So there it was, my birthday, and I’d just endured an hour and a half of traumatizing dental instruments poking mercilessly into my gums, when I decided to drive two blocks over to the Christian Counseling Center. My heart was already as traumatized as my mouth, and in preparation for an appointment with a therapist I had paperwork to collect.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some pretty rough run-ins with counselors in the past and so my heart was already on edge. This was the place, after all, that cooly told me I could have my first appointment a month out from when I first contacted them for help. A month! I should have said I was a 9 or something when they gave me that scale of 1-10.
“On a scale of 1-10, how severe are your symptoms?”
“Um. Wow. I have no idea how to answer that. I mean, I’m going about my daily life pretty well. But it’s just that I keep crashing into these things in my heart and mind that I can’t get past–I mean, I’ll end up crying for hours at night or being re-traumatized by rather benign events. I don’t know what to say. I really need help; I’ve exhausted my tools; I want to see someone as soon as poss—-“
“Okay, how ’bout a 5?”
So anyway, there I was, already intimidated because of their general lack of concern, and because of the memory of a rather unhelpful counselor in the past, pulling into the parking lot of what appeared to be a former bank. Drive through and all. No flowers. Not a shrub. Nothing welcoming, just a big brick building and dark, high windows.
Appearances can be deceiving, right? I mean, yes, if I were a counseling center, I would plant flowers and have trees and little hidden alcoves amongst shrubbery, little fountains and bird feeders, inviting paths of healing. But alright, this is Lawton, Oklahoma, and I get it.
But then I walked inside and I’m telling you, it was a silent as… as… as I don’t know. An old cathedral? You could drop a coin and I swear you’d hear it reverberating against every wall an window. The waiting area was shadowy and utterly still. A married couple sat with a great space between them, staring at their hands. Silent. A mother and her child sat opposite, erect, eyes on the ground. Silent. My heart thudded in my throat. No music! No trickling water! Nothing to take away from the immense awkward silence of an already intimidating waiting room, littered with broken people!
Throwing my shoulders back and singing in my head, “not gonna cry! not gonna cry!” (all while giggling to myself as I imagined suddenly flinging to the ground and having the meltdown of a toddler just to see what would happen), I approached the counter. And I kid you not, there was a glass window between myself and the woman on the other side.
“May I help you?”
Well yes, yes you can. Let me just tell you what I need while every ear in this room is listening intently.
Oh man. So anyway, I got out of there, but I’m still left feeling like this isn’t exactly a great start to a counseling experience…