A Caregiver's Story
by Frank, M.A., Social Worker
My friendship with Kim began fifteen years ago, through our church. Our rapport grew quickly: we both enjoyed nature and ocean walks, sidewalk dining, birthday and holiday celebrations. Perhaps most importantly, we shared our inner turmoil and work frustrations on an ongoing basis. I now see Kim more as a sister, than simply a friend.
Better than most, Kim understood my own struggle for stability and life satisfaction, as well as my search for romance. Kim earned this deep understanding because of her relentless and courageous pursuit of her own healing from a traumatic childhood, which she has described to me over the years.
Kim has that rare ambition for wholeness, struggling to overcome and then emerging from more than 19 years of recovery from alcoholism and other addictions. She has embraced this ambition with zeal: years-long psychotherapy and related modalities at considerable expense; consistently sacrificing immediate, tangible pleasures such as new apparel, furnishings or concerts. Kim's commitment to reclaiming her personhood from terrible childhood violations is unconditional. Her strength and courage to heal amazes me!
In the course of our friendship, I have witnessed Kim overcome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, migraines, depression and panic attacks. She was debilitated to the point of unemployment and bed rest for days at a time. With the help of supportive physicians and her continuous psychotherapy, including fearless self-examination leading to recovered childhood memories, I watched as Kim slowly regained her emotional and bodily strength, and re-created a normal and productive lifestyle.
As Kim let go of each addiction, from alcoholism to co-dependency, I observed her attain a deeper level of awareness and healing of her childhood memories. Often, she would often call me in the midst of a memory that triggered long-buried feelings. On each occasion, I tried to be present for her emotionally and spiritually, which is all she really needed.
In our early developing relationship , Kim first looked to me as her friend; a male friend who didn't want anything from her. This appeared to be essential for her trust in me to grow. As her trust grew, I became the brother she never had, just as she became another one of my sisters (I have two). Kim has said that our friendship has been instrumental in learning to trust and be vulnerable with a man for the very first time in her life. I have tried to be nonjudgmental and without a “hidden agenda,” which has contributed to Kim's trust and love for herself and then for others.
Another of Kim's strengths I have come to admire is her determination to address the inner turmoil arising from conflict or disappointment as soon as she becomes aware of them. She strives to identify that part of her nature that feels shunned or not heard or manipulated to please. All of these aspects are expressions of the roles Kim was terrorized into acting out in childhood. She acquiesced so that she could survive another day. Now, Kim not only survives another day, but is fully present to life, and has a new life, one of love and compassion not only for herself, but for others as well.
Kim entered my life during a lonely and despairing period of time in my lie, when I was chronically unemployed or in an unfulfilling job . She was gentle and accepting of my pain, and we spoke on the phone often, reassuring me that these tough times were temporary, and “things will surely get better!” By reminding me of God being truly “in charge”, Kim encouraged me to turn my despair over to Him/Her, as often as necessary. She reminded me that I am a wonderful human being, God surely loves me and wants the best for me, which I cannot always recognize.
Kim's perseverance has been the example for me to follow. Her overcoming of significant obstacles reminds me to reach out to nonjudgmental friends, to turn my fears over to God, to spend some time in Nature daily, to simplify my life and avoid cultural stressors, and to find or read something to laugh about daily. She continues to be a confidante with whom I can always be myself.
Kim's path to wholeness and joyful living has required continuous self-examination, honesty, and sensitive confrontation with her friends, qualities she has passed on to me. I am grateful to be Kim's friend.
Frank Serafine, Friend