A few weeks ago I saw a therapist for the first time. Prioritizing my mental health is the best money I’ve spent in quite some time. Sure, I probably should have gone earlier, like twenty years earlier, but that’s not the point.
The point is that I did something – something different, something actionable, something hopeful. I took a step toward clearing mental and emotional hurdles that I’ve been stumbling over since I said, “Hello world,” on February 3, 1977.
Why am I doing it? Here are a few reasons.
Reason 1: My Junk
I’ve got things wrong with me. I don’t say this to whine or self-flagellate. The fact is, we are all broken in one way or another. Alexander Pope said, “To err is human…” Yep.
Shortcomings, brokenness, and struggle are just a part of being a real person. If you’re breathing something inside isn’t quite firing on all cylinders.
And if you think broke fixes easily, you might be on that destructive denial carousel that I went round and round on for a couple of decades.
Excuse me, carnival ride operator, may I get off, please?
And watch out, I think I’m about to hurl.
Reason 2: My Season
My life is such a paradox right now. It’s beautiful, it’s maddening. It makes total sense just before slipping into total insanity, then back again.
I have four children under the age of eight. One is an infant and one has epilepsy. Making it through a week…errr…making it through twenty-four hours completely depletes my physical and mental reserves. I’m in a season of constant stress and fatigue.
Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
And I’ve learned that if I ignore stress, I do so at my own peril.
Chronic stress, I see you.
Reason 3: My Children
These are those short years during which my children are malleable chunks of clay. The coping strategies that I model for them now are the blades and bows they’ll have when they’re thrown into the arena to face their own lions. And these days kids are forced into combat at increasingly earlier ages. I’m a middle school teacher. I see it every day.
Coping with life’s struggles in an unhealthy manner in front of my children molds them into emotionally obese, out-of-shape gladiators, with little more than a pea shooter in their sheaths.
I want to give my children a fighting chance. In fact, I want to stack the odds in their favor.
Reason 4: My Marriage
My wife and I are soon to celebrate fourteen years of marriage.
These two things are true:
1. We love each other deeply
2. What led to marital success during the first fourteen years is not sufficient to help us flourish over the next fourteen.
The reason for thing number two has to do with the degree of which our lives have changed since we first said: “I do”.
For example, just in the past three years:
- We’ve had our third and fourth children.
- We are no longer in vocational ministry. (For the first time in our marriage)
- Scotty developed epilepsy.
- We relocated.
Major changes such as these are a threat to marital intimacy. We have to work so much harder to spend time with one another than I ever imagined. Our children, our bills, our fatigue all compete for our attention and affection.
Furthermore, these changes have morphed us into different individuals with different emotional needs that we were on March 1, 2003.
I totally get how couples in similar seasons slowly drift apart.
Wind, meet anchor.
Reason 5: My Dreams
We all know that person who just never quite lived up to their potential. I worry sometimes that I know that guy all too well.
Although I’ve planted my flag atop a few summits, my fortieth birthday found me reflecting on how many of my dreams that I’ve fallen short of.
I’m well aware that part of the reason for coming up short of my goals is due to variables beyond my control – lack of talent, timing, God’s divine plan, and sheer naivete to name a few.
But is it possible that part of my underachievement was due to reasons completely WITHIN my control? Do I lack the commitment to persevere? Do I get bored too easily? Do I quit too soon? Does a negative self-concept cause me to not take necessary risks?
Is some of the emotional baggage that I’ve been carrying around since the fourth grade keeping me grounded?
Time to cut the dead weight. I still want to fly. And there’s still time.
Reason 6: My Family of Origin
I’ve got a great family and have had a good raising. Therefore, I’m not going to stoop to using my family tree as a scapegoat for my fallacies. In fact, I’m thankful for the many wonderful things that my family passed down to me.
But the wonderful things are not all that I inherited in my family’s emotional will and testament.
And some of these incorrect worldviews, habits, and negative scripts that have been passed down for three and four generations need to stop with me.
Like Pete Scazerro says in The Emotionally Healthy Leader, “Jesus may be in your heart, but grandpa is in your bones.”
Reason 7: My Scar Tissue
I recently came through a season of severe ministry burnout. One of the crippling side effects of this experience was depression. It left me with deep emotional scars. When the going gets tough I can feel those old wounds begin to throb again as that all too familiar black cloud forms in the distance.
Whenever someone has an initial heat stroke, subsequent strokes are much more likely. I get the feeling that depression and burnout are the same way.
One was plenty.
Depression, I’m not afraid of you, but I do respect you enough leave nothing to chance.
Earlier I lamented not having gone to counseling twenty years earlier. The truth is, I wasn’t ready in 1997…or 2007…or 2015 for that matter. And for counseling to work, you’ve got to be ready.
If you are unwilling to hold yourself accountable and own up to the worst parts of yourself, save your money and your therapist’s time. You’re not ready for counseling.
And quite possibly, you’re not ready to move on with your life.
I finally am. Hello world.
Do you have a mental health story? Have you overcome huge mental obstacles? Are you currently stumbling beneath the weight of one? I’m always amazed at you guys’ stories.
Please joing the conversation in the “comments” section below.
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