Carolyn Hax: Therapy is not sign of weakness

The Washington PostJune 4, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: My husband, an amazing man whom I love dearly, believes I am still hurting from an abusive ex-boyfriend. My husband thinks professional counseling could help me release the hurt and anger that seem to haunt me.

It took me over a year and half to breakup with my ex, and I've rebuilt my self-esteem and taken back my life. To an outsider, I'm a strong, accomplished pregnant woman with a loving husband, family and friends. My blessings are many, but occasionally a memory of my ex hits me. Do I really need counseling?

SCARRED

"Occasionally a memory … hits me" describes not a haunting, but a fact of life after trauma. No amount of strength or blessings or counseling will wipe away all traces of pain.

On the other hand, I'm concerned about your concern for appearing strong and protecting all besides your spouse, and your implication that seeking professional help is some kind of emotional 911.

Therapy is not an admission of defeat, or a desperate last resort; it's just 50-ish minutes with someone trained to diagnose and treat emotional illnesses and injuries.

Carolyn: So I just yesterday got some fairly crushing news in the romance department, and now face four days of being around family and friends when my inclination is to curl up on the couch.

PUTTING ON A HAPPY FACE

No matter how strong and healthy the relationship was - or in this case, wasn't - there's always some departure from some valued part of you when you're in a relationship. It's just a fact of cooperation.

So, use this bad timing to lean on your people and restore those parts of yourself. There is no better source for reminders of who you are, and specifically who you were pre-relationship, than family and friends. They knew you skinning your knees, making dioramas, whispering secrets, before you were reshaped by your own self-control.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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