Tomorrow I have an interview. It will determine whether or not I am ready to start seeing clients. I think it is a pretty straight-forward interview without bells and whistles and certainly without the fear that comes with sitting in front of complete and total strangers. No, this interview is with my professors. Gearing up towards this stage of school, I feel myself questioning and evaluating everything I have learned about the practice of counseling-- both through the lens of being a student and through the lens of being the client. Since I have sat on the other side for many years, this practice isn't foreign to me and the importance of it certainly isn't lost on me. If it wasn't for counseling my dad would probably still be an addict, my parents would be divorced, and I would still be wondering why I keep beating my head against a wall. Don't get me wrong sometimes I still wonder/beat my head against a wall, but at least I am aware of it now. Through all of the years of being in counseling, I never once considered going back to school to be a counselor. I only started to feel the tug when I began to realize that I was doing myself a great disservice by not because after all, this is something that has profoundly changed and touched my life, so therefore; it would be lost on me if I didn't share it. But what is counseling exactly? What makes it effective? Why is it important? Is it important? And what makes counselors different from each other?
This is something I have been contemplating for awhile now, but more so within the past month as I have been researching theories, techniques, and different avenues of healing trauma. Yeah, I still have no answers, just in case you were wondering.
But, I think it's important for me to tell you that I'm also a yoga teacher. I started practicing when I had already been in three years of counseling and went into teacher training the same year my dad went into rehab, so for me, therapy and yoga go hand-in-hand. It is really hard for me to imagine one without the other because they've pretty much always existed alongside each other.
The first time I stepped onto my yoga mat, I had no idea what to expect. I had always been a runner figuratively and literally. Never did I imagine myself doing yoga.
So there I was, on a black mat, wearing a pink tank top that I had probably had since I was 14. I didn't have the slightest clue what the poses were. To be honest, I didn't even realize that poses were what we were doing. But, even in the midst of not knowing, I could feel myself shift. As I moved through the class it was as if a huge weight was being lifted and for the first time in my life, I felt like I could breathe, really breathe. Not just spit out shallow breaths, but really truly breathe from the deepest part of me all the way up into the most spacious part of me. I remember the teacher walking around the room. I can still remember hearing her voice land on my skin, while simultaneously sinking into my bones, "Don't judge yourself," she said. I could tell she meant it.
It was right then and there, that I finally had the courage to stop running. It was right then and there that my world paused and I was able to begin the process of turning towards myself (my pain, my fear, my joy, my smallness, my bigness), it was then that I began "the work," the deep work of understanding what it means to be human and accepting all the parts of my humanity that I learned to hide and reject with perfectionism.
That's what I did for a long time... I rejected myself with perfectionism. That's my recovery.
I drank perfectionism like a stiff vodka. No water, please, just give it to me straight. And no room for error mother f*cker, I got this.
Sooner rather than later, I couldn't keep up. I was tired. I was stressed. I was imperfect and I was ashamed.
Maybe that's why when I heard the words, "Don't judge yourself," instead of hitting me like a ton of bricks, it softened into me and, I could finally lay down my heavy armor, take off my running shoes and just be.
This wasn't easy and it didn't come naturally. I had always felt if I wasn't working towards something then how could I prove that I was okay? That I was worthy?
How could I eat my next meal if I didn't run to earn it?
How could I belong if I didn't pay my own way?
As you can see, this perfectionism influenced every part of my life.
I never felt worthy. And I really, really wanted to be loved.
But you know what? It never worked and I would always end up back where I started.
So now, as I sit here and rapidly type this, I can't help but think...
what could I possibly have to give people when I myself still struggle?
Then, I think back... to my yoga teachers, my therapists...
More than anything, these incredible people gave me the space to feel my feelings and the courage to stop running. Whether it was in a therapist's office or on a yoga mat.
Instead of trying to outrun all of my imperfection, what I needed the most, and what my teachers gave me was a place to rest.
No striving, no achieving, no backbending or handstanding. No medal. Nothing to gain. Nothing to lose.
Nothing to earn.
Just me. My body. My breath.
That is what I hope to offer others.
The courage to stop running and the strength to accept being human.