I’m in therapy.
I sometimes find people are surprised to hear that. I think that there can be is a stigma or concern that goes along with going to counseling. It somehow denotes that you have some severe issues to deal with, or that you might be at the end of your rope. And that can be true for all of us at certain times in our life, right? But for me, things are going pretty good really, so why do I think I need to go to counseling right now and frankly, as long as possible?
I’ve found that being ready is better than planning ahead.
While life might be going along just fine, even when we are in the midst of a constant battle, like many of you are, we know that the smallest things can throw it into a tailspin. And it’s during these unexpected times, that we need to have an anchor we can throw down. I call it a back pocket strategy. As I work through conversations with my Counselor, I am able to develop some of these back pocket strategies and I keep them there for that rainy day. They are kinda like the blanket all of us Midwesterners keep in our cars for that unexpected slide into a ditch. Therapy helps me to be ready.
And it also helps me to stay real.
When we are walking in a particularly tough time, or even more so, when we are beyond a challenge and sitting pretty, we can forget that suffering is a universal experience. I find it interesting as I sit among groups of parents that are all in the midst of raising a child with ASD that it sometimes takes a bit for them to connect on a deep level. Part of that is just learning to trust, but also, there is an element of attempting to not appear to be needy or suffering. So sometimes, I have to call upon my own different but still personal understanding of suffering and grief to help everyone open up about theirs. It’s impossible to live through what you are experiencing each day and emerge unscathed. Talking through how your life as a parent has impacted you and left its marks reminds us that it’s okay not to be okay, and it allows others to understand that as well. Therapy helps me to keep an open human heart to others.
Hearing others’ stories normalizes our struggle.
One of the best things about group therapy is listening to other people’s stories. It helps us to accept, and seek help for, my own suffering. When we hear how others are dealing with their struggles, it gives us hope that we can get through too. Parent Support groups and other times of group therapy connects us to others in a good way. It reminds us that there is always someone else who’s going through (or has been through) what I’m going through. If they got through it, so can I. There’s still hope for me.
Therapy reminds me that there is nothing to be ashamed of or defensive about.
We often come up with the best excuses for why we don’t need therapy or can’t do therapy. It’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, it doesn’t help… But usually, if we are brutally honest, the reality is that we just don’t want to dig into our pain. We think it’s kinda like picking a scab on a wound - why mess with it? Well, here’s a challenge for you: Why then, do you send your child for therapy services? I know why, and so do you: Because they deserve every kind of help possible to live their best life. You’re willing to spend whatever you need, take the time needed and keep believing with every small victory that it is helping. Can you just consider giving your own tired and weary psyche that same consideration? You are doing your very best for your child, and you are not ashamed or defensive, so why not apply this to your own need? Guess what? It will result in you being an even better source of power for your child.
No matter how well polished my facade can appear, the brokenness will eventually show itself.
You don’t have to be concerned about being perfect and looking like the best example of parenting a child with Autism. Going to counseling doesn’t mean you are losing it or failing - it just means you want to be the best version of who you are. Who you are deep down, and it starts by acknowledging all the broken and bent parts inside. When you find a place where you can be yourself, even for an hour, you’ll find that it gets easier to be that self for all the other hours outside of that one.
So I encourage you to find a place for therapy in your life. If you don’t have insurance, there are places in most counties that offer services on a sliding scale or for free. Be on the lookout for services we will be offering to parents for individual counseling. And of course, don’t forget our wonderful Parent Support Group meetings that are available to all parents. Please let us know if we can help in any way.