I’m a hypocrite when it comes to counseling.
If working with students who have been victims of abuse has taught me one thing, that would be it.
You can ask any one of my students and they’ll tell you that I am all about sitting on floors in empty hallways and letting them verbally process their lives and trauma when they can’t focus in class or simply are having an “off” day.
I do this so frequently with some of my kids that last week one of them sweetly asked me, “Miss, don’t you ever get tired of listening to stories about other peoples’ lives?”
And the truth is that I don’t. I love that part of my job the most. I love sitting on floors, listening, hugging, and reassuring them that they can bring anything to me in confidence.
But when it comes down to it, I’ve realized that I’m terrible at doing this myself.
Oh sure, I can hold a deep conversation with my girl friends about God, love, and what life is like today and what it might be like ten years from now… But there are some things that I simply am too afraid to verbalize, even though I know that I would be speaking in confidence with my closest friends on their bedroom or kitchen floors.
I suffer from crippling anxiety. About ninety-five percent of the time, you wouldn’t know this simply by looking at me; God has truly done miraculous work to bring me out of this through the last few years… But over the course of the last week, it has returned.
I know exactly what triggered it and I know that my inability to talk openly about the source with the people closest to me is only feeding into my anxiety and the accompanying restlessness and insomnia.
Every night for the last week I have had nightmares. I’ve woken up in tears; restless and fearful for my safety and obviously less than rejuvenated to face the day ahead.
Deep down I know that I need to speak up, for my own sanity, for the sanity of the thousands of people like me, but when I open my mouth to explain what I’m currently feeling or what I felt five, seven, or even nine years ago… Nothing comes out.
It’s like fear has me by the neck and I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe because I’m afraid of being judged. I’m afraid of people not believing me. I’m afraid that the nightmares and panic attacks won’t go away if I say something– if it becomes ‘real’ again. I’m afraid of the repercussions of the truth.
I’m simply afraid.
And to be honest, as a Christian woman, I’m a bit ashamed that I have let fear root so deeply in my heart.
In my heart I know that “Perfect Love casts out all fear.”
I’ve memorized the lyrics to the Chris Tomlin song and know that I have no one to fear because my God is “for” me.
I have read and re-read all of the verses in the New Testament that talk about God overcoming fear with His loving & powerful Spirit, and yet, I still laid on my bed tonight with my blanket over my face trying to remember how to breathe.
But tonight, as I laid there, I realized something.
This can’t be the way that I handle this any longer. I can’t just “wait” for these feelings to fade away, as I have in the past when they’ve risen up and taken over my life.
I can’t continue to allow myself to pretend like I’m perfectly healthy at work while I am waking myself up at night from screaming in my sleep.
This has to stop.
So students, if you’re reading this, know that you have inspired me to seek help. Your strength and openness has taught me that I can’t continue living like this, even if it is only for a few weeks at a time every few months, or years.
Anyone else reading this, I would genuinely appreciate your prayers over the next several days, weeks, and months. I know that whatever “this” is, that the healing process is going to be messy.
Speaking up is going to make me weaker than I already am, yet becoming weaker is a pre-requisite for becoming stronger in this case. Through this I will not become stronger on my own, or stronger because I will be “healthier” in the long run. No. I will be stronger because I will have laid my greatest fear down in front of God and said, “This is Yours because I can’t carry this burden on my own anymore.” And He will become my strength.
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9)