A Note from Jackie
Here is the story of a journey of fear, growth and faith. The survivor tells of struggles, temptations, hurts and fears that many often face in the shadow of difficult relationships with our parents or significant adults. This story is no different.
As I read through the story, my heart was touched by the ups and downs exeptlified in this survivor’s journey. There are times when faith is experienced through hope and promise and yet other times you will experience the writer’s hurts, fears and struggles. Isn’t that the way it is for all of us? Some days are easier than others. Some life circumstances are more wonderful and some are more difficult.
This story serves as a wonderful testimony to the power of faith and God’s love as well as a wonderful example of what a life’s journey is all about…overcoming the trials and struggles so as to enjoy the gifts of joy and love.
I am a faithful believer in Jesus Christ who has struggled and is recovering from depression, anxiety, emotional abuse, and sexual addiction.
I grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota, the daughter of two school teachers. I grew up attending a traditional Lutheran Church but attending church was more of an obligation and a very low priority in our family. I knew very little about the Bible and had never felt the presence of God in my life.
I was always an athlete and started playing a sport at age 3. By age 7, I was playing competitively in this sport and by age 9 I was competing nationally. From the outside everything seemed normal; I excelled athletically and in school and it appeared that my family was supportive. However, what was happening behind closed doors was a whole different story. My dad was a great coach and teacher at our local school and a very jovial, fun person to be around in public. I loved that dad and really enjoyed being around him. Behind closed doors however, he was ultra controlling, verbally abusive, angry, and would expose himself naked to me on a consistent basis. I was always scared that something terrible would happen in our house, whether it be my brother, who had the same temper as my dad or my dad losing his temper on myself or my mom. I would try to stay out of the way when tempers were flaring and go hide in my room. I learned very early on that keeping things to myself was the best way to stay safe. I became a shell of the person I really was. I was extremely introverted and struggled talking to others I didn’t know, especially men.
I had to win…
The pressure to succeed at my sport increased as I got older. I distinctly remember being yelled at after an event when I didn’t perform as my dad thought I should. I was constantly questioning myself and the pressure to succeed made me physically ill. I was always sick before a sporting event and I firmly believe this is where I learned my anxious tendencies. I would play in 30 plus competitive events a summer and travel all over the country. I missed out on my childhood in so many ways and lacked the social skills to be friends with kids my age.
There were some positives…
But those were just the negatives from sport—I have been blessed with so many positives from growing up playing. The game taught me perseverance, respect, honesty, and integrity. Because of my abilities, I earned a Division I athletic scholarship. With that came a team of other young woman who had similar life experiences. That was the greatest gift God could give me at that moment in my life.
In addition, I had the most loving, amazing coach, who guided me through this period of my life. In my freshman year of college, I herniated a disk in my back and had to have surgery the following spring. The only thing I knew in life, my sport, was taken away. I couldn’t play for 6 months and it really took me a year and a half to get back to full speed. I didn’t know how to function without the sport I had played almost my entire life. I didn’t have practice to go to everyday and felt so empty inside. What ensued was my first bout with depression. I had severe sadness, loneliness, and I didn’t know what I could possibly do now that my sport was to be limited in my future. My team and coach surrounded me with their love and I was able to go off of my depression medication after a year and a half. I wouldn’t struggle with depression again for the next five years.
Life was still tough and I learned to stuff my emotions…
Meanwhile, my relationship with my dad was always difficult. Whatever I did in life, it was never good enough for my dad. I spent the first 27 years of my life trying desperately to please him and live my life the way he wanted. It was like he was my God. I believed everything he told me. That I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t have a good enough job, that I shouldn’t have taken the time to get my masters, that my apartment wasn’t nice enough, the list goes on and on. My self-esteem was exceedingly low and for the longest time my self worth was determined by my success in my sport. I stuffed everything inside, deep down.
Eventually, you can’t stuff anymore inside of yourself. In November 2008, I had something happen at work that made me question what I had become, what people thought of me, and what I was doing in my life. It didn’t take much and my life was spiraling downward. I was depressed and suicidal. I felt so extremely alone and didn’t let anyone into my life. The walls were up and I thought I could get out of this situation through my own strength and courage. I did not tell a single person about my darkness until February 2009. During this time, I somehow went to work, came home, went to sleep and got up the next day to go to work again. I don’t even remember a lot about these three to four months of my life.
I found hope…
God had a plan though and He brought me through the doors of Lutheran Church of Hope on November 21, 2008. The first thing I heard that Sunday evening was, “If this is your first time visiting Hope, we have been praying for you and believe it is no accident that you are here tonight.” Well, that certainly got my attention. I kept coming to Hope each weekend and accepted Christ into my life on December 23, 2008 during the Christmas Eve service at Hope. It was an amazing experience and the first time I had truly felt God’s presence. From there, I took the Alpha course that spring and it was in that small group that I told them about my depression, my suicidal thoughts, and how I hadn’t shared with anyone. It took me 7 weeks to tell my Alpha group, and as some of you know the course is only 9 weeks long!
Sometimes it gets harder before it gets easier…
As it turns out the Depression was only a result of much deeper hurts, habits, and hang-ups. In June of 2009, I started having panic attacks, some so debilitating that I thought I was having a heart attack; I couldn’t breathe, and would sometimes throw up when they were really bad. I had them at work, at my support group, and in the car. I was hurting really bad and was struggling to reach out to others and to develop some Accountability Partner relationships at my support group. One night at my support group, I connected with a couple of people and we began an email conversation. This helped build my trust and it was easier for me than face-to-face conversations. These people were instrumental in helping me come out of my shell. I slowly began to trust these few people and that trust was upheld.
One night in August 2009, the lesson at my support group was on sponsorship. I always figured that sponsors were only for those with an addiction and not for someone who struggles with depression and anxiety. But as I soon discovered, we all need someone to talk to and to walk alongside of us during our journey. I really struggled trying to ask someone to be my sponsor. I would come face-to-face with the person I felt should be my sponsor and not say a word. I asked someone to be my sponsor about a month after the lesson. I am currently on my fourth sponsor but am truly grateful for the one I have now. This person is there for me when I need her and challenges me to become a better person and to be as God intended me to be. I have several accountability partners who are also an integral part of my life. The reason I am here today and striving to live the life God intended is because of my friends. I have never had such authentic true friends in all my life. I love them with all my heart and would do anything for them. I never believed people when they said your church family can make up for a broken biological family…but it is so true. Thanks Sisters!!
One of my accountability partners suggested that I purchase the step study books and begin working through the first step of denial. I was willing to try anything because I was nearing the end of my rope. My own willpower wasn’t working and I was having panic attacks on a regular basis. I completed that first step on denial in one day and I couldn’t believe how much freedom and also pain it brought up. I decided at that point I wanted to get into a Step Study. Doing this study, especially the fourth and fifth step, has allowed me to work through my pain and to move on. I know my journey is not complete but the step study is an important component in my journey of freedom from past hurts.
One of the biggest moments in my recovery journey was the day I gave over my control to God. It was in September 2009 and I had been sick, I was experiencing problems with my depression medicine and at a definite low point in my life. At the bottom, I finally realized that I could not fix this with my own willpower. I prayed that evening on the side of my bed to God, I told him I was powerless and that I needed his help to overcome my depression and anxiety. My way didn’t work and I was at the end of my rope. Tears were flowing and my emotions were out for the first time in a very long time. God was with me that night. I felt His presence and felt His work in my life from then on.
With my support network strongly intact, God must have felt I was ready to remember and deal with more from my past. In October 2009, during a guest speaker at my support group, I experienced a panic attack and started remembering abuse in my childhood and of being exposed to my father. The abuse or exposure was so vivid in my mind and I struggled to sleep for a week and the panic attacks seemed stronger. But God only gave me as much as I could handle and he surrounded me with such wonderful people from this recovery ministry.
During this journey, my faith and convictions continued to grow as I participated in classes at church, attended weekly services, met with prayer warriors, started the step study, and talked frequently with my sponsor and accountability partners. As Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10 says: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
My journey continues…
As my faith grew deeper I realized that some things in my life were not for the glory of God and were against his law. It was very hard for me to tell others of the addiction that I had been facing for several years. Prior to coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ, I didn’t think it was that wrong. Finally, shortly before Thanksgiving 2009, I told a very close friend that I was addicted to pornography and had a sexual addiction. She was very loving and didn’t judge me at all. Gradually, I started to feel less shameful of my addiction and more focused on how to overcome it. I started reaching out for help and being accountable to others. I still struggle with the temptations but pray that the Lord will help me through this addiction.
A scripture that I focus on a lot and sums up my struggles are Romans 7:21-25:
“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is in my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
God has given me a new heart now and a new lease on life. A prayer partner led me to a scripture one night in the prayer room and said that is what he now saw in me.
Ezekiel 36:25-26—“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a NEW HEART and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
I know God had me experience the valleys and mountain tops of life for a reason, so I could help others with the same affliction. I always had a servant and caring heart and what I found in the darkness will help others in the light. I now know God’s purpose for my life, his intention when he created me. I am looking forward to loving and glorifying God the rest of the days of my life. This new heart, new life is amazing and I feel truly blessed to have been given this opportunity.
I will end with my favorite scripture and it helped get me through some very tough moments.
Joshua 1:9—“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Just remember, He is with you always, in the good times and the bad. And His light shines brighter than any darkness this world can bring.