I pulled my car into the parking lot, turned off the engine, and thought about my next step. I could leave, I didn’t have to go in. I hadn’t paid anything up to this point. I was tired from a long day of work. Only a few minutes earlier, I had let out a massive yawn. I was on my last legs. I would lose nothing leaving. I could come up with an easily-believable excuse about skipping. It wouldn’t take much effort.
No, I told myself, casually pounding my fist on the armrest to make my point: “I owed it to my wife and kids and to myself to go in.”
I thought about my choice some more and then I made my decision. I got out of the car and walked into the office. It looked like your typical medical office building. I could have been walking into see my dentist or to my family doctor for my annual physical.
I walked into the main entrance, took a left turn, picked up the forms that new patients needed to filled out and took a seat. The forms took only a couple of minutes to complete. I finished up by scrawling my signature on the back page.
I then waited for my first talk with a therapist. Yes, a therapist.
From Point A to Point B
My company has an employee assistance program (EAP), a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving personal issues. EAPs traditionally have assisted workers with problems like alcohol or substance abuse; however, most now cover a broad range of issues such as child or elder care, relationship challenges, and wellness matters.
Programs are delivered confidentially at no cost to employees by therapists or psychologists for a select period of time. Services are often delivered via phone, video, online chatting, e-mail interactions or face-to-face.
I’ve read about my company’s assistance program for years and never really thought much about it. I suggested it once as an option for a team member experiencing some problems after the death of a family member, but I never gave it much of a thought for myself.
Over the past year, however, I haven’t liked the way I’ve handled a few work-related stresses. Oh it hasn’t been anything big, I haven’t gone off on any drunken binges or come home forgetting where I was the night before, nothing dramatic like that. I just haven’t liked the way I’ve dealt with normal day-to-day deadlines and tension. I’ve let the challenges eat at me piece-by-piece, instead of rallying around the small wins and seeing the good in people and life. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worried and anxious about this deadline or that. I’ve been short and quick tempered with my family simply trying to help me. Finally, I haven’t been as resilient as I would like to be in overcoming setbacks or challenges. To add to my situation, I’ve put on some extra pounds and haven’t been taking care of myself like I should.
An idea worth pursuing
So when I saw an off-chance mention of the assistance program on my company’s intranet site, I thought maybe this time I should investigate. Like I wrote earlier, I felt that I owed it to my family to improve the way I’ve been dealing with life’s daily stresses.
When I called the next day for information, I came close to hanging up, but somehow stuck on the line. I had never gone to a therapist. I had never even thought about going. Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors and any other ten cent word in the synonym family were for people with serious emotional and mental problems and personality disorders, schizophrenics, obsessive compulsives or people with multiple personalities. Therapists were for alcoholics and drug addicts. They were for couples with marriage problems.
They were for other people. Not me.
Despite all that, I took the first tentative steps setting up the appointment and stepping foot into the therapist’s office. After a short wait, the therapist greeted me and we went into her office. I looked for a sofa, but there was none to be found. Every stereotype that I have ever created from watching years of bad television and movies was blown to pieces. Instead, there were just two overstuffed chairs. We chit-chatted at first, nothing big, before she questioned me on my medical and personal background. And then we simply started chatting. Each visit from that point on has been about the same: a back-and-forth casual conversation between two acquaintances that has gone in a million different directions.
What have I learned about myself
For someone, so tentative to admit they weren’t perfect, I’ve certainly had no problems getting my money’s worth from this experience. I’ve come to count on the sessions. If nothing more than to reflect on my week; the ups-and-downs that we all experience; and to make sense of the little things that make me tick.
I’m coming up on my fourth and final free visit. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- I’ve always known that I’m a perfectionist. I have high standards for myself. But, I’ve started to see how my perfectionist traits and my tried-and-true response mechanism to try to outwork any problem that confronts me can lead to problems. As difficult as it might be for me sometimes, good enough has to be just that, good enough.
- There’s amazing power in listening. We love the sound of our own voices, but do we ever listen? Do we listen to our significant others? Our friends? Our hearts? When I listen to my heart, I’m a much saner person.
- I’ve become much more appreciative of my family and supporters. The little things make a difference and too many times I, like many people, forget to say thank you to those who love us the most. Without their support, I would be lost in the wilderness.
- Giving yourself a break is a must. Pampering yourself, self care, whatever you want to call it, is no joke. Life is too hard, it’s a contact sport. Life will punch you in the mouth and knock to the ground if you’re not careful. We all need a little support to get through the good and the bad.
- We forgive others, we need to forgive ourselves too.
A decision to make
So where’s this leave me? I’m grateful that my company has an employee assistance program. I’m grateful too that I’ve put my sensitive ego aside to take advantage of a benefit that will help me for years to come.
I’ve learned much, but now I have a decision to make: take everything that I’ve learned and go on my merry way or continue to see the therapist, but now on my dime. My EAP program paid for four free sessions. If I continue, I’ll need to start paying for the service.
I need to think more on the decision but I will say this: When I first called about the program, I figured it would be a one or two visit thing. I would get what I needed and be gone. I’ve gotten more out of the experience than I ever thought I would.