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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

The Day Everything Changed

Today is an anniversary of sorts. It has been three years since the first day I walked into therapy. If you were to contrast my life with the life I was living on that day it would be quite apparent that not much is the same.

I don’t live where I lived; in fact I don’t even live in a stationary home.

My children and grandchildren don’t live where they lived.

My dad is no longer with us.

Neither Scott nor I work where we worked.

Most of all, in so many ways, I am not who I was.

You know those stress tests that score the amount of stress in your life? Well, our scores would be epic; but I am very thankful for all the things on that stress test that didn’t happen to us. Yes, there are a few. We have been healthy. Our children and grandchildren are fine. We are still attending the same church. And we still have each other.

We still have each other. That is actually quite phenomenal. Thirty-eight years of together. Trust me, it is a miracle. It is what happens when two people decide they are going to take care of each other no matter what—AND BOTH ARE WILLING TO WORK AT IT.

I yelled that last point because no one can hold a marriage together by his or herself. It is also possible for some to be so hurt and damaged that it is impossible to overcome. Well, not impossible—all things are possible, but maybe the part of them that would have to be very brave is just too damaged. Maybe both are too damaged.

The point is that I have no right to sit on my throne of thirty-eight years and judge the world. I just have to be grateful, because we should not have made it. We have every reason to be proud of ourselves!

The day I walked into therapy, I got on a train to a new destination. Scott saw me departing and jumped on board. We have traveled over mountains, spent time in valleys, viewed life from new heights and prayed we’d make it to the other side when bridges we were depending on collapsed underneath us.

I don’t think we have reached our final destination—maybe that is Heaven with a lot more stops before we get there. During these three years so many of the stops have been horribly painful. It took a while for me to look around the pain and see the possibilities. I am slowly beginning to see those possibilities first and understand that I can choose not to walk into more painful interactions with those who can’t find it in themselves to care. It is truly freeing.

Today, on this three-year anniversary of sorts, there is really so very little that would have felt familiar the day I walked into therapy. I am thankful for the family and friends who are still an important part of my life, but beyond that nothing is the same—including me.

It is hard to imagine that a life can be so completely transformed and changed. I remember one sad day before I began therapy when a friend had moved and I fell into darkness. I understand now that it felt like abandonment (which it wasn’t) and that all sorts of pain and trauma were trying to surface. My family knew this dark cloud that occasionally consumed me, and my daughter brought me chocolate cake. It helped, but I had a conversation with God that day. I knew that whatever had consumed me since childhood was no better despite every effort on my part. I begged God to help me.

You know, they say, “Watch out when you pray, you may get what you ask for.” I don’t know if I understood that I was praying for healing, but healing was what I needed. I probably thought that healing involved changing whom God had created within my genetic code. This was so far from the problem.

I had no concept of what the answer to my prayer would bring. It is kind of like when you glibly decide to go on a roller coaster and you don’t know it is the world’s scariest roller coaster until you hit that first turn. I didn’t know that my one desperate prayer was going to turn my world upside down. I did not know how hard I would have to work to answer my own prayer. I also didn’t understand how much God loved me.

There is so much I understand today that I didn’t know or wouldn’t allow myself to remember. I had a Cliff Notes version of my life that had removed or glossed over everything traumatic. If someone had told me then what I know today, I would have screamed, “Liar!” while my inner structures collapsed in knowing the truth. I had to be held in a safe place as my story exploded out of me piece by piece. I needed a human who could truly see me and not flinch away from my broken and hurting body and spirit. God knew what I needed.

Here I am. Three years later. My world has been turned upside down but I still have the same pillows decorating my bed. As random as that may seem, it is a small thing that reminds me that I am still Janyne and I still love the color orange. Everything has changed, but I am still Janyne.

Deep inside me, I am still that little girl who was so determined to live and enjoy life. She did the very best she could with all the pain she held inside. She is my constant companion who reminds me how to be brave in order to help others not live in pain that can be healed. She is the one who never doubted God loved her. I turned my world upside down to help her heal. It was the very least I could do in return for the life she helped me live. I am just sad, that on those very dark days, I didn’t understand she was crying for help.

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