He just left.
Smiling as he walked out the door.
“Say hi to Erin for me” I said.
Jack, my oldest son, is heading to counseling. He’s home from college. He just completed his first semester at Marquette University. I asked if he wanted to check in with Erin our counselor.
“Yeah, of course, Mom.”
Counseling. It saved me. It saved the boys. It saved us as a family.
Counseling gave us a safe space
It gives us a safe space to share our fears, pain and hopes. It has given us tools to communicate, makes us aware of what we are feeling is normal and validated that I was not going crazy in my grief.
It started two days after my husband died. Six years ago a counselor named Doug, a complete stranger, walked into my home and helped me tell the boys their father died by suicide.
This man. Doug had nothing to gain. He had compassion, empathy, wisdom and his professional training to give.
I was desperate. I was terrified.
I had to do something I knew would destroy my children and this man silently gave me the courage to say the words. To be honest. To tell a 9 and 12 year olds how their father died.
When your leg is broken you see a doctor. When your mind is broken why wouldn’t you want to see a trained professional? The unknown? The fear?
It keeps so many away from caring people who can help guide you back to good. Back to peace. Back to loving yourself. Family can’t do that. Friends can’t do that.
Counseling offered us clarity and calm
Our brain is a tricky thing. When it is filled with fear, anxiety and chaos it can’t be clear. Counseling offers clarity. Offers calm in the storm.
The boys and I left our hometown in Wisconsin a year and a half after my husband died. The memories, the stigma, my depression and grief were swallowing me whole. We needed change.
I was not running away from my old life, I was running to a new life. We needed peace. We needed to heal. I needed quiet. I looked at a map of the United States and knew I had to find a place with good schools, a beach, four seasons and the energy you feel surrounded by the hustle and bustle of people.
We moved to a town where we knew only one person. I asked two friends from New York where should we move. They both said Fairfield, Connecticut. I gave away most of my possessions, packed up our things and moved one month before my sons started high school and 5thgrade.
In May of 2017 I gave a speech in my hometown in Wisconsin. I hadn’t been back in two years. The boys and I flew back to Wisconsin and in front of 200 people I told my story. I shared it all.
I was nervous. I was scared to share. I did it.
I did it to honor how far the boys and I had come. I did it to shed light on suicide and depression.
I did it to honor my husband… his struggles, his pain and his life and love for the boys and me. I did it to raise money for women in need of counseling.
And most importantly I did it for Doug. To show my gratitude and thanks to the stranger who volunteered to walk with me through the darkest, most terrifying moment in my life.
Our first stop at college was the counseling center
When we arrived at Marquette for orientation, the first table we went to was the counseling center table. I wanted Jack to meet the counselor and know where the center was located on campus. For himself and for any of his friends who may need it.
College can be stressful and lonely. Anxiety and depression are real and our college kids should not have to silently struggle when help is available. College campuses offer free tutors. Many offer free counseling as well.
If you have a child in college, do they know where the counseling center is on campus? Have you talked to them about the resources available to them if they are feeling stressed, anxious or depressed?
I know mental health is a difficult topic for some. But we need to talk about it.
Counseling. It saved me. It saved the boys. It saved us as a family. It could save you or someone you know, too.
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