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Help for the Hurting

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

by Dave Gunderson, Intern


Many years ago I heard a funny story that went something like this.

Joe had terrible headaches that began at the front of his head and went to the back of his head.  A visit to his doctor and a series of medical tests could not explain the physical reason for his headaches.  His physician suggested the possibility of a psychological problem as the cause of his headaches, so Joe decided to talk to a mental health counselor.

The counselor carefully assessed Joe and concluded he did not have any kind of psychological problem that explained the headache.  He suggested Joe talk to his pastor.

He had a good conversation with his pastor, and together they agreed that Joe was in a good place spiritually. At this point Joe was nevertheless a bit frustrated.  No medical explanation, no psychological explanation, and no spiritual explanation existed to explain his headaches.

A frustrated Joe decided to go for a long walk through town.  On Main Street he saw the local clothing store had a big sale, and he thought it would help him feel a bit better if he did a little shopping and got himself a new suit.

The salesperson visually sized Joe up and said, “I see you are a size 42 long.”  Amazed, Joe indicated he was correct.  “And your pant size is a 36 inch waist with a 32 inch inseam.”  Joe stated that the salesperson was correct.  “Now let’s find you a shirt with an 18 inch collar.”  “You are wrong there,” Joe said.  “I wear a 16 inch collar.”  The salesperson shook his head and said, “That would not be good for you,” the salesperson said.  “You would cut off some of the blood supply to your head and you would have headaches that would start in front and run all the way to the back of your head!”

It’s a funny story, and I hope it made you smile or even laugh a bit.  Laughter is like a good medicine and can help lift our spirits when we are down.  As I write this I am observing my granddaughter playing and laughing. Her joyous laughter helps lift my spirits.  However, laughter cannot erase the source of one’s suffering, which leads me to my second reason for this story.   

Suffering comes in a variety of ways. We sometimes experience physical suffering created by an injury or illness.  Sometimes we experience emotional or mental suffering caused by a traumatic event, a difficult relationship, stress at work, and so on.   In some cases a mental health issue is connected to a physical problem. 

The bottom line is we all suffer.  But how we handle that suffering is the key.  Some individuals handle physical pain by simply getting along with the pain or taking a pain medication like Tylenol.  But sometimes that is not enough, and the skilled help of medical professionals is needed.  

The same is true with those suffering from mental health issues.  A bit of exercise, a walk in the woods, a good book, or a conversation with a friend or partner might be just the ticket to feeling emotionally stable and good.  But sometimes that is not enough, and the skilled help of a therapist is needed.

In our story, Joe’s problem was solved by simply changing his shirt size.  Every now and then we discover that a problem has a quick fix solution.  But that is the exception rather than the norm when it comes to psychological and relational challenges we all face.  

At River Counseling Services and Sioux Falls Psychological Services we meet you where you are, offering hope.  We can help you when life’s challenges have become something more than you can find your way through alone.  You may schedule an appointment with the Platte office at 605-337-3444, or meet with one of our Sioux Falls Psychological Services therapists from your own computer or smartphone.  To schedule an appointment please call 605-334-2696.