There’s No Such Thing As “Being Prepared”

I let you all know I was going to be going to the first support group meeting for women survivors of sexual abuse. Well…..this past Tuesday was the first group. The Saturday before, I had an appointment with my therapist and I was feeling really good about going to this group. I felt……prepared…..ready…….confident. Then Sunday came, and Monday, and my anxiety started getting to be more and more. I relied on my good friend, talking to her a bit, and I relied on Ativan too….I can’t lie. I was getting nervous, but still felt like I could do this, like I knew my nerves were going to be there, but they didn’t have to get in the way.

Then Tuesday came…….I worked and worked and worked. I didn’t take a break at all that day. I felt like if I kept myself busy all day then maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t think about the group that night, or my anxiety wouldn’t get any worse. I took another ativan, which helped. Keeping busy helped to an extent. I got off of work at 4pm and the group wasn’t until 6:15pm. So I called my dad, who’s office was halfway between my work and the location of the group, and I told him I was going to get some dinner and just bring it to his office and eat it there, and then sit there for a bit before heading to the group. I did that. I got my food, went to my dad’s office, and started to eat. I was so hungry because I hadn’t eaten lunch that day. However, it didn’t matter how hungry I was, my body was responding to my anxiety. I took a few bites and felt like I was going to throw up. So I gave my dad the rest of my food and just sat there staring at my phone as if I would actually remember what all I was looking at.

The time went soooo slow. But finally the time to leave my dad’s office and head to the group came. My dad knew where I was going and could tell how anxious I was. He gave me a little dad to daughter pep talk, letting me know he was proud of me and to take a deep breath, that it would all be good. I felt better after that. I drove to the group with my window down and my music up trying to distract myself and my mind. I got to the location and just sat in my car. Going back and forth with myself saying “you can do this, you are strong, you got this and it’s going to be good”  and then saying “no you can’t do this, you don’t deserve this, you aren’t worth this, it’s going to suck” and so forth. I sat there for what felt like an eternity, but was really only about 10 minutes arguing with myself and trying to gain the courage to get through those doors.

I finally got myself out of my car and into the building. I felt my face getting red, and I sat in the waiting room with 3 other women who at that point I didn’t know were there for the group also. The group leader came out and got us all and brought us to the group room where there were positive quotes and paintings on the walls, which I’m assuming were done by previous group members during some activity or something. I sat down, and when I finally found myself looking up, I looked across the table, past the person directly across from me, and saw a painting on the wall with the words, “Just Breathe”, and I knew I had to be breathing, but I wasn’t being mindful of it at all. I took a deep breath and finally was able to focus. I realized the group had started, but to this point I hadn’t heard anyone saying anything because I was so focused on my own anxiety.

We talked about a lot of heavy things. About our self-esteem and how the abuse had affected it. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I realized I didn’t have much positive self-esteem at all, that I don’t see my own worth.

We talked about the fact that the perpetrator of our abuse doesn’t deserve to have the power over us that we unconsciously give them. They were wrong, they were the ones who made the decision to do what they did, and we are not at fault. This was a really hard thing for me to even think about let alone grasp. I still am not at the point where I don’t blame myself for a lot of what happened to me, even though I was only a child, I feel like I should have stopped it. I know, it’s messed up.

When the group was over, I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, and in some ways, proud. I was processing everything we had talked about. I was thinking about the people who had been there, who have also been to previous groups and are further along in there recovery than I am. I thought about how I want to get to that point, but I also realized those people gave me hope. Hope that it is possible to get through this.

I went home that night and literally went right to bed, and fell asleep the fastest I have fallen asleep in a long time. I was so emotionally exhausted from everything over the last few days. I still had nightmares, but I have a feeling over time with this group and the healing that will come from it, those nightmares might, just might, get better.

There’s one last thing I want to mention. On Sunday before the group, I was in my class at church and I brought up the fact I was anxious about this upcoming group and that I would appreciate prayer. I shared the reason I was going to the group, which I haven’t shared with a lot of people in general, and the whole class stopped right then, a few put their hands on my shoulders, and they prayed for me, in that moment. They let me know they supported me, loved me, and that they would be praying the whole time for me. I can’t tell you enough how much that meant to me. I haven’t felt the way I did in that moment before. I felt like I was completely wrapped in God’s arms and that He was 100% with me and in me. It was amazing. I can’t explain it. I appreciate my church family so much. I appreciate my best friend, who often will pray for me also, and who lets me vent and laugh and cry with her.  And my family, who may not understand, but they love me through it. I don’t know what I would do without any of these people.

“Dear younger me It’s not your fault You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross” -MercyMe

So it’s been a few weeks since I was able to sit down and actually write out everything that was going on, and give you all an update. So here we are, I have some time, and I want to fill you all in on my life. (I like how I write this as if so many people are actually reading this blog…..when in reality there really aren’t that many that I know of haha) This post may be a bit less organized than normal…..I just have a few different things to tell you about and they don’t all really flow together.

Anyways, the last month or so has been a bit rough. My therapist was out of the office for close to 8 weeks because she had some surgery and things weren’t healing as they should …… blah blah blah……yes, I was worried about her, but I really don’t need to know the details …..I just wanted her back to have that constant in my life where I knew I could go, let it all out, cry if I needed and feel ok when I left. Selfish? Possibly, but that IS why I go to see her. Do I consider her a friend in many ways? definitely, but first and foremost she is my therapist, and it just is. It was hard having her gone. We have over the last few months started diving into the whole topic of the sexual abuse by my uncle when I was little, and we had just hit some big points when she told me she was going to be gone for 4 weeks due to surgery…….which like I said, ended up being 8 weeks because of complications. I felt completely lost, I felt like I was left hanging on the ledge waiting to fall off and trying desperately to hang on by myself. I have a great friend who I know I can talk to about anything, and I trust her with my life, but this topic, well, it’s taken me almost 5 years with this therapist to even START to bring it up and work on it. It’s nothing against my friend, it’s just I’m not ready to just talk to anyone about what happened and how it makes me feel. I hope that makes sense. Anyhow, while my therapist was gone I went and saw my psychiatrist. I told her about my therapist being gone and all that, and she gave me a PRN prescription for Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication I have only taken one time in the past. I have tried it a few times, and let me tell you, I am so glad I have it and do not have to just keep trudging through high anxiety on my own. I don’t over use it. In fact, when my therapist did come back and I told her I had gotten it, she told me she was more worried about me NOT using it when I really should than me abusing it.

My therapist came back 2 weeks ago. It was a good session, but then I was going out of town the following week so I would miss our appointment. So I saw her again yesterday, we started back into the sexual abuse stuff. Then, at the end she tells me she won’t be in next week and we will not have an appointment until the following week. It’s just so screwed up right now, and I hate it. I don’t know why I put up with this……….actually I do. I put up with it because I have finally found a therapist that when we talk she doesn’t make me feel like I’m crazy, but she listens to me and says things like “It’s ok you feel that way, it’s not wrong to feel the way you do” or she’ll say things like “I’d feel the same way if that happened to me” or “you can’t do this by yourself, and you shouldn’t have to. That’s why I am here, it’s my job” and she lets me know I can do this, she encourages me, she treats me like a normal person. She understands, and she doesn’t just see me 1x a week and then forget about me throughout the week until our next appointment.

I was in Nashville with my dad last week, that’s why I had to miss our appointment. Nashville was really fun. Going to the Johnny Cash Museum, the Grand Ole Opry, The Riverboat Cruise, seeing some old friends, and just being with dad. Dad is a huge support for me, he is not only my dad, he’s my friend. He just gets me. We joke with each other and have fun, but know when the other needs us to be serious too and we support each other. This time with dad was one I will treasure forever. He’s a special guy, and he is the best dad one could ever ask for.

Last night was the Spring benefit for the organization I work for. It was alright. I mean, I’m not, and have never really been the dress up and go to fancy events type person. I was there most of the day setting up and all that and then got back early to help welcome guests and register people for the auction and everything. It was a really beautiful event, and the people who worked their asses off to get this all organized and set up deserve a long vacation and a raise for sure. There were close to 300 people there and over 100 items between the live and silent auctions. It was a good fundraiser for sure. I was really happy my best friend was there and we sat next to each other making our little comments and faces at each other and just had a good time. Overall it was good, long, but good.

So something else I wanted to bring up was the fact that the last 2 weeks when I was out of town I missed church. No big deal right? Well, I didn’t think it would be noticed I wasn’t there, so I didn’t let anyone in my adult Sunday School class I’d be gone. Well, last week while in Nashville, and the week before while in Wisconsin, I received text messages from people in my class saying things like “We miss you in class today” or “We hope all is well and you’re missing class for a fun reason!” It just felt so good to be noticed, to be thought of.

Easter Means You Can Be Free

“In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” – 1 Peter 1:3

So tomorrow is Easter, and it’s got me thinking about my faith, my life, my situation, and everything to that extent. I’ve been thinking about a dear friend who I know is struggling, and I want so badly to help. I’ve been praying for her every hour on the hour, and asking God to just be close to her, love on her, and show her grace and give her mind the peace she deserves. I know she’s going to read this blog, and I’m ok with that. I tell her whenever I have a new post. Honestly, she’s the only person who knows me who knows I have this blog and who I let read it. She is an amazing person, coworker, and friend. She gets it, understands when I say I just don’t feel good today, or whatever. I hope I am at least half of the friend to her as she is to me. ….. Anyway……my point is this. Jesus died on the cross, for us, all of us. He will rise again tomorrow and He will reign over the earth from heaven and no matter what we do He will always love us and protect us. Easter is the time of year we especially remember these things. I realize every year right around this time, just how small my life situation is compared to what Jesus’s was and what He did for me. He didn’t go to therapy, or ask for others to help him fix things, no, He took on what was going on onto His shoulders and told the people to come to Him with their problems, that He would carry their burdens for them. Wow……how amazing is that? How amazing is it that we have God to rely on always? That we can at any time call on Him and He will take our burdens and carry them for us? I know I can never be this for anyone, but I do know God gave me the ability to listen to others, to my friends, family, and even strangers, and to in a way take their burdens but not carry them because I can help give them to God by praying for these people. Prayer is such an important thing. Prayer isn’t just a complaining session (though it can be at times, trust me I know) but rather prayer is a conversation with God about what’s going on, not only the bad but the good and praises too. This is why I have been praying for my friend specifically lately, because I want to help her to the best of my ability, but I know my abilities are not as great as Gods abilities and I know He can hold her in His arms and help her to see she isn’t alone, she has a purpose, she is a good mom, friend, wife, and human in general. I know He loves His children so so much, this was proven when He went to the cross for us all. Easter is a time where we as humans, sinners, can be free of it all ……all our burdens and fears and hurts and sorrows, but it’s also the time we become free of our sins, and we become His. We ARE His, He is our father, and what a great Father He is.

I believe, and have hope in Christ. I have this faith even with everything going on in my life, the mental health issues, the uncertainty, the pain, the anger and frustration, the depression, anxiety, nightmares, and everything else that comes along with living here on earth. I have hope in Christ, even on my most hopeless days, and I am so grateful for Him and the power of His word, and how He works through others here on earth to show me just where I stand. He shows me through the lives of others the abilities I have, the good things I have in my life, and He shows me at times my purpose…….even though I have a hard time believing it all the time, I trust He knows what He is doing and I cannot ask for more than that.

I love to look out the window and see all the trees budding, the flowers blooming, and the sun shining. How amazing it is that even the slightest breeze on my face is an image of God and His amazing love.

I hope you all have an amazing Easter, and if you aren’t a Christian or if you don’t celebrate Easter, I hope you have an amazing day and that you can stop for a moment and just look around you, notice the small things, and take it all in.

If Only People…..or I, Could Understand

I wrote some about this in my last post, and I’m not even sure if anyone even read it because I didn’t get a single like on it. I’m not here to get likes or shares or follows or whatever, but I’m here to share what’s going on in my life and hopefully gain some much needed support from others who understand….. and when I didn’t get any likes on that last post? Like I said, I just didn’t know if anyone even read it at all. I’m not going to groan about it, that’s not my purpose here, I’m just here for support. 

Anyways, the last couple of weeks have not been that great emotionally for me and I honestly couldn’t tell you why. Besides my therapist being gone until April 15th, nothing major or whatever has happened. I don’t like to think I rely on my therapist, but I’m finding right now I definitely look to her for the most support and as a sounding board. I didn’t realize how much I look forward to seeing her each week and just talking and working on things, it’s a release and it’s working. The last 2 weeks while she’s been gone have been really hard. My nightmares are vivid and frequent and the suicidal thoughts have increased from just passing thoughts to actually sitting and thinking about how I’d say goodbye to people, how I’d leave things so as to make it easier on those I leave behind. See, I don’t want to die because I’m not loved, I know there are people who love me, it’s just that I can’t seem to love myself, I can’t seem to believe I’m worthy. I won’t do anything, I promise. I just am stuck in this depression cycle. 

There are some people at my church who I shared just a little bit with; about the nightmares and how they are happening more and all that. They have been praying for me, and they told me they have been praying every day since I told them. I find it so hard to beleive that I am worth enough to them that they would take the time to do that. Wow. 

My new job is going really well, I’m enjoying it mostly (of course there are things I don’t like too) and I’m starting to get into the swing of things better. 

Thank you too, all of you who are reading this, as I write here because I don’t feel alone. It’s not like a diary in the sense that no one ever reads it, but I do use it as a journal in what I actually write, and I want people to read it, it makes me feel heard not just like I’m writing in a book to hide. 

I don’t know if any of that makes sense or even means anything to anyone. Anyways, I hope you all have a great night. 

When The World Is Completely Overwhelming And A Scary Place To be….But You Can’t Escape Into Your Own Mind Because It’s Just As Scary.

I wake up each day and I sit and I watch the morning news. I hear of people getting shot, by cops, by family, by gang members or people on the street……I hear of teachers striking and kids losing out on the education they deserve. I see homeless people on the streets with a cup for change, I see people walk or drive right past them, myself included, hesitant to even make eye contact. I sit at home and hear my parents arguing, my mom crying asking why she’s even here. I hear her tell me Illinois is not where she wants to be……even though her family is here. I see my dad working his but off every day to provide for myself and my mom, and to take care of his own parents who are aging and in poor health. I question what it is I’m doing in my life. Where am I headed in life, do I have a purpose, a future, and skills to lead me to a job later on that will not only meet my financial needs of living, but my emotional needs…..will it help me to reach my goals, my meaning.

All these things go on daily, and the violence and everything, I can’t just ignore, but somehow it seems as if I am. I seem to have become immune to people killing people, to people living on the streets, and arguing in the house. I, along with the rest of society, have seemed to become immune to it. We all seem to pass it all by, say things like “I can’t fix it, someone else will.” Or we try to ignore and escape it by going into our own heads, places of calm and relief. Heh…..yeah ……I wish I could say I could escape, even just for a moment, to my own little world in my head, where things were calmer, more purposeful and peaceful. I can’t say that though. Because when I try to escape to my head I find a world of anxiety, depression, and fear of the future and my well being. I start questioning where I am in life, where I think I should be and where I am compared to others my age. I start thinking about ways to make the anxiety settle down……self injury is always the first automatic thought, and then it’s hard to get rid of. I drive to work, and pass railroad tracks, on a good day I just ignore them, on rougher days I think about parking my car on the tracks, or walking on the tracks with headphones on so loud I wouldn’t hear a train coming. These are things that even though I am in recovery from mental illness, they show up daily. I use my internal energy to convince myself those aren’t things I want to do…..some days it’s easier to convince myself than others……and I am constantly trying to live with a purpose……but I’m not always so clear on what that purpose is.

Why would God put me on this earth during the time He has. Why am I living in a world where it seems things are crumbling around me, what is it God wants me to do? How am I, just one person, supposed to make a change? How do I change the world around me when just trying to change the world within me is so hard? I don’t know. I don’t know why, and I probably never will. All I know is This is the world I’m living in, and I need to live daily for Christ and if I do that, then His purpose becomes MY purpose, and that is truly a wonderful thing.

Ok Ok….I know I’m bad at keeping up with this…….

I know, I know. It’s been over 2 weeks (almost 3) since I wrote last……I have thought about it a lot, just haven’t had the time to actually sit and write something. So here we are.

The last 3 weeks have been busy. Between work, family, church, and more work, I haven’t had the opportunity to let you all know how things were going. Let’s start with work…… I work for a non-profit organization that helps to provide resources and end stigma towards mental illness. It’s called NAMI…..National Alliance on Mental Illness. I work as a peer specialist. So what that means is that I have a diagnosis of my own, but I have been stable for over a year and I have been trained to help mentor other’s in their recovery. That’s the basic definition of my job. I meet with clients on a one on one basis and help them set recovery goals, talk about their struggles and help to give them hope that it is possible to come out of the hard times. I’m not a therapist, but like I said, a mentor. Well, one of my clients let’s just say has been VERY open with me about some very personal things……to the point where it was making me really uncomfortable, I had to set boundaries, and then those boundaries weren’t respected. I met with her for the last 4 weeks, and this past week I had to tell her I wouldn’t be able to meet with her any longer because she wasn’t respecting boundaries and so forth. She will be meeting with a different peer specialist from this point on. It was really hard for me to set the boundaries, harder than I expected it to be, but it reminded me of how far I have come myself, because it wasn’t that long ago that I was in a place where I didn’t set boundaries at all, I didn’t have enough respect for myself to do so. I’ve come a long way from where I was, and I can honestly say I’m proud of where I gotten to.

At NAMI I don’t just meet with individuals on a one on on basis, but I also work in what’s called the Living Room. It’s an ER alternative for individuals who are experiencing heightened symptoms, or are near crisis. It’s a place to help reduce the use of Emergency Rooms for non-safety threatening mental health crisis. I work in the Living Room 18 hours a week. I really am enjoying it, and working with/ helping other people who I know are feeling like I once did. I also do public speaking for NAMI. I go to hospitals, schools, police trainings, and churches and share my story of living with a mental illness and gaining recovery, and I share resources provided by NAMI and others in the community for individuals and families affected by mental illness. I truly can say what I’m doing is making a difference…….and I don’t say that in a cocky way, but in a humble way, because I only know it is true because of people coming up to me telling me it affected them, or helped them. It’s an amazing job that I wouldn’t give up for the world.

I say I wouldn’t give up this job for the world……all while over the last 3 weeks I have had a couple break downs over the fact that I am 30 years old, living at home with my parents, and only working 18-25 hours a week, unable to support myself to live on my own. I feel like I should be so much further along in my life…..I compare myself to others my age and I feel so inadequate. I understand I have been through a lot more than most my age, I deal with a mental illness, and I am working towards a full time job, but it’s so hard sometimes not to look at the world around me and feel so far behind. I have had a full time job before, but the stress of it got to me so bad that my symptoms came back full force and it caused me to relapse and end up back in the hospital. This is why I am working part time at the moment, so as to slowly add hours on to eventually get to full time, just I have to do it slowly so as to not evoke the symptoms and a relapse. I want to take my time to make sure I am staying healthy throughout the process. It doesn’t make it any easier, in fact I sometimes feel like I’ll never get to where I want to be in life, where I feel I should be. I just have to keep reminding myself that I need to trust God to guide me to where He needs and wants me to be.

Speaking of God, the new church I have been going to has been going really well. I have been going every Sunday, and I even joined an adult bible study (not sure I mentioned that in an earlier post or not). I go to the bible study, which is sorta like adult Sunday school, during the time of the early service (8:45-10am) then I go from there to the next service which is at 10:15. I have really been enjoying the worship, fellowship, and just the community around me. I am starting to get to know people more and feel more relaxed in my surroundings, and I can honestly say it has been refreshing in the sense that I look forward to going each week, I can sense God in the environment and worship, and I just really feel welcome and like I belong there. I feel like it’s a place I can go when I am doing well, and when I am not, that I won’t be judged for what’s going on inside but instead I will be surrounded by those who will help to lift me up.

I also had my 30th birthday since the last time I posted. It was…..let’s just say…..not what I expected. I’ll post a different post just on that a little later……. I’m not going to leave you hanging…..I promise….I just need to go for now. I hope you all are doing well and have a great day.

 

Feeling Welcome

Sorry it’s been a little while since my last post…..in case anyone is actually reading this……

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been trying out a new church. Well, I have really been enjoying it and liking it, and last week I went to the adult bible study group for the first time. I went again today, and I already find I am being welcomed in by everyone. Last week I had just about everyone introduce themselves to me and then this week people were coming up to me wanting to talk; asking me what brought me to this church, how was I, and just generally wanting to get to know me. I haven’t felt this welcome anywhere outside of NAMI for as long as I can remember. Well, every week they have everyone at each table talk with each other about prayer requests and just how the week is going before they get started with the lesson. Today, I talked to the people at my table about why I came to the Compass Church …..I told them I had a mental illness. I told them that I wasn’t feeling accepted at my old church for a long time because of the illness and what people thought about mental illness in general. I told them thank you for being as welcoming as they have been because I had been looking for a community of believers that I felt would also be non-judgmental of me just because I told them I had a mental illness. I wanted to be at a church where I was seen first…..not my diagnosis. I know it has only been 2 weeks at this bible study, but I felt this pull to let them in and share what I did. I felt like everyone at that table still wanted to get to know me, that next week people will still welcome me and want to talk to me. I truly am so grateful for this, I haven’t felt this way in a long time. Feeling welcome is something that I want to make sure I pass along…..meaning, I want to make sure that no matter where I am or who I am with people around me will know I welcome them, they aren’t outcasts, and they belong. I can do this with a simple smile, or introducing myself, or merely asking someone how their day has been…….and genuinely listen to their response…….let them know it’s ok to respond honestly. Unfortunately, feeling welcome is not a trait of all churches. I mean, sure, some people will feel welcome maybe because they have grown up in the church or whatever, but it’s hard to find a church where you can walk in as a brand new person…..never been there, don’t really know anyone or anything about the church in general…..or at least not anything more than what you learned on their website, and feel a sense of belonging. This church, I walked in for the first time and had more than one person come up to me to say hello, ask me my name, and tell me they were glad to have me there. Then, I went to the bible study and felt even more welcome, like I wasn’t just being recognized because I was new, but because people wanted to know me.

I thank God for putting this sense of longing for a faith community on my heart. I know I am in the right place, and I can feel that this is going to be a great chance for growth, both in my faith life, but also my social life, and emotional life. God sure does know what He’s doing……