“I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t matter to anything, to anybody. I know what it feels like to be kicked around and pushed around, mentally and physically. I know what that’s like, and I want to be there for those women who want a better way, a better life.”
For Tammi Hunsucker, this idea of using pain as a ministry to aid those in need has become a kind of life mantra. She started classes in March, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in psychology through OKWU’s Graduate and Professional Studies program. No matter what happens, she’s determined to take her experiences—the good and the bad, the neglect and the pain—and use them to help other at-risk women.
“The mom is supposed to be that mirror that stands in front of the child and says, ‘You’re loved, you’re valued, you matter to me and to the world. I never got any of that. Instead, I got just the opposite.”
Tammi’s journey towards her psychology degree began during her childhood, although she didn’t realize that at the time. She didn’t realize things were wrong, or that family life could be different; her situation was the only thing she’d experienced, and she had nothing to compare it to.
“When I was a child, I didn’t know that our family life was not normal,” she said. “I thought it was normal that there was a lot of neglect, a lot of ugly, harsh, mean words said to me. I thought this was normal. I thought it was normal that I was supposed to take care of myself and understand personal hygiene for myself and not have an actual adult there for me.”
Looking back, what sticks out most is Tammi’s relationship with her mother, which was strained, to say the least. She didn’t realize the significance of that void until years later, when she went through counseling as an adult.
“One thing that the counselor said to me that I will never forget is that the mom is supposed to be that mirror that stands in front of the child and says, ‘You’re loved, you’re valued, you matter to me and to the world,” she said. “I never got any of that. Instead, I got just the opposite.”
The valleys of Tammi’s early life were deep enough she couldn’t see a way out of them. “I was at the point that I didn’t even care if I lived. I mean, if my own mom didn’t care about me, why should I care about me?”
As a track athlete, she received a sizable scholarship to Oklahoma State University when she graduated high school, but her parents convinced her that they wouldn’t help her achieve her degree. “They said the thing for me was to get married right out of high school, and that’s what I did.”
The marriage didn’t last long, and soon Tammi found herself on her own again, finding her place in a world that she didn’t have the confidence or resources to thrive in. “I couldn’t figure out anything about life,” she said. “I thought life was meant to be all about me.”
“God was by my Side”
What followed was a kind of rebirth, as Tammi attempted to rediscover who she was as an individual, apart from her marriage and apart from the pain she’d experienced in her early life. Unfortunately, her lack of direction initially led her down a dark path.
“What I’ve learned through the years is that when you have been so neglected—whether it be physical abuse or mental abuse, neglect, whatever—when you get to be an adult and you’ve gone through that, you’re searching for something to fill that desire to fit in somehow, to know that you’re okay,” she said. “I searched and searched and searched in the world, and every time I searched, it went downhill.”
Eventually, she went through counseling, discovering much about herself and learning to think differently about her early family life.
“One thing I did learn about my mom as an adult is how rough [she had it],” Tammi said. “She had a horrible, horrible childhood and she never overcame it... she could never overcome that emotional or mental pain.”
While her mother is no longer living, Tammi looks forward to the day she’ll see her again.
It was around this same time that Tammi rediscovered her relationship with Christ, which had lain dormant in her life for years. She’d accepted Christ as a young girl but says she had fallen away from her closeness with Him in the years afterward.
“God was by my side. I know he never left me through it all, I just wasn’t turning to him,” she said. “I was turning to people within the secular world. And I turned to the wrong people—the wrong group of people. But thankfully, God never let me go.”
“I searched and searched and searched in the world, and every time I searched, it went downhill.”
As she was reassembling her life, Tammi met the man she would eventually marry, and he encouraged her to continue her education in psychology—to take that passion she had for helping others who had experienced brokenness and use it to make a difference.
This was exactly what Tammi wanted, so she began her education at Oklahoma State IT and achieved her associate’s degree. She wanted to go further, but had a specific idea of what kind of college she wanted to be a part of.
“I was looking for a Christian college to attend, and I didn’t even know about Oklahoma Wesleyan University,” she said. “I wanted to see the studies focused on God… so many colleges, they just want you to believe the way they believe. So it was important to me to find a Christian college.”
Once she heard about OKWU, she inquired about the GPS program, finding enthusiastic help from her admissions counselor. Since Tammi currently works as a paraprofessional in the public school system, OKWU’s online structure and faith-based curriculum began to seem like the perfect fit. Eventually, she took the plunge, beginning classes in March.
“Honestly, the only way I can even go back to school is through online classes, so if [OKWU didn’t] offer this… I don’t know, I’d still be searching.”
While post-graduation plans are never set in stone, Tammi is passionate about using her psychology degree to work in the rehabilitation industry, providing aid to vulnerable women who often go wanting when it comes to solid support systems.
“I’m hoping to work with women who have been in my shoes, where they feel like they’re reaching out for something or someone to care about them as a godly person,” she said. “I can point them to Christ, but I can also educate them in other things, such as housing or relationships. Or, if there’s an addiction, helping them get off that. That’s really what I want to do—help these women, these hurting women, as I hurt. I didn’t have anyone coming up alongside me… I want to be there for them.”
Questions? Learn more about OKWU’s online Psychology degree.