Leap to Confidence graduate Renee’s life has been riddled with challenges since the day she was born. She grew up in a gang infested neighborhood and was raised by her grandmother and mother who, despite her kind nature and big heart, fought her own battle with alcohol and drug abuse for over 30 years. Renee was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 2, and suffered attacks all the way into adulthood. In her teen years, she struggled with her weight, and was teased relentlessly by her peers. This caused her to isolate herself from others, and found the only way to mask her pain was with food.
Her adulthood life didn’t prove to get any easier. At 32 years old, she faced yet another major health challenge. She was diagnosed with acute kidney renal failure, causing her kidneys to at one point function at only 30%. At the time she had her two young children to care for. They saw her at her most vulnerable state, and were thrown into the role of caregiver, taking care of both her and themselves.
After many years of family and health issues, it didn’t seem like things could get any worse for Renee. However, she still had to face one of her toughest challenges. In June of 2013, her mother passed away. Renee was completely shaken—all sense of self-worth and confidence was shattered. However, she felt the need to bottle up her pain for the sake of her children.
After her mother’s passing, Renee needed tools to help her make positive choices and rebuild her confidence. Almost three years later, she found herself learning those skills in the Leap to Confidence classroom. There she learned the importance of not keeping her feelings bottled up, speaking her mind, forgiving herself, and prioritizing taking care of herself so she can be the best mother for her kids. She was particularly impacted by the method of reframing her words. Instead of saying “I have to” when speaking of tasks that needed to be completed, she learned to train her mind into thinking “I chose to”. This helped her put her commitments in perspective and view things as being in her control.
Now, Renee is taking the things she learned in Leap to Confidence and is applying them to her everyday life. She is appreciating all that she has to be grateful for in her life, including her two children. When Renee’s mother passed away, her daughter promised she would graduate from high school—and in June of 2016, she did just that. Her son promised that he would continue playing the cello, and he is now going into his fourth year of practicing.
Renee’s grandmother used to tell her “Don’t knock it until you try it”. With the wisdom from her grandmother and the tools she learned in Leap to Confidence, Renee is ready to make positive changes and big leaps. “I think it is time,” Renee said. “I am ready to try new things, explore my options and live each day knowing I am worthy of everything life has to offer!”
This article was excerpted from the article by Renee and Desiree Herrera, Caseworker, SCTCA TANF Escondido and originally published in the Southern California Tribal Chairman’s Council Newsletter July 2016.