Today's Q&A is on a personal note. I get asked now and again why I decided to become a counselor, and why I specialize in anxiety?
At the risk of sounding cliche I must admit yes, counseling was my calling. Seriously, it called for me since age 17. I have a distinct memory of talking with a girl my age, an acquaintance at best, and she was sharing with me struggles and challenges she was going through. I don't remember what I said or did, but I do remember her thanking me and saying very genuinely that I should be a counselor. That stuck with me always. So if this post should ever find you, thank you too! You affirmed for me what I only sensed was true.
I held on to that dream, but I didn't pursue it. My story was that I had a public speaking phobia and that I was not smart enough so I couldn't possibly go to college. I did try, but was told that I didn't take the right classes; just more evidence that I was right. Instead I went through life working various jobs. Some I loved, some not so much. I became a hair stylist and dreamed of being a stylist to the stars! But, I didn't think I was good enough and of course, the best part was talking to the person in my chair about their life. I worked in factories, grocery stores, a vet hospital; all the while trying to find my groove.
My dream would literally not leave me. I was plagued with recurring dreams of walking down the hallways of my high school crying because I missed out on higher education. I wanted to be a counselor for battered women and teen girls so, to compensate I became an advocate at the Victim's Resource Center. I loved it and I envied people who did this for a living! But again, always thinking: "I can't because..." I had a million reasons.
Turning 30 was the turning point. I decided it was now or never. The pain of not pursuing my destiny was more painful than any anxiety right? Besides, I will do what I do best, AVOID! I will avoid the classes that required public speaking, and if worse comes to worse I will have no problem accepting a zero for an assignment. As long as I get a C- that's all I need. I will figure it out like I always had since 1st grade!
So, I closed my eyes and jumped out of my comfort zone... WAY OUT! I unexpectedly experienced anxiety that I never felt before and did not know one could feel! And THAT, my friends is why I now specialize in anxiety.
My new story today is that my anxiety challenge was a gift. Instead of it being something that happened to me, I now see it as something that happened for me. I needed to breakout of my prison cell. The prison cell that I now know that I created. Since then I have accomplished things I never would have imagined and if you personally know me I bet we can converse about 1 or 100 terrifying moments of my phobic past! Do I ever experience anxiety today? YES of course I do! But, now I know that anxiety is not the scary monster it wants me to think it is.
I sometimes still dream at night of walking down the halls of my high school, but now instead of crying I'm just on to my next class.
Peg Haust-Arliss, LCSW-R is a certified cognitive therapist, strategic interventionist, relationship educator, board certified health coach and soon to be author.
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