“A Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With A Single Step” – Lao Tzu

From the parking lot to the building was only a few short steps, but the one step it took to get in through the door was the biggest step I’ve had to take.

Yesterday I took one of the biggest steps I’ve had to take on my journey to recovery and healing. I finally took to heart what my co-worker told me about way back in October about the YWCA and all they have to offer for women survivors of sexual abuse. I have, for the last 6 months, kept his words and encouragement, and advice, in the back of my mind, terrified to call the YWCA and set up an appointment to do an intake and join their therapy/ Support group. I kept telling myself, “I don’t need that. I can do this with just my therapist, and I don’t need to put my full story out there to a bunch of strangers.” or “All it’s going to do is trigger me and make things worse.” Well, a couple of weeks ago I finally got to the point where I said to myself, “Maybe being around others who have experienced the same things and hearing their stories will help me. Maybe it will help me to feel not so alone, so ashamed, guilty, and dirty.” I picked up the phone and set up an intake appointment. Then I put it all out of my mind. Subconsciously hoping it might just all go away.

Yesterday was the day of my appointment. The week leading up to this appointment was full of anxiety, headaches, spacing out, and fear. I’m pretty good at putting on that mask of everything’s alright, and no one ever really truly knows what my mind is telling me, putting me through. There are even times I don’t even know. It’s like the words haven’t even been invented yet to describe the thoughts, the pain, the emotion in my head.

Yesterday came way too slow……but yet so fast. This past week was long, but not long enough either. I dreaded the appointment, scared of being judged, scared of being told my story wasn’t bad enough that I didn’t really need this group and I should just leave. I was scared I wouldn’t be believed, that the person wouldn’t really get it. Scared of, well, scared of how real it was all going to feel as I told the intake person my story, and my fears. I texted my best friend before the meeting, just to make sure she would be available when I was done, so if I needed to talk I would know she was there…….it brought a sense of peace and solace knowing she knew I was going into this meeting scared shit less and that she would be thinking about me and praying for me. I had this sense of not being alone and I can’t thank her more for that.

I told my dad about this meeting weeks ago, but I’ve been terrified to tell my mom, as I was scared it would upset her. I did finally tell her though right before I went to the meeting, she took it well, and I’m glad I told her about it.

I drove to the YWCA office. I got there early (go figure right? I’m early for everything) I sat in the parking lot with the music on in my car. I knew the music was playing but I didn’t hear it all at the same time. I couldn’t. I was so caught up in thoughts and fears and just didn’t know what I was doing. Should I stay? Should  I just go? I looked at the clock and it seemed as if the time wasn’t changing. I felt frozen in this moment, stuck in the fear, and yet feeling this overwhelming need to get out of the car and just do it. Just walk up to the building and go in those double glass doors. I sat there and I said a prayer. I said, “God, I don’t know why you put Mike in my life to tell me about this place way back in October, I don’t know why you finally put it on my heart to do this, and I definitely do not know why you have brought me to such an unknown and scary place. I do know though, that You are Great and will be with me the whole time. I know You won’t bring me to anything You can’t help me through, and I also know this sucks really bad. I am terrified God, just give me strength.” After I was done praying I got out of the car, stood next to it for what seemed like minutes when really it was probably just a few seconds, and I took those steps to the doors at the front of the building. The sun was shining down on my face and I could feel it’s warmth as I stood there, trying to lift my arm that felt like a thousand pounds, to open the door. I did it. I opened the door and I walked in. I stared at the receptionist and knew she was saying something to me, but I couldn’t hear her. I responded with a shaky “what?” and she asked me to sign in and have a seat, that she would let the counselor know I was there.

I took a seat on the fake leather chair and just looked around and took in my surroundings. I noticed my leg was shaking and my palms were getting a bit sweaty. I sat for what seemed like forever, though it was really only 5 minutes, and then Erin, the counselor came out to get me. She welcomed me, shook my hand, and told me it was nice to meet me. All I could think was “don’t say that too fast, you don’t even know me yet, you may not think it’s so nice after we get done talking.” I have a lot of doubts about myself. I have a hard time finding myself worthy of being liked by anyone.

We went to a small conference like room with two chairs and a small table and we started talking about the YWCA and generally what it is for, who it is for, and what the group I was looking to join was all about. Erin talked to me like she had known me for years, she listened to me as if what I had to say truly mattered to her. It’s not something I’m all that used to. I mean, my family and friends and my therapist they listen, and they care, what I mean is this person was completely new to me, and yet she still had such an interest in me, my story, and my experiences. I told her a lot about things that had happened, but not everything. I even said at one point, “I don’t want to answer that question yet, I don’t really know you well enough to go that deep.” and she accepted that answer as valid and said ok, that she completely understood that.

She understood that. Wow, she understood that I wasn’t quite ready, that I had limits. This was a realm of unfamiliarity for me. I felt this meeting to be completely  non-judgmental and safe. We talked for close to 2.5 hours about everything and going over intake questions and paperwork and all that. I left feeling exhausted, worn out, and just drained. The first group is on May 30th. I’m terrified, nervous, but looking forward to it at the same time.

Taking this step really wasn’t all that big, but the impact of it already has been huge and it can and might leave a huge impact on my process of healing from the impact of the sexual abuse of my uncle. I imagine this is a lot like sky diving. You jump out of a plane, free falling, you see the possibility of the bottom, and you have confidence your parachute will open and the landing will be standard/ easy, but there’s that standing fear of what if my parachute doesn’t open? What if when I land I get hurt? But you still take the jump, because you know it’s going to take you on a path you’ve never been on before, and it could teach you so much about life and yourself.

 

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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.

 

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.