How a Disease Has Taught Me to Be Vulnerable
Hi all! My name is Angela and I moved into the Lisieux House in July of 2022 (the story of how I heard about the house and moved in will be part of another newsletter). I am born and raised locally in Kirkland, WA and am definitely a PNW girl at heart. I wrote this letter published on The Catholic Woman a few years ago, and some tough encounters this past year have shown me that the topic of vulnerability is still very close to my heart and is an area where the Lord continues to work on me. Since this letter was written, I graduated from my master’s program at Gonzaga in 2019 and am now a 4th year clinical psychology doctoral student at Seattle Pacific University. Additionally, I work part-time with adults with Autism and intellectual disabilities at Seattle Children’s Hospital Alyssa Burnett Center (our participants bring me so much joy!). In my free time, I love having heart-to-hearts with friends over tea or coffee, sitting out in the sunshine with a book, and cooking and eating pasta!
Vulnerability is something that has been on my heart and something I have struggled with for years, as I’m sure so many of you struggle with as well. I know that opening our hearts up to others and exposing the most tender pieces of ourselves takes courage and trust. My hope is that sharing my personal experiences will inspire you all to open your hearts, accept help from others, and experience how beautiful vulnerability can be.
As a 23-year-old young woman with a rare form of muscular dystrophy, being independent is key for me.
There are many things I am not able to do on my own such as lifting objects above 10 pounds, getting up off the floor, breathing at night without respiratory assistance, going upstairs, and traveling outside my home without my scooter. Because of this, I take pride in every ounce of independence I have. When I don't physically or absolutely need others to help me, I won’t ask for help and be vulnerable. Over the years, so many people have said to me, "you are so strong", or "you are so brave." In an effort to constantly keep up these characteristics, I haven't allowed myself to be vulnerable emotionally and let others into my brokenness. No matter your unique situation or what season of life you are in, sisters, I understand your struggle. Just like so many of you, I was afraid of being vulnerable and allow myself to depend on others.
I've always been involved in ministry over the years, but I hung back at my university. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to participate with my disability, and that I just physically wouldn't be able to be a part of the community. It sounds silly, I know. After speaking to one of the directors of a retreat about my concerns, she said, "Christ welcomes everyone. If you let us help you, we can make this work".
It hit me. I had to let others carry me (literally by carrying me up the retreat center's huge staircase) and let them be close to me in order for me to participate and experience God's love and grace, and the beauty this world has to offer. I had to physically be vulnerable (and emotionally vulnerable too) in order to experience these wonderful and beautiful relationships my university's ministry department, and my faith journey had to offer. I was so afraid of losing independence that I guarded myself from new and amazing experiences and the authentic love my fellow classmates had to offer.
Even Christ, during the Passion, let Simon help carry his cross.
Sisters, can you imagine how much courage, humility, and vulnerability that took? This shows just how much power there is in human relationship and letting others help you. I have so much gratitude for my experiences from campus ministry. Some of my favorite memories and people are from my retreat experiences in college and has significantly influenced who I am today. Please don’t let yourselves miss out on these wonderful experiences I was fortunate enough to experience.
Wherever and whoever you are reading this, I hope you understand the beauty of vulnerability means that no one is able to handle life alone, and that everyone, no matter their ability, has something to offer -- authentic human relationship and love. Ladies, being vulnerable not only allows you to form authentic and loving relationships, but it allows you to become your best self and serve as disciples of Christ, giving your beautiful light to the world. I hope my story and thoughts can encourage you all to be vulnerable, and to let others help carry your crosses. The best is yet to come.