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the comeback

With my website in full swing, things were beginning to look a bit more positive for me with each passing day. It wasn’t easy for me to dig into my past to encounter and recall all of the memories of heartache and personal tragedy, but I knew that there was meaning in all of it. God had called me to the stand with the purpose of directing me towards a more wholesome life. And I was motivated by a desire to achieve peace and forgiveness by accepting responsibility and being completely honest with myself and those around me who chose to take an interest in my story. For months I had been completely lost. There seemed to be no end to the miserable, panic stricken days that had become the norm in my life…that is, until I found my purpose…

The blog gave me a reason to stand tall and continue to battle my anxiety. It forced me to confront the images of my past and make peace with them. And it helped me to channel some of my own inner strength. I quickly realized that I felt absolutely no shame in my story, but instead, I felt proud to have so much to be able to share. I was inspired by the fact that my genuine approach was honorable and that I was embarking on a journey that was somewhat shocking and unprecedented. And I didn’t worry much about the reaction of others, because my faith told me that my purpose was well conceived. I fully believed that if I was able to proceed in the direction that the Lord intended, then in time everything else would fall into place.

As I continued to write, I found that the blessings in my life appeared more and more abundant. I can’t even begin to tell you just how many people chose to reach out to me directly to offer their support of my journey. It was incredible. There were a few close friends and family members, countless acquaintances from my past, some people who knew me only through one or two conversations, and even a couple of complete strangers. I was just overwhelmed with the kindhearted nature of everyone. I began to realize what it meant to be a true friend…these were good people, the kind I wanted to surround myself with for the rest of my life. For many years I had chased relationships that only led to negative consequences, and now my new, faith directed approach was leading me towards better people and more positive outcomes. My honest, good-hearted effort was attracting more of the same in return.

I learned quickly that I was not alone in my journey. Many others had been suffering as well, and sadly in most cases they had been doing so silently. I had quite a few people contact me to me to share their own personal stories, seemingly because they felt a unique level of comfort with me. That was such an incredibly rewarding feeling…to see that others could rely on me, count on me. I no longer felt so alone. The world didn’t seem nearly as threatening. I realized that I had a bigger purpose in all of this than I had originally thought. I was no longer here solely to tell my story, but also to speak for so many others who had shared in my fight but continually found themselves feeling fearful and alone. We were a team.

Mental health issues carry a stigma in our society, and it’s very unfortunate. So many of us feel forced to mask our true identity for fear of being judged or classified as abnormal. And the societal pressure that surrounds us is often what keeps us from getting well. We’d rather suffer behind closed doors than open up and face ignorant criticism or even worse, abandonment. If we could instead learn to be accepted for who we are, we could move forward with confidence.

I wanted nothing more than to be able to start over in my life. I had taken enough painful steps in the wrong direction. I had zero left to lose. I gave up nearly everything that I ever cared for over the years…so where was the risk? Why not wipe the slate clean and take this opportunity to act on my beliefs? If in the end I’m left with only a handful of people who support me, then so be it….at least I will know that they embrace me for who I am as a person. And I will feel blessed to know that those who remain will support me wholeheartedly and stand by me through thick and thin.

Thursday July 21st, 2011 – It had been one week since my initial blog post to Setback2Comeback. I had been taking several steps in the right direction, and my life was beginning to take a turn for the better, but this particular day was very tough for me. I was dealing with a lot of work related stress, and I was reaching my breaking point. Anxiety was setting in. I started to feel pain and pressure in my chest, and my throat began to close up. I could hardly swallow. I was on the brink of a major attack. My father had stopped by my place late in the day and as he sat with me in my living room, I told him that I was feeling like I couldn’t handle it. I began to question “why is this continuing to happen to me?” I was again finding myself feeling victimized by anxiety and stress. I just couldn’t understand…I had been doing everything right, why would I need to continue to suffer? And then I stood up and looked at my Dad and said “everything has been happening for a reason…there have been so many signs that have proved that to be true”…”I have a hard time believing that God has allowed me to feel this way for no reason…like everything else, there HAS to be a plan”. And the second those words left my tongue, I was struck with complete dizziness. I could not stand, the feeling forced me to sit down immediately. It was as if a freight train had collided with my brain. I knew that it was God intervening and making me aware that he had not left my side. He was right there with me. This was a reminder to stay on track and keep faith in the process. Amazing…

For a couple of hours, my anxiety subsided. But later that night, it made its second push. I ended up calling and talking to my Dad to try to calm my nerves and prevent a follow up attack. We talked a lot about the event from earlier that evening and how it was so incredible that God was taking such an active interest in my life. There had been signs everywhere recently. For instance, I’d often find that when I’d do my daily devotion at night that the topic of the day was exactly the issue that I was wrestling with in my mind. It happened over and over again. I knew that He was there…and that kept me focused and gave me tremendous hope. If I could persevere by approaching things the way that He intended, then I would ultimately end up with the life that I had desired all along.

During our conversation, I referenced the fact that so many people had been reaching out to me as a result of my blog. I told my Dad how blessed it made me feel to know that there were so many kindhearted individuals out there taking an interest in my story. I felt as though I was making some really positive connections for a change…relationships that would last. I had been reading quite a bit in the Bible about “reaping what you sow”, and I mentioned to my Dad that I couldn’t help but feel as though that’s what was happening for me. The more of myself I offered, the more I was being given in return as a result. And then, remarkably, as if someone put the words to my lips, I said “that’s the comeback”. Immediately after, my mind went blank…I could not recall what we had said to each other even seconds before, and I could hardly talk. I was just left with a feeling of absolute tranquility. My pressing anxiety had vanished as if it was never there at all that evening.

What was so amazing about this was that I had been struggling for quite some time determining how I would finish my story. In fact, just that morning in the shower I was feeling lost about how I would ever conclude things. Someone had recently emailed me mentioning “I hope that your story has a happy ending” and I found myself fearful that I might never be able to provide one. I knew that I had many unique experiences to document and share, but I was now realizing that I had set out defining my site without ever having a final “comeback” in mind…

Perhaps that was the purpose all along…for me to let go of my ongoing desire to control the outcome and allow the experience and faith lead to my new life’s definition…

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