Conrad Showalter is a counselor here on campus. I had never seen a counselor before coming college and thought I didn’t need to. However, after coming back from SST and being diagnosed with a heart condition that ultimately ended my days as a soccer player, I reluctantly went to see the school counselor in order to appease my nagging mother.
The first time I met with Conrad, I swaggered into his office as if I were Matt Damon himself in “Good Will Hunting.” Like an angsty teenager, I sat sullenly with my arms and legs crossed, ready to roll my eyes sarcastically and scoff pretentiously. I don’t need to ‘talk,’ Mom. After all, I’m not crazy, I said in my head.
“What can I help you with?” Conrad began, with a pleasant look on his face.
He thinks I’m crazy! I thought indignantly. I gritted my teeth. I’ll show him crazy. “I’m sad because…” I put on my best sad face. “…because my imaginary friend Wilson the volleyball stopped talking to me.” I looked out of the corner of my eye, ready to burst out laughing at his stunned reaction.
Surprisingly, his face didn’t change at all. He was completely unfazed. I tried again, certain I could get him to crack. “…I’m self-conscious about my lack of facial hair, and so sometimes I fantasize about waxing my eyebrows and using the hairs as a mustache.” I had to cover my mouth to hide my smile. Still nothing.
I’m telling you, this guy was stone cold serious. He just sat there, that stupid pleasant look on his face, taking notes, nodding, a “mmm” here and a “mhm” there.
There was no way someone could be that understanding. It was time for the gloves to come off.
“I’m sexually attracted to fruit – no! Lima beans! And, uh, I like to paint weird symbols on the walls of my dorm room, I’m an active member of the Illuminati, and I want to kick a puppy just to see what it would feel like!” It took all of my acting ability to not bust up laughing. But Conrad sat there, calm as ever, pleasant faced, studiously taking notes.
Was there nothing that this guy hadn’t seen??? It didn’t take long for me to realize how awesome ‘Rad Showalter is.
Counselors help you process past experiences: joyous ones, confusing ones, ones of desperation. For example, on SST in Peru I found myself in a pretty desperate situation.
I was living in a Limeño neighborhood whose water cut out every day at 9 p.m. My house had the VERY strict rule to not go to the bathroom during the night. One night at 3 a.m. I go to the bathroom not thinking, and what do you know, I clog the toilet (I blame the anticucho).
The toilet couldn’t flush, there was no plunger, and I couldn’t ask for help because this was the SECOND time I had broken the rule. What did I do?
Let’s just say desperate measures were taken in a desperate situation and leave it at that.
I know, I know, you’re thinking Phil, that’s not traumatic; you don’t need a counselor for that! You were just being stupid.
In my defense, if you found yourself at 3 a.m. in a Peruvian bathroom pulling turds out of a toilet, you would have an existential crisis about your life’s purpose and meaning too.
All this is to say is that mental health shouldn’t be stigmatized. You don’t need to be “crazy” (whatever that means) to see a counselor. People like Conrad help you to catalogue the unfolding narrative of your life, offering insights and new perspectives that help you to learn more about yourself and where you’re headed.
I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: The only thing laughable about mental health counseling is masquerading through life pretending YOU don’t need it.