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18 August 2019

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8/18/19 #SameHere Hero: Mary Beth Connell

Today’s #SameHere🤙Hero: Mary Beth Connell.

 

Mary Beth was your typical “happy” little girl…always outgoing, playing outside, smiling, everyone’s friend. However, deep down she was feeling immense pain. The pressure of keeping up the appearance of what others had come to know her as, was beyond taxing.

 

She grew up in a religious household, but the church where her family practiced used religion more as a concept of punishment and a way to control you, & believe you’d be penalized if you didn’t act certain ways. It was religion based on fear rather than comfort. Her words reminded me a little of the story that Alliance member, Lance Allred shared about religious control.

 

She’s survived sexual molestation, an intense rape at a party that left her feeling worthless, attempts at her life by swallowing entire bottles of pills, hospitalizations for suicidal ideations, & so much more.

 

But what’s amazing is, she began a healing journey, & when you read what she’s used, it’s literally textbook “STARR” practices that have helped her to release & rewire the stress & trauma to where she is now a 28 yr old mother of two, wife, registered nurse, helping others, daily, & now using her turnaround story to inspire others by letting them know they can turn their lives around too.

 

We’ve had a run now of some pretty incredible stories of challenges into triumphs & Mary Beth’s is no exception. Please help us welcome her & thank her for sharing.

 

“I’m a 28 year old registered nurse, wife and mother of two. I lived a seemingly normal childhood, growing up the youngest of five children in a devout Roman Catholic middle class family. We lived comfortably, were taught the value of hard work while my parents worked tirelessly to send us to private school. We had our own unique traditions for holidays, spent summer vacations with our large extended family and spent hours at the local little league field. I loved riding my bike around the neighborhood, climbing trees, swimming and had notoriously successful lemonade stands.

 

I was often described as the outgoing or bubbly blond girl. I made friends with anyone, anywhere and in many ways, I was your typical precocious fun loving American girl. I had the privilege of being able to travel from a young age both domestically and internationally. This experience was invaluable and cultivated an appreciation for the world outside of my own. You see, there were many positive aspects of my childhood and people who genuinely loved me. I feel it’s important to recognize that though there was immense pain there was always hope and goodness nearby.

 

When I was two or three years old my family became involved in a religious order within the church. It was founded and operated by a priest who was a con artist living a double life with a secret family and a history of pedophilia. This did not become known till I was eighteen. As you can imagine, the beliefs and operations of the order were radical and unhealthy. God was illustrated as more of a judge than a savior. He was full of absolutes and expectations whose love and protection was earned by repentance and spiritual accomplishments. Growing up with this understanding of God and faith spiritually crippled me for some time. Where one should find solace and peace, I felt unworthiness and guilt.

 

Growing up I remember feeling an intense loneliness and hatred toward myself. I recall lying in the grass at the young age of nine and wondering how people lived so long when life was this hard. I remember crying uncontrollably at thirteen, believing that something was intrinsically wrong with me and becoming overwhelmed by the thought of living another year. I didn’t know what suicide was at either age. I was simply consumed by fear and helplessness. I learned to hide it all and continue to be that bubbly little girl everyone expected me to be. I feared being called a ‘drama queen’ or ‘too sensitive.’

 

When I was sixteen years old, I was finally able to seek help. I went through a series of psychological testing and was diagnosed with severe depression. I started seeing a therapist weekly and a psychiatrist monthly. I began drinking, self harming, smoking and driving recklessly. I was searching for any behaviors that would generate a different feeling other than the depressed state of numbness I was in. At the same time I was being sexually abused by a friend, which continued over the next two years. Although I said ‘no’, begged him to leave me alone and sought help, I still blamed myself. I was so consumed with shame, I couldn’t even see the manipulation and abuse that was occurring. I normalized it as much as I could to avoid seeing it for what it was.

 

After nearly a year, weekly therapy appointments, and at least 6 different medications given in copious quantities, I had enough. I was terrified and desperate for relief. In a split second, I reached for my antidepressants and consumed the whole bottle. At seventeen I was ready to surrender, life seemed to be winning this battle. This was the first of three overdoses. I spent the night in the ER and went to school the next day. I was screaming for help and no one could hear.

 

Three weeks later, right before the end of my sophomore year, I was raped. I was home alone for the weekend and had a small group of friends over to have a few drinks. An acquaintance of mine brought a few of his friends that I had never met before. I remember taking a shot with one of them. After that everything went black. I woke up hanging over my bed half naked. I was disoriented and terrified. Everything ached and it hurt to sit down. When I finally collected myself, I called my friend to see what happened. I was then told that I was ‘fucked in everywhere possible’, that the other guys stood by watching and when he was good and done he came downstairs and drank one of my father’s beers before leaving me hanging off my bed, unconscious. That night confirmed the belief that I was worthless and would never be safe.

 

The next fall I started homeschooling and continued therapy until the end of high school. By then, I accepted my reality to be permanent and decided to ‘move on’. I went to college, got married, graduated nursing school, adopted my step daughter and had a baby. I was on auto pilot, going through the motions but barely looking up to experience life.

 

About four years ago I started an intense healing journey. I reached my breaking point and was no longer able to ‘move on’. What I had so desperately tried to hide from was catching up. I knew deep down that something was wrong. Unfortunately, I assumed that the something was me. The sleep deprivation to sleeping constantly, nightmares, hyper vigilance, panic attacks, flashbacks, self destructive thoughts and intense fear nearly sucked the life out of me. I was hospitalized for suicidal ideations and stabilized on medication. I returned to therapy and was diagnosed with PTSD.

 

We live in an imperfect world and we are all wounded in one way or another. Years ago I happened to stumble upon the quote, ‘Suffering that is not transformed, is transmitted.’ This resonated deep within me and fueled my desire to heal my own wounds. Suffering is cyclical. I realized that if I didn’t heal I would only perpetuate my pain, within my own family and myself. This would further my victimization and in turn victimize the people I loved most. I chose to live as a survivor. I chose to heal and I choose it everyday.

 

I started talking and sharing the secrets I had shamefully hidden for years. I acknowledged the molestation I experienced as a child. I validated the emotional and physical abuse and neglect that occurred growing up. I participated in an intensive trauma therapy group, cognitive behavioral therapy, life coaching, massage therapy, sensory deprivation therapy, yoga, spiritual direction, prayer, mindfulness and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I read books, journaled and learned how to cultivate safe and healthy relationships. All of these, in one way or another contributed to my healing.

 

I have since learned how to forgive. I’ve learned to trust and be patient with myself. I’ve learned that justice cannot exists without mercy. I’ve learned compassion. I’ve learned that I am capable of protecting myself. I’ve learned that hope is not hopeless and I am not helpless. I’ve learned how to fight evil while still believing in good. I have learned that each healing journey is beautiful and unique to the individual. I have learned to honor my needs and respect my limitations. Most of all, I have learned that my identity is found as a daughter of God. My dignity comes from him and is protected within me. It was never even at the reach of my abusers or my own self destruction. I am fiercely and unconditionally loved by Him for who I am despite my imperfections. He turns my tears into radiance.

 

I have received every reaction imaginable when sharing my #SameHere🤙 Story. I’ve had people attempt to invalidate my experience in the most insensitive ways and some pretend they didn’t hear it at all. I’ve seen people loose their composure and become emotional. More often than not, most listeners just don’t know how to respond. However, I’ve been fortunate enough to also have people in my life who have walked this journey with me. Who have listened, supported, encouraged, cried with and prayed for me. I am forever grateful for them. I share my story now to give perspective to those who struggle to understand or who are supporting a loved one in their journey. I want to comfort those battling mental health complications and trauma by reassuring them that their identity is not broken and their tears can become radiance.”

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