Submitted by a CHAI supporter who wishes to remain anonymous
I’ve never been ashamed to say I need help. Growing up kind of tossed around continents like a badminton shuttlecock, I knew that I was undeniably confused, and wanted solace while all the wild things kept happening around me. I always prided myself as a person who has brilliant ideas, but the implementation was often disastrous. I guess God gave me enough sense, somehow, to realize that maybe I should listen to some other voices besides the conflicting ones inside my head.
Before I moved abroad, I had my first experience with counseling. I’d always been trying to talk to my teachers about my troubled and often violent home life, but when I started middle school, I discovered they actually had a real live guidance counselor! My over dramatic, over sensitive, pubescent-self absolutely adored this guidance counselor. She was sweet, smiling and soft-spoken – the antithesis to my warring South Asian family – and always willing to listen. I skipped classes sometimes to fling myself on her couch and burst into tears; I remember she once said “I wish I could keep you here safe instead of having to send you home today,” while I cried. Her cheerful support got me through a very confusing year… I never forgot her.
The following year, against my will, I was living in a small town in South Asia, away from everything that had been a comfort and familiar to me. There were no guidance counselors. Teachers minded their own business because they were often somehow related to your family, and principals cared more about enrollment numbers and their school’s good name than family “drama.” I longed for someone to understand me, to advocate, support, teach me how to do this, but I couldn’t find that person. I kept trying, however, to either be that person to others, or find someone who would “get” me.
One of the first things I did when I was able to return to the US, was to enroll at a 4 year university and find the university counseling center. I almost did it on auto-pilot… I was determined to find the equivalent of my guidance counselor. Granted, at that time I was not really looking to make changes in my life – life had thrown enough curve balls at me – I just knew that I needed to talk. When I entered the counseling center, it felt right. But when I saw the counselor assigned to my intake session, suddenly my throat constricted.
“Help. I need help,” I managed to whisper after a lot of hesitation.
“What do you need help with?” she asked impassively, expressionlessly.
I began telling her what had happened to me in my eighteen years of life. That intake session turned into a 5 year relationship, one that strengthened and calmed me, giving me perspective, hope, lessons about life and love, a huge dose of reality, and the idea that finally, someone had my best interest at heart with no ulterior motives or hidden agendas. Through this experience, I learned the meaning of trust. I never looked back or thought about counseling negatively, although many of my friends and family have tried to “warn” me over the years about it. Granted, I know counselors are not perfect human beings, but counseling has been the saving grace of my life. Through on and off counseling for the past 15 years, I feel like I finally have a different life – one that would make my middle school self proud.