CPCE

I got the results of my CPCE Monday night.

For those that don’t know, the CPCE is the Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination. It is a vital part of graduating your masters program and earning your counseling credentials. At my school, they have you take it in your first semester just as a measurement of progress when you take it again before graduation.

So when I took it back in February, it really wasn’t going to count for anything. Students fail it, and that’s expected and okay, because students are just entering the program and know absolute zero shit about counseling. The average score of entering graduate students is somewhere in the 50s.

The minimum score required to pass the exam and graduate is a 70. It’s 160 multiple choice questions divided into eight categories, all focused on foundations of counseling that you would learn throughout your masters program. It’s a lot of knowledge packed into one exam. Like an SAT of counseling. Students legit stress over passing this exam. And there are some that don’t pass.

Even though it didn’t really matter what my score was, I e-mailed the professor and asked if I could find out anyway. Just for shits and giggles. I met with her Monday before my class. Unfortunately for me, I had been mentally dealing with the stress from earlier in the day, so I couldn’t quite take in all of the positive greatness of what I was about to find out in in that moment.


I passed the CPCE. Not only did I pass, but I scored higher than the national average. I scored higher than students who had already been through the graduate program. I was not even one month into the program when I took this exam. Not even one month. I didn’t even try. I didn’t study. I didn’t prepare. This doesn’t happen.

My professor seemed so happy, and I broke down and cried. Partly because of the anxiety I was still experiencing from earlier in the day, and partly because I have continually doubted my ability to ever be a counselor, and this went against that directly. Here was proof, on paper, that I had the brains to be a counselor. So why is it still so hard for me to accept?

I think, no, I know, that other people have more faith and belief in my abilities to be a counselor than I do. And that in itself is a problem, and I recognize that. I also know that there are ways in which my life could be significantly easier than it is right now, and that is putting a damper on my outlook on life.

I have a gift to give. I have a story to tell. I have a heart to share. I have people to help. I have souls to reach. I have a world to change. And instead, I’m sitting here, waiting for my life to end, letting all of these good things waste away to nothing, because I’m too weak to take a stand for myself.

My birthday, a name change, and various life events of the past few weeks

I took a short hiatus from blogging. There has been a lot going on in my life the last week or two and I just needed to refocus. Things should be returning to my normal soon.

I turned 30 last Sunday. I knew it was going to be a rough time for me, just being away from everyone (the good people, not my family). It was also the 10th anniversary of my friend’s death, which always brings up feelings for me.

Thirty was (is) a significant age for me. For years, I promised myself that if I hadn’t gotten out by the day I turned 30, I was going to end my life. I went through most of my late 20s waiting for that day. I had very little hope that my life would ever change; I just knew that 30 years was enough for me and that was going to be it.

But that’s not how turning 30 played out. I spent my 30th birthday as a free person. I may not have had a party or celebrated very much, but I was free. It was the best gift I could have ever gotten.

I did have a few small celebrations. I had a group therapy session two weeks prior to my birthday. During the break, the therapist walked in with a cake, candles lit and everything. I was completely surprised and overwhelmed with emotions. I got a beautiful card that everyone signed, and a butterfly nightlight (which is perfect). At one point, I had to hide my face in my hoodie because I started crying and didn’t want anyone to see me. I’m starting to cry now just writing about it.

For the first time ever, I blew out the candles on my birthday cake and made a wish that didn’t involve anyone’s death. In the years that I can remember, my wish was to die. I wished someone would kill me. A few times, I wished my mother would die; then I could be free. But I didn’t have to make those wishes anymore. I didn’t have to die.

The experience reinforced for me that I have support. Even though a good chunk of that support is coming from my therapists, it’s still support. It is the support that has allowed me to escape and to begin to heal. It is the support that brings me together with others who understand. It’s the support I need to glue my pieces back together.

I had to work on my birthday. That was okay with me, because I didn’t want to stay home and be miserable. My coworker bought in an ice cream cake. At 9 o’clock in the morning, our team gathered and sang happy birthday to me, and we all devoured the cake (with the excuse that ice cream is good for energy and increases work productivity, yes). This was my work family. People that I care for, and that care for me. It didn’t matter what happened the rest of the day.

As a gift to myself, and something I promised myself I would do during the new year, I decided to proceed with legally changing my name. A few people have been referring to me as Kyra for some time now, but I haven’t bothered explaining to most people why I want to change my name, so I let them use my birth name. I hate my birth name, though. I don’t think I should have to keep a name that was given to me by the very people that destroyed me. They don’t deserve that.

While I’ve been sure my first name will be Kyra, I’ve been back and forth about a middle and last name. For my last name, I wanted something with meaning, but not complicated either (my legal last name is a mouthful). I was open for suggestions, and received quite the array of responses. Finally, one suggestion sat well with me. It wasn’t too complicated of a name, and translated to courage, which is something I’d like to think I have.

For my middle name, I actually chose a name some time back, but didn’t tell anyone because I thought that people would be very judgmental about it. I “tried on” other middle names, but I didn’t like them the way I liked my original choice. Once I had figured out my last name, I decided to open up about the middle name I wanted – Jack. And everyone was supportive of it (at least to my face). I feel like it fits me.

I started filing the legal papers, but it’s time consuming and expensive, so the whole process will likely take months. For now, I am answering to any name someone happens to throw at me. I hope that once my name is changed legally, people will be receptive to calling me by my new legal name.

I’ve been a little overwhelmed with schoolwork. This week is Spring Break, so I am trying to catch up with the reading I am behind in. I also have a presentation due in two weeks, a paper due Sunday, a midterm due next week, and another paper due next week. Normally I use the weekends to get everything done, but these next few weeks are going to be hectic. This coming Sunday, I have to work from 6 AM to midnight, so there won’t be time for me to write my paper then (because I am definitely a procrastinator and do my best work in the hours before something is due). I really need to work on planning ahead.

I have a doctor’s appointment coming up next Monday. It has brought up a lot of anxiety. My therapist has been working with me the last few weeks in preparation, but I still feel scared about going. I don’t want to panic and shut down. I know I need to go, because my health is shit, but part of me just wants to avoid all the trouble, physically and mentally, that this whole ordeal is going to involve.

Perhaps it’s a good thing, but I’ve been asleep more than I’ve been awake. The other day I slept at least 16 hours within a 24-hour time span. It’s a welcome change in a way, since I had been suffering from insomnia so badly in the weeks before that I had slept just five hours over the course of three days. Maybe my body is finally catching up. Maybe I’m getting sick. Maybe my nutrition has gone to shit. Who knows. It’s probably better that I’ve slept through most of this past week, anyway. I just wish I could do my schoolwork in my sleep. Then I wouldn’t be so behind right now.

Oh yea, this past weekend marked 8 months of freedom.

Life is progressing a little too quickly for me.

 

Acceptance

I spent the majority of my life being told I would never amount to anything.

My schoolwork was never proudly displayed on our family’s refrigerator. I never got a pat on the back for a job well done. While my brother was honored and glorified for getting mediocre grades, I was made to feel like shit for getting straight As. “What do you think, you’re better than us? You think you’re so smart? You’re nothing.” It didn’t matter what I did. It would never be the right thing. I could never be good in their eyes.

I found out after the fact that many of my college acceptance letters were hidden from me. I never had a choice in the matter. My family took my acceptance into Princeton as an insult to the family. Any other parent would have been proud. They didn’t want me to succeed. They didn’t think I deserved it, and for awhile I believed that, too.

Why am I talking about this? Because today, I received a call from the admissions office of the university I interviewed at just two days ago. I’ve been accepted into the program. I will be pursuing two masters degrees in counseling. As soon as I heard the woman say “Congratulations”, I started to cry. I had just left the store and was standing on the sidewalk in front of the parking lot. It took everything in me not to fall to my knees. I was so overwhelmed with emotion, I could barely speak. The admissions counselor wanted to register me right away, but I asked if I could call her back tomorrow, and she said that was fine.

I hung up the phone and began to cry uncontrollably. People walking by were staring at me, but I didn’t care. Everything I’ve been told would never happen was now happening. I’m free. I’m succeeding. I’m something. People are seeing the potential in me; the potential that has been there all along, the potential that was consistently quashed by my parents.

Through tears, I wrote about my good news to my online friends. I e-mailed both therapists, and text my best friend. I may not have had anyone to physically celebrate with, but that was okay. People were genuinely happy for me. My therapists may have been just as excited about the news as I was.

Even hours later, I still find myself intermittently crying. I never expected to be in this position. At this time last year, I was extremely close to giving up. I told myself if I didn’t make it out in the next year (by the time I turned 30), I was going to end my life. I thought for sure I was just going to continue on that path towards death. I didn’t expect an end to the pain. I didn’t expect to escape that hell. I didn’t expect to be living the life I am now. If I didn’t escape, I would not be where I am today – and I don’t mean just physically, I mean emotionally and otherwise.

My therapist told me that people need light and love to blossom. I am blossoming. It’s amazing how much different I have become in just five months. I’m achieving so much and growing in ways I never imagined.

The journey has been difficult. It will continue to be difficult. But I have support for the first time in my life. I have people I can count on. I have people who genuinely care for me. I can pursue better things without being made to feel like I’ve done something terribly wrong.

I almost wish I could tell my parents how far I’ve come. I want to tell them that I am better than them, that I am smarter than them. I want them to know that I am not nothing anymore. I don’t need them to proudly display my schoolwork. I now proudly display my own work to remind myself of what I have accomplished.

21 weeks

I’ve spent much of the last few days crying.

Not because I’m sad, but because I recognize where I’m at right now and where I’m going.

I received an e-mail late Wednesday that said that after reviewing my application, I had been invited for a final interview with the Psychological Counseling department on Saturday. I just assumed that everyone got a final interview, but when I told my therapist about it the following day, she said they only interview you if they are interested in you. Both therapists seemed more excited about it than I was. My therapist asked me in session if I wanted to go over some preparation for the interview, but I told her I would be okay. I wasn’t going to prepare. I was going to just wing it.

My anxiety started to kick in shortly after my therapy session was over. I was sitting in the lobby waiting for the next bus to come when the other therapist saw me and stopped to sit next to me. We talked for a little about my pink bag (because I mentioned that I hate the color pink) and laughed, and then we started talking about the interview. She told me what to expect, what questions they might ask, what questions I should ask, etc. She even shared some hilarious answers that she had people come up with during interviews. We ended up talking for almost half an hour, and she gave me a hug and reassured me I would do great.

I felt a little better knowing what to expect, but now I was anxious about needing to prepare. I had no nice clothes, no dress shoes, and no makeup. I had to make myself look presentable. I bought the cheapest drug store makeup I could find, bought dress pants, a shirt, sweater, and dress shoes (which I was sure I would never find in size 12). I definitely looked the part. Now I just needed to act the part.

I stayed up late looking up information about the program, how it ranked nationally, and how it was rated by other students. I made sure I got more than 8 hours of sleep, which never happens for me. I woke up early to make sure I’d be ready in time. I made it there a half hour early, which is always better than being late.

The interview was not nearly as bad as I expected. There were 10 people including me, with two professors leading. We introduced ourselves, learned about the program, and asked questions. Then we were split into two groups and had to discuss how we would respond to certain ethical dilemmas. I think I did pretty well. We then had a discussion about informed consent and confidentiality and I was the only person that mentioned mandated reporting when child/elder abuse is involved. I’m surprised that more people did not know that, as I thought it was common knowledge.

At the end, everyone had to write a short essay on a hypothetical situation while utilizing the ACA Code of Ethics. Once that was written, we were allowed to leave. There were no one-on-one interviews. I was nervous for no reason. I shook the professor’s hand and told him I hoped I would see him again soon. I will hear back within the next week if I have been accepted or not.

I e-mailed the therapist that helped me as I was waiting for the next bus. I told her everything that happened and thanked her for her support and encouragement. She e-mailed me back and mentioned that she was proud of me, and how she was really rooting for me, not only for this grad school stuff but in every area of my life. I started to cry again because I know her feelings and care are genuine. It’s difficult at times because I don’t have very many people on my side that I can count on (excluding online support). But she has been there, my therapist has been there, and my support group has been there for me through all of this.

I’ve accomplished so much in these 21 weeks. I have a job that I really excel at. I started this blog and have continued to write. I write professionally. I’m (hopefully) going to start graduate school next month. I’m getting more involved in advocating for mental health and other issues. I was recently invited by NAASCA to be a guest on their program and share my experiences recovering and healing from the abuse I endured as a child. I’ve also been approached about my thesis on mother-daughter sexual abuse, which I am currently re-editing for a more general audience.

I have so much going on, but it’s all good. I’m in such a better place right now. I could never be where I am today if I was still with my family. I made the right decision. For the most part, I am happy. So many people tell me how much better I’ve been looking, and how much happier I look. I’m starting to realize that they are right. When I take a picture, I no longer have to fake a smile. I’m struggling, but I’m no longer living in fear. I’m no longer waiting for the pain to come. I’m finally able to live. I am worth living.

Grit

I managed to make some progress on my graduate school essay. I sat in front of my computer last night for an hour and managed to write three pages (the limit is five pages). I answered two of the four questions and then I hit a roadblock.

What skills, abilities, and personal qualities do you possess that prepare you to succeed in completing graduate-level work?

Oh no. This is one of those questions that requires you to think positively of yourself. Acknowledging positive qualities and strengths is still something I struggle with. I mean, I’ve made some progress over the last few months, but I’m definitely not in a place where I can just freely talk about myself in a positive light.

I mentioned my essay progress and subsequent roadblock to my therapist in our session today. She tried to help me, but for every positive thing she mentioned, I came up with an opposing, less positive answer. She brought up my thesis, and how in the weeks before it was due, I insisted that I was never going to finish it. But I did finish it, on time, with a near-perfect grade. She said that has to prove that I have some abilities. I told her it was just luck. She insisted that it was not luck that I managed to finish all of that work in such a limited amount of time.

“Well, you’re right. It was the Adderall I took that allowed me to finish.”

“Well don’t write that in your essay,” my therapist responded, as if it needed to be said. We both laughed a little and by that point I think we both realized that this back-and-forth battle could go on forever. I wanted her to give up, but she finally said something that rang true for me.

“You’ve got grit. Yes, you’re intelligent, but I’ve seen many of my intelligent students end up accomplishing very little because they lacked the ambition and the grit needed to succeed. You’ve got both. You continued to fight when the odds were against you, and it got you to where you are today.”

Damnit. She’s right. I do have grit. Grit got me through school. Grit got me through my thesis. Grit got me through life. I could have given up at so many points, but I didn’t. I struggled, sure, but I never gave up entirely. I’ve always had an end goal in mind. Sometimes it gets a little muddled in all of the bullshit, and sometimes some of my parts can’t or don’t want to acknowledge that goal, but it’s always been there. It will always be there.

Now let me go write about my grit.