on my own. And I love to learn from everybody.
I don’t think I’m better than anyone else based on my fluid, loose-leaf belief system.
I mean, that’s kind of the point.
So. My intention here is not to open a discussion on religion. It’s to give you a little background information so I can properly explain why I felt the need to break up with my counselor.
To my second appointment, I wore my distinctively gaudy and very noticeable Ganesh necklace, which represents a Hindu deity known for his ability to remove obstacles. And I’m not gonna lie – I could use some obstacle removal in my life. I mean – remember the old lady and the kittens?
Long story short, I expressed to her my interest in trying out some mind expansion exercises (aka. “meditation”), and she all but flipped her lid.
I’ll expand on this little pet project of mine at a later date, but all you need to know for right now is that I did not bring up the subject of religion, but had simply told her how elated I felt when I started reading this book about meditation that my friend in India sent me because, after reading only the first chapter, it finally – finally – felt like someone “got” me.
Someone understood my particular brand of “depression.”
Which is more than I could say for this counselor.
I could tell she was trying to remain professional, but she spent the next 20 minutes (cutting 10 minutes into her next appointment) delicately dancing around the subject of how meditation practices could be extremely dangerous because they could take me further away from THE God and let demons into my life and did I know that people in India worship cows, for crying out loud?
I looked down at my necklace and contemplated this predicament. My counselor, whose job, I thought, it was to help guide me to my own conclusions about what’s best for me in life without giving any true opinions of her own, was flat-out telling me that a drug-free mind exercise I wanted to try was essentially evil and, even worse, she was essentially laughing at another culture – another belief system that while I certainly don’t practice, I definitely respect.
Like I said – I’m here to learn. Not judge.
And clearly, she thought she was qualified to judge. Either she noticed my necklace and is extremely insensitive, didn’t notice it and is extremely unobservant, or noticed it and didn’t know what it was, which pretty much makes her completely unqualified to comment at all.
So that’s that.
I don’t judge her for her beliefs, but I certainly judge her for judging mine.
Or something like that.
I realize I probably should have told her the real reason I don’t want to see her again. But honestly? I think she knows.
She took it really well. In fact, she called me back shortly after and left me a very kind, professional voicemail. (I didn’t answer the phone because I was in the bathroom – not because I was avoiding her calls. I think.) To her credit, I’m pretty sure she knew this was coming. Even though I hadn’t implied that the problem was her, she did leave me the names and numbers of 2 other women in her office with whom I might be more comfortable working.
Those were her words – more comfortable.
But the thing is, I’m not sure I’ll ever be “comfortable” spilling my guts in the office of a complete stranger. If she doesn’t make the mistake of spewing her own religious beliefs on me, I might be sitting there wondering – Is she judging me? Does she think I’m an idiot? Am I a lost cause and she just gets me to come back every 2 weeks so she can bank off my insurance?
No. I think, for the time being, I’d rather spill my guts here in my own office to a whole bunch of complete strangers. Because “listening” and giving feedback is your choice – not your obligation.
This doesn’t mean I’m done with counseling for good. But right now, I have one other avenue I’d like to pursue, just to see if it’s a better fit.
My sister’s roommate (hey, Teagan!) gave me a quote from Lady Gaga who, surprisingly, describes my current sentiments based on this last experience exactly:
“I’m terrified of therapy because I don’t want it to mess with my creativity.”
What she said.
Without a doubt, I would have broken up with her too. Like I did with the woman who tried to tell me I couldn’t be a Christian and practice yoga because yoga is the devil’s work or some such nonsense. Counselors are a lot like boyfriends – if you don’t click for whatever reason it’s just not going to work. If you feel he’s judging you, or his breath smells like rot, or she has a giant mole on her face that you just can’t stop staring at – there’s no way I could open up and just spill my thoughts in any of those situations.
It’s great that you’re not closing the door on counseling forever. When you find a good one, they’re worth their weight in gold. Until then, you have us to spill your guts to.
That’s what I don’t get – where did this belief that yoga and meditation somehow negate Christian beliefs actually come from?? Yoga is a practice to make your mind and body stronger, and meditation (although I’d hate to generalize because there are many different types) is a mind exercise. Like Jill commented below, Buddhism (and meditation) is a way to be – not an actual religion.
And you’re definitely right about the boyfriend analogy. Don’t worry – I’m not completely giving up. I realize I might need to kiss a few toads before I find my prince – or princess. ;)
I think that would be my problem dealing with counselors, I’d end up bouncing around looking for the right fit. Don’t know if I would have been so delicate with the ‘break up’ if they had more-or-less mocked me and something I was interested in.
That’s true. But I must say that I could tell she was trying to be “delicate” with the mocking. But that doesn’t change the fact that mocking is exactly what it was. Good call.
My first thought was that you should have told her the truth – but I think you are right, that she did get the point given her “more comfortable” comment. I would have bailed too, hope the other therapy does the trick!
Yeah – we’ll see! I’m thinking my hall pass is about to wear out, so I kind of have to commit to something here soon. :)
Katie – You definitely made the right decision. I’m a brand new counselor (career counselor) and I know that sometimes I see that the students I work with easily I also identify with in some sort of way and it has been more difficult for me when students come in that are very different than me but I’m learning (yes, run on sentence!). And if this counselor were a good fit for you (or for counseling) then she would have NOT lectured you/discussed her OWN beliefs and instead asked you questions about yours.
Counseling is tough sometimes but it’s not ABOUT the counselor, it’s about you and your thoughts, beliefs and ideas. Her ideas should never have been brought into the picture. The counselor is there to help you uncover your thoughts by helping you get to know yourself better. Then the counselor should assist you with exploring opportunities that are available so that you can go after them. I hope you have a better experience if you decide to work with another counselor in the future. In our office we believe it’s our job to help the student on their journey to pursuing their dream. Sounds kind of hokie, but I like it. :)
Based on what you’ve said, I’m thinking maybe this was the right decision for both of us then – not just me. But, even as a new counselor, you understand that lecturing based on your own beliefs is not part of your job description. For what it’s worth, I bet you’re an amazing counselor. :) And I love your “hokie” belief.
Also, I am the QUEEN of run on sentences. You’ll get no judgement from me. ;)
Soo, Katie…I was so infuriated with your ex-counsellor’s reaction/reply to your openess of trying something different, that I didn’t have the patience to read the rest of your blog, so bear with me if I reiterate some of your points, if not rant! First off, isn’t there some kind of unwritten (or perhaps it is written somewhere) rule against counsellors voicing their religous/spiritual views unless it is brought up by the one being couseled? You are not there for that person to influence your thoughts and ideas, they are there to help you sort through them so you can find what is best for YOU! And second, who in the hell is SHE to have said anything religous at all!? What, because she is a practcing Christian, she has the right to judge and essentially, denounce your thoughts of exploring other ways to reach a spirituality that may be right for you? I mean, spirituality is an untangible IDEA, no? It is not the same for everyone and each person has their own ways of expressing it or reaching a place where they feel at complete ease with who they are as a person. RelgiOn has created most of the world’s problems, yet ignorant people fail to see that we, as a human race, are in a very uneasy and threatening place due to people throwing their religous ‘balls, into other people’s face! I have the same idea as you of not being religous but I find Buddhism comforting as it is a way to BE and not a religion as most people believe. So, that makes me evil and a bad person? Last time I checked, I haven’t killed anyone and haven’t coveted thy neighbor’s wife (giggle). Yes, I was raised as a Luthern and was baptised as a baby, but that was because that was what my parents wanted, they didn’t check with me on that, however I still LIVE by the general rules of life or commandments because that is what is RIGHT, not rightous! I consider myself agnostic, so I guess that makes me a friend of the devil, in those woman’s eyes. Wow. Yeah, now I see why I don’t believe in organized religion, all that is done is judging. And by the way, they aren’t GOD, that’s His job, correct? Or only if you are a Christian? So, to all those people who think their ideas of religion makes them high and mighty, think about what GOD tells you in the bible about judging and how sinful that is and accept people for who they are (just as Jesus did) and what they believe or what they think would help them believe in SOMETHING, after all, something is better than nothing…(And third, Katie, could you give me the name of that book that was recommended by your friend, I’d like to read it, maybe I could get somethng out of it. Thanks!)
I think you’re absolutely right about everything you said. I’d like to stress the fact that she wasn’t exactly “up front” about her own personal beliefs, but they did ring pretty loud and clear after 20 minutes of her trying to explain why meditation could be dangerous. I left her office in a daze, to be honest. I was pretty much flabbergasted about the whole thing.
I do plan on eventually writing a post about the meditation thing and providing a link to the book (which is actually a free PDF available online), but here’s the early link for you (and those who read the comments): http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/mindfulness_in_plain_english.pdf It gives tons of useful information about Buddhism and this particular type of meditation that’s outlined in the book, but even if you’re not interested in all of that, I will tell you what my friend told me: Read the first chapter. Feel free to skip the preface and the introduction, but if nothing else, read the first chapter. See if it speaks to you.
It definitely hit home with me.
She totally deserved to be broken up with. That doesn’t sound like someone that would be able to be open enough to help you along anyway. At least you left a message … I have broken up with two counselors in my life, and I have just disappeared each time. The first one was trying to help me work through some issues I had from my childhood (which many would say was rough – I can’t really say that, it was just mine, if you know what I mean). Anyway, she convinced me to try Rapid Eye Movement therapy, where basically, they take an object and wave it in front of your eyes rapidly, and then you are supposed to be tricked into a REM-like sleep state. Then, you can go through old memories, and work through them (supposedly). I would have to look at this object, and then talk about my childhood. All it really did was give me a terrible headache and make me even more depressed. There is a reason why people repress memories, sometimes, and it’s to protect themselves. She kept trying to find bigger meanings in the memories that I had repressed, or that I didn’t want to talk about certain things (at least so early in our counselor/patient relationship), all while waving a frigging stick in front of my face. I told her repeatedly the whole treatment made me uncomfortable, and I wanted to talk in a more organic and natural way, but she refused. After three sessions, I just didn’t show up for my other two scheduled sessions. I figured she got the hint.
The other counselor I broke up with was after I cancelled my wedding. This woman was very helpful but was very extreme. I wanted to talk about how I was feeling about things, but she kept wanting to talk about my ex and diagnose what may be wrong with him. She kept trying to tell me what, in her professional opinion, made him do the things he did to me and to himself. I didn’t feel comfortable with her diagnosing someone she hadn’t even met, and what she didn’t realize was that I wanted the whole ordeal to stop being about him and be about me and my recovery. When she put him down in that way, even if she might have been right or it may have been true, it made me feel like I was stupid for having ever fallen in love with him. It just wasn’t helpful.
Anyway…sorry to hijack your post, but I just want to say that I’ve been there. Even if they are professionals, they aren’t all REALLY professionals. I hope that this doesn’t deter you from finding someone else. Because I was able to find a counselor after my ex that made a world of difference for me. He was exactly what I needed at that time. I’m sure you’ll find someone too.
Wow. Just… wow. There are so many things about your various counselors that I find so unbelievably stunning, that I don’t even know what to say at this point. Insisting on something called REM therapy when you tried it and said you didn’t want to do it anymore? Talking about your ex instead of talking about you? I’m just… so confused.
How do these people keep their jobs??!!?
Thanks for the encouragement, though – hopefully I’ll be able to find someone who will work with my particular quirks. And never apologize for hijacking a post. I think I’ve only done that to you 10 times or so… ;)
I want to applaud you for being so brave as to express your feelings about religion on your blog. I have the same religious (or non-religious views) as you and I oftentimes find it hard to express those views for fear of being judged or creating friction/drama. I was asked at work the other day whether or not I believed in God and honestly had no idea what to reply. It’s not that I didn’t know what I believed in, rather, I didn’t know how to express myself without creating an “issue” at work.
So yeah, I love how you’re being more and more open on your blog.
Thanks, Janie! Unfortunately, religion is often one of those things that can tear people apart when they could otherwise learn so much from each other. I’m afraid I’ll never understand it…
Very interesting, honest, post here. First of all– I don’t think that lady has any right to be a counselor whatsoever.
Now, before I say this, I want you to be clear that I am NOT about to try to convince you to join up on a religion. Like you, I’m not particularly religious. The idea of it just doesn’t sit very well with me at this time…
That being said, I’ve been looking into Buddhism lately because I find their ideas to be very interesting. Zen Buddhism in particular has a really intriguing aspect that they call “Beginners Mind”. It deals a lot with meditation, as all Buddhism does, and finding yourself, but particularly requires that you look at the world around you with a completely free mind. They describe it like a child finding something new, how that child has no preconceptions of what that item is, no judgments of it at all, but mainly looks at it with a “what is this??” type of attitude. They ask that you take that attitude, and begin to change your mindset to look at the entire world around you in that way– free of judgments, preconceptions, and with a willingness to explore. It’s really very interesting, and I think you might find it to be as well.
If you ever find yourself with some free time looking for something to keep yourself occupied for a few minutes, check out this article that I recently found on Beginner’s Mind. I think you’ll find it worth the read. http://www.intrex.net/chzg/hartman4.htm (hopefully I’m not spammed because of this link, haha!)
If you do check it out, let me know what you think!
Interestingly enough, I’m starting to think Buddhism is probably the closest I might ever get to labeling myself with any particular religion. But like Jill said in her comment, I view it more as a way to “be” than a religion. I will most definitely check out that link (thanks for sharing!), and check out this one if you have time: http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/mindfulness_in_plain_english.pdf
It’s the one I was referring to when I made my counselor’s head explode. :)
Ah, I didn’t see that she wrote that. But I’d say I agree. I don’t know a lot about all of the Buddhist teachings, but I do know that the idea of Beginner’s Mind is a way to be and a way to live rather than a way to worship. At least from what I know of it that is.
I’ll check that link out right now, after all, it’s raining and therefore I have no customers at work haha.
Ok, I had the chance to read 40 pgs of that book last Saturday while I was at work. Thanks so much for sharing that link! I’m certainly going to finish reading it and more than likely try to use it’s teachings as well, it is soo interesting!
Nate, I’m really glad you’re enjoying the book! I still haven’t made it very far through the “practice” portion, because I know that when I do, I’m actually going to have to commit the time to do it. I really want to, but first I have to get past my procrastination. :)
Am I qualified to comment seeing as I come from a country with several of these religions? ;-D
1) Hallelujah for breaking up with your counsellor (though frankly, I am not surprised because when I was in Ohio, even my host family were completely uncomfortable with the fact that I was somehow different which was kind of strange because I had the same values as they did, I just came from a different place. And don’t get me started on the Denison staff). Far as I am concerned in terms of being accepting, save for a few people (like you!), the US left a bad taste in my mouth. I had a such bad experience, I am not so sure I want to return any more. Maybe that will change, maybe it won’t.
2) Yes Buddhism is meant to be a philosophy – that doesn’t stop it from being practiced as a religion though. :-( Yes, it is highly compatible with most lifestyles when practiced as a philosophy. Also, there are now variants :Theravadu, Mahayana, Zen, Tibetan etc – I don’t quite get that myself but there you go.
3) As people we are now influenced by several different things from all sorts of sources. So there’s nothing wrong with being “spiritual” or having faith or belief in all sorts of different things – such as you wearing the necklace because hey you never know what works and it’s pretty and on some level comforting. That’s like me CHOOSING to believe that every time the wind blows leaves around in a circle, there are fairies around somewhere – it’s a pretty idea and it makes me smile. And I need the endorphins damn it!
So what if you weren’t born on the Asian subcontinent? You have a right to choose what you believe in and a right to practice what you want to. She should not be taking away your right to choose. I hope you find someone worthwhile going to.
4) It’s not the counsellor’s job to tell you what religion you should follow. It is certainly not her job to preach to you either. She’s supposed to put aside her ego and OBJECTIVELY assess where you are at and what you can do AND MORE IMPORTANTLY what YOU WANT TO DO to get where you want to go.
5) Also I am going to counselling for depression because of failure, heartbreak, loneliness and poverty. So no you are not in this alone – my methods of dealing include: exercise (dancing, yoga, walking), painting, meditation, writing and trying to stick to a schedule. I’ll be cheering you on from across the globe! :-D
6) And at least you didn’t have my friend’s experience. She suffered a traumatic event ten years ago and didn’t get counselling for about six years when she finally went to someone at which point all they did was medicate her constantly while taking her money WITHOUT treating the trauma and then they kept telling that she had no hope and they would have to give her electroshock therapy. Then she found out that half the problems she was dealing with (mania etc) were side effects of the drugs she had been put on so she switched pyschiatrists and pyschologists. She is now down to about four drugs instead of 20, she has her life back with a degree and another one planned, she’s painting, composing music, babysitting two kids she adores and getting quite giddy about dating a girl she has just met. Sometimes she’s really impatient about wanting to get down to say, perhaps one or two drugs a day but she has more insight now about how her brain works, how she thinks and what kind of person she is and all that insight is doing far more to calm her down than any of the drugs ever did.
Wow, what a thoughtful post! I agree with much of what you said, except for your generalization of Americans. I think many – probably around 50% – are more open-minded than the ones with whom you’ve had experience. Much of it tends to vary by region, and there is also a huge difference between rural and urban areas. I think it’s unfair to judge an entire (very large) country based solely on your experience in a tiny town in Ohio. Not to mention the fact that a great deal of this country is extremely ethnically diverse… I hope you do get to experience it again – maybe in a different location – and hopefully you’ll see that not all Americans are how we’re portrayed.
What a scary ordeal your friend had! I’m glad she’s getting it all sorted out, and I hope your own counseling and spiritual studies work well for you. I suppose we all have our challenges, and all we can do is get through them, live, and learn. I have a feeling you’re going to have your time in the sun. :)
[…] Yes, I’ve sought professional help. It didn’t go well. […]
WOW!!!!!! I can’t believe this moron calls herself a counselor? Bravo for never returning again.
I seriously couldn’t believe it. It was like I said the exact thing that would flip her crazy switch!
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