I went to Utah with plans, and when those plans imploded, I got an internship at FamilyShare. It was a good, respectable internship. I had a reasonable schedule. I was getting paid to write, which not every college graduate with a degree in English can say at two months post-grad.
I found housing with a quiet, respectful roommate and inexpensive rent. I even had a spot to park in a garage, which was incredibly appealing in the face of the oncoming winter.
From an outside perspective, I had it made. Everything was stable and solid and good.
Unfortunately, mental illnesses take notice of none of these things. I tried to keep up with my internship. I wrote content, I participated in team meetings, but every day, it was getting harder and harder to leave the house without crying because of the terrifying and discouraging prospect of having to deal with the world.
I realized I needed to quit the internship when I felt like I was doing myself and my reputation more of a disservice by continuing than I was helping myself. My supervisor was incredibly patient and understanding with me, but I felt myself slipping.
I decided to return to Rexburg in an effort to come back to the last place I felt like I was making progress. I wanted to go back to the counselor I had been seeing as a student. I needed to get back in the fight.
Many of the people who love and support me were very understanding of this decision and expressed admiration that I was able to recognize the state I was in and put myself and my mental health as my top priority.
Others hardcore did not understand what I was doing. Everything was being questioned.
“Why would you just give up a job like that?”
“How could you just leave a job without having another one lined up?”
“You really did not think this through, did you?”
“Why didn’t you just find a counselor in Utah? There are literally hundreds of them.”
I’d never really considered the answer to that last question until it came out of my mouth.
Counseling is not one size fits all. Every person will not jive with every counselor. Every treatment modality will not work for every person the way it works for someone else.
Example: EMDR. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is a trauma treatment method for PTSD. In short, the goal is to engage both sides of the brain (aka “bilateral sensory input”) through use of a light board or little vibrators in your hands called tappers in order to help your brain reprocess the trauma in such a way that the memory of it is less triggering. It has been shown to be effective for many people.
That being said, it was wildly ineffective for me. Where a normal EMDR session lasts about an hour with patients able to target several specific memories, my first session lasted two and a half hours, all of which was spent on one specific memory. I would liken it to circling a drain that leads to Hell.
Luckily, my counselor understood enough to know we needed to try something else, and it ended up being a great step forward in healing for me.
Don’t get discouraged if one therapist or medication or treatment method doesn’t work for you at first. If you’re buying a pair of jeans and the first pair you try on doesn’t fit, you don’t abandon the premise of jeans and decide you’ll wear a kilt for the rest of your life. If you don’t mesh with the first counselor you see, that’s okay. Keep seeking help. It’s important to know that the purpose of going to counseling is to actually receive help and feel like you are making progress, not just to be able to say you are in counseling so you can check that box on The List of Things To Be Cured. It doesn’t work that way.
When I made the decision to come back to Rexburg, I was in a rough spot in terms of the state of my head, and that did not seem like a good time to rock the boat and try to find a new counselor. I knew I had built a rapport with my previous counselor, I knew I could articulate my thoughts to him in a way he would understand what I meant, and I knew the trauma treatment method he practices was beneficial for me.
It was not that I didn’t think through what I was doing. It was that I recognized the need for me to prioritize my mental health above all else. I saw that I was an inch away from losing my grip, and I needed to somehow tie a knot to hang on to at the end of the rope instead of making it into a noose.
Don’t ever feel bad for making the choice that is best for you just because other people don’t get it. In general, people mean well, but they don’t always have the view of your life that you do. It’s important to make sure you know what YOU need to prioritize, not what everyone else thinks you need to prioritize.