As my previous post explained that not all doctors are created equal ... or are equally effective and helpful, so also not all counselors are created equal. My battle with depression has been a long one, beginning with the miscarriage of my first pregnancy. I believe prior to counselling with Mike, I worked with three other counselors. Most of the others followed the same protocol. They asked probing questions, listened as I answered and wrote things down on a pad of paper. I got the feeling that the whole of counselling was the opportunity to unload pent up feelings and emotions (valuable, but something I can do in journal form).
Mike is a breed apart. I first began counselling with him when my husband and I were separated (now a dozen years ago). In fact, Mike was recommended to my husband (a reluctant counsel-seeker) by our then pastor. I was astonished when my husband came home glowing about how effective Mike was. He urged me to switch from my counsel in Wheaton (quite a drive from DeKalb, anyway) to working with Mike.
I've never seen Mike write one thing down about me in a session. He does ask questions, but he allows my answers to lead to the next question and often confronts bad thinking immediately and sometimes boldly, even brashly. Usually the first question requires an assessment of where I'm at right then. "Fine" is never acceptable and explanations are always in order.
I will not hesitate to admit that I am dysfunctional. I suppose we all are in some way. Mike has a gift for helping me to see my dysfunction more clearly and take steps to change. I am grateful for the chance to do this long distance life-coaching at this juncture in my life. It was a blessing that he already knew a fair share of both my personal and marital baggage.
I wanted to share some of the things I have been learning about myself because I'm pretty sure that they are lessons that someone else might benefit from as well. Even though my circumstances are unique and my personality may be different than someone else's, the insights still bear importance for anyone.
To begin with, Mike affirmed that there is a lot of "not-Wendy" floating around in my life at present. I feel powerless and my world seems so small. I place everyone else's needs before my own. Then, when I feel depleted, I grow angry and bitter and seem to think there is something objectionable about me.
But I'm not where I'm at (miserable and depressed) at the fault of anyone else. I abdicated responsibility for the meeting of my needs to everyone else, assuming they will step in and make sure my needs are met. Ain't gonna happen! Mike nailed my negative vortex clearly. He said I live by unrealistic expectations, then my low (depleted) performance launches me into self-critical mode. I spend too much of my emotional energy on stupidity instead of taking back ground for myself and mending the spokes that are broken in my life (spiritual, relational, intellectual, creative).
Another thing he had me think about was the inequality in so many of my relationships. I tend to carry relationships. I do all the calling. I pursue and care and give, but receive little in return. He likened it to opening a bank account with a friend. We go in to open the account and I put up $80, but the other person puts up $20. The other person is willing to withdraw without recognizing the imbalance and they don't care as much because they haven't invested much. (Perfect example: the "friend" for whom I purchased a one-hour massage because she said she's "always up for a massage," but then hasn't bothered to respond to any e-mails or calls since. Now, thanks to Mike, I'm "withdrawing all my money from that account" and I will utilize the two one-hour massages myself - even though they are in her Indiana town.)
A further key message I have been hearing: I need to stop damning Wendy and begin discovering Wendy. I need to stop asking for permission to be who I am. I need to stand up for my wants and needs and trust what I feel in situations. Here's a challenging one for me: "Dare to displease the people you are afraid to displease." Fear and guilt have been running my life and I have to put a stop to that for my very survival's sake. I need a regular pattern of nourishment.
Mike also helped me to see that I am basically drowning in the shallow end of the pool because I wasn't made for wading, I was made for swimming in the deep water. When I attended the book group and was able to interact intellectually with other women, I was firing on all cylinders. Instead of recognizing that this environment doesn't allow me to thrive (like trying to plant corn in sand), I tend to jump to the assessment that something is wrong with me because I'm not thriving here. I condemn the seed, instead of recognizing bad soil.
I also seem to believe that I'm only valuable to the measure of my "usability." I unconsciously attract "users" and then resent giving too much and only being valued when I am useful to them. I need to give myself the unconditional love God has for me. When I make wise choices it honors God. When I am inauthentic (merely jumping through the hoops of someone else's expectations and needs so that the waters stay calm), I am not giving God the best part of me. I am compromising who He has intended me to be.
Finally, I am learning to pay more attention to my focus (i.e., pay attention to what has my full attention). I waste my energy focusing on my weaknesses rather than identifying and tapping into my strengths. I need to redeem the Wendy that was meant to be. Here's another Mike word-picture: Like Superman, I need to be careful not to let my fear of the kryptonite keep me from remembering and focusing on the fact that I can fly and scale large buildings and use my super-powers. I need to take back my power and focus on the person I want to be! I have to carve out an intentional future.
I am a work in progress. With the combination of appropriate medications and beneficial life-coaching, I am getting to the place where I can see light at the other end of the tunnel again. I don't want to give up another day in useless misery. I don't want to be a slave to the shoulds and oughts (as Mike says: "Quit shoulding all over yourself!") but want to give myself grace to accept who I am and focus on becoming the me I've not yet taken hold of!