June 16, 2015

Finding Happiness Through Adversity

The Option Institute was the light at the end of the tunnel! Out of the darkness I found my way to the Institute. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I prayed it was there. What I learned at the Institute was that the light wasn’t ‘out there’. It was always inside of me!

But why was the light so dim? I was an unhappy and insecure young woman when I arrived at the gates of the Institute. Having been diagnosed with a chronic illness, systemic lupus erythematosus, two years before, I was digging in for a long life as an invalid. I made invalid mean in-valid. Judging the disease, I told myself I couldn’t and shouldn’t run, jump, hike or play out of fear of complicating my illness. I was afraid I’d be a liability and others wouldn’t want me around. I didn’t allow myself to do new things or meet new people. I defined myself through my disease.

At the Institute, I learned about definitions and limits. To my amazement, I discovered the lupus didn’t define me. I defined the lupus and I could redefine it.

The staff at the Institute helped me identify beliefs that were nothing but obstacles. They helped me to understand these beliefs and why I held them. The attitude of acceptance at the Institute was crucial to my recovery. Nobody judged me even when I judged myself. They taught me that it was okay to ask for help.

Sometimes I don’t know who that pre-Option person was! When I recall the things I kept myself from and the opportunities I let pass by, I shudder. Today, I take advantage of every opportunity that appeals to me. I run, jump, hike and travel. I no longer worry about being ill or imagine that people will judge me for whatever limitations they see.

During the Fast-Track Personal Change and Grand Summer Sequence programs, I developed new life skills. My lupus didn’t go into remission and sometimes it’s more difficult than when I started this journey. What has changed is how I judge it and what it means.

How to live and love to the fullest, how not to be afraid–these were the important lessons to learn and have had a big impact on me. Traveling through the tunnel was scary, but the light I found at the end of the tunnel was worth the journey. Thank you Bears, Samahria, and everyone at the Option Institute. I am eternally grateful.

Dotty (Dorothy) Andrews, Financial Manager, New York

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