I can’t believe it’s been almost 15 years since I walked into the YWCA for my first one-on-one counseling session. Just months before 9/11, with a new job near downtown Chicago, I finally had the opportunity and the courage to explore the darkness that haunted me my entire life.
A few times, I almost ran out of the YWCA’s waiting area. I only kept going because I figured if I couldn’t take it anymore, I could always leave. One time, I remember seeing photos hanging on the walls of kids playing in a small room. My eyes welled up with tears thinking about how I could see the fear in their eyes. Later, it hit me like a slap on the face, and I realized that used to be me. Next thing I knew, I was crying silent tears like I did as child overwhelmed with sadness about my tortured existence and the loss of my innocence.
Facing your fears sounds easy. Monumental doesn’t begin to describe it. For an incest survivor, it’s nothing short of re-living the horrors you endured still feeling as helpless as you were back then. Depressed, I cried a lot; sometimes hysterically. Yet, I could always put on a good front at work laughing and joking around, so no one ever suspected anything. It was exhausting.
I remember coming home turning on the TV and sitting down and not getting up until it was time for bed. I couldn’t face the ugliness alone. I only stopped zoning out with the TV because I thought I was developing hemorrhoids. That’s when I started going out for long walks which helped calm me down.
What made the difference? Yes, I would definitely say a lot of therapy, prayer, and loving friends. However, ultimately, holding onto my faith in God saved me. Grounded by my strong faith in God, instilled by my mother, the coping skills I learned in one-on-one counseling and group therapy sessions transformed me from a suicidal incest victim to an empowered survivor.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, and I still argue with God to this day. My stubbornness is a part of who I am. Counseling sessions at the YWCA and God’s endless, unconditional love saved my life. Like the lyrics to Whitney Houston’s song, The Greatest Love of All, say “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” Last year, finally guilt-free, I found the greatest love of all inside of me, but I couldn’t have done it without God’s unconditional love.