From an early age I had low self-esteem partly as a result of being criticized unrealistically by my mother. I was a perfectionist and struggled with anger, frustration and tension. Besides that I felt like my parents were smothering me with over protection. College graduation coincided with a break up with my boyfriend, dashing marriage plans and leaving me lost and dejected. Mom said, “I told you so.” That just made things hurt more.
I moved to a faraway state to try and escape my parents and the feelings of failure and guilt that I had, but things only got worse. I was painfully depressed, lonely, and practically anorexic when I moved back home a year later. Having me home again made my mom depressed, too. Too afraid and ashamed to ask for help, I was blessed to encounter people who encouraged and helped me along the way. It took years, but with determination my mood eventually improved.
I married in my late 20s thinking this would “solve all my problems” but the marriage ended up being a failure. Years later I understood that my controlling nature and lack of maturity had contributed to my part in the doomed relationship. In addition, the perfectionism I thought was such a great quality when I was younger turned out to have a negative effect on my attitude and relationships with others.
The divorce, combined with another graduation, a move, and new job brought on another severe episode of depression, insomnia, and anxiety. I had hit a wall, and I finally gave in and went for therapy. I was petrified at the prospect of sharing my intimate thoughts with a stranger but again was blessed to find an experienced person who was a tremendous help and guide.
Being too stubborn to try medication at first, I got physically ill with allergies and other ailments as a result of the tremendous stress on my body of not sleeping, poor eating habits, and nerves. Throughout this time I worked full-time and was active in my church but despite these positive strides I became negative, complaining, and very lonely.
My dad heard about Recovery International, a member led, self-help method developed by Dr. Abraham Low. He loaned me a book from a friend: Mental Health through Will Training. However, it wasn’t until 10 years later when I was getting ready to be married for the second time that I finally joined Recovery because I didn’t want to mess up another marriage. Even with all the progress I had made through the success of various treatments I still experienced tension, mood swings, a bad temper, and frustrations that made life difficult. It seemed like the only way I could progress further was to help myself more.
I offer my story to encourage others to keep trying and not give up. Dr. Low told us, “There is no such thing as a hopeless case.” The self-help method of Recovery International (RI) is a simple cognitive technique that I found helpful from the start by learning even a few tools to help with the daily symptoms and distress I felt. It took a lot of hard work and practice to become more accomplished at the RI techniques but today I feel that I have overcome my nervous condition even though I still have symptoms on a regular basis. The symptoms are manageable through practicing the RI method and continuing other strategies such as regular exercise to cope with tension and moods. I’ve learned that in the future I might experience a setback due to another life transition, but because I am expecting it I know it will be mild. Most of all I have learned to accept who I am and not to judge myself so harshly.
I’ve had a lot of help in my life. I credit Recovery International and my husband, who helps to keep me laughing, as well as my faith for giving me the current stability, relaxation, and wellness that I feel. In addition, I am grateful to all those, who with patience, tolerated and encouraged me throughout my life.
by Kathy Hall
The Phoenix Spirit encourages readers to submit their experience of encouragement and hope for publication. Send articles 1,000 words or less to phoenix@thephoenixspirit. com.