My last post talked about my twenty-year journey as a woman of faith. It has had its full of ups and downs, fits and starts, good times and bad. Fortunately, no matter how much hardship I endured, how much I questioned God, how hard I raged, I never really stopped believing in something bigger than me. I just couldn’t always agree with the image of God that had been offered to me as a child, teen, and young adult. I had to find God on my own.
Learning to be comfortable with stillness has been the most important—yet challenging—part of my journey. I suffer from depression, especially during the fall and winter. My first really bad depressive episode occurred the fall of my sophomore year—six months after I had been baptized. I was sad, unmotivated, unhappy, despairing of life that sophomore fall. No amount of Bible reading, prayer, church or fellowship could combat my biochemistry.
The day I was diagnosed was one of the best in my life. It explained so many things—and gave me a solution. It took a while, but I eventually found the right combination of medicine that could hold the mental anguish away long enough for me to be still. My perpetual motion, all the activity, had been my unsuccessful attempt to keep the depression at bay.
Around the same time, I started practicing yoga. My body needed the flexibility and strength that the practice offered. But I fell in love with savasana—the final part of a yoga class in which you get to do nothing but rest. During my first classes, my mind was in perpetual motion and couldn’t get still. Over time, as my teachers encouraged me to accept the mental chatter rather than fighting it, the thoughts stilled, and so did I.
I grew up in a lot of dysfunction. I was emotionally, physically, and sexually abused as a child. I saw loved ones struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. My family's financial situation went up and down with the economy. Some years, we had a lot. Other years were very lean. It wasn't easy.
My coping mechanism for all that stuff was to dull the pain and bury it. I got so masterful that I wouldn’t even register pain when it occurred. I would immediately jump to anger--or attack someone who I suspected might cause injury. It took many, many, many years of talk therapy to deal with all that dysfunction—to be able to learn how to feel—to allow the emotions to come to the surface and express themselves. Eventually, I was able to come to terms with the past and do an honest assessment of the present. The real breakthrough came when I started working with an African American female psychologist who also had been sexually abused. She knew how harmful such a betrayal could be to the psyche and how powerfully I could be transformed by dealing with it. I began seeing Dr. Jackson in 2010, shortly after I had moved to Washington, DC.
As a Princeton grad with a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, I had access to tremendous professional networks. The world should have been my oyster, but it wasn’t. I had little ambition after finishing school, and really didn’t live up to my potential throughout my twenties. It was hard to tap into my intelligence, because it also was the source of great agony. Rather pursuing a career in academia or the legal profession, pursuits that would have forced me to live inside my head, I tried to keep busy no matter the cost. Teaching was better suited to that.
Flash forward ten years: I had left teaching. I had left a lucrative job with an education technology company. I was 36 years old, living alone in a one-bedroom apartment. I had no savings, and couldn’t afford to go on vacation. I wasn’t married or even involved in a serious relationship. I didn’t have any children. My job paid well, but I still struggled with my finances.
With lots of help from Dr. Jackson, I was able to get honest with myself. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t content with my life. I wasn’t living the full life to which Christ had called me. I was angry all the time, as well as defensive and mistrustful. I wasn’t to blame for the things that happened to me as a child. The strategies I had chosen then helped me cope with the trauma. But I had to take responsibility for the decisions I was making as an adult. I acknowledged the inadequacy of my coping mechanisms, and finally was ready to let them go.
You can keep reading about my journey in Bad Girl Gone Good, Part II.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.