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.

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“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.

 

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.

 

“Even though I love this crazy life Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride” – Mercy Me

Life isn’t always easy…..in fact….it’s never EASY…….Life brings challenges every day, but we get through. I wrote in my last post about my friend dying of brain cancer. He was only 35, had a 4 year old son, and a loving wife and parents and a sister who loved him dearly. Not to mention all the friends who loved him too. There were just about 400 people at his celebration of life service this past weekend. It was amazing. Amazing to see the impact he left on so many people, the love for him, and the amazing amount of joy in knowing he is with God, no longer in pain, and looking down from heaven on us each day. It doesn’t make losing him any easier, but it gives a sense of hope in knowing we will someday meet again. Life gives us challenges to teach us, to show us our capabilities, to encourage us to push harder, reach for the stars and to make sure we are not just going through the motions, but we are truly living, because surely, one day it’s going to be our last with someone we love and we don’t want to have any regrets. I wish life was a smoother ride sometimes, ok, a lot of times, but I have been learning that God has an amazing plan for each of us. A plan we don’t get to see in advance. A plan that helps us to become who we are, as a person, as a community, as human beings. God knows what tomorrow holds for us, and while there are times I wish I knew what all was going to happen tomorrow, I am realizing how lucky I am to not know what tomorrow brings. I couldn’t imagine knowing that tomorrow someone I love was going to die…..or that tomorrow would be the last day of my job or whatever. Could you imagine the effect that would have? In a way, it would let me say goodbye to the person, or prepare to lose my job, but at the same time, it would make me so anxious, I wouldn’t be able to fully live out today, so really, I’d be losing today and tomorrow, which is not what God wants for us at all. He wants us to be grateful for today, the people we have in our lives, and the opportunity each day brings. He doesn’t want us worrying about the future, or the past. No, He wants us to live for Him in the current moment, to love those around us as if it was our last day every day. What a wonderful plan He has prepared for us all.

I will miss my friend terribly. But I will also be able to say, “he is home, with Jesus, and he is no longer here on earth, but Jesus needed him more. He needed him in heaven to be able to look down on us all and take care of us each day from above”.

Life throws all kinds of challenges our way, death of loved ones, loss of jobs, bad weather, or car problems, or disappointments in everyday things, but He loves us more than we can even fathom, and He has the blueprints that we cannot see. We can be angry at God, He’s ok with that; but we must know deep in our hearts that our best interest is always on His mind. It gives me chills to think I am loved that much, I will never fulfill the standards of God, because I am a sinner, but I do not need to fulfill those standards to be loved and saved by Him. No, He fulfilled those standards for me, and for that, I am grateful.

 

When your friend has cancer and it’s only a matter of weeks……

One of my biggest supports, her son has brain cancer. He is only 4 years older than me and I have known him for a long time. He is a good friend too, and I think so highly of him. He is a great guy, married, and has a 3 year old son. He loves to go hunting and the White Sox (I’ll forgive him for that)…..He is always thinking of everyone else and he always has a great big smile on his face. I’ve never known him to be mean to others and it is evident how much he loves his family. He was diagnosed over a year ago with an inoperable brain tumor and over the last couple of weeks they found he has a lot of fluid surrounding his brain and the tumors have spread down his spine. They are only giving him a matter of weeks to live. He decided still to do chemo and radiation so as to do everything he can to stay alive for his little boy….even though it is less than a 1% chance the treatments will even do anything helpful. I feel helpless. His mom is someone who has supported me through so much, so many times in the hospital for psych issues and all that….and now, it’s my turn to support her and her family and I feel lost, helpless, scared, and completely unsure as to how to help and support them. I have told her I’m here for her, only a phone call away at any given time. I have given her hugs and sent random text messages just saying I’m thinking of her and her family. But it just doesn’t seem like enough……I don’t know that anything truly would be enough. I can’t imagine being in her position, knowing that at any time her boy could die. I just want to make things better, help her and her son. I want to know why this is happening, why it has to be him and why it has to be this way. I know those are only things God can answer, but it just seems so wrong. Please, if you are reading this, pray for my friend and the family. Pray for hope, peace, and comfort to come over them.