As I near the end of collecting my state LPC-Intern hours, I have realized the importance of the question: Who’s your counselor’s counselor? At first, I found it easy to compartmentalized the traumas that I was hearing on a daily basis from my clients and not allowing their stories to effect me. However, after two plus years (not including when I was in school gaining my internship hours) of stories upon stories, I found myself becoming anxious and depressed.
Becoming a counselor is not the easiest career, since you allow yourself to absorb some one else’s traumatic events and keep their story confidential. I am a secret of vaults that not even truth serum could penetrate. With all of the traumatic events that I took in, I began to obtain somewhat a cynical view of the world. I started to believe that things are horrible and would not change. I began a routine of working long hours and coming home to “zombie out” in front of the TV. I gave up reading an enjoyable book, walking the dogs around the neighborhood and enjoying “me time” at a local restaurant. As days turned into weeks into months on end with this routine and lack of hobbies, I became depressed. There were times when I would go without a shower for two days, be too tired to brush my teeth at night and oversleeping on the weekend.
As my depression grew, I realized my anxiety was increasing too. I began to question my capabilities as a counselor, had paranoid thoughts and became more susceptible to illnesses. Just in three months, I was sick twice! I was living in fear and wanted to find excuses to not attend work or anything for that matter. As a counselor, I know a multitude of coping skills, yet I chose not to participate in them. I felt hollow and yet, somehow, I was still functioning as a counselor to my clients. I began to notice that my clients were doing better than me!
Enough was enough – I knew something had to change: me. How was I ever to promote self-care to my clients without taking care of myself? I began take slow steps towards recovery… started with journaling my thoughts and emotions. I found that I was able to sleep a little bit better after emptying my mind. I started openly discussing my struggle with supportive colleagues, where they provided a sound board for me. I asked for a two-week hiatus from facilitating night groups to reduce my over-worked work load – which was granted. I began reading the book The Four Agreements that a colleague provided for me and I’m taking it to heart. I even received some of my creativity spark back from doing all of these self-care acts.
But of course, the largest step that I took in recovery was this: contacting a counselor! I am currently waiting for the counselor to contact me back to schedule my first session, but I am feeling a multitude of feelings – scared, nervousness, relief and excitement. Out of all those emotions, excitement is the greatest. I am excited to rediscover who I am. And that in a nutshell is why even I as a counselor requires a counselor! So, who’s your counselor’s counselor?