Jenna – 2017 Graduate
My life was filled with shame, rage, and secrets. I was born into a very unhappy marriage. My father battled alcoholism and rage. By the time I was two, my parents were divorced. While my father was trying to cope with the divorce, he threatened my mom, siblings, and me with violence. I always felt my worth was based on my performance, which led to my 19-year battle with an eating disorder and self-image insecurities. I was ashamed of who I was and the secrets I kept. I started self-harming to feel alive. When I was 14, a friend introduced me to prescription medication. This began a very long and devastating 16-year battle with drugs. As a child, I was full of rage. I felt most heard when I was shouting, shattering things, and hitting people. Drugs intensified my rage. I started committing crimes to support my drug habit. The first time I went jail I thought it would be my last, but it gave me a deeper connection into the drug world, which led to five years in and out of jail.
After my last drug overdose, I was left with physical and mental injuries. By the time I left the hospital, I had lost my job and a place to live. My family didn’t want to be a part of my life or the pain I caused them. My cousins-in-law support and volunteer for Mercy. They told my mother about Mercy. My mom and brother begged me to consider going, and with their help, I applied. I walked in the front doors angry. I was angry at God, angry at myself, and angry at my circumstance. I was closed off and did not want anyone to talk to me or love me.
During my Mercy journey I gratefully became “dog mom” to Buzz, the Sacramento Mercy therapy dog. Through Buzz, God taught me patience, perseverance, responsibility, and most importantly, love. Through Buzz, God showed me there is a healthy kind of love, a love that I am capable to receive and give. God softened my heart through that little furry animal. I came to Mercy with no desire of changing the way I handled relationships. I learned that keeping people at a distance was a way I was trying to control the situation and the person.
Mercy taught me that God did not create us to do life alone, but I thought, or hoped, I was the exception. My first challenge in building healthy relationships was to ask staff questions off a list my counselor gave me. After a few struggles with this assignment, I could finally hold conversations with staff. Through the staff, I learned grace, unconditional love, and the importance of people. Building relationships is hard, but they are worth it. Mercy has given me the first of many healthy relationships.
While at Mercy, God taught me that it’s okay for circumstances and people to change. I thought my world was falling apart, but once I submitted to the process, I learned what I was missing. God showed me it had everything to do with a personal relationship with Him. He taught me how important it is to depend on Him and trust in Him first, above all else. Because of Mercy, I am capable to look in the mirror and not hate what I see or who I see. I can freely walk in my own skin and not worry about what mask to wear. One of my favorite studies we did at Mercy was ‘renewing the mind.’ God and my counselor helped me to take the lies I believed and restore them to truth. My truth statements have become one of my strongest tools.
Today, I am walking out of the doors of Mercy completely different than I did when I walked in. For most of my life, anger was the only emotion I allowed myself to feel. Mercy challenged the only emotion I felt comfortable with. Mercy taught me I wasn’t just angry, but I was hurt. While feeling my pain, I learned to respond and react. I’ve learned that, although it is important for me to use my voice, it’s not always helpful for me to fight for someone else. I’ve learned that it’s okay not to be angry, and it is safe for me to be happy.
After Mercy, I plan to connect with my accountability partner. I will be meeting with a dietitian and getting involved in church activities. I plan on getting a job, then applying to college to pursue a psychology degree. My long-term goal is to be a counselor and help people with life-controlling issues.
To all the Mercy supporters, I appreciate everything you have done for me and my Mercy sisters. I was not in the position to afford a place to better myself, and truthfully, without it being faith-based, I would never have gotten better. Your donations, in a sense, have saved my life. You haven’t only created an opportunity for me to experience Jesus and get my life back, you have also given my mom her daughter back. My brokenness was hurting my mother almost as much as it was hurting me. Without your love and obedience to follow God, I would have never had this opportunity. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Words could never express how truly grateful I am. Thank you.