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.

“When The Storm Is Raging, And My Hope Is Gone….”

The title of this post is part of the lyrics to the song “Eye of the storm” by Ryan Stevenson. This song, along with a couple others, has been really hitting home to me lately. I know my blog isn’t the most uplifting blog around, but it is one of the most honest blogs anyone will ever find. I write on this blog almost as if it is my journal. I write on here rather than in a journal because I truly feel like it is a release, I feel like I am being heard…….even though I have no idea who in the world is reading this. I have tried writing in a paper journal, and it works to an extent to get things out, but I don’t feel any closure from it because it’s like, ok now all my emotions are on the paper but now what? I get no feedback from a journal. I know people write blogs for all different reasons, I just wanted to let you all know why I write the way I do, and about the topics I do. I write this blog as my story.

Now to get to my post for today. The lyrics of this song and the few other songs I have clung to over the last couple of weeks have really been hitting home hard for me. I mentioned in a previous post that about a year ago I started going to a new church, after not going to church for a couple of years. The people at this new church are amazing. I have formed friendships I believe will last a long time. I have friends who I am not embarrassed to ask to pray for me, who I also pray for. My faith has grown tremendously, and I have a whole new support system. All this, while at the same time still every day battling depression and thoughts of self harm and suicide. Thoughts I know I won’t act upon, but they cause stress and anxiety all at the same time. I am struggling with my relationship with my mom too. She has a mental illness diagnosis also, and she is at a point in her recovery where she thinks therapy is just a place to go bitch about everything but then leave for week and not work on changing anything. She has this attitude that comes across as if she believes everyone else is wrong and should do everything for her. That the way she feels is everyone else’s fault and they are the ones who need to make changes not her. I know this place well, because I was once there in my own recovery. I, however, was able to see through therapy that basically this world doesn’t revolve around me and I need to work at getting better and my recovery just as hard, if not harder than everyone else around me. I learned my recovery process is not just a process for the one with the diagnosis, but the family too……the family members are there to help and support the individual, but they too need support as the process happens. My mom, because of the depth of her depression, deals with memory loss, and it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to tell her something and then 10 minutes later have her ask again……and then again later. I do get frustrated, and I get angry, then she gets upset because she feels bad she forgot but she also is frustrated with not remembering and she feels hopeless. Well, I get that, but what angers me the most is that she CAN fix it. The doctors have told her it’s due to her depression, but yet she’s not doing anything to move forward in getting better. Her therapist doesn’t challenge her to change or make changes, and her psychiatrist just gives meds and that’s it. Mom goes in and tells the doctor things are fine, when in reality they are NOT fine at all. She doesn’t remember things dad tells her to bring up at the doctor so she doesn’t and the vicious cycle keeps going.

I’m frustrated. It’s hard to watch my mom falling apart, and it’s hard to be around her at all. She get’s upset that I don’t want to do things with her or go places with her, or I’ll work all day and not want to do or go anywhere with her when I get home and she gets upset as if it’s something against her, not that I’m just tired from work and want to chill for a bit. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I am not at a point where I can move out of the house……trust me, if I could afford it, I would be out already. I am working on that in many ways. I am very aware that her behaviors and her depression are very triggering and influential of my own depression. I am daily trying to set a schedule and make sure I am taking care of myself first and setting boundaries and all that……but it’s still stressful, and hard…….I mean let’s face it…..Life isn’t perfect…..it’s hard.

I had a phone session with my therapist today because it’s been 3 weeks since I have seen her because she has been out of the office due to medical reasons. I won’t actually see her in a sit down session until at least a week from tomorrow……April 22. She is for sure the best therapist I have ever had….I have been working with her for over 5 years and I couldn’t ask for a better person to listen to me and have empathy towards me but yet challenge me and push me to continue to move forward and towards my goals in life and recovery in general. She doesn’t put up with any shit, she knows when I’m holding things back and she holds me accountable to things I say I am going to do. Today we talked just about what’s been happening over the last few weeks of her being gone. The last few weeks the depression has gotten worse. The nightmares have been peaking and my anxiety has not been good either. Overall, I feel like crap and I don’t know why. I honestly cannot give a reason for why the depression and everything has been getting worse. I can’t explain why I often just feel like crying but the tears just don’t want to come. I can’t give a reason for any of this. And that in itself is a frustrating thing. I just want to feel balanced. I want to wake up in the morning and be glad I woke up. I want to love myself, and see myself as others have described me to be. I want to help myself as much as I have helped others. I want to know what it is that people see in me and I want to believe what they have to say.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense or if anyone even read this to the end, but I wonder, does anyone else ever feel like  I do lately? Do any of you deal with similar things?

 

The Next Step Forward In My Recovery Has Come…..And I’m Excited, But Nervous All At The Same Time

So, I’ve said it in earlier blogs, but I’m going to let you all know again, just in case there are people who have never seen my blog before reading this. I have a mental illness. I was diagnosed when I was 21 but it was many years earlier that the symptoms showed up. I just worked really hard at hiding what was going on from family and friends because I was really scared, ashamed, and just confused about what all was going on inside my head. Long story short…….after I was hospitalized for the first time for depression, anxiety, and self harm, I went into a downward spiral of negative coping and depression. I spent my days engaging in self injury, and coming up with the ways I was going to try to kill myself next. I was in and out of the hospital and I had to quit school because I wasn’t able to keep up with my own daily living skills let alone college courses. I lost a lot of friends, I couldn’t work at all, and every moment I had by myself I was hurting myself, trying to stop the chaos that was going on in my own head. Jump forward a few years, and the hospitalizations started to slow down and I started to take recovery seriously. I started to put in just as much work on myself as my support system had been for the past couple of years. I decided I needed to be engaged in my recovery if I ever wanted to go back to school, work, and move forward in life. In 2011 I went back to school and graduated with my BA in Psychology, and in 2012 I hurt myself for the last time. It’s now 2017 and I haven’t hurt myself or been hospitalized since August of 2012. I have been volunteering at NAMI by speaking and sharing my story at High Schools, Police stations, hospitals, and other community organizations. I have also been working for NAMI as a Peer Specialist on a part time basis, 18 hours a week. These are all successes. I have done a complete turn around from where I was when I was first diagnosed and all that. I have taken huge strides and made so much progress. I have been able to cope more effectively. Well, this past week a position at NAMI came to be open. It is a 30 hr/ week salary job, it comes with insurance, and holidays off. I would be making 2x the amount I am making now, and it would let me reach my goal of getting off of Social Security Disability. My boss has already told me she would love to have me in the position, and that I would do great at it. I told her I would seriously think about it and talk to my dad about it too. I am overly excited about this opportunity because of the opportunities it brings. I’m excited because it’s a step closer to working full time and eventually moving out of my parents house. I’m excited, yes, but so nervous all at the same time. Nervous about failing, getting overwhelmed or so stressed out that my symptoms heighten. I’m just nervous about taking this next step, even though I believe I can succeed, I just keep thinking about the “what if.” I know at some level nervousness is normal when it comes to anything new, or life changes. I have thought of all the pros and cons to taking the position vs not taking the position, and there are definitely more pros to taking it than cons. I have talked to my dad, my mom, and my best friend to get some different perspectives, and I have prayed about it every night since it became available. I know I am going to go for this job, I just need to cope with the anxiety and nerves that are coming along with this process. Please comment with ways maybe you or someone you know copes with anxiety. I’d appreciate all the input I can get on this situation. Thank you all.

 

I Said My Final Goodbye To A Friend I Thought Would Never Die

I wrote in my last post about a good friend who died about a week and a half ago. He was 74 years old, a fireman in town, and he was a best friend to my dad, and like family to my sister, mom and I. He was a guy who could make you laugh, but also scare the crap out of you too when you did something wrong. He would never hurt anyone, but he knew how to intimidate when needed. I remember times when I was little running around the shop and making noise, and he would sometimes come and play but others make sure we knew we were too loud. He gave amazing hugs, and I would always go up to him and kiss him on his cheek when I saw him…….all the way to the day he died. He was a guy who had the tough outside but on the inside he had a heart of gold. He was a guy that you just always knew would be there. The guy who you could call for anything and he’d be sure to help you out. He was the type of guy that people looked to as someone who would ALWAYS be there…..we never thought about the day he would pass on. We kinda held him to an invincible standard. And now, now he’s gone, and it hurts like hell, and it seems so so weird that we’ll never be able to call him again just to say hi, or to ask a question. He will never dress as santa clause again and light the town Christmas tree, and he won’t be there anymore to lead us during the steak frys and corn boils. This past Thursday was his wake, and I looked down at him in the casket and I cried. I cried because it’s unbelievable, shocking still. I cried because I feel like I lost a piece of my heart, my life that I will never get back. I lost a dear friend and I feel empty. Saturday was his Funeral. It was a beautiful service. Dad got up and spoke along with 5 or 6 other friends and family members. They all did a wonderful job. Then from the church we walked behind an antique fire engine that had his casket on the back, over to the cemetery, had a few words over there and then we all put rose petals on his casket before they lowered him into the ground.

I can’t imagine what his daughter and step children are feeling during this time. I can’t fathom how much it hurts. I know how much it hurts for me, and I am just a friend. I want to hug him again, I want to kiss him on his cheek and I want to hear his booming voice telling us all that we need to do better. I just want him back here on earth, and I know that is so so selfish, but I miss him so much. He was such an amazing man and he impacted my life in so many ways. I just want to give some of that back to him, have an impact on him too. I feel like I owe him so much that I won’t get the chance to give him.

I love you Stuart, you hold a special place in my heart and I’ll never forget you and all you’ve done for me and my family. Rest in Peace buddy.

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……