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By the Grace of God

How Therapy and Faith Led to Self-Discovery

By Rachel E. Neelley

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, I was married to a not so good man. Several years into our marriage, I began writing a series of books. They came to me in a dream, and they wouldn’t stop pinging around my head. I was so proud, and I was so jazzed and I said to him one day after almost finishing the first book, “Someday, I’m going to have these books published and tour around the country and be a successful writer.” His response was, “Yeah, and I’m going to be an eighth-degree black belt and pigs are going to fly.”

I wish I could say that this was the first and last time he hurt me like that. Yet I still stayed with him, believing that my marriage vows were more important than my emotional health or life success. I was desperate to continue growing, despite him constantly holding me down. I was a flower tended by a gardener who kept me rooted in fetid soil, watered only enough to keep me alive. Thriving was never going to happen in this relationship. He ended up finding someone at work who interested him more than me, and then he decided it was time to leave our marriage. I was cast off, alone, lost, confused, and deeply wounded.

While I was dealing with the shock of being on my own, I realized that I needed to find help to become the person I always believed I could be. The path to life and purpose led me to two simultaneous destinations: therapy and God.

Therapy taught me to set goals that I could work toward, including the realization that my married years were a battleground that I had to heal and grow from, and pursuing a better version of myself. Also, it helped me reach a life-long goal that you are witnessing right now. I am now a published writer with this article!

God taught me to understand that my struggles don’t define my life but can transform me into an instrument of healing for others in their darkest times. Most importantly, God provided me with the unconditional love that I was starved for. And God allowed me to realize that deep love comes from within.

The combination of emotional and spiritual healing refreshed my body and soul in a miraculous way. My mindset shifted from the negativity that had been ingrained in me through years of an abusive marriage, to an attitude of gratitude with a knowledge that I could accomplish anything I ever dreamed of because I had the power within me, thanks to how I was heavenly made. I got my college degree and renewed my relationship with music—something that I had put aside at the request of my then-husband. I prayed daily, saw a therapist weekly, and became someone I truly loved to say hello to in the mirror every day. In addition to my weekly job, I also play trumpet and other instruments at my church, where they encourage me to constantly heal and grow.

I hope that this writing touches your soul. I hope that, if you are in the position I was once in, it gives you comfort and strength. You are so worthy of all the beautiful things in this world. I’m telling you this because I’ve been there. I’m telling you this because if I can blossom after being held down for so long, I have no doubts that you can too. Healing is like climbing a mountain. It’s hard work and sometimes painful, but even a fraction of the way up, you can look back over your shoulder and marvel at the progress you’ve made. Your therapists, coaches, and mentors are your guides up the mountain, cheering you on, reminding you of your abilities when you forget. And then, at the summit, the magic happens. After taking in the astounding view of your life, you become a guide for the next climber. You get to share your wisdom, your pain, your struggles. And it is truly a sight to behold and an experience worth the climb. Each day is a new opportunity. So lace up your hiking boots. I’ll see you at the summit.

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