IT IS NEVER EASY to open up about the struggles we face or the hardships we’ve experienced in our past. For Karen, the decision to be honest with herself about her need to seek Christian counseling came when she could no longer live with the anger inside her. Karen knew her growing rage was not helping her or the loved ones that needed her.
The stress, fear and isolation felt by the events of the global pandemic in 2020 were difficult for Karen. “I was in a really bad depression,” Karen confessed, as she described a time when she wrestled with God and suicidal thoughts. Karen told a decisive moment she experienced in the middle of that difficult season: “I was yelling at God saying, ‘If you are going to save me, then you’re going to have to save me now. I am done. I’m tired. I don’t want this life anymore.’ Immediately after that, my doorbell rang. A man I had not seen in about 45 years was on my doorstep, and I asked him why he was at my door, and he replied, ‘God told me to check on you.’” It was clear to Karen at that moment that there were some things to take care of and she began counseling sessions with STCH Ministries.
As Karen began meeting with Lisa from STCH Ministries Family Counseling, sessions revealed other struggles stemming from childhood pain and the abuse and trauma she experienced in her first marriage. “I learned why I reacted to things [that happened in the past], and I have learned to forgive all of that,” Karen admits. Growing self-awareness allowed Karen to recognize her people-pleasing tendencies. She shares how these tendencies led her to believe, “I must have done something for them not to like me; what can I do to fix it?” Most importantly, Karen saw that the horrifying things that happened to her reflected those who hurt her, not something she caused due to her shortcomings.
“I’m a good person, I always have been, but I allowed people to tell me I wasn’t,” Karen said.
Sessions continued, and her counselor recommended EMDR techniques to help Karen face her past trauma and begin fully recovering from it. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a structured therapy that encourages the client to focus briefly on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories. EMDR therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and PTSD symptoms.*
Karen’s appreciation of the therapy she received increased because, “in facing a lot of bad memories in my past [with EMDR], I was also able to make room for good memories, memories that I had forgotten.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these [bad] memories and resume normal healing.*
Karen’s counselor also helped her decide on a safe place early on where Karen could go to in her mind when she needed it most. “It was my grandmother’s kitchen; right outside her window, there was a big, beautiful pecan tree,” Karen described. “I was given techniques and tools that if stress or anxiety would come over me… I could go to this place, take a few deep breaths, and face whatever it was.” Something she had never considered doing before. “I just didn’t know you could do that. But I know it now, at 63 years old,” Karen admits.
Though some of the exercises practiced and techniques offered were new to Karen, she shared, “I was willing to give it a shot because I knew in my heart of hearts, I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I didn’t want to be miserable anymore.”
Another reason she could fully trust her counselor’s guidance toward healing was because of STCH Ministries Christian foundation. “I wanted someone that was going to be aligned with my beliefs,” Karen stated. While she knew Jesus was her Savior, Karen sought professional help to aid her in “getting out of the way of myself,” as she would describe it, and allowing God to work in her life.
Her daughter also began to notice and appreciate the evident change in Karen. “It’s really nice now to have one of us be calm,” Karen’s daughter once told her, as they both had held anger and immense hurt towards people in Karen’s life. “Initially, I went so I could see what I could do to make myself better for her,” Karen expressed, “and that has certainly happened in the long run.”
Nearing the end of her therapy, Karen abruptly lost her job. As disappointing as unemployment news is to bear for anyone, Karen said, “I did not worry about it for one minute, which I find amazing!” Karen added how, before, news like this could have easily led her down a bottomless pit in her mind and filled her with fear.
In addition to having gained suitable coping mechanisms in light of losing her job, Karen shared how she was now confident enough to stand up for herself and fight for her rights to unemployment due to termination without a cause. “I would have never spoken up [for myself] like that before,” Karen admitted. “I would have taken it, and I would have tucked my tail between my legs, and I would have gone home and agonized over ‘what was wrong with me?’”. Now, a renewed sense of worth and self-awareness has helped Karen navigate life’s ups and downs differently.
Knowing all that Christian counseling has done for her, Karen continues to reach out to those around her as an advocate for receiving help and learning new ways to process both past and current experiences. Karen often shares with her friends and family that are facing hard times, “I much rather you learn what I learned at your age than wait until my age.”
Counseling helped Karen overcome her struggles like she never thought possible. “It’s amazing. I couldn’t explain it when I started the process, and I cannot explain it now, but I know it works,” Karen said confidently. “I feel light. I’m not carrying around the anger anymore; I’m not carrying around the fear,” Karen shared.
“I believe in it, and I know the big difference it made in me,” Karen concluded with tears in her eyes.
If you or anyone you know is seeking help, please visit www.stchm.org/family-counseling for more information.