Hoping you're all having a good weekend - we had a 'backwards' couple days. To explain, we had our taco dinner on May 4th ('May the fourth be with you') and on Cinco De Mayo today, (May 5th) I am invoking the force (fourth) and we're having chicken for dinner. If no one cares, I guess I won't either. I'll just note both 'May days' have been duly observed, one way or another. Additionally, the state of Pennsylvania is drenched - it's done NOTHING but RAIN most of this week.
So, I had a counseling appointment on Friday with M. We were also planning to discuss with the volunteer coordinator at the Women's Center some opportunities for me, since volunteering is a pathway into the 69-hour class they offer, as well as interning with them and eventually being able to apply for work there. M has spent the last six months getting to know me via group meetings and individual counseling sessions and is aware of my 'plan.' It was, in fact, her idea to discuss the next steps with the volunteer coordinator - whom, while she wasn't present in our meeting, has instructed M on what to suggest.
Basically, in order to volunteer at this particular center, apparently, you cannot be receiving services affiliated with the Center. This means, no counseling, no attending the support groups, no receipt of ANY 'help' whatsoever, for one year. This is what they consider a 'transition period' - which makes sense - in order to be providing assistance to others, we must show them that we are in a proper frame of mind and we are not needing their assistance, ourselves.
Of course, I may attend their community events, the public come-one, come-all ones - and M will likely see me at those events - along with the other staff members at the center - they will see that I am still present, and still keeping up with the Center's activities, and there is still interest in becoming one of their volunteers. M has also told me that I'm welcome to reach out to her if I ever needed a session or wanted to attend a group. I was still allowed to do this and am still entitled to services - but then, that would 'reset' my year.
It was also explained to me that it is during senior year that I'll be expected to do interning/field work - and to cease counseling now will give me my entire junior year to prepare for that - my senior year would start in 2020 if I'm on track - and by then, my required year away from the Center will be up and I'll hopefully already be volunteering for a few months. I can also hope to have that class taken that they offer, if it's a prerequisite to volunteering.
I explained to her that my reason for joining their groups in the first place was not because I was/am in crisis - because I am not at a point where this has been consuming me. I joined the group first - I was simply seeking connection, to become acquainted with others that I could relate to. I am still new to where I now live - I don't have too many familiar folks around me and I am having trouble emerging from within this self-protective bubble I've formed around myself for the last couple of decades. The only reason I started counseling was because I needed a place to vent some of the frustrations that I was having with some of the changes related to my out-of-state move, my relationship, my decision to go back to school. Change was/is never comfortable for me - and while I wasn't in crisis, I needed a place to put all of it. My counseling sessions with M were never meant to be long-term, and I accept that our sessions have to come to a close. I've gained some insight and perspective from it all - and we parted ways saying I've come a long way and I've 'graduated.'
And thus begun my 'transition' process.
On the drive home, it hit me - I now have even LESS connections. At least - not in person. I know that here, in this space, there is NO shortage of connections. And I will continue to make them here. There is great importance in having these connections available to you - be they online or in person.
In person, though, I have just ONE connection - at least one that is 100% safe - the one I have with my fiancee, who knows absolutely everything there is to know about me and about my past. She's the one who understands me the most - as she's a survivor, too. Yes, this made such a connection MUCH easier to form in the beginning - and all additional connections on top of this main one has been an incredible bonus. Ten years later, we're still going strong and while I'm not looking for intimate connection with anyone else, I'm feeling that, emotionally, this is a time of evolution for us both - while we still love each other very much and have a strong understanding of one another's issues - we are BOTH making changes in our lives. I've decided to pick up where I left off 20 years ago with my return to school and she's been spending the last six months in therapy working on coping with suppressed trauma that happened over 12+ years ago. The EMDR has understandably taken a toll on her and she has been throwing herself into work and social activities to keep both mentally and physically busy - and I've felt very distant, very lonely - and that was my reason for researching and finding the support group in the first place.
And now, that's gone. It's going to have to be, if I want to keep putting all of my eggs in this one particular basket. The basket, representing this particular Center, where I very much like the environment, the staff, the atmosphere. It is exactly where I want to be two or three years from now - working with M as a co-worker, being able to work with those who truly ARE in crisis and need that assurance that someone's listening, someone cares. I want to be giving back.
I do have upcoming opportunities to 'put myself out there,' this fall. I'll be starting school at the end of August. There is a huge difference though - and I think this is what I'm realizing...
You see, I made a statement when I joined the Center's support group. I let them know that I was a survivor of sexual assault, of domestic violence, and possibly of CSA. I didn't have to say these words - my being there, being present and my participation in the meetings, was all that was needed. These other ladies were getting to know me, already knowing this information. The HARD stuff was already out there - without my having to put any words to it. It's a nice thought, and for the moment, it was a comfortable one - not having to explain myself, not having to explain why I'd 'tune out' during discussions or even describing why the simplest of thoughts were harder for me to explain or even to convey to someone else. I think this is what made it easier to sit through these meetings, knowing that I wasn't obligated to explain these things - they already knew and understood.
What statement am I making when I walk into my first class at the end of August? There's no pre-existing knowledge of who I am as a person and how I've gotten here. There's no instruction manual. There's nothing. One GIANT unknown. I am going to HAVE to work at making these connections from scratch. These people are not having statements made, other than I'm a 40-yr-old who's decided to continue her education after 20 years. And for me, I know nothing about the people I'm going to be sharing a room with two or three days per week - I'm not going to know whether I can relate to them on some level unless otherwise revealed.
I KNOW that this isn't something that EVERYONE has to know about me. I've managed to keep it from my family for my entire life. But even so, there's a very difficult-to-explain craving for that connection to exist, even if just as a starting point. I do currently have a small handful of friends - the lady I bowl with being one absolutely terrific character - then there's my neighbor, a 60-something, who has always been very kind to us and who takes care of our animals whenever we are away for a couple days. These two DEFINITELY have friend potential but they, sadly, do not know me the way J does. There still remains in place a barrier - I only allow them to know things that are 'general,' things that are 'safe.' There are things I'd never say around them. Important, telling information, that would explain me in ways that I've never been able to allow...because, gee - what if they don't get it? (Yes, I know I can't live my life like this - I need to afford others the chance to let ME know whether or not they can relate to any of it, rather than either yank the chance away or maintaining the we-can-be-friends-but-I'm-not-letting-you-get-too-close mindset!)
This is yet another part - another step - of my own personal evolution - and perhaps the Center has unintentionally given me more 'preparation' work than I bargained for. It isn't just this transition that I've got to get used to - I've been somewhat ready to take on a different role for a while, now. It is more so the realization that there won't always BE this pre-existing knowledge when dealing with new people and forming new connections and relationships. I've always known this, but have been plodding along, regardless. Plus - I'm studying to be a social worker - I've got to understand the 'outside' world just as much as I understand the 'inside.' If that makes any sense at all...and skills there, I don't have just yet.
This next 365 days is the time to open up my mind to further personal growth, isn't it? Especially in the area of forging safe, healthy friendships and connections. Going to the groups, to counseling was just one way to get started, to prepare myself for the REAL tests that lie ahead - the ones that will start when I become a full-time student.
This is going to be a hell of a self-imposed challenge that I've a year to rise to.
It took a few days to process all of this - being a rainy weekend has helped - spent time reflecting on my 'final' counseling session, on what is expected of me - even if it's more so a self-expectation than anything. In between reflection, I've managed to get some spring cleaning done - lots of things getting thrown onto eBay, (who would have thought there was value in a broken XBOX that had been collecting dust for years?!) and the daughter's room, I've discovered, has a floor. Mind blowing.
Anyway - wanted to put out there an update on the brain traffic for this past week - hoping next week to see a reduction in clutter but as Mother's Day is rapidly approaching, I do sense another jam coming on. Thankfully, Oompa will be out of the country, (she's going to Italy) but her absence never seems to stop the gears from turning, the constant stream of thinking that usually goes along with any reminder that I have a mother. I'll likely be back in a few days to decompress.
Hoping everyone had a good weekend. As always, my good thoughts are with you all.