Life Journey

Dianne G.

There have been times in my life when circumstances were overwhelming and catastrophic leaving me feeling devastated at times. Years ago I experienced the death of loved ones in a short period of time – a 27 year old fiancé, my 61 year old father who died while with me, and 2 grandmothers back whom I was very close with – these events halted my life for a long time. I quite school to take care of my mother, held the financial responsibilities at home, and was in a job that brought me no satisfaction but brought security which I needed. I smiled on the outside, but was numb and feeling hopeless on the inside.

I began to have anxiety and panic attacks. One day while grocery shopping my heart started pounding, I began sweating, feeling dizzy and like I couldn’t breathe – all right there in the produce aisle! It was then I knew I needed help! Working with a therapist helped me understand and work through the anxious thoughts that came from losing those closest to me, and also helped me manage the fear of my own mortality. The therapeutic alliance and the tools and techniques I learned were life changing in many ways. Not only was I able to overcome the anxiety that plagued me for so long, but I was able to dream again. A passion was ignited within me to want to help others experience the relief I did.

I always had regrets about quitting school after my father’s death, but lacked the confidence or drive to go back. I was in my 40’s and it seemed ridiculous to do this now. I felt old, but there was this little piece of me that said – “just try”. Maybe I won’t even get accepted into the school (I secretly hoped this for a while). Well, in august 2014 I received the email that I WAS accepted and in September 2014 I was back in school pursuing my degree in psychology! It was both exciting and scary, but I was doing it!

During my second to last semester of school my brother became ill. He moved in with me and I took care of him. I watched as he became sicker and sicker. This was all too familiar. Do I quit school again? Do I let my dream go – again? He passed away at the end of that semester and I did think about quitting, but I had come too far and have dreamed too long. How am I going to get through this? I reached deep inside and found the courage to handle it, and handle it I did!

Even though my particular circumstances might be unique, we all face challenges from time to time that we might doubt we can get through. Whatever the circumstances or situation, no matter how big or small, we all have within us the power and courage bear it and overcome. It is within the place of bearing what seems impossible, that we grow stronger. It is that place that leads us to significant and lasting change.

I was once a person who didn’t think she could ever be a college graduate. This May 2017, I will not only be a college graduate, but I will be the first person in my family to earn a college degree. I broke that cycle of letting life control me, now I’m in control and manage life’s circumstances. Sometimes I still need the help when things are really difficult, but I know I can bear whatever comes my way. I’m chasing my dreams and this fall I will be attending Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service to pursue my Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree.

The voice that would tell me to give up when I felt like I was being pushed to my limits had to be silenced. I answered back in a strong, courageous voice – “Yes, what I’m going through is difficult and I’m hurting, but I possess the capacity to bear it – and I’m going to keep going and survive it.” I no longer exist, but I dream, I hope, I live, and I’m so happy!!

There is a quote I love and hopefully it will be as impactful to anyone reading this as it is to me: “You’ve always had the power my dear; you just had to learn it for yourself.” – Glinda (the good witch from The Wizard of Oz).

Life Journey

Cristina L.

If I could describe my life up until 2012 I would say I was trying to connect with the little girl inside me who was lost inside a dark deep hole screaming for help.

My struggle began when I was raped at 15 years old by a guy that I knew for a short time. I had been a virgin and this was my first sexual experience. I didn’t open up about it until a few years later mostly due to the fact that these things were not to be spoken about. A part of me knew that if I opened up at the time I may have been criticized by my peers and or really hurt my parents. I went on living with this secret festering inside me until I had my first mental breakdown at 20 years old. Which led me to a series of detrimental behavior. Anger, pain, sadness and confusion attracted the wrong people in my life. I like to say that I was attracting broken pieces of myself. I had met an old acquaintance of mine and developed a relationship in a hurry. I was looking for comfort and someone to runaway to.

With this new found love I felt on top of the world, in no time it turned into a vicious cycle of abuse. At that point in my life I felt that I deserved it because I had been so promiscuous in the past due to repercussions of my rape, which I felt I deserved as well. I felt that God was punishing me and I had to do the time. During that time I didn’t eat properly, I neglected to take care of myself. My family thought I was just exhausted from work. Until one day my boss/mentor asked me if he had ever laid a hand on me, the look on my face gave it away. She said “Get out tonight!” Later that evening I went to our apartment and packed up everything and called my brother. My ex came home and was apologetic and crying. I was brave enough to overlook the same old pattern and walked out with no hesitation. Up until a few months ago I summoned the courage to block him on Facebook, mainly because a part of me was still healing (5 Years)

That night I moved back in with my parents, which was a complete shock because I left an abusive environment to a loving environment. The difference scared me and I didn’t know how to cope with it. A few months down the line I lost plenty hours of precious sleep and developed mixed episodes of mania and depression. I was dealing with this unaware of what was going on in my brain and how my body was deteriorating. I had lost 40lbs, I didn’t eat, sleep and barely stepped foot outside my bedroom door. I was lost in my own mind. A year later in 2012 I had a complete mental breakdown. I locked myself in the bathroom and told my mom that if I stay in here I will kill myself and if I go outside I will hurt someone. I called my best friend who came to my rescue and my doctors were contacted and luckily I was seen by a psychiatrist who put me on a low dose medication and followed up with me every week until some improvement was shown. Since then I have been thriving. It took some time to gain my confidence back and feel whole again. It was a long time coming but here I am!

I now work as a special events coordinator and I feel so blessed to be alive. I feel like I’m gaining the Cristina I was before all of the hardships I’ve gone through.

My mission in life is to help young kids and adults deal with their past pain and confront their demons with the power of music, art, poetry and therapy to help reach their true potential just like I did.

Before >>> After…



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