Ty: “Huh. They really do have couches.”
When I entered a therapist’s office for the first time, I’m ashamed to admit the curiosity of “Do they really have couches?” had overwhelmed me in the days leading up to the visit. Under the surface, however, my preoccupation with couches was simply masking my complete and utter terror at the fact that I was going to visit a therapist in the first place.
Here’s what you don’t know: that first therapist’s visit came nearly two years before my Dad died. And I’m not, in the least, ashamed to admit it. In fact, I’m ashamed that I didn’t go sooner.
For a whole host of reasons, I was dealing with severe anxiety. A completely bizarre illness a few years back had scared and scarred me so tremendously that my mind had been consumed with a completely irrational thought—something that the doctors couldn’t explain was going to kill me.
For nearly 9 months, I slept about 3 hours a night, usually always interrupted. I lost weight because I couldn’t convince myself to eat. I would obsess over WebMD posts and online discussion boards in an attempt to diagnose myself with something that the doctors couldn’t (let’s save the “Don’t go on WebMD if you’re anxious” discussion for another post). I was distracted at work, I was distracted at church, and I felt so sad around my family because I thought I was leaving them soon that I disconnected and spent endless hours in solitude.
Until finally, I broke down. In a moment of weakness, I confessed all the anxiety to my Mom and Dad, and scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the next week. My doctor, in an effort to rid me of the dark thoughts in my mind, agreed to run every test imaginable to show me that I was perfectly healthy, which she did. She walked through the original diagnosis from the previous hospital stay, and confirmed the results of what the doctors had eventually settled on. And then, she gave me a different type of prescription.
“I think it would be a good idea for you to go visit a therapist. I have someone in mind.”
Enter Jeff Yetter—a man who God knew I would need in that moment and the many moments to come. At the time, I don’t think I quite understood why God was leading me to go see a therapist, and I definitely didn’t understand why He was putting me through this unnecessary storm.
Now, I have perspective, and just like my Bible has promised, God works everything together for a purpose. That period of anxiety led me to go see Jeff, and I’m convinced that God allowed me to experience that so that I would have Jeff in my life when Dad’s death would strike a while later. Even in the midst of the storm, God is always in control, and having Jeff in my life convinced me of that more than anything.
When I started this blog, I knew that I wanted Jeff to be the first guest post. Yes, because of his knowledge of mental illness. Yes, because of his personal experience with my story. Yes, because he is a clinician that can provide help to so many people who need it. But most importantly, I wanted Jeff to write because he is a man who cares. He is a man who counters every negative stereotype that might exist about the counseling profession. If all the people who hesitate to go to therapy could just meet Jeff, I’m convinced they would change their minds—and Jeff would help heal theirs. Hearing Jeff talk about my own experience gives me so much clarity, and his writing will provide comfort to so many people who are hurting or lost.
Jeff: Before I begin, I want to offer a “qualifier” to my effort here. This is my first ever blog entry. I’ve written professionally before, but never in such a precious capacity. When Tyler asked me to be a “guest blogger” in this space, speaking on such a personal and powerful topic, to say I was honored would be a tremendous understatement. I am honored and blessed to participate in this amazing undertaking, authored by a loving son who so tragically lost his amazing father. So, bear with me, as this is my first foray into the blogging world, and I want to do both Tyler and his father proud with my effort.
That First Visit…
When I noticed that Tyler Bradshaw was on the schedule to see me on August 1, 2013, I thought to myself, “Cool, Tyler is coming in. It’ll be really good to see him. It’s been awhile”. Yep, I’m a clinician, and I actually like my patients. Love them, really.
You see, I’d seen Tyler in the past for a handful of visits for some stuff he was going through at that time, and we had a good rapport, he seemed to like the therapeutic techniques I use, and we shared a love of baseball, so I was genuinely looking forward to “catching up” with him.
So, at 11:45am, I greeted Tyler in the Waiting Room, and escorted him down to my lower level office. As we greeted in my office, and before he sat down on my sofa, I could see that something was “different”. See, Tyler is a very warm and friendly young man. Not “phony” friendly or “overly-gregarious” to where you would doubt his sincerity, but genuinely friendly. Kind. Loving. The type of person with whom you immediately feel at-ease. Always quick with a kind smile and a genuine, “How are you doing?” But this day was different. The usual smile and friendly greeting were replaced with vacant eyes, desperately trying to hold back tears, and looking “distant” and “lost”. I said, in a voice that did not conceal my concern, something to the effect of, “Welcome back, brother. What’s going on?” And that’s when Tyler, this amazing, smart, kind, genuine, loving, and eloquent young man, began to disclose to me the details of his father taking his own life, just one week before this visit.
Tyler’s Dad?? What??? I found myself, a clinician of 20+ years at the time, trying to make sense of this, asking myself if I’d heard him accurately. But I could see everything in Tyler’s face. His friend, his mentor, his hero, his comedian, his confidant…his Dad, was gone, and in the most tragic and traumatic way imaginable. I know there’s a brief “Bio” of my academic and professional history below, but I can tell you as a clinician and as a human being that nothing, NOTHING, prepares you for what was being discussed in my office that day. And, I can tell you that, in an instant, my entire heart, mind, and spirit went out to Tyler and his family and everyone affected by this tragedy. And in that very moment, Tyler and I began what he and I have referred to as “our walk” through this heart-wrenching journey. A day at a time. A session at a time. Through tears, and pain. Through occasional smiles and a bit of laughter. All of it. This was to be “our walk”, and I am a better person for having accompanied Tyler thus far on this journey.
In this first guest blog, I wanted to give an account as to how Tyler and I began “our walk”, through this incredibly tragic and painful event in his young life. But as a clinician, I would also like to speak to the importance and necessity of reaching out for help.
Tyler has asked that I “guest blog” in the future, and as was the case in this instance, I am honored to do so. In future offerings, I will directly speak to “walking” through and seeking help during times when it does not seem possible to crawl, much less walk. But for now, I will say this: we are all hurting in some way or another. Our pain is “ours”. It is unique to us in that we are “experiencing” it. It is “ours”. We feel it ourselves, we behave relative to it, ourselves.
But we are not alone. We are never alone. There is someone who cares. Someone who will talk. Someone who will listen. Someone who will validate. Someone who will hug. Someone who will simply “be” with us. Family, friends, clergy, professionals—someone. You are never alone. Please do not hesitate to contact a local agency or office, if you are hurting. Talk to a friend. Someone. You are not alone. You matter, and you are worthy. And you are worthy because you matter.
Until we speak again,
“I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Ty: Jeff’s therapeutic approach helped me because he didn’t offer to snap his fingers and instantly make things better. He didn’t give me a list of five things I needed to do to make life better. He recognized the hurt, he validated it, and acknowledged that the pain was real.
But he did offer a remedy. Not a quick fix, not a magic wand, but something better. He just offered to be there. He offered to listen and give me honest feedback. He offered to pick me up when I got low and carry me through, “arm in arm” as he’s said so many times during our visits.
There is a stigma in our country, particularly among males, that this type of “arm in arm” walk somehow reveals weakness. More than anything, I want this post and Jeff’s future writing to reveal an important truth: Seeking help when you need it is one of the most courageous and brave things you’ll ever do.
I don’t fault my Dad for his death, but he was a victim of this societal mentality. My Dad, the man who deserved this type of loving treatment most, could never bring himself to seek it out. Ironically, our family doctor had recommended that my Dad go visit Jeff—the same therapist who is helping me in the aftermath of Dad’s death. I’m confident that Jeff and my Dad would have been great buddies, and wish they could have had the opportunity to meet. For both of their sake.
I author this blog for many reasons, one of which is to reach out to people who are suffering from mental illness to let them know that getting help from someone who deals with these issues specifically is of paramount importance. Reaching out to a counselor, like Jeff, in your area could be the difference between a lifetime of darkness and finding the light. Yes, my Dad’s story here on Earth didn’t end the way we wanted it to—but yours can have a different ending. Your loved ones can be different. In future posts, Jeff will do so many things to help us all have a better understanding of mental illness, grief, God’s love, and so many other things. But in this first post, let’s all agree that when we need help, no matter the public perception, we will ask for it.
And in case you needed more convincing…the couches are super comfortable.
Dad, I would never fault you for the sickness you experienced, but I sure wish we could have gotten you the right treatment you needed. You had so much to live for and experience, and I know that Jeff could have helped you fight off the demons and doubts you were facing. I’m still learning from you even after you’re gone, and because I love you I promise that I will always get help when I need it. I’ll never let my emotions overwhelm the plan God has for my life, and I’ll always encourage other people to get help when they need it. If nothing else, you would have loved talking baseball with Jeff. I’d give anything to see the two of you meet—and someday you will. But for now, seeya Bub.
“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:7 (NIV)
Jeffrey Yetter, M.Ed., LPCC
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
Jeff Yetter has practiced in the field of counseling and psychotherapy for the past 24 years. He has worked in both the public and private sector, and is currently in Private Practice in Middletown, Ohio. Jeff has also been an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate School of Counseling at Xavier University. Academically, Jeff completed his undergraduate study at the College of Mount Saint Joseph (now, MSJ University) in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. He completed his Master’s Degree in Agency and Community Counseling at Xavier University. He completed his Post-Master’s Endorsement in Clinical Counseling at Xavier University as well.