Anguish engulfed me. I wasn’t sleeping well and I cried deeply for hours. Intruding and often obsessive thoughts plagued my mind. Neither music nor art brought calm. I felt abandoned and detached from everyone. I even questioned if I loved anyone, yet I was a full time Christian worker and had dedicated the past 30 years intensely investing in the lives of others. I was caught off guard by the anguish. I knew I was in trouble and so I sought help. Professional help. After all, when I am sick, I don’t think twice about going to a doctor. Yet sadly, I was aware of the stigma that is often associated with seeking help from a professional counselor. If I admitted I struggled emotionally, would others think God wasn’t enough? Some would say the answer to my struggle lay in memorizing more scriptures, or praying harder! Couldn’t I find relief by talking things out with some of my close friends? Actually, I feared my anguish would overwhelm them.
These hesitations were quickly resolved when I remembered my earlier years of learning how to play the piano. The first piano teacher taught piano as a hobby and I learned well. But, once I began to go to a professional Piano Guild teacher my understanding of music soared and my love for music grew. So, a professionally trained counselor could best help me sort through my thoughts and uncover the deep roots of some unresolved conflicts. Through God’s unique grace, Debbie showed deep compassion for my story and has helped me fine tune my value and purpose in life. What triggered this anguish and what was it’s root cause would be discovered on this painful path. But, the lessons I learned on this journey has certainly enriched my life far more than I could ever ask or think and I can better serve others.
On the Other Side of the Pit
A year before my mother died, I started doing a Bible study with my daughter about the adjustments that are often required of 3rd culture kids. Once a week we would skype and talk about the chapter we read. I think I cried through every chapter, as feelings from my childhood rushed back into my memory. The grief from long ago was so very real, I almost felt like I was living my childhood all over again. At the same time, the problems my husband and I had all through our marriage were finally coming to a head. Actually, all my poor husband had to do was walk into the room and I was angry with him. During this same year, my daughter left to go overseas,a friend of 20 years died, my dog of 15 years died, and then, the very day I took my mom to the hospital for the last 12 days of her life, my son told me he was gay and no longer believed in God.
There are two ways people respond to depression. Most withdrawal and experience degrees of great pain, and a few, like myself, just get really angry. I was not functioning well, even though I was spending extended time with God. I was crying all the time, and I had obsessive and intrusive thoughts I couldn’t make sense of. I did not know what to do, but I knew I needed to do something quickly. I no longer cared that it might appear that I was admitting weakness to go and talk to someone about my personal life. I no longer cared if it seemed I lost credibility if word got out I was seeking help. I just did not care if people thought I was “unspiritual” because I needed to get professional help. The reality was I was desperate, and the time with Debbie was a gracious gift from God.
Sixteen very painful months later my season with Debbie is over. From the first day to the last, I experienced so much grace, despite my sins. I realized that finding a good counselor was actually the answer to my deepest prayers for relief and healing. She was a gift from God. With Debbie’s help, I learned about the issues behind the issues and I learned ways to cope with the long suppressed feelings. My faith grew. For years, I played the “spiritual” game of thinking I could just pray away my problems, or study the Bible a bit more and they would all disappear. I habitually had meaningful quiet times and I was growing spiritually, despite the crisis that was coming. I did find great comfort in God’s Word. But, I just never realized how angry I was deep inside. I had stuffed my feelings for so long, it was just second nature, and I was not longer aware of what feelings I had. I actually wondered sometimes if I really loved anyone in my life. I never really experienced God’s great grace and love so fully until I realized just how broken I was. It was not until I felt this anguish in my spirit that I could appreciate how God used these circumstances from my past and present to draw me closer to Him.
In addition, finally allowing myself to feel my pain fully and discovering God in the center of that pain, created great compassion toward others, including my son and his hurtful behavior. My love for him and my family grew, despite our problems and times of crisis. Now, although my circumstances have not really changed, I am the one that is different. The biggest discovery I made was that God was not just waiting for me on the other side of the pit I crawled through. He was at the very bottom of the pit, crawling through the mire with me, holding onto me all the way, through the darkest and dirtiest parts, and finally I was convinced He would be with me as I climbed up the other side. I’m on the other side of that pit now and I am so thankful I went all the way through it, without giving up. I am so thankful for my son and the privilege I have of being his mom, praying for him as he traverses his own treacherous trench. Because of my own journey, I am so much more convinced of God’s great love for him, and I know God is with him every inch of the way, just like He was with me.
Better with EMDR
I feel like it’s been forever since EMDR and it will be forever until my next appointment so I felt compelled to give you an update. I feel amazing!! I’m sure the Zoloft is helping tremendously at this point, but it seems like ever since EMDR I have felt better.
I reached 4 weeks on Zoloft this Tuesday so it should be pretty well kicked in to my system. I saw the psychiatrist at UCF and she said I should stay on it about 4-6 months and then make the choice to continue or stop. I really want to stop after 4-6 months, but I don’t want this feeling to stop. I still have stress, I still get anxious over all the things on my plate, but it’s nowhere near as bad. I am playing catch-up with CPA but I am just not stressed over it, I’m laid back and relaxed.
This makes it easier to study. When my boyfriend makes a comment that would usually send me over the edge into anger and anxiety, I find that I laugh a lot and say “okay.” I don’t dwell on a lot of things that I normally would or analyze conversations repeatedly as much as I have. I feel my boyfriend and I are fighting less and having better days together. I feel myself smiling more, excited more, laughing more. My confidence is through the roof! I am excited every day when I wake up in the morning. At night my mind still races but I’ve been using the relaxation exercise I learned through EMDR to relax and I almost immediately fall asleep. It is working so well I can’t remember falling asleep at all the next morning, I just remember starting the exercise.
Anyway, I guess I was just excited on how well the Zoloft is helping me utilize my tools from counseling and how much progress I am seeing. I see things more clearly I think and I hope I can carry this feeling and strategies past the Zoloft when I stop taking it!
I have been meeting with Debbie for over two years, and I believe meeting her was a Divine appointment. God brought Debbie into my life just at the right time, she has been a source of strength, a voice of wisdom, and a gentle but strong and honest counselor. I have seen God use Debbie to guide me through the toughest time in my life, as well as to speak the truth of His unconditional love and grace when I’ve needed to hear it the most! I sought out Debbie’s counsel in every area of my life…from career decisions, relationship matters, and overall discovery of who I am and where I am heading. When I meet with Debbie I feel safe. She has taken the time to know who I am, where I come from, and what has shaped me. She understands my struggles, and sees my potential! There is no judgment, but much grace and encouragement! Debbie is passionate about her work as a counselor, and I would recommend her to anyone…she would be a blessing to anyone that chooses to seek her counsel.
Debbie, I really appreciate you taking on the challenge of being my counselor. Your professional knowledge and having a heart directed towards helping others really made a difference in my life. I wanted to share some of the methods you used that helped me overcome anxiety.
~Identifying the root cause of my issue’s and helping me see and understand what they were.
~Teaching me several methods to use to get through difficult periods that I was unable to handle on my own.
~Helping me change to think positive and understand truth.
~Learning to accept myself and any situation around me was very helpful.
The mental recovery gave me the confidence to ramp up my fitness routine and I continue to improve every day. Thanks again Debbie for all of your help, I will likely use the things I learned for a lifetime. I believe that my experience will also allow me to help someone else one day.