Counseling Student Dedicates Her Life to Helping Others
Addie Cross knows what it’s like to hit rock bottom. She found her footing as a personal trainer right out of high school, leading to a 16-year-long career in fitness that suited her high-energy, positive attitude.
“I was one of those people who didn’t think mental health issues were real,” she said. “If something was wrong, I thought you just needed to work out or go for a walk. But then it happened to me.”
The day was unordinary: she’d just finished working out and had gone into the tanning bed to relax afterwards, as she always did. But just as Cross began to relax, she experienced her first panic attack. It would become one of many as anxiety began to control her life, ultimately developing into a crippling panic disorder.
“I went through three years of having my entire world flipped on end,” she said. “I was afraid to leave my own home. Nothing felt so odd to me in my whole life as going inside a shell and becoming a hermit. I was terrified of what was happening to me.”
At 33 years old, Cross said she began to question if she wanted to be on the earth anymore. Plagued by panic attacks and agoraphobia, she felt as if there was no way out — and no way back to the life she once lived to the fullest.
“I walked into the bathroom and it was like Satan himself was telling me to kill myself,” she said. “I remember looking at myself in the mirror and I thought ‘If you’re going to do it, do it now.’”
But then, she heard a voice — the voice of God.
“‘She’s had enough,’ He said,” Cross recalled. “And I went from being so sick that I thought I was going to die to wanting to share the healing power of God with everyone.”
When she went through that painful period of anxiety, God started speaking to her heart about helping others struggling with mental illness and other conditions. Cross knew she wanted to help others, but she didn’t know how to start. She quit her job as a personal trainer and began working at her mother-in-law’s flower shop in Moore, Okla., which gave her time to think about her goals — and face some of her biggest fears.
“I never went to college. I never wanted to go to college. I didn’t think I was smart enough because of what others in my world told me and because of how badly I struggled in high school,” Cross said.
She faced many of the same worries common to adult students: she didn’t think she would be accepted because of her poor grades, that it would cost her and her husband too much money and that she wasn’t cut out for college.
“My mom was my biggest fan,” she said, “and one day she told me, ‘Addie, you are going to go to Mid-America Christian University.’"
That same day, Cross said her whole life changed. She was enrolled in the university’s licensed professional counselor (LPC) track, beginning with an undergraduate in psychology. In 2018, she graduated from the degree program with honors — something she thought would never be possible.
“I didn’t even get to graduate from high school. I had to go to an alternative night school to get my diploma because I struggled with school so badly,” she said. “I thought I hated school because I could not learn.”
Utilizing MACU’s online courses, Cross said she realized that in a virtual environment, she could tailor the atmosphere and the pace to fit her personal needs.
“It was conducive to my way of being able to learn,” she said. “I wasn’t going to be embarrassed by other people because I was in the safety of my own home. I didn’t get distracted by other people. I could make a safe place for me to learn, and I thrived in it.”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Cross moved on in her educational journey by beginning her master’s program. Tragically, her graduate journey was fraught with personal loss. She lost her beloved mother, father and stepbrother within a six-month period of time.
“My professors were unbelievable,” she said. “Those two years when I was in school and my mom was sick, I would have so many late assignments. I would get phone calls in the middle of trying to do homework that she was being taken to the ER, and my professors would say ‘just go, go to your mom.’ They never made me feel like I was making excuses. They put her life and the value of her in my life above everything else.”
Cross said the love and encouragement she received from her family, professors and online classmates carried her during one of the most difficult periods of her life.
“My professors and classmates truly became my family,” she said. “These were people I didn’t even know when I started my degree, and now these people have seen me on my face, and they have walked with me through some of the hardest times of my life.”
Now, despite insurmountable obstacles, Cross is preparing to graduate with her master’s degree and finishing up her candidacy at Metro Family Therapy and Counseling, also in her hometown of Moore. She said she is looking forward to being able to help others who find themselves in difficult situations.
“If I could do this, anyone can. I believe God has called me to help people who need to be helped. What makes me love psychology more than anything is knowing that maybe I can be a light in somebody’s darkness and maybe I can help lead them to the healing power of God,” she said.
“They might not even know who God is and that’s okay, but God knows me and maybe He will use me in whatever way He sees fit to help save people from getting to the place where He found me in the bathroom that day.”
If you feel that God has called you to help people who are struggling with mental disorders, addictions, family conflicts and more, MACU has multiple degree programs to help prepare you with the education you need. Our Psychology and Counseling programs are enrolling now. Visit www.macu.edu for more information or email [email protected] to start your journey today.