My story may be different from many others in how it begins. I was never beaten nor sexually abused. I've never lived in poverty nor been homeless. I've never consumed alcohol nor used street drugs. I've never committed a crime nor been the victim of one, beyond having a couple of items stolen.
I was raised by conscientious, educated parents who provided us kids with many opportunities both to have fun and to reach our potential. We were brought up in the church where we learned the importance of a relationship with God and of right living.
And YET I developed many of the same problems as those who have endured the above hardships. How did this happen? I can think of a few relevant factors: My mother says I was a nervous baby. I cried hysterically at the mere sound of crinkling paper. I was the first child and was aware of all the expectations that were laid on me, in terms of achievements, high moral standards, and reputation. When an adult spoke to me as if I were a naive or stupid, I was disgusted. I had an ego problem early on. I was nervous and withdrawn when I began grade school but did make a good, lifelong friend in the second grade. I became self-confident in academics and music but remained self-conscious and immature socially. I took myself very seriously and felt horribly embarrassed when I was laughed at or ridiculed. I had a nervous stomach at every meal which was not eaten at home.
Beginning in the 9th grade, I had serious sleep problems which have persisted though most of my life. I didn't accomplish anything halfway; either I excelled or I under-achieved, getting out of many activities or responsibilities when I felt inadequate. I was a perfectionist - all or nothing. I was sensitive - my feelings were hurt easily, and I felt bad for any other child who was hurting. Fortunately in high school my friends were neither drinkers no users, so no one pressured me to do either, which was good because I was a wimp and would have caved in.
My mother's controlling habits became exaggerated when I reached my teens and began to develop my own opinions and try to make some of my own decisions. She became manipulative, raging, and emotionally abusive. She made every decision for me, including how to wear my hair every day of high school. So while I had been dependent and attached to her during my childhood, when I was finally ready to be more independent and self-confident, I was punished for it. Mixed messages ruled the day, and I was trying to please an impossible-to-please person.
By the time I reached my 30's, I was a preacher's wife and proud mother of 3. My own anxious nature, my dependent behaviors, my irrational thinking, and the demands of family and daily life overwhelmed me. I couldn't eat or sleep. I did the laundry and helped the kids with their homework, but did nothing more. I didn't go anywhere, not even to church. I worried excessively by asking "What If?s" and envisioning only the worst scenarios.
Following a 5-week psychiatric hospitalization and with the help of medications, I discovered GROW. Thus began my recovering, overcoming, and maturing, which I have found exciting and worthwhile.
I share this much of my story in order to make two points: 1. We humans are capable of becoming twisted and impaired even without abuse, catastrophe, or losses. In this case, you need to work the same program for mental health as those with more tragedy in their lives, because the goal is the same. Healthy living is healthy living. 2. You may never know why you became sick or maladjusted, but you can get well anyway!
I attended GROW for five years in the 1980's and did recover. I focused on my family and church, maintaining self-awareness in balance with the bigger picture. I eventually returned to school, received my M.S. in Clinical Psychology, and gained licensure (LCPC) in the state of Illinois. I counseled for 17 years and then slacked off when my husband retired, though I do keep my license current. Last spring I believed God was leading me to start a GROW group in Salem. With the help of Debbie Ellis and Cathy Baker, our group began in May 2013 and has been meeting for a year. I have benefited and enjoyed watching our GROWers blossom and support each other.
Since my sickness in the 1980's, I have
Here are the helps from the blue book that have benefited me the most for 30 years. Most pertain to feelings:
I can compel my muscles and limbs to act rightly in spite of my feelings. (Conviction #2, p. 10)
I will go by what I know and not by how I feel. (Determination #1, p. 10)
Feelings are not facts. (Key 1, p. 14)
Feelings are like the weather. (Key 2, p. 14)
Feelings are like children, and I am like the teacher in a classroom. (Key 3, p. 14)
Which of these three things do I want most of all: To feel good? To look good? Or to be good? (p. 17)
Don't be an emotional reaction - be a person. (p. 17)
And also these:
I can be ordinary. (4th principle, p. 7)
The Overall Key to Mental Health (p. 9) This helped me to keep my 'intense reactions for the bigger issues of life" (#1, p. 30) - the 'greater things' in the Key.
Responsibility: However I came to be sick, it is my responsibility to get well. (#10, p. 25)
When the time to keep a resolution has come, don't examine any more the pros and cons. Just do it. (#2, p. 32)
All 4 points for decentralizing (p. 40). I cannot emphasize these enough.
Thanks to these principles, I have learned how to be matter-of-fact and confident and to have a healthier perspective on myself, life, the world, and others. I can laugh at myself. I am still me. I will always want time alone because that enhances my peace of mind and my relationship with God, but I have learned that social health is as important as the other aspects of our well-being. Principle 3 on p. 7 includes this statement: to grow out of maladjustment I need to become concerned for and to be helping others. And the 5th principle, same page, concludes with this: the measure of my maturity is my capacity to be a true friend.
I thank GROW for the development of my abilities to write, speak, and lead. Having become healthier, I can say it is true that "my special abilities will develop in harmony only if my foremost aim is to be a good ordinary human being." (#4, p. 7)
Through GROW I have gained the following strengths which I hope make me a good leader: patience; encouraging and sharing hope with others; and acceptance of others, not judging their character, background, or prospects and especially not their value (#1, p. 7). I remember what it was like to be a new GROWer, so I try to address their concerns and questions. And, along with many of you, I can empathize with others' suffering, from having "been there," and I will not ask a GROWer to do something which I haven't done myself or been willing to do.
At present I'm helping to start a new GROW group in Centralia.
I believe that God, the Supreme Healer (p. 0), inspired GROW in the first place, brought it here, and continues to mold and use me. I cannot imagine ever being whole without Him.
I'll end with a light-hearted metaphor: GROW is like Metamucil. Whether you are constipated or have the opposite problem, Metamucil will return you to normal. Similarly, whether you are too aggressive or too passive, express emotions too frequently or too rarely, or focus on yourself too much or too little, the solution is the same: the GROW program, community, and way of life.