Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hi, My Name is Anissa

"Hi, my name is Anissa- a grateful believer of Jesus Christ- in recovery for anger, anxiety, depression, and an unforgiving spirit."

"Hi Anissa."

I never thought in a million years that I'd be in one of those therapeutic groups that you see in the movies. My belief was that it was only for drug addicts and alcoholics-- you know, those court mandated type of groups.

Well, here I am on my last day of my 10 month therapeutic (non-court mandated) Christ-centered group. I did it by God's grace, love, and mercy. I actually went through with it and came out on the other side with a different perspective and a whole lot lighter. You see the thing is you don't actually graduate from this group even though the curriculum ends. It's like happiness; it's not a destination, but rather a journey. A journey with Jesus Christ, the lover of my soul. I know what you're probably thinking--all this kumbaya stuff sounds annoying. Trust me, I had that same mindset when I first stepped into my group on March 28, 2017. I was apprehensive, had a bad attitude, doubted the curriculum without knowing it, and thought it was beyond corny that we had to go around the room stating our names every session, along with what we'd like to work to recover from. Here I was in a room full of women, and I do mean FULL, baring our souls in search of Christ's healing. I'm an introvert, in what world did this seem like a good idea for me? Little did I know then that it was exactly where I needed to be.

Our women's group started off as 18 strong and today on our last day we ended as 8 strong. Seeking healing is a full-time commitment and it is intense. There were weeks where it was extremely difficult to search deep inside and admit to myself and my sisters some of the darkest moments of my life. Ones that only my husband, best friends, and Mama knew. Tuesday nights (after group session) and Wednesday mornings were always the most quiet and emotional for me. Dealing with the aftermath of sharing with others what I had carried over many years. But thank God I did.

What you don't know is that I had been "highly encouraged" to join this group two years ago, but I resisted to the max. There was NO WAY anyone was going to convince me to join back then. However, loved ones saw something I did not see and wanted me to get help, but it did not click in me until early 2017. Late 2016 into early last year I had reached one of my lowest points with my anger and depression. Two things that were linked because of a traumatic life situation. It pains me to type this out, but I want to bare my soul to help someone else out there. I remember this certain incident (pertaining to anger) unfolding before my eyes and leaving me in shock because I could not even recognize myself. Who had I become? How did I let this anger and depression spiral out of control and change me this way? How could I continue to serve God at my local church? How could I tell the others at my church about what I was going through? Who was I?

This is when I remembered the Christ centered program I had rejected, dejected, and even poked fun at (yes, I know, I'm not proud of that). This was my only hope and thank God I moved forward in faith.

During the course of 10 months I learned or was reinforced of the following lessons and would like to share with you as well.
• It is okay to not be okay-- just make sure you do something about it with Christ's help to heal and get better.
• We ALL have something to work on. It's not just people with addictions that need a support group.
• Speaking of support groups-- we all need them in form of loved ones and strangers who become family (like my 12 step group sisters).
• It's okay to step away and set boundaries with toxic relationships-- here's the clincher- even with family members. You owe that to yourself.
• Forgiveness is more for you than for the other person, even though it's also good to let others know you have forgiven them and are moving on.
• "Play it forward." Play what forward? Look at what you're about to do and play out the consequences in your mind and hopefully that will stop you from making the mistake. It's never worth it.
• "God, show me, me." The paraphrased version of Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV), "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting"
• It's important to verbalize your inner hurts to a safe group of individuals that respect you and want the best for your spiritual walk with Christ. In fact, it's healthy that you do so.
• It's more than okay if others do not like you, as long as you have not hurt them (and asked for forgiveness). Something new I have implemented is if someone is treating me dramatically different and poorly, I ask if I have done something to offend them and if yes, we dialogue about it face-to-face and I will ask for forgiveness. If they say no and have no idea what I am referring to (and they continue to treat me poorly), I will move on-- being okay that it's not me, but a battle they are facing within themselves.
• I am in control with who I want to be close to and open up my heart to. And that's okay. I am aware that I have built many walls (due to hurt and rejection), but also have built several bridges that I never intend to burn. Just because I do not tell everyone my deepest secrets doesn't mean I do not love or appreciate them.
• Faith leaders are far from perfect and sometimes are the ones who are most hurt within the four walls of the places of worship. I have struggled with this because of the culture/mindset that Pastors and leaders are supposed to be examples of the utmost excellence and this unrealistic "perfection." Many times I was expected to provide healing via encouraging words, be a friend by contacting others, be an exemplar leader, but it was I that needed all that (and then some). It's okay to step away to heal a bit before you return to serve. In fact, it's probably more healthy for everyone. I would not doubt that some of the leaders I told about stepping down for 2-3 months last year to heal did not understand and perhaps thought I was weak for doing so. And that's okay-- I did not feel comfortable leading at church and giving from a well that had entirely dried up inside so I stepped away and returned when I had some healing.
• I am a precious daughter of Christ that should not be beating myself up when I make mistakes and have asked for forgiveness.
• I can now forgive someone for something they are not even remotely sorry/remorseful for. This, by far, has been one of the most difficult things I have had to do. To be abandoned and betrayed by a loved one and forgive them without them seeking forgiveness. Seems impossible to us humans, but the God who created Heaven and Earth says, "I got you-- this is simple for me and it would be a pleasure to give you a forgiving spirit."
• Never say never. I said I'd never go through with a program like this and look at me now, I recommend everyone to go through this transformative experience. You never know what you will learn about yourself, others, and God.

This is not the end for me, but rather a new beginning.

If you want to work through some of your bad habits/hurts/hang-ups and desire to be part of a confidential-supportive group, please consider joining Celebrate Recovery; more specifically the 12 Step Program. I am open to chatting with anyone who would like more information. I joined the group at Immanuel's Church (non-denominational) in Silver Spring, MD and the growth I experienced is unbelievable!

Some of you remember when I came out and admitted I was in serious depression last year and had joined a women's group. Well, this is the group I joined. Many of my friends and acquaintances were completely shocked and I get it-- it's not everyday someone admits they are going through a dark time. We like to keep our highlight reel beautifully curated and make sure everything believes we are perfectly fine. We are all going through something we can recover/improve from.

I look forward to hearing about your recovery story one day and seeing how Christ transformed your life.

Love you, friend. Hope you receive the healing you may need.