I dialed the counselor’s phone number into my iPhone. I distinctly remember my thumb hovering over that little green call button.
For about twelve minutes. Or maybe it was only seven. I don’t know.
I knew I needed help. The anxiety. The pornography. The panic. But to ask for help, for whatever reason, was, and still is… terrifying.
Better to go it alone.
Much easier to hide.
It’s what we’ve been up to since the garden.
I had just graduated from college and had become the youth director at a local church. Caught in a cocktail of perfectionism and people pleasing, I began to experience more and more anxiety. It started out as a twitch in my eye or restlessness in my legs, but it soon moved its way into the center of my chest and a racing mind that would have been worth betting on at the Kentucky Derby. For a month or so I could fend off the anxiety with a gin or three. When that didn’t work, I turned back to my faithful foe, a little pornography and the rush of oxytocin that I could depend on to hold me close in the loneliness of my bed.
But then there was the panic. One afternoon I was sitting in a meeting and I felt that all too familiar feeling of a tightening chest. I tried my best to take deeper breaths, but I just couldn’t get the air in deep enough. Even now, as I think about that moment, my palms start to sweat a little more than normal. I made it through the meeting and rushed home. I ran up the steps, took a left into my bedroom, and hid under the covers. This was my first full-blown panic attack: the tingling legs and arms, the hyperventilating, the weeping, and finally the exhaustion that led me to groan, “Oh my God. I need help.”
I felt so vulnerable.
It’s probably true, the last thing this world needs is another blog post about vulnerability. Millions of dollars have been made on that word. I suppose the word itself is probably close to riding off into the sunset. But at the risk of being redundant, here is what I know:
Asking for help is terrifyingly vulnerable.
And I’m not talking about “virtual” help. I’m not talking about social media vulnerability. I’m certainly not talking about the rehearsed vulnerability I’ve become accustomed to. I mean to reach out. To open up. To acknowledge to someone who is safe and who you trust:
“Here I am. This is the truth of my life. This is the mess. This is the brokenness. These are my fears and this is my shame. Will you please hold me? I need your help.”
What I now realize is that in the midst of my anxiety, my panic, my fear and my loneliness, I was longing for someone to hold me. I needed someone to throw their arms around me and pull me in tight, tight enough to hear the thud of their heart and feel the warmth of their embrace. The vulnerable and lonely places, the deepest and darkest places, needed to be cared for, held, and loved.
You, in the thick of your brokenness and beauty, are worthy of care.
You, in the thick of your brokenness and beauty, are worth being held.
You, in the thick of your brokenness and beauty, are made for love.
As I write these words, I’m sitting in the same office I once sat in for my first counseling session. I don’t know if it was twelve minutes or just seven, but I eventually hit that green call button on my iPhone. I’m so proud of that younger version of my self for reaching out for help. I’m thankful that even though my thumb was shaking, I had the courage to make that call. As I look to my left I see the brown couch I sat on seven years ago for my first therapy session. It was the beginning of a journey that has radically changed my life.
Let me be clear, my counselor didn’t literally pull me in so close that I could feel his heartbeat, and I haven’t literally felt the warmth of his embrace! But he held my spirit in the sacred place of my vulnerability. He held my story, my fears, my grief, my pain and my loneliness. Little did I know, that by hitting that green call button, I would be invited to live a different way. I would be invited into the vulnerable place of being open to help and allowing others to hold me in my need. Hitting the green call button was my invitation to the incredible journey of living wholeheartedly in the tension of real brokenness and profound beauty.
It is a terrifyingly vulnerable thing to reach out and ask for help. Whether it’s a friend, a parent, a spouse, a pastor, a coach, a mentor, or a counselor… I hope you’ll have the courage to make the call.