A New Church Home??

So in my post a few days ago…..it was called “Why Would I Feel Guilty?”…..I mentioned that I tried out a new church. Well, I went again yesterday, and I really, really am feeling a connection…….I’m going by myself, which is scary in itself, and it makes me anxious beyond belief, but everyone there has been so welcoming, so nice…..and it didn’t feel like that fake nice you find at some churches…..where they say hello and say you’re welcome to ask any questions etc but then are never available when you need them. Well, last week one of the Pastors of the church, Dave, called me on my cell phone because I had filled out a guest form during the service and he was just calling to thank me for coming and to see if I had any questions etc. I did have questions…..I wondered what types of groups or activities they had that were for young adults in their 20’s and 30’s…..but I also had another question that I was too scared to ask while on the phone. SO he answered my questions about the young adult groups, and he said I could meet with him after the service yesterday to talk more about them and he could introduce me to people. I said that would be great. About 2 hours later I realized I really wanted to ask the tough question that I was scared to ask earlier on the phone. So I looked up this pastor’s e-mail address on their website and I emailed him. I told him about how I was treated at my old church after the diagnosis of mental illness came along, and I basically just asked if it was going to be different at this church. I said I didn’t want to go to a place where I was going to feel like an outcast…..like at my old church….just because I have scars on my arms and I take psychiatric medicines.

We talked after the service, he told me that as humans we all treat each other in ways that aren’t always right. He said he couldn’t speak for the whole church, but that he knew he wanted to learn more about mental illness and walk with me on this journey. He said he was pretty sure that would be the view of others at the church. This made me feel really good, I know that he can’t speak for everyone, and I know he can’t say it will be different…..that was a big question for me to ask, to put on him to answer….but for him to say he wants to learn more, to walk on this journey with me, and then to say that I could and should come to him if I’m ever struggling with the way I am treated or whatever, or if I’m struggling in general and that he would help me to help myself. This in itself is a complete 180 from how people were at my old church. At my old church it was people saying they were there for me but when it came down to me needing them no one ever was there…..with the exception of my good friend Sally, who works at the church and is a member there too. This new church I feel this inner excitement….like I can’t wait to be there again, to hear the message, and to just see everyone smile, hug each other, and it feels like I can’t wait to be more involved and I really truly believe this is going to be my new church home for a long time to come. I haven’t felt this excited in a long time….like it’s an overwhelming feeling of I can’t wait. ….. like a little kid who was told they are going to the candy store later in the day…..well from the time you tell them up until they actually go….that excitement is bubbling up inside.

I feel like God has perfect timing. Like He knows exactly what’s going on in my head, my life, and deep within me…..He does know these things, and He has been pushing me to go to this church for a long time…..but for some reason I just wasn’t going….until last week, when I felt like it was now or never, and I woke up with this sense of peace over me….yeah I was anxious, but I was ready……God truly is an awesome God.

 

Burned to Ashes

I mentioned in an earlier post I was going to burn the letter my therapist had me write to my uncle (he’s dead now) who sexually abused me when I was a kid. She had me write the letter as a way of helping me to let things go…..not “Get over” but help me move forward, gain back the control that he has had on me for my entire life….even after he died.

Well, yesterday during my session I actually remembered to bring a lighter, so we went outside to the alley way and I lit it on fire inside an old Christmas time popcorn tin lol. It was the only thing I could find to burn it in ok? 😉 Anyway, I thought I would cry during the whole thing, I thought the emotion would be completely overwhelming and all that…..but instead, I fell silent. I felt like I was finally showing him who’s boss and after it was done burning I went over and I kicked the tin…..hard….then went after it and kicked it again. I felt this sense of release, and relief. We went back up to my therapist office and we talked about how I was feeling, what I had felt and what I was thinking about at the moment. I just said I finally felt this sense of control….like I was proving to him I was better than he was. A sense of control I have never really felt in my life….I had racing thoughts about what this all meant and what was going to happen now, or if he was watching and what he was thinking…..but it was ok. I wasn’t scared, I was content in many ways. I started crying in the office about 10 minutes before my session was over…..I honestly had never felt that in control of anything ever before, and knowing this was the start to taking back my life, my mind, my everything……it was a bit overwhelming, but amazing at the same time.

That Moment 

That moment when you don’t know why, but you just feel like crying, but your eyes just won’t. I have no idea why this is happening right now, this morning has been ok. Mom and dad came home from vacation last night so I’m not alone anymore, but for some reason, in the last 10 minutes I just got this overwhelming feeling of depression. I just want to cry, but can’t. 

I hate mental illness. 

Why Would I Feel Guilty?

I was raised Lutheran. When I was little, up until I was in 5th grade, my parents, sister, and I went to the church my dad grew up in. It was a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. When I was in 5th grade and my sister was in 7th grade we switched to another Lutheran Church closer to where we lived because my sister was going to be starting Confirmation classes and it would just be easier. So we switched to an ELCA Lutheran Church…..still Lutheran, but the services are a bit less formal/ strict. That’s the best way I can describe the difference. Anyway, this church became our church home and I had friends there, made new friends, and became very involved. Eventually, I myself went through confirmation and then once I reached High School I  was in the youth group. I went to Leadership Lab, a ELCA leadership camp every summer, and I went on missions trips and retreats every year, along with youth group each Sunday. I fit in there. I felt comfortable. Then I went away to college, and this is when my mental illness “came out” and people found out about it….including my parents. Well, let’s make a long story short and lets just say, aside from a couple people, people at my church were not the most supportive. I felt like an outsider walking into that church and aside from that there was a lot of political stuff going on within the church too. I mean, we got a new pastor, he had different views than what the congregation was used to and things were changing dramatically. On top of all this, people were treating not only me differently, but my family too. They just weren’t the most supportive of any of us. So for the last couple of years my parent’s and I have not really been attending church. Though, people at the church still have no problem calling and asking me or them for help with things or whatever. Now that I have been off of the emotional roller coaster of going in and out of psych hospitals and things like that for about 4 years, I have found that people at church who turned away from me, or ignored me, have had no problem asking me to help with things like VBS or I even had someone ask me to teach sunday school again……even after I haven’t been to a church service there for over 2 years. I have a problem with this. A major problem….it’s like my parents and I are only contacted or reached out to when the church is in need of something, not when we are struggling and could use them reaching out to us as a community of prayer or support. No, the pastor at the church didn’t even come to see me in the hospital unless my good friend Sally “suggested” it to him. It was like me having a mental illness scared those who I thought were a church “family” away.

Anyway…..The reason I told you all that was because lately I have been feeling this lack of community, lack of belonging, and loneliness. I still have my faith, I still have belief in God and every day look for Him within the world; but even the bible says to not go at it alone, that we should worship together, and be one with each other. I have been longing for a church community again. So for the last probably 2 months I have been telling my therapist that I wanted to try out this church that I drive by every day on my way home from work. They have 3 locations, but I wanted to try this one out because it was closest to home and a bit smaller than the others. I had looked up their website and saw they were a more contemporary non-denominational church and that they offered different things for all age groups…..including young adults like me. So I’ve been really anxious about going. Really not sure about going to a church that’s non-denominational…..as I was raised Lutheran so I’m used to more formal worship services etc. I kept putting it off, coming up with excuses why I didn’t go and I finally went today. I went by myself to the 8:30 am service. I was scared to death. Scared of walking into a community of people I don’t know, I have never been around, and that would be worshiping in a completely different way than I have ever been used to. Well, I sat in the back row, just in case I needed to leave, and I listened to the music, the sermon, and even introduced myself to others during their greeting time. I was scared going into this because the way I was treated by my church family at my old church was completely wrong. It didn’t represent Christ or how He would want His children to be treated. I was scared going into this that if someone saw the scars on my arms they would know I had a diagnosis, and then they would not want me there at all. I have these fears still, that this new church will not want me because of my past, my diagnosis, and all that. But today, during the service, I began to relax a little bit. I felt a little sense of peace, like this could really be a good thing for me. Like I need to give it another chance. Like I want to give it another chance. I know the way I was treated at my old church wasn’t the true picture of Christ, and I want to believe He will put me in the presence of the right people who will only help me to grow and see Him more every day.

The reason I titled this post the way I did was because now that I am home after trying this new church, I had this feeling of guilt. Guilty that I left the church I was raised in, and that I was walking away from them. All this guilt from trying a new church ONE time. That’s not God…..no this guilt is coming from satan and he is trying to break me down because I am presently trying to build my faith and become closer to God. I really shouldn’t feel guilty for leaving a church of people who hurt me so bad. I shouldn’t feel guilty for walking away from those people who turned their backs on me when I needed them most. I want so bad for this new church to work out. I trust it will, and I am excited for that.

Let it all out

A couple of days ago I told you all about the letter I had written to my uncle, who is now dead, but had sexually abused me when i was little. I wrote the letter as a way of taking back the power, the control. On Tuesday at my therapy session my therapist and I were going to burn the letter together, as a way of tangibly letting go. Well, I forgot to bring matches, and so did she lol. So we will be doing the burning of the letter next week instead. So, since we didn’t get to do that during this last session, we talked about the letter, the feelings that went into it, the feelings it brought up, everything. I told my therapist I wanted her to read it. She read it before I got there, which was fine. I wanted her to read it because I wanted someone to know exactly what I said to him, what I had been through. I wrote in the letter details I have never been able to say out loud, and I needed her to read it and know that stuff so she could support me through this process better, by being more aware, so she wouldn’t have to necessarily ask too many questions….she would just understand better. AND….I wanted her to be able to hold me accountable to what I had said in the letter…..things like “I’m taking back the control, and not letting you (uncle bob) have control over my mind and life anymore” I need her to stand by me on that, hold me to it, not just have it as something I said I was going to do but never really get there. By her reading the letter she can help me to help myself and help me to gain control over my life again. I’m nervous about burning the letter next week, but in some strange way, I’m looking forward to it. I feel like I will be able to literally see all those bad things turn to ash and go away. I think it will in a sense be freeing for me. I hope it will.

Tattoos and mental health

This tattoo I got in 2 stages….first I just had the words, and then later, I decided I wanted the butterfly and the flower’s to go along with it. I wanted to start covering the scars I had from self-injury. I chose the words I did because Christ is my savior and I have a strong faith. I wanted to have the daily reminder that even in the hard times I need to trust Him. I chose the butterfly because of what is called the Butterfly Project. It’s a way to help people stop cutting. here are the steps for the Butterfly Project:

1. When you feel like you want to cut, take a marker, pen, or sharpies and draw a butterfly on your arm or hand.

2. Name the butterfly after a loved one, or someone that really wants you to get better.

3. You must let the butterfly fade naturally. NO scrubbing it off.

4. If you cut before the butterfly is gone, you’ve killed it. If you dont cut, it lives.

5. If you have more than one butterfly, cutting kills all of them.

6. Another person may draw them on you. These butterflies are extra special. Take good care of them.

7. Even if you don’t cut, feel free to draw a butterfly anyways, to show your support. If you do this, name it after someone you know that cuts or is suffering right now, and tell them. It could help.

I wanted to have a butterfly that would never fade….one that I could “take care of” and that would help keep me from cutting…..This August 12 will mark 4 years of no self-injury for me.

tattoo

 

This is the tattoo I got this past November. I got it to help cover some of my self injury scars. I chose a mandala because I enjoy coloring mandalas as a coping skill….it helps calm me down, brings me into the moment and helps me to stay mindful. Now I have this on my arm as a daily reminder that I don’t need self-injury and that I can get through the moments when I have those thoughts or urges. I just wanted to share a picture of this on here. And to answer the questions some of you reading are probably asking….the tattoo on my wrist says “Joshua 1:9” and that bible verse is as follows: “Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” This was my confirmation verse in 8th grade, and now is a verse I use as a guide every day of my life.

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I have had my doctor ask me if I was using tattoos as a form of self injury….and it’s true, some people do use tattoos for that reason. But not me. No I am using my tattoos for a purpose, to tell a story, to help me to keep going. My tattoos are daily reminders of things I can do instead of self-harm, things I need to trust and reminders of my purpose in life. People ask me about my tattoos, and most of them probably don’t expect the stories that go along with them, and they usually really don’t expect the plug for mental health awareness that comes with my explanations either, but that’s ok, because I’m helping myself, and I’m helping others by being an advocate for mental health awareness and a stigma free society.

I’m Scared, Angry, and a vast amount of other emotions

I had some time to write yesterday, but I didn’t write all I wanted to. I didn’t write what I’m about to. I didn’t let all the emotion that is inside me out. I’ve said this before, but the reason I’ve been writing on here instead of in a personal journal that I keep hidden in my room is because I can 1. type faster than I can write and I am able to better keep up with my thoughts, and 2. I feel like a journal that I keep to myself is just another form of keeping what’s inside, inside. I don’t understand what the point of that would be if there was no chance of anyone reading it. I feel this way I am fully letting things out, releasing it. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone…..but it does to me and that’s all that matters.

I think I mentioned in a different post that my therapist had me write a letter to my uncle who sexually abused me when I was younger. He has since died….in fact he was murdered when I was 11. We have been slowly working through the topic of the abuse and writing this letter to him was a way to let out some of the anger, the thoughts, and fear I have kept inside. Well, I have held on to the letter for weeks now, up until last week that is. Last week I gave the letter to my therapist, and today, during therapy we are going to burn it, together. We are going to release all that negative, all the anger and all the emotions by burning it and getting rid of it for good. I’m looking forward to doing this….but at the same time….I’m scared to death. I’m scared and I don’t even know why. I feel like I’ll get in some sort of trouble…. by who? I don’t know. I feel like I don’t know what I’m going to feel when we actually do it. I’m scared of what emotions it’s going to bring up. I’m angry at my uncle. I’m angry in some ways at my parents and grandparents for not noticing it was going on……angry at myself for not speaking up. I feel like a bad person. I feel like a dirty person, like I’m unlovable and unwanted. All these things I feel because of my uncle Bob and what he did to me.

This past week while I was at work, I went on facebook and I saw I had a new message waiting for me. I checked my messages and it was from someone I never expected to get a message from…..ever. It was from my cousin….Archie….my uncle Bob’s son. He wanted to know how I was, how life was and he told me what he’s been up to. He said in the end that he didn’t like that it’s been over 15 years since we’ve had contact and that “family is important” and he wants to link up on facebook and keep up with each other. He asked about my parents and my sister and I honestly had no idea what to say. I had thoughts of “what is his motive?” “What does he want?” “What trouble is he in that he needs help out of?” I thought about my uncle and how my mom says he did what he did to me to Archie and his brother’s too. Does Archie know he did it to me too? Why is he contacting me and talking all as if we had been in contact for years? I just got really confused. I told my dad, he said just take it slow and see what happens…..mom was excited, she has wanted to be in contact with him and his brothers for years, but always felt like she had to leave it up to them (I don’t know why, I didn’t ask either). It’s just putting this stress on me like, what is going on?!? I feel all the emotions from processing through the abuse in therapy already, and then all of a sudden this message comes up ….. what kind of timing is that? I mean, I get that I can’t hold my cousin accountable for what my uncle did to me, like I said, it was done to him too. But for some reason, I feel angry, confused, sad, stressed, and so many other things I can’t even describe. I had sorta just put him, his mom and his brother’s out of my mind, out of my life, they live on the other side of the county already, so it’s not like we’d be getting together anyways. It’s just been easier to live as if they aren’t even there. Now though, this happens. I can’t just pretend like I never got it. I’m not that type of person. But I really don’t know if I want contact with him either. What do I do?!?