In 2016 after much contemplation and many life changing events I decided that I needed to seek professional help and sought out the guidance of a therapist. It was truly one of the best decisions I have ever made in life!
What Exactly Made Me Seek Help and Start Going to Therapy?
Was I Afraid?
I was terrified and nervous and just so afraid of being judged when I pulled into the parking lot for my first therapy session. I can remember calling a friend and coming up with every excuse in the world not to go in and thank God my friend talked some sense into me and encouraged me to follow through on my commitment to be the best version of myself that I could.
What was it like?
So my first session was surprisingly very emotional. The therapist/ psychiatrist asked me a set of routine questions and explained the rules to me. The rules were very straight forward and if I chose not abide by them she explained that our relationship would be terminated.
Rule One- no consecutive cancellations, meaning I could not cancel or miss appointments one after the other.
Rule Two- I had to be completely honest with her about everything. She explained that if she were to be of any benefit I COULD NOT LIE. This made me nervous not because I planned on lying but because of course like everyone else on the planet there were things I had never shared with ANYONE that I would be sharing with her. She comforted me by ensuring that there was no judgement from her end but that she would be honest with me in return based on her professional evaluation.
Rule Three- It gets worse before it gets better and if I wanted to see the results I wanted in my life I would have to stick it out through the process. After she went over the rules she then asked me to tell her about myself, my family, how I grew up, how I saw myself and my life and what I wanted to accomplish through my sessions with her. This was a very emotional process. Things I did not know would come up came up and I cried, cried and cried. Once I finished telling her my story she asked me a few more questions and before I knew it our 45 minutes was up. After that first session I felt lighter and could not wait to make my next appointment. I continued therapy with her for about 3 months (a total of 4 sessions including my first session). During our last session she told me that she really did not see a need for me to continue to return on a consistent basis unless I wanted to.
The time I spent with her was very helpful and allowed me to put A LOT of things into perspective in a very short amount of time. Fast-forward to 2017 and I began experiencing a lot of stress on my full-time job with a difficult manager and sought the guidance of a counselor via my employers Faculty Staff Assistance Program. I met with her consistently once a month for 4 months and she helped me to strategist and implement stress management practices into my daily home and especially my work life. The tools I gathered there help me to this day.
How Much Did it Cost?
Thankfully for me therapy was very affordable. After my insurance paid their portion for the private therapy sessions I was responsible for $55.00 each session. The best money I have ever spent. The FSAP counseling was free.
What Did I Learn?
Through both forms of counseling I learned to take responsibility for my thoughts, actions and patterns. I learned that I cannot control anyone else’s perspective or behavior but can control my response and how I allow myself to feel internally when things happen. I learned that my well-being is my business and that I cannot give from an empty cup. I know these all sound like cliche sayings BUT the truth of the matter is that these are some very hard facts to implement into your life if they are not common practice or if you have not be taught to know and believe them.
I also learned the importance of implementing a self-care routine and ritual into my daily life. Without doing so I honestly don’t know where I would be today. I had developed the belief that putting myself first was selfish and that I needed to take care of everyone else before I thought about myself or what my needs and desires were. This is a recipe for disaster for anyone. Especially someone like myself whose life at that time was dedicated to helping people get through the worst times on their lives day after day after day.
I learned that I was very non-confrontational and that confrontation is not a bad thing when approached correctly. I struggled with speaking up for myself and to be honest at times would allow myself to say yes when I meant no or be put in situations that I was not 100% comfortable with. This is not a positive thing or feeling for anyone. I learned the importance of setting up emotional boundaries for the sake of my own well-being, mental and emotional sanity. I learned that I have to set a stopping point for myself which was hard for me and took a very long time to implement. I also learned that it’s okay for me to not always be okay. Through my experience working with those who were grieving I had convinced myself that because no one had died I should not feel sad or complain about anything in my life. If I was not happy with something it was minute in comparison to going through what my clients and their families were experiencing so I needed to put on a smile and push through it. Lastly, I learned that I need to pace myself. I tend to want everything to happen all at once and by not giving myself the space and time to develop mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and entrepreneurial I was causing myself to chase my tail for a lack of better example.
How Am I today? How has therapy made me a better funeral director?
Today, I can honestly say that seeking the help of a trained professional and going to therapy was the BEST decision I have ever made in my life. To this day I utilize the tool I gained in therapy to manage stress, remain consistent with my self-care routine and live a much more balanced and joyful life. I am still learning not to allow myself to become weighed down by things that are out of my control and to confront issues in my life head on even when they are uncomfortable or difficult. I am more honest with myself about how my experiences impact me and because of this I have deeper and more meaningful connections with those around me because I don’t always feel as if I have to say yes or go along with things I don’t agree with. I am more confident and just over all a better person. Therapy helped me become a better funeral director because now I relate to those that I interact with from a position of my glass being all the way or nearly full. I can give and receive on deeper levels which enables me to emphatically connect while being true to my pre-established boundaries.
If you or someone you know is having a hard time managing stress, going through difficult life challenges or looking to resolved deeply rooted issues that are weighing you down I would strongly suggest reaching out to the appropriate mental health professionals and take advantage of their gifts and services. There are several free resources available online and a quick Google search may lead to the mental and emotional freedom that you are seeking.
Joél Simone Anthony, also known as ‘The Grave Woman,’ is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is dedicated to eliminating misconceptions about post-life preparation while stimulating an open, honest and straight forward discussion about death. You can submit your comments, questions and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using our contact page.