MY STORY-DARKNESS INTO LIGHT
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
― Pema Chödrö
"We love because he first loved us."
- 1 John 4:19
I did not know that I was worth existing. I did not know I was lovable or could be even loving.
I grew up in Japan in a non-Christian family which experienced bitter divorce, silence and disengagement, mental health problems, and suicide. I was one of those shy kids who did not get picked by others. In my teen and college years, I tried everything I could come up with to feel good about myself: academic success, working hard, dance, night club, disconnection, pretention, even moving to another country by myself. I wanted to prove to the world that I was good enough and that I did not really need others because they would end up hurting or leaving me at the end.
Well, that did not work.
I had to surrender the idea that I was strong enough and good enough on my own to continue to breathe. My mind wanted me to believe I was strong and good enough, but I knew deep in my soul and body I was not. I came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior in Ulyanovsk, Russia at age 20. My life verse is Psalm 8:28 “You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (NIV). In this community of Holland where I have lived over 24 years, I was mentored by many who came along side of me, not only pointing me to the truth but also loving and accepting me as I was.
As a young mom in my early 20s, I started to go to a nearby gym with a nursery. I encountered this thing called yoga for stretching and all. Since then, my personal yoga practice and teaching has evolved from being purely physical to being truly healing, connecting my mind, body and spirit. Learning to be still, and move and breathe mindfully on the yoga mat has cultivated my ability to be more present with myself and God off the mat. I maintain personal practice as a student at a local studio. As I trained in the body-based trauma healing modality as a professional over the years, I discovered I kept so much of emotional pain in my body and soul. I also realized that I lived with mild depression all my life. I did not know that because it was my baseline. I discovered I can not just pray it away. It is a thorn on my side, reminding me of my humanity in the presence of the Divine.
One of my brothers died by suicide in my late 20s. I had a choice to make- I could stay sad and angry at my parents and let my brother be dead in vain, or I could channel the pain into the work where God can transform it into His healing power. I am grateful that I chose the latter option. I went back to school and became a counselor who specializes in trauma recovery, suicide, grief and loss, addiction, chronic illness and pain, and active duty/veteran care. I am blessed to serve and come alongside my clients, in their journey of hope and healing, by holding a safe space for them to cultivate compassion, acceptance, surrender, authenticity, vulnerability, and inner space to grow.
I have witnessed so many courageous awesome human beings who have gone through much suffering and still chose a path to heal, to love and be loved. My chest tightens up with gratitude in remembering them. Today I know my brother’s death is not in vain. I know healing and recovery is possible. I still go through some periods of deep sadness, but I know how to hold a sacred space for myself as I continue to practice allowing God and others to hold me up. Light is lighter in darkness.
Do we have anything in common, my fellow traveler?
What is your story?
Ria Nieboer LMSW CAADC ADS RYT500/E-RYT200 PRYT 600
MASTER OF SOCIAL WORK
Western Michigan University July 2011
Michigan License No. 6801093506
CERTIFIED ADVANCED ALCOHOL AND DRUG COUNSELOR
MCBAP - the State of Michigan
EMPLOYMENT AND EXPERIENCES
Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services: Therapist/ Holland Clinic Manager: 09/2016 - 07/2021
Ottagan Addictions Recovery INC: Therapist: 09/2015-09/2016
Community Mental Health of Ottawa County: Therapist: 07/2012-05/2015, Intern: 09/2010-06/2011
Pathways - MI: Therapist: 08/2011-06/2012
Star Behavioral Health Provider since 2014 as a civilian provider with military sensitivity
Miami University, Oxford OH: BA in Russian and International Studies in 1996
Evidence Based Modalities: CBT - D (depression), CBT - I (insomnia), CBT- SI (suicidal ideation), CPT (cognitive processing therapy), CBT for chronic pain, mindfulness, trauma group (Seeking Safety, TREM , M-TREM), Motivational Interviewing, ASAM level of care, DBT informed skills
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy School since 2015: Certification 600 hours completed in 2021: Working towards C-IAYT
E-RYT200/ RYT 500 Registered Yoga Teacher 200 hour education completion in 2013: has taught over 1500 hours since: 500 hour education completed in 2021
Yoga of 12-step Recovery and Prison Yoga Project training completion
Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist since 2015
EMDR Basic training completion in 2021
Working towards certification with Consultant Dr. C. Paula Krentzel, Framingham, MA