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.

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……

A New Church Home??

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

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

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