People who know about me sometimes ask about my decision to take breaks from counseling when I take breaks from school. This practice started for a few reasons, the first and most important of which was that I didn’t want to be in counseling in the first place and was looking for my nearest opportunity to escape anyway. Also rather important was that I hadn’t told my parents yet and it would be rather challenging to do something like that without getting “caught” in addition to the issue that involving the insurance company would mean my parents would see it on their statements…if I even had insurance at the time, which at the point of Christmas break first year would have been a problem since I was not on the insurance at that time…a third reason that first summer was that if my counselor even mentioned counseling over the summer it was not at all pushy and was definitely not a discussion topic. It has continued though my parents do know now for a few reasons. For one thing, the idea of having to find and connect with someone new and have to figure out how to schedule it every week is kind of overwhelming. Secondly, at home I do a lot better and can function without accountability pretty much at the same level as I do at school with accountability. A lot of things are just easier at home, and as a bonus, with fewer stressors at home, a lot of things kind of die down because the stress has played a role in triggering or maintaining behaviors…like the handwashing that generalized from germ prevention to stress relief…and at home I have a different form of exposure therapy that has formed around me without me even trying very hard to create it…
I was home on Christmas break second year and got up enough courage to go to youth group. I thought I’d probably end up saying hi to a few people and then go hang out in the hallway. If I remember correctly, that first night that is pretty much what I did: came in quietly, stayed towards the back, and when they started having a party I was overwhelmed and went out into the hallway to hang out on my own until it was time to leave.
A few weeks later I went again, this time more successfully. I was invited into a small group and I was directly invited to come to Captivating the next night…My friend in high school started this Bible study and had asked me about coming when we were in high school, but I always thought about it and didn’t come…Partly it was on a Thursday night and I already had Wednesday night youth group, so it just wasn’t the greatest timing…and partly that I was not very comfortable in that setting, and the more of a big deal that was made of it the less I was likely to show up.
I was a little nervous the next night when I came to Captivating–would I fit in as a college student? I mean, I was invited by an adult so I knew I’d be welcome to at least one person, but would the other girls accept me? Would they expect me to have answers to share with them? …but I went. The rest of break I came if I was directly invited to come again, and if I wasn’t I didn’t.
That summer I kind of thought about just coming to Captivating, but I was scared to go without being invited. Soon I had been invited, and that summer I went any week I was available without needing to be re-invited each week (success 🙂 ), but only if it was meeting at church. If it was at anyone’s house then I was not coming. A small group meeting at church was okay, but meeting at someone’s home was too scary.
Suddenly it was winter break of third year! I needed an invitation to come again, but now there was a new leader…One who didn’t know that I didn’t really talk, and therefore was not so likely to not directly ask me questions or to intentionally give me the choice not to participate or just assume that I wouldn’t want to and work around that. It was kind of scary, but it was good for me. For the first time in as long as I could remember I prayed out loud. So different from the girl who a month or so earlier had sat paralyzed when asked to pray out loud and just refused and couldn’t do it.
Enter third year summer…I didn’t need an invitation to just come! I made sure I remembered the time correctly and knew the location and just went 🙂
And then the next week came. And we weren’t meeting at church anymore…And I still came. I attempted to at least make it a little easier by offering to give rides, but that didn’t turn out to work for me…but I went…and to add to the challenge in an unexpected way there were animals. I am not afraid of cats or dogs, and I don’t mind them being around, but them touching me is not something I like. (At school I will play with SD, but never touch her…yes, that means that occasionally I need a little help because she will stop running if I run after her yelling her name, but if she was running toward the cafeteria and is in the middle of the lobby that isn’t such a good spot to keep watching her so I kind of need someone to pick her up and bring her back to the success center.) At this house I couldn’t avoid the animals completely, and I tolerated it…and someone brought cookies and I had forgotten my hand sanitizer or wipes and could eat anyway…score!
And then the next week came…I decided I still wasn’t letting a house stop me from coming to Bible study, nor were the animals going to turn me off…and then I got there and as it turned out there was a party…I do not usually do parties…So much going on, so many scary social expectations to decode…so many games that involved using my words, but I didn’t invent a reason to get out of there or take a break, and I will go back next week.
I am so thankful for this Bible study. I love that it has set me up for success and that everyone has been quick to accept me in and make me feel like I belonged. I love that even without trying it has pushed me into situations that I wasn’t so comfortable in, because ultimately I know that if I attempt to feel safe at all times that my world will shrink. I might not be ready exactly the target audience, but this Bible study means so much to me, and I am so glad that I have been able to have it as a part of my life.