Jewish Community Watch,
I’m writing in gratitude. Gratitude for something I never dreamed of. Gratitude for something that somewhere I felt wasn’t possible yet desperately needed.
When I first contacted JCW I was hesitant. I didn’t feel I was as bad as other people. I’d gotten help when I was in my non-functional state and I was already much better. I had panic attacks every now and then and I was haunted in certain aspects of my life but nothing that would stop my life. I didn’t feel I deserved the help. My initial contact was actually just for a referral. I wanted to try getting help on my own without burdening JCW. I live in a small town and there was no one they knew in my area. Yet JCW stood by to help. A staff member put me in touch with a therapist and when his secretary told me he didn’t take insurance she told me JCW could help. The part of me that thinks I’m undeserving wanted to say no. Lucky for me the part of me that was desperate won.
After a number of phone sessions with the therapist it was evident I would need to fly to Miami, something I couldn’t think about affording for another few years at least! (I am a student living on loans.) Again, JCW was there. They assisted with the flight and found me a place to stay. Here I would like to say how indebted I am to JCW and to point out their dedication. I arrived at 12am and went directly to the intended lodgings. Arriving there close to 1am and feeling terribly unsafe for a number of reasons I emailed her. I expected I’d have been there till the next morning. Who is working at 1am?! A staff member was awake. She responded immediately and helped me get out of there to a place I felt safe. Not only that but she made sure I knew it was not my fault (I seem to think everything is).
My visit was more than I could have asked for. This therapist is top in what he does. I’m not a psychologist. I’m a patient who has been to many psychologists and therapists. I know great when I see it. There were instant results I could feel. If you don’t go through it, you can’t understand it. Words do not explain.
(Here I’d like to detail a little of what I was like, what happened and what I am like now.)
Anxiety ruled my life. I would drive to school and feel my heart race as another car passed me on the road. The mere thought of driving at certain hours was enough for me to rearrange my schedule, inconvenient as it may be. In addition to the anxiety I was one big ball of panicking fear. I panicked before exams, when someone looked at me, when my boyfriend made suggestions. More than once I had panic attacks in class. Those were not fun to say the least. I had resigned myself to a life this way, noting it was better than I was 5 years ago when I could not even say my name because the panic took over.
One thing I specifically needed to work on with the therapist was a situation in which taking practical exams in medical school as they involve a lot of touching and randomly assigned partners whose identities unknown until 15 minutes before exam time. The therapist had suggested talking to faculty to ensure I was assigned only to a female partner. I couldn’t. When I speak up for myself, I’m either highly aggressive, coming off as disrespectful, or extremely meek and don’t express what I mean to.
I was hesitant about Florida. More like resistant, as I’d imagine the therapist saying. I was afraid of leaving school for a weekend before an exam, of being in a strange place, of not knowing what would happen. But my biggest fear was not being in my own house. I remember texting my boyfriend as soon as I got there telling him I’m ready to come home. He didn’t understand how when we both sit cooped up inside studying all day I wouldn’t be excited to be in Miami of all places!
My first encounter with the therapist was not what I expected. In fact, I didn’t know what to expect despite being prepped. I cried a lot during that visit. It felt like my soul was burning, like a fire hydrant had opened directly into my chest and was choking me as I tried to swallow the pain. For once, the therapist helped me empty that hydrant of emotion. I didn’t have to do it alone and I didn’t have to gather the strewn pieces of myself. I left the office
feeling exhausted but light. As cliché as it sounds, part of the painting that was blackened, cleared. There was a sense of peace I’d never felt before and not just the feeling of being empty and full at the same time after crying. The therapist used something called EMDR. He’s better at explaining it so I’ll leave that to him. Let’s just say there is no therapy like it!
On my second visit, the therapist and I worked on the practical exam bit. I didn’t know if it would help because I wouldn’t have such an exam again until finals (now). However, here is what happened. I stopped panicking in that touching class and it became nothing more than a class for me. Classmates were feeling bones and muscle; there was nothing inappropriate about it. Being grouped with 7 other males for my last quarter of school, I somehow did not cry even once after class! Nor did I feel the need to. Our practical exam is coming up. I don’t need to avoid the topic or studying because of fear. While I can’t imagine myself speaking up to a proctor during the exam, I know if need be, I CAN and that’s all that matters.
A number of other things have changed as well. I had an experience before Florida with my faculty advisor in which he told me I was not capable of doing better in school without professional help (my scores were all in the 90’s aside for 1). In the moment I retaliated like I was being attacked. Upon returning from Florida and having discussed this with the therapist, I met with the Dean and put in a report. I stood up for myself without being aggressive AND
I said what I meant to! I also felt strong enough to skip that particular faculty member’s class because he was too creepy. The dynamic of certain friendships changed. I no longer let my friends micromanage my life. I am an independent, strong woman. I’m happier. About a week after I got back my boyfriend asked me what I was doing that made me so happy. He’s also mentioned change in other areas. I became social in the sense I now can interact with people in school. No, they’re not suddenly my best friends but saying hello doesn’t hurt.
It’s only been a few weeks since my return from Florida and I’m still counting the changes as my brain resettles and readjusts to its new state of being. There is more work to do but there is also an end to all this. I can get better. I am recovering.