Dear Drs. Jeff and Andrea Hazim,
This is going to be a long one, but I know you will appreciate it…
 
First of all, I want you to know where I was at mentally before I threw myself into the whirlwind that was the iDENTIFY Impact 7-day intensive. I was nowhere near walking with God, that’s for sure, I saw life through a lens of disappointment, confusion, insecurity, and uncertainty.
 
When I was around the age of 14-15 years old, I stopped seeing my friends. I wasn’t enjoying the company of people, I was losing interest in everything that was going on around me, so I isolated myself; I holed myself in my room and came out less and less.
 
Fast forward to the end of my 16th year, depression started seeping in slowly and unnoticed. I had gotten my first job at a pool. I only worked there for a couple of weeks, but those couple of weeks garnered anxiety. My boss was very unreasonable, she thought I should know how to do everything on the first day, she would talk down to me, and I would feel like I was stupid for not knowing how to do certain things. What I think the worst part about it was that she knew she wasn’t a good leader didn’t do a thing about it. I quit within the first month that I got hired.
 

At 17 years old did my depression and anxiety start to show. I had just gotten my second job at a pizza joint, and by this time my anxiety developed into Selective Mutism. If you don’t know what that is it basically a type of anxiety disorder whose main distinguishing characteristic is the persistent failure to speak in specific social situations. For me, those situations were every situation.

The thoughts that often plagued my mind were: It doesn’t matter what I say, no one will understand, I’m not good at explaining things, I might say something I’ll regret, people will think I’m dumb, or I’m only allowed to speak if someone really needs to know something (which in my mind was rarely ever).

At my pizza job, I always felt incompetent. In the beginning, my boss was very harsh. I learned it slowly, but I soon got to be very good at it. When I turned 18 my boss began scheduling me 40 hours a week. I always wound up working 50 hours a week, I became a bit of a work-a-holic I was always on call, I was one person doing a three-person job, no breaks, underpaid, majorly understaffed, and completely and utterly unfulfilled. The manager was a very manipulative person, guilting you in doing things his way and playing the victim, all the while lazing around.

I started to feel like I was losing control in my life, so a sort of self-destructive routine began to form:

  1. Insomnia had me sleeping only 5ish hours a night
  2. Practice piano
  3. Do schoolwork until 6:00a
  4. 6:00a eat breakfast (always an apple with 2 TBS peanut butter)
  5. Continue with school if I didn’t have work (yes I was ahead in school. I felt like I had to go above and beyond to get everyone’s approval)
  6. Leave for work (8-10 hours)
  7. Lunch at 2p or 3p. It was always a fruit smoothie and a not-so-great homemade cheese quesadilla. (If I wasn’t working during those times; if I was then I just skipped lunch)
  8. Dinner at 6:00p (that is if I was even home by 6p)
  9. Just in case you’re curious: with all my work-a-holic tendencies, and yes I did the math, I had 2 hours of free time.

Now, before I mentioned I was feeling like I had no control, so what I did was I sought it out and found it in controlling what/how much I ate. I found it in losing weight. I felt like a finally had some control, but as my obsession with my weight and calories grew so did my insecurities. On top of starving myself, I rode my bike to work every day. I rode my bike when it rained, when it was cold, even when it was sweltering hot because I was running on so little food, I always felt weak and tired. My thoughts were always on food:  If I don’t restrict, I’ll get fat. I didn’t want anyone to know that I ate. I won’t have control in my life, guilt for indulging, I’m going to gain weight forever, I’m not sick enough, I’m not thin enough, I will get fat.
I soon forced myself into recovery, I gave it a shot. I freaked out a bit (okay, a lot) and during recovery, I would eat and eat non-stop I was always hungry. I gained weight and I gained it fast. The fast weight gain nagged at me and I constantly stumbled in my recovery. I didn’t only restrict, I hate saying it, but I also had some bulimic tendencies.

I had suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, and I dabbled a bit in self-harm. All these disordered thoughts and habits, looking back now, have taught me just how much I need dependence in God; because I’ve lived in independence away from Him and the whole spiel above was my result.

As soon as I walked into the welcome session of iDENTIFY, the first thought that came into my mind was: Am I going to risk embarrassment and failure to take this opportunity to really change? I risked it. Before, everyone I knew, including myself, thought I was an introvert. I even surprised myself with how outgoing I became throughout the intensive. During the week, I felt almost guilty because people were coming up to me and telling me I was wise and that I helped them out in some way or another! All the while I was thinking: Who am I, a non-believer, to be helping Christians (I assumed they all were) through their struggles while I’m still stuck in the familiarity of my misery? This uncomfortable guilt was one of the things that pushed me to seek change and wisdom.

After the iDENTIFY experience, I felt like I had been given permission to seek happiness. A couple of days after, I woke up feeling like I had pressed a reset button. I didn’t feel like my old self. I had hope. In a way, it was like I was given a blank canvas to depict something good and beautiful or I knew I could choose to paint something dark and evil. Either way, that first decision, of what kind of painting I would plan to create, will stay there on that canvas for the rest of its days. I made the decision that morning to paint a beautiful, hopeful, fulfilling painting that won’t be rubbed off.

At that time, I felt very sensitive to everything. Before I would be stand-offish, disrespectful (to a small extent), hopeless, and pessimistic. Now, I’m making the conscious decision to speak to my parents mindfully (sort of. I’m a bit blunt. Being blunt can kind of feel like walking on a thin line) and being optimistic. I’m in college now to pursue a career in welding.

I just want to say thanks. The iDENTIFY Impact program helped change practically every aspect of my life for the better. All that I suffered from my irrationalities, destructive habits, uncertainties, and disorders are all in the past now.

I never could’ve done it alone,
~T.H.