special to the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center, July 2017
By Billie Wade
Counseling is a gift accessible to most people who want to explore and transform their lives. My experience with the gift of counseling spans several decades as a client as well as a seven-year stretch during which I sat in the counselor’s chair as a chemical dependency treatment counselor. I was a counselor in counseling, which is imperative. Counseling provides a safe place to explore my inner world and help me reframe the outer world. Counseling is a gift I receive on my journey of self-discovery. Counseling frees me to voice my deepest thoughts, confront my most pressing problems, and receive feedback, encouragement, guidance, support, and reflection.
The eldest of three children, I grew up in a turbulent home. At age thirteen, I wanted counseling, but my mother refused, thinking counseling was for “crazy” people. My family doctor prescribed “nerve pills.” Shortly after my fifteenth birthday, I experienced a miscarriage. I graduated from high school at age seventeen and married a year later. At the age of twenty-two, I attempted suicide. My husband ridiculed me. The medical staff in the emergency room told me not to do it again and sent me home. In my mid-twenties, my doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression. Thus, began my rounds with counseling and medication.
Counseling helps me detangle the tightly woven threads of confusion and shame that I’ve protected for years. Counseling helps me face the challenges as I confront the issues of my life. Counseling helps me gain clarity about the events of my life. I can see options as I learn to look at my life from a new vantage. Talking with someone I trust helps me see a problem as it is. Unless I share my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and opinions, they go unchecked. I think I am right and I may be wrong, very wrong. My counselor validates my process by encouraging me to explore my experiences and feelings.
Counseling has carried me through many difficulties. Family of origin. A difficult marriage, and divorce. The birth of my child. My return to school as an adult learner. A career change. Loss of two jobs. Loss of identity. Grad school. Forced retirement. The deaths of my parents, sister, and partner. I could not have walked those dark hallways alone. I’ve needed a nonjudgmental person who could see all of me, help me recognize patterns and blind spots, and cheer me on in my growth.
Counseling has helped me see other people differently as I bring my own life and behaviors into perspective. I more readily see that we all have something to offer each other. People I find abrasive or unpleasant may hold valuable lessons for me if I give them the opportunity. Likewise, I have wisdom and insight to share. I am now more prone to consider the difference between responsibility and fault.
I have learned to respect my needs. Despite societal messages to the contrary, seeking professional counseling takes courage. It takes courage to look in the mirror and accept that we need the guidance, support, and encouragement of another person. It takes courage to pick up the phone and stay on the line long enough to say, “I need to make an appointment.” It takes courage to show up the first time. It takes courage to lay one’s life in the lap of a stranger.
My journey led me to the door of Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center when the organization was on Ingersoll, then to Westown Parkway, and finally to the present location. Most recently, the Center has seen me through the past four years as I faced life-changing losses on several fronts.
I am grateful for the gifts of counseling and the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. Peace to everyone.
Billie Wade is a gregarious introvert whose primary interests are writing, lifelong learning, personal development, and how we all are affected by life’s vagaries. Issues facing black people, women, the LGBTQ community, and aging adults are of particular concern to her. She enjoys open-hearted dialogue with diverse people. The opinions expressed here are her own.