The instructions were for everyone to get up and introduce themselves to someone we didn’t know. My least favorite activity. The questions which were about to follow were never easy. Always judgmental, and would add to my shame.
As I turned around a lady approached me. She put out her hand and I did the same. As we clasped them together we both said, “Hello.” She said her name and I said mine. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, and I was looking for a way to escape when she asked the dreaded question.
“So what do you do for a living?”
“That’s a complicated question.” I answered. Hoping to detour her from wanting any further information.
She just stared at me, cocked her head and said in an exasperated tone as if I owed her my life story. “You’re not going to explain?” she said.
Well, she asked for it, I thought. Might as well let the bomb fall.
“I’m on disability.” I said.
Wait for it…
And there it was.
The “Oh.” Sound. And mouth movement.
The eyes darting anywhere but on me, and then the kicker.
Yes, there’s always a kicker. A judgement.
She looked right at me and said, “Well, then you have all the time in the world to write don’t you?” I just stared at her in silence. Really? If she had any idea what my days and nights are filled with. But there wasn’t a chance.
“Well, I’m….” she began, but so shamed and hurt I tuned her out. She talked about herself and I think what she does for a living. I nodded politely. The person in charge of the meeting ended our uncomfortable, long minutes of introduction and I sat in my seat.
My thoughts…”If she only knew.”
If people only knew what our lives are like. Not one of us experiences recovery in the same way, and so not even we can fully relate to each other. But yet, many of us have come to a realization, an understanding, to not judge each other.
To understand, God’s plan for you is not God’s plan for me. Not that God’s plan was for us to be sexually assaulted, but He will take our broken lives and make them into something He can use.
So, what I wish people knew was that each day is a struggle before I get out of bed. To wake from a nightmare or horrible dreams about the past, or my mind playing games with those who have hurt me the most.
When the alarm sounds, I just want to escape, but sleep would bring back unwanted dreams and the day ahead leaves nothing to look forward to. No job, no schedule, no one to eat with, or talk to. Just painful memories and flashbacks of what happened.
As I make myself get out of bed there’s the chore of getting ready. Forcing myself to shower, but no make-up or extras. Just the basics. Then, downstairs for some time with God, where I beg for help through this journey.
Next comes the decision of exercise. I know it helps with my depression, and is good for me, but I dread it. Every day though I have to pray for strength to get on the treadmill and stay walking for 30 minutes.
That chore done I eat breakfast and change clothes. Another depressing chore. No longer do I have nice clothes in the closet. Gone are the professional outfits, and in place are sweats and jeans. T-shirts and sweatshirts.
As I enter the next phase of the day it is only 8:30 am. There are many things I can do. Write, clean, cook, run errands, pay bills, and any other household chore because there is only me. However, depending on my depression, I don’t know what will get done. Because there are also the emotional break downs, lots of tears, and if I’m able to, journaling about the memories.
If it is a therapy day, that will take up about two hours, but then afterwards I am spent. Mentally and emotionally exhausted.
The day continues with whatever I can get done. Some would look at my life as a breeze, but each moment carries the weight of my past. All the trauma. What was lost. Each day drags on and some days seem endless.
Going to bed is a dreaded chore. The bed alone is not a safe place from experience and if and when sleep comes it brings the nightmares and horrible dreams again.
To many my life looks like freedom. Nothing but free time. But it is actually a prison. I am trapped inside my mind and the memories of everything which happened. Until it is worked through I do not have the ability to work a job again. The trauma has filled my brain and my “bucket” is full. See this YouTube video to understand how our “buckets” get so full. Bucket of Resilience
Here’s what is not understood. Time is what I have because it’s what I need.
Maybe your journey looks like this, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it needs to and you’re scared. I won’t lie, it is hard to be on disability, to lose who you feel you are.
It’s where the judgments come from. From other people, and from ourselves. However, there is One who does not judge us because of this and that is God. He knows exactly what is going on and what is going to happen. He knows the plans.
I am learning a lot on this journey, and one thing is to not judge – others – and myself – though I often fail, I try.
Give yourself a break today too, and allow God to give you hope and a future.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
© 2018 Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.