I grew up in a home where my father believed, “you wash your skin with soap and your soul with prayer.” The “Mool Mantar” played at 6:00 p.m. every night on Jus Punjabi was like a melody that soothed away all our tension from the day. I also grew up with a mother who believed that heaven and hell were right here on earth and there was no paradise.
Living with two parents whose ideas about God were completely different did not, surprisingly, make me confused about my relationship with God. It only helped me decide where I stood in the line between my faith in God and the realities of my every decision. When was the moment I stopped thinking God had all the answers, and that maybe my therapist was the person I prayed to? It was college.
Lord please bless my family with openness…
My family had tried therapy once—it began and ended on the same day. Family therapy is not the best way to begin the healing process for us. So, we quit. My father was not supportive of the idea of sharing his family issues with a stranger and my mother did not feel supported in the meeting. After our attempt at “trying,” my parents arrived at the conclusion that therapy just doesn’t work.
I thought otherwise.
[Read Related: “Dear South Asian Parents, It’s An Illness, Not a Mindset“]
Fortunately, before I went off to college, I formed relationships with several adults (other than my parents) who I could open up to and seek advice from. However, it was not until I went to college that I realized I would benefit from speaking to a professional. I was lucky to attend a university which offered counseling services, but it took a while to get over the taboo of Indians don’t go to therapy. I felt like I was betraying my family’s trust by pouring my feelings out to a stranger—but the more I poured, the more my sadness drained out of me.
…with freedom to let each other grow…
From the time I was in middle school through my freshman year of college, I prayed every night. I prayed to several gods and memorized many prayers. In fact, I couldn’t fall asleep if I didn’t pray–praying was my lullaby. I had found it hypocritical to call on God’s name during my cries for help and not during my moments of gratitude and forgiveness.
The real test is when you lose faith in God—then where do you go? Where do you go when God takes your friend? Where do you go when God takes your mother, sister or child?
[Read Related: “‘Ask Again’: Deepika Padukone’s Powerful New Video Brings Attention to Mental Illness“]
…in sharing all our joys and sorrows…
To my father, when the need for answers or help arose, God should always be the one you call on. For me, God became a thought deferred and was replaced with someone who was able to help me make sense of things I didn’t understand, someone who helped me grow from where I felt stuck: my therapist.
He became my journal. He held my prayers and then said them out loud to me in languages I couldn’t decipher on my own. He would say, “So, when you say ________, why does that matter to you?”
By speaking and sharing my inner truths out loud, therapy brought me into a light God simply hadn’t yet led me to.
…with love no matter what, no matter where.
My therapist taught me several things in the four years I spent with him. The biggest lesson was to accept the situations I had been placed in and to understand that they happened, they are real, true, and ever present. Then, he taught me to love each part of my sorrow as they were, not as I hoped them to be. Lastly, no matter what, he helped me see the choices I had, even when I didn’t think I had choices.
Although I have ended therapy, I can’t help but wonder where I would be if I just turned to God in my greatest time of need instead of attending therapy. Would I have made the same decisions I did? I’m not sure, but I do know that the door of curiosity for God and therapy are still left ajar in my life, and that’s okay.