Unraveling, in the best way.

Many of us unravel the moment we finally feel safe enough to. For most of my life, I have struggled with depression, dismissing my self-worth, denying myself the space to come completely undone. Being educated about mental illness does not exempt me from struggling with my own. 


I have done a really good job of putting up an image that allowed others to see me as stable, happy, and without any challenges. I’ve smiled instead of showing on the outside how I really felt on the inside. I was afraid of asking for support and being vulnerable. I was constantly putting up an image to protect myself. 


If others knew of my struggles would they question as I have questioned

  • am I well enough to do this work?
  • am I healed enough to do this work?
  • am I skilled enough to do this work?


I have wanted to show myself as having it all together, as free of suffering, enlightened, and on the other side of trauma. But now I truly understand that there is no final destination on this path of healing. There is no endpoint where one is finally “healed,” rather we are all on the constant journey. 


As leaders and practitioners in recovery work, we are often told to share about our successes, highlight the moments that we overcame, and to find safety in our accomplishments.  And, there is much strength in those testimonies.  However, there is also power in sharing about the struggle and the challenges we face along the way. The times we have given up and couldn’t muster up the strength to continue. Being vulnerable is scary, but by not being fully honest, we risk missing an opportunity for true connection. We are told to hold clear boundaries with members, but sometimes the professional and personal become blurred. I see myself in the members; I see the humanity and complexity in all of us.


When we encourage growth, we have to start with ourselves. We have to equally invite ourselves to grow and be uncomfortable.  We learn in the discomfort. The deep dive into conversations about the root of our pain and trauma is where the path of healing begins. That is a great start to find some footing. The Recovery Café nurtures folks as they ascend on their journey of healing. 


I am actively working through my traumas.

Even in writing this, I feel fearful, exposing myself. 

But I have been in community with many members and staff and know that I am not alone in this fear, and the pain, or on this journey. 


I see myself as a bridge, rooted in both sides of recovery, in my own struggle and in the support of others.  Every day I try to fortify a pillar in each area to hold different truths equally. Sometimes it feels that they are in contrast with each other.  I am sensitive, easily hurt, adaptable, defiant, and resilient, all at the same time. I don’t have to push one down to have the other one be true.


I still struggle with fear. I don’t want to look weak. 


The person I am and the person I am becoming is due in large part to the hurt and injury that I have survived. As I work on myself, I know that I cannot change the past. I can choose forgiveness for what has happened to me and ask for accountability for what I have done, but I cannot erase it. What I can change is how I react to the pain and move forward in holding all my truths, their contradictions. 


In the end, the road to recovery is about finding wholeness and creating a space to be all parts of myself. I still struggle with self-doubt and question my ability to do this work and I also find strength is speaking my truth – even if my voice shakes. 


I am humbled to be a part of this network and grateful for the opportunity to continue healing. 

– Lisa Willmes, Program Director of Recovery Café San Jose