I have received several emails in the past few weeks that inspired this post today.
Yesterday evening I read an email before going for a run. It echoed many I have received and my sensitive heart truly ached for the young woman who wrote it. Of course I could pray for her, but was there anything else I could do? I pondered those thoughts as I rummaged through my winter clothing to find my Nike running pants.
Yesterday it was cold in Nashville. I’ve definitely grown accustom to the warmer weather of the south, so when it’s registering high forty’s I bundle up. My mom always use to joke that if anyone in our family was missing a blanket in the winter they would probably be able to locate it on my bed.
I laced my Asics tightly and turned on my ipod, and as my feet hit the pavement all I could think about was helping this woman who is a prisoner inside her own body. I’ve never met her, like the majority of the people I receive emails from. Yet I know most of them. I know their stories. I know their pain and I know it well; and I’ve shared their struggles in a unique way.
This woman and many others have expressed their fear in getting help, and that is what I desire to address today. I want to be vulnerable with you and share part of my story. It is my hope that God will use it, to inspire those who need professional help to seek it out. Several years ago I was very sick and didn’t know what was wrong. In order to conceal some information, because it’s in my book, I will condense the story. I went to IPS (Institute for the Psychological Sciences) in Arlington, Virginia. While there, I participated in two full days of intensive psychological testing. It was one of the most emotionally and physically draining things I have ever encountered. Several weeks later I went back to hear my results. I was diagnosed with chronic post traumatic stress disorder due to various life experiences. Three doctors recommended for me to engage in intensive trauma therapy for two years. I finished in a year and a half.
The thought of getting help consumed me with trepidation. Why should I go and reveal my heart and soul to a psychologist? In my naivety, I convinced myself that:
1. They will never understand.
2. I don’t even know how to form words to describe how much it hurts to a friend, let alone a stranger.
3. I can’t afford it.
4. I’m scared and the thought of talking to someone makes me shake with nervousness.
5. What if the people who hurt me find out that I told?
6. If I get help and cry I’m displaying a sign of weakness.
Well, after completing a year and half of intense trauma therapy I can tell you from my heart that:
1. There are doctors that genuinely care and understand. They might not have experienced the same difficulties you have, but are trained extensively to help you. It takes tremendous faith and trust on your part to trust them.
2. There are countless ways to express your pain and struggles. It will take time, but you can start slowly and build up to revealing more. You can also draw as well to express your feelings, trauma and emotions. Art therapy is very common and helped me tremendously.
3. I worked 7 days a week in the beginning to pay for the care I needed. In addition, I was awe-struck at the generosity of my doctors who made my care affordable for me. Two doctors never even sent me a bill for thousands of dollars of care they administered. They wrote off the entire bill. One receptionist told me “In his twenty-five years of practice I have never seen him not bill a patient.” People genuinely want to help and it’s good for wounded hearts to receive love through others generosity.
4. It’s okay to be scared. I would actually be concerned if you weren’t. When I first met my doctor I was terrified. I had only spoken with him once on the phone and the sound of his voice frightened me. I knew God wanted me to see him; I knew in my heart He wanted me to take this leap of faith. So I packed everything I owned into my Honda Accord and moved to Tennessee. If it didn’t fit in my car I left it behind. The first time I met my doctor in person, I knew everything was going to be okay. He was one of the most gentle, patient, faithful and educated doctors I had ever encountered. Was I still scared despite those characteristics I listed about him? Of course, as that is only natural, but sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. We need to learn to trust those who are deserving of our trust.
After God, I credit him for my healing. Made in His Image would never have been possible without him. He now sits on the Board of Directors for Made in His Image.
5. Contrary to what I thought, you are exhibiting tremendous courage and strength in seeking out professional help. It might not feel as if you are, but you are. Your vulnerability, bravery, determination and perseverance will shine through the darkness, it simply takes time.
Two years ago I sat in Arlington, Virginia at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences (IPS) when Dr. Kathryn Benes compared me to a solider returning from war. Dr. Benes is the Director of the Catholic-based Psychology Ministry at Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Prior to moving to Colorado, she served as an Associate Professor and the Director of the training Clinic at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. Dr. Benes also developed a nationally recognized, diocesan-wide mental health program that ultimately became a doctoral-level psychology internship site in the Nebraska Internship Consortium in Psychology, an institution accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). This program is currently the only APA-accredited internship site in the nation that is specifically designed to train psychologists from a Catholic perspective.
Seeing Dr. Benes’ credentials and hearing what she said about me helped reshape my thought process. Also my brother is a Captain in the Marine Corps and has served two missions overseas, if I knew he needed help I would encourage him to get it. And would most certainly not think him weak for receiving that care. I would think him tremendously courageous for embracing what needs to be dealt with, instead of simply ignoring it. Why didn’t I see myself as worthy of the same care? Why wasn’t I good enough to receive help?
I wrestled with those thoughts and came to discover my dignity as His daughter worthy of care. Our Father desired nothing more than to provide, protect and take care of me in my illness and beyond and His generosity is boundless. He simply asks us to trust Him.
Will you not let Him provide for you the same way?
So don’t be afraid to show them your beautiful scars, ‘cause their the proof, yeah you’re the proof – Matthew West