Friday, September 19, 2014

How playing good Christian housewife almost killed me, by Vyckie Garrison


Vyckie Garrison was once a minor celebrity in the Quiverfull Movement, made famous by TV’s Duggar family. As a devout, Bible-believing Christian and the mother of seven homeschooled children, Garrison spent 16 years, with her husband, publishing a newspaper for families on a similar path. Today, via a website called No Longer Quivering, she publishes resources for women leaving the movement. Recently she  addressed American Atheists about her experience. This article is an abridged version of her remarks.
Our Christian sect encouraged a mindset in which dad was supreme patriarch. It led to extreme emotional abuse.
Whenever I talk about my escape from the Quiverfull movement, Christians immediately dismiss my experience by saying, “Your problem was not with Jesus or Christianity. Your problem was that you were following an extreme, legalistic cult. Let me tell you about my personal relationship with Jesus.” It can be extremely frustrating. I was in a close, personal relationship with Jesus for over 25 years. But rather than telling you about the beginning of my relationship with this man, I am going to spare you the long story and skip straight to the break up.
The end of my life as a "Bride of Christ" came after a visit to Bright Horizons, which is the local domestic violence shelter in my hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska. I went there for help in filing a restraining order against my husband, whose emotional and mental abuse against me and my children had escalated to the point that I was in the midst of a complete mental and physical breakdown. He had taken 6 of our 7 children to a town three hours from our home and was preventing me from having any contact with them unless I agreed to his terms for our "reconciliation."
At the women's shelter, I was given a form to complete ... I wrote three pages describing the situation in our home, and after reading what I had written, the crisis volunteer said to me, "The judge will not grant you a protection order unless you actually accuse your husband of abuse."
I told her that I didn’t really think my husband was “technically” abusive, and in fact, I had no doubt that he truly loved me and the kids. He always put us first … he basically centered his entire life around us! We were a good Christian family. The Bible commands husbands to “love your wives as Christ loved the church.” That’s the sort of godly man I was married to: a true patriarch who ruled his home according to God’s principles for marriage and family.
We had studied the Bible carefully, and knew so much about “Biblical Family Values,” that we felt qualified to teach others via our “Pro-life, Pro-family” Christian newspaper, The Nebraska Family Times. In 2003, we were named “Nebraska Family of the Year” by the Nebraska Family Council … and this was in recognition of our work to help get DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) passed in Nebraska. That’s not something that I’m at all proud of these days, but at the time, being named “Family of the Year” was enough to convince me that we were on the right track so far as marriage and family goes. I had become somewhat of a leader in what is now called “the Quiverfull movement” - Christian fundamentalist families who are dedicated to actually living out the biblical model for marriage and family in their daily lives.
Probably the most recognizable and influential Quiverfull family in America is reality TV’s Duggar Family of “Way Too Many and Counting” fame. But unlike fundamentalist Mormons who tend to congregate in just a few places in Utah, Arizona, Texas, etc., you will find Quiverfull families in nearly all types of churches in every community. This is because Quiverfull is not a denomination, with a creed to sign and a church to join. And it’s not technically a cult in the strict sense of having one central leader … instead, Quiverfull is a mindset (a very powerful head trip) in which each family becomes a cult unto itself with Daddy enshrined as the supreme Patriarch.

Based on a literalist interpretation of Psalm 127, Quiverfull families eschew all forms of birth control. They have a high regard for the patriarchal family structure found in the Old Testament which emphasizes hierarchy, authority, and strict gender roles for men, women, boys, and girls.
The reason you can find Quiverfull families in nearly every type of Christian congregation is because Quiverfull beliefs are not actually a radical departure from traditional Christian teachings regarding marriage and family. It is my contention that Quiverfull IS regular Christianity writ large ... lived out to its logical conclusion.
As Quiverull believers, my husband and I proudly embraced the ideal of biblical headship and submission. We believed, as the Bible teaches, that it is the man who is ultimately responsible for the spiritual well-being of his wife and children, and who must one day stand before his Maker and give an account. My husband understood this, and he took it very seriously … which is why he tried SO hard to be a loving, godly patriarch.
“So,” the woman at the domestic violence shelter asked me, “if he’s such a great, loving husband and father, what are you doing here? Why do you need a protection order?”
I tried to explain that, for some reason, despite how hard we were both trying to live according to Christian principles, our home had become an oppressive, miserable place in which none of us were happy, and it felt like we were all losing our minds. The problem was, everything I knew about relationships had been so completely redefined by Christian teachings that I did not have the language to name the abuse.

So I went to therapy. One of the first things Deb, my counselor, showed me was a "Power and Control Wheel" which is a tool for helping abuse victims identify ways in which they are being manipulated, exploited, mistreated and enslaved.
As Deb went over each aspect of the Power & Control wheel, I began to realize that, yes, of course, all of these elements were present in my marriage … it’s just that we had different names for these things … we had chapter and verse to teach us that power and control is actually good and godly. We called it “Agape Love” - it’s the kind of love which God has for His creation …this was the relationship we were supposed to use as our model between husband and wife.

For instance: the signs of emotional abuse include put downs, shaming, and guilt-tripping. Well, this is something my husband would never do … there really was no need since I was already fully aware of my inherently sinful nature, my “desperately wicked heart,” … He didn’t need to remind me that even my very best efforts were like filthy rags in comparison to God’s holiness.
Plus, I knew that as a woman, I was particularly susceptible to deception by Satan. How many times, when we were discussing an important decision, had my husband said to me, “What you are suggesting SOUNDS reasonable, but how do I know that Satan isn’t using you to deceive me?”
Well, according to the Bible, it was very likely that Satan WAS using me “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through child-bearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Timothy 2:14-15… As a good Christian woman, the last thing I wanted was to be accused of having a “Jezebel Spirit”!! Jezebel is the bossy, bold and dominating woman, who ‘wears the pants’ in the family, and in the Bible account, things ended badly for her: “’Throw her down’Jehu said. So they threw her down and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.” (2 Kings 9:33)

Intimidation creates fear … but how can fear be a bad thing when, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom?” Was I afraid of my husband? Not in a physical sense, but I was always hesitant to contradict or “disrespect” him because God had placed him in authority over me, and God-given authorities can be considered “umbrellas of protection.”
Patriarchy is God’s umbrella of protection. By honoring and submitting to their husbands, wives receive the privileges of their spiritual protection. If a wife resists her husband’s instructions, she forfeits her place under his protection - not just for herself, but for also for her children.

My husband didn’t intentionally isolate me and the children … it just kind of happened as a logical progression of our decision to live radically for Jesus. First, I dropped out of college and quit my job in order to be a “keeper at home” as the Bible commands. Then we cut out all meaningful associations with unbelievers, and most of our extended family who didn’t share our dedication to righteous living.
We taught our kids at home to protect them from the evil influence of godless humanism which we believed was the religion taught in the “government schools.” We eventually got to the point where we were so "biblical" that we felt the local Independent Fundamental Baptist church in our town was too liberal, too compromising ... so we began homechurching with a couple of "like-minded" families who also were leaving their family planning up to God and homeschooling their many children.

Minimizing, denying, and blaming … this one was obvious to me, because IN LIGHT OF ETERNITY, whatever suffering or adversity I might encounter as a result of our commitment to live according to biblical principles were merely “light and momentary afflictions.” Sure there were times when submitting to my husband’s decisions was a hassle, and yes, the pregnancies nearly killed me every time, BUT … who was I to complain, considering everything that Jesus had done for me? If I thought “almost” dying was bad, just imagine how horrible it was for Jesus, who actually died!! Motherhood was my mission field. Missionaries often risk their lives in order to spread the Gospel. And just like the missionaries, if I died in childbirth, in Heaven, I would wear a Martyr’s Crown.

Using children” didn’t really ring true to me. Everyone knows “Jesus love the little children” and the whole reason we were knocking ourselves out to follow the biblical model for marriage and family was in order to create a safe, loving home for our children, so no … I told Deb, “Using children? I don’t think that one really applies.”
… oh, except the part where using any form of birth control was tantamount to playing God, so I was kept perpetually pregnant or nursing, or both for more than 11 years. That verse in Psalm 127 says, “Blessed is the MAN who has his quiver full of them” … and it goes on to say,”he shall not be ashamed, but will speak with the enemies in the gates.” We were taught that in Bible times, the city gate was the place where male leaders made decisions regarding local government.
So this was about political domination. The whole point of having a quiver full of babies is to ... out-populate the “enemy,” … that would be all of you; and to shoot those many arrows “straight into the heart of the enemy.” And by that, we meant that our children would grow up to be leaders in all the major institutions of our society. This was our plan for taking back America for God. So the children were like arrows (which is the ammunition) in God’s holy war. So, yeah … “using children” … definitely put a great big checkmark by that one.
Oh … and for those who are curious, but too polite to ask what it is like for these Quiverfull wives who are breeding like rabbits, I have a little story for you. A guy bunny meets a lady bunny in the field, and he says to her, “This won’t take long, did it?” (My kids hate it when I tell that joke. They say that it’s TMI.)

I wouldn’t say that my husband used male privilege to control and dominate me and the kids. Male privilege was his rightful position. As Paul says in the book of 1 Corinthians, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. And man was not created for woman, but woman for man.
Biblical marriage is supposed to be a living portrait of the relationship between Jesus and the church, the “Bride of Christ.” Jesus has all power, all authority which is given to him by HIS Father (the same way power and authority are given by God to earthly fathers).
… So even though I’d heard that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” I couldn’t believe that God-ordained authority could be abused because “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for a friend.” Jesus had that perfect love … He was a “servant-leader” …. and husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loves the Church, right?
We believed that while men were “privileged” with greater authority, they also were burdened with ultimate responsibility … so a woman’s absolute dependence was really more of a hardship for the man than for the ones over whom he held God-ordained dominion.

Economic abuse? Well sure, money was always tight, but hey, finances were no picnic for my husband either, and besides, we had these promises ...
My God will supply all my needs,” and “I have never seen a righteous man forsaken or his children begging for bread” … It was really just a matter of trust, plus careful money management.

God always provided for us financially … like the time He led me to deliver my 5th baby at home with just a midwife …. never mind that homebirth was insanely risky considering the health issues which led to my first four babies being delivered by c-section … the baby and I both survived … and we saved a ton of money.
What could possibly make more sense than God’s financial plan?

Coercion and threats … “No,” I told Deb, “he never threatened me.” I *willinging* went along with all the harsh demands of the Quiverfull lifestyle, and in many instances, I was the one who pushed patriarchy and headship ON HIM. Why would I do that?
Because I believed our family had an ENEMY who was determined to steal, kill, and destroy our souls, and the souls of our children, for all eternity! Our only protection from spiritual disaster, was within that one little secret spot of safety which Corrie ten Boom called, “The Hiding Place.” “The Hiding Place” isn’t any physical location … instead, it is a very specific, very narrow position ... directly in the center of God’s will. There, and only there, we could safely trust in God’s protection.
He never had to raise his voice to keep me and the children in our place. And when he did raise his voice, well that was “speaking the truth in love.” When he constantly criticized and complained about all the ways in which the children and I failed to live up to God’s perfect standards, he was “hating the sin, but loving the sinner.” He didn’t have to brandish a weapon in order to control our every action, indeed even our thoughts and feelings. All he had to do was fulfill his God-appointed role of Patriarch; to love us as Christ loves the church.
After going through all the points on the Power and Control wheel, I was ready to admit that, yes, I was in an abusive relationship. I told my counselor, “I want out!”
Deb said me, “You have to protect yourself and your children! You need to divorce this man!”
She was talking about my husband, and I was thinking, “Well, yeah ... him, too.”
I did file for divorce and rescue myself and my kids from the tyranny of patriarchy. But for me, the primary break up was with Jesus. You see, being in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a set up for dysfunctional game-playing and crazy-making head trips. According to Christianity, Jesus subjected himself to torture and death, so that we could have the “free gift” of eternal life … and by “free,” he means, it’s only going to cost you everything you have and everything you are.
When the very definition of perfect love is sacrificing your children and martyring yourself, there is no place for emotionally healthy concepts like boundaries, consent, equality, and mutuality. I could not say that my husband’s patriarchal behavior was abusive so long as I was committed to a relationship with “The Big Guy” who exemplifies the abusive bully, and who commands his followers to imitate His very warped and twisted idea of “love.”
I started a blog, No Longer Quivering, as a way to process my Quiverfull life and try to understand how I’d come to embrace such a fanatical lifestyle. The response was surprisingly phenomenal and over time, NLQ has grown to into something like a movement of women escaping and healing from spiritual abuse. There are now dozens of former fundamentalist women (and a few men) who are sharing their stories, and many of the kids who were raised in these homes have started their own blogs, including Libby Anne, who runs the amazing, Love, Joy, Feminism site on Patheos. Getting out is extremely hard. Leaving an abusive relationship is challenge enough, and when you have half a dozen or more kids, no marketable job skills … BUT, Quiverfull women are already used to doing the impossible, so when it comes to rescuing themselves and their children, “extremely hard” feels like a relief!
[Editor’s note: Vyckie doesn’t say so, but in contrast to publishing resources for Quiverfull families, publishing for women in recovery doesn’t pay. Some of the women at No Longer Quivering recently launched a fundraiser to keep Vyckie from losing her house.]
Some Quiverfull kids are making the break, too. Growing up in a Quiverfull home means being raised by a narcissistic father and having a mother with a huge martyr complex. The kids are treated as property to be hoarded. They are isolated, coerced and manipulated, abused and deprived socially and educationally. As surrogate moms, the older daughters bear the brunt of the work: cleaning, cooking … even homeschooling and disciplining their younger siblings when the Quiverfull mothers become too worn down and burned out from perpetual pregnancy and trying to keep up with this unsustainable lifestyle.
When they finally encounter the “real world,” these kids are pissed. They feel ripped off … and rightfully so. The backlash is awesome to witness as they’ve channeled their anger into activism and begun to fight back with their own websites such as Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. All of these sites are linked at No Longer Quivering and I encourage you to check them out.
Note: Credit for the original Power and Control Wheel goes to Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs in Duluth, MN.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The place where the light enters

Early morning sun in the garden.
A friend shared with me the other day a bit of wisdom that hit a thirsty place in my soul. It has soaked into my skin, and I hear it beside me each time I turn my head.

So I thought I would share it with you here today.

"The wound is the place where the Light enters." - Rumi

That is all.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lighthearted and free in NYC

I miss my independence. I think about how good I had it those five years living on my own in NYC, completely free, able to go and do whatever I wanted. The world at my fingertips, nothing holding me back. After my fifth year teaching there, I was planning to move to California. I had just finished up my masters degree and had earned my much coveted permanent state teaching certification. But after I finished my master's degree, everything fell apart and I somehow fell into an alternate reality, a hell of sorts, and things went pretty much dark for several years. And now I'm shaking the cobwebs out of my head, looking around me, and here I'm in this sleepy little town west of Philadelphia, and I ask myself, "How the hell did I get here?"
I don't know how I got here. It's a quaint town. The local train just went by, and the conductor was ringing that old bell as the train chugged by. Nostalgic. The neighbor has a pile of wood burning next door, and the smoke is drifting into my yard. I love the smell of burnt wood. The neighbor at the base of  Never Sink Mountain across the way is sawing through lumbar, some home improvement project. The crickets have been singing since early morning, and that means fall is on it's way. I shiver with no anticipation. I love how melancholy and gorgeous fall is, but there is deep sadness in the air. Crisp cool days are beautiful, but I want to stop the clock altogether. I'm voting here and now: no more winter. Ever.
I'm sitting out on my patio. Relaxing. Thinking about how different my life is now compared to how it was a few years ago.
It's an early July morning, five years ago. I'm living in NYC. I leave my apartment and catch the downtown B/D train and ride down to Columbus circle. Starbucks on the corner, duck inside for a raisin cinnamon bagel toasted with cream cheese, OJ in a glass bottle and coffee. Eat half the bagel, save half for later. Bagel, please don't get squished in my shoulder bag. Note to self: remember bagel is in bag.

It's summer and I have almost three months off since I'm a teacher. Delicious day. Sunny, hot, just enough shade on the other side of each street. Tiny shorts and tank on, and flats. The whole day to wonder around walking in the city, stopping at shop after shop, coffee in hand and a light heart. Slightly on the lookout for cute guys but that's a side mission, not the focus of the day.

The focus of the day: the perfect workout. Give me the city on a hot day, an iced coffee, and a twenty mile radius of shops downtown. Walking for six hours while shopping is more enjoyable, efficient and productive than wasting time on an elliptical in a cold, air conditioned gym. Yuck. Been there, done that, too many men and women oogling and judging. Give me a huge city and I will use my own legs and I will walk for the day, that's my cardio. Then I go home and strip to my scivvies and dance and stretch, do lunges while watching a workout video with that dude whose name I forget, Pete T I think. While drinking a banana strawberry smoothie.

Then relaxing in my own apartment, and yeah it is in the Bronx but it is neat, clean, classy even, with an awning out front and neatly trimmed hedges. No doorman, but the lobby is beautiful in an old, tattered kind of way, and there's some kind of mural on the ceiling that I sometimes look at.

I love my studio apartment and miss it to this day. The first time I viewed it I fell in love with the quaint, old font of the number 44 on the door. I loved how it was studio size but huuuuge as far as studios go, gorgeous hard wood floors and interesting arches between rooms instead of doors. Tiny kitchen yeah, the bathroom was larger than the kitchen but both were super cute. I took it. No more roomies!

Roomies. Wasn't cut out for living with them, but I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to make my living situation work. I started out in Morning Side Heights with four or five girls who were cousins who didn't speak much English and had a tiny dog they spoke high pitched baby talk to. They put a smooth round pebble on the mantle behind my bed before I moved in, and I took it as a good omen. There was just that bed and that pebble there when I arrived. That was "furnished" as furnished could be. I brought my comforter and a fan. They were nice, those girls. Never said a word to me except thanks when I gave the rent check. They cleaned the bathroom immaculately every Saturday morning.

The next roomies were in Inwood, at the northern most tip of Manhattan. The super was a gardener who created a labyrinth of potted plants in the lobby, halls and down in the laundry room. God I loved walking into the lobby and seeing all those plants. He loved them like children. He was from Ireland, and his wife and kids were still over there. He told me the dryers were finicky, and he wasn't kidding. I had a furnished room, with a bed and desk this time. But my roomies were a married couple who were subletting their spare room to me. They fought and had tension between them even when not fighting.

They expected me to be social and cook with them in the kitchen and hang with them in the living room, but I felt weird and stayed in my room instead. I didn't have the knack of being sociable then and may or may not have developed it since then. While living there, I had a boyfriend over for the night and they mildly freaked. Hey, they didn't tell me no overnights when I moved in. Broke up with that bf and reconnected with an ex who flew from LA to visit me for a week. They flipped again. When I stayed out late, they locked the door and pulled the chain across so even though I had the keys, I couldn't get in. They had the air conditioning on and were asleep. I have never banged that hard on a door before. The guy rolled out of bed and mumbled he was sorry and why didn't I tell him I would be out late? What, was he my dad? I didn't know I would be out late until it was already late!

That arrangement didn't last long. I think the guy liked me, and he seemed nice. Except he tried to make me pay extra at the end and I was smart enough to catch him at it and call his bluff so he was angry when I left. I actually forgot all about this until I'm writing it now. It didn't really bother me then, or now. I just moved on, stoked to be moving from there into my own place.

It was difficult meeting guys in the city. Many of them were young and flakes, or were older and bitter about a divorce. A few were awesome though.

But living in NYC. I loved the energy, even the trains. I liked being able to walk from my apartment to anywhere I needed to go.

But I didn't like so much concrete. Not having a back yard. I had to walk to a park to see trees and grass but the park was loud, crowded, dangerous at times. I couldn't just sit on a bench and close my eyes to rest a spell. I had to be constantly aware of my surroundings. I do need to be around nature and I needed to be able to rest with my gaurd down but I couldn't do that in the city.

If I had a balcony where I could hang plants and make a private garden for myself, I would have liked to stay in NYC longer. Hah ha, yes! I could have made an oasis and been happy.

My last apartment in the city had a fire escape, but that's about it. The windows were lined up so they exactly faced the windows on the high rise apartment building a few feet opposite. So to open your window was to look directly into someone's bedroom or bathroom, unless they kept their blinds down all the time. Which my neighbors did not. So when I walked into my kitchen, I would see my neighbor staring at me, laying on his bed in his red underpants, facing my window and looking in my kitchen. Ughhh. I would duck and crawl on the floor, then reach up and yank the cord to pull the blind down.

I did want fresh air to circulate in the kitchen after cooking so I left the window and blind partially up, or up the whole way if he wasn't home. Then he set up a mirror on his wall directly opposite my kitchen window, and sometimes when I assumed no one was home over there I would go into my kitchen on a summer day after a long day of work and suddenly I'd see a pair of eyes staring at me from in the mirror that was directly opposite me. Freak city. I would curse and yell "what the ****!" And yank the blind closed, mad because I couldn't even dare to get fresh air without risking this dude opposite me staring.

The same with the bathroom. It looked into another neighbor's bathroom. That was disturbing. Our window was bubbly glass though so you couldn't see through, only if you opened it. So I kept it cracked just a few inches.

One time someone broke into my apartment and swiped my computer and some other valuables. I walked in on it, they had the door still hanging open and were probably on their way back. Had to call the cops, and a pair of private detectives came to dust for fingerprints. It was not glamorous and exciting like in the movies. Those detectives seemed bored and said they couldn't find prints, that happenings like this were common place, and that I shouldn't expect to recover any property. The trail ended there. I was too busy to worry much.

I did get freaked every time after that each time my doorbell rang though. Once there was an old woman out in the hall with a hood over her head and blankets around her. She was shuffling about and talking to herself. Most other times there were Jehovah's Witnesses on the other side of the door. Once I opened the door to them and they were pleasant, didn't talk much but gave me a book that was printed in vivid ink with happy people on it.    


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Submissive no more

 I have had this huge epiphany in the last couple of weeks. My discovery:  

I have a voice, and I will use it.
-It is OK to express anger in healthy ways, even if this means yelling.

-Forced female to male submission is abusive. When a man yells at a woman and doesn't "allow" her to defend herself or yell back, that is abuse.

I am realizing for the first time in my life that my lifelong habit of never raising my voice in anger, even when someone is screaming at me and being abusive... possibly isn't as healthy as I thought it was.

It was my mother flipping out on me over the phone and email this past month that triggered this epiphany.

My mother has been my hero for as long as I can remember. I used to believe that she was 99% angel and 1% human. While my dad was extremely angry and abusive, punching holes in walls, slamming cupboards, screaming, then pausing to quote a Bible verse, my mother remained calm and silent. Whereas we were terrified of our father, our mother by contrast was the safe harbor, and she knew it. In retrospect, she would have been "safer" if she had rescued herself and us from him, but she didn't. When I was young, I adored her because I knew I could hide my face in her skirts and know she would speak in a calm, quiet voice. I knew that when he was away, I was safe and she would always remain steady and kind. And quiet.

Even when my dad was verbally abusing her, she did not speak. I remember it like it was yesterday. His voice roaring, rising, falling, things crashing. My mother didn't look at him. I can see her calmly unloading the dishwasher, putting the dishes away. Pretending like she didn't hear. It would go on for hours, several times a week randomly, month after month, year after year. She was washing the dishes as he raged, she was quietly serving the meal, quietly stirring the meat and potatoes in the pot, quietly gathering the dinner plates from the table, sweeping the floor. Going on as if she didn't hear, not saying a word.

Then he would eventually wear himself out and leave, slamming a door behind him. Only then would my mom speak. She would go on as if nothing had happened though. She would ask me if I had enough at dinner, or she would remind us that we only had a few more hours to ride our bikes before dark. It was as if he had never done anything to her, and it just wasn't discussed.

As my older sisters grew up and realized what was happening, they sometimes tried to come to my mother's rescue by sticking up for her. Even then, he continued to bully her as well as my sisters, making them cry, too. I remember my mom's silent tears sometimes as she put the dishes away.

When my brothers became rambunctious and started wrestling or getting too loud, my mom wouldn't raise her voice. She would come up the steps and quietly say, "Now, boys. Let's keep it down." And they listened. We all listened to her, well, usually. She didn't need to raise her voice to us. I think we knew on a subconscious level why she wouldn't raise her voice to us. We felt bad for our mother, and we respected her gentle tone.

I adored my mother. She was the only safe adult in the house. I was perplexed how my father could manage to rage at this meek person who didn't speak back to him.

I grew up being extremely afraid of anger. When I left home in my 20's, I gravitated towards people who were mellow, gentle, slow moving, phlegmatic even. I felt safe around them.

Knowing how destructive anger is, I knew from a young age that I would follow in my mother's footsteps and become just as safe and gentle a person she was. My relatives and sisters often told me that I was my mom's mini-me, and that I acted like her more than my other sisters.

I took this as a compliment. I guess it was. Being calm and gentle is fine. But I also perfectly imitated my mom's submissiveness and lack of boundaries. Boundaries were sinful, you see. It's like I had an invisible sign on my back that said, "Abusive men! Pick me!"

I got myself in and out of a few scrapes in life with various boyfriends. But I had my degree, career, and independence. Because of this I never had to depend on a man, and didn't end up trapped by one. I wouldn't let a guy move in with me unless the apartment was mine. If I broke up with the guy, he would leave, and I would continue on my merry way, still in my own apartment. I skated in and out of various situations where I mildly felt the heat a few times, but never stayed around a guy long enough to get even the hint of a burn. I was ahead of each guy by 10 steps and dropped men like hotcakes the second I suspected even the slightest hint that he might start to resemble that man who yelled at my mother.

Until I got married to K. Having a chronic illness that doesn't allow me the ability to work or be independent has put a cramp in my style. I don't have the ability to just walk out the door like I used to. And K is abusive. He has been for two years.

Each time K goes off on me, I revert to autopilot, and I am my mother. I hold my tongue. I put the dishes away. I wipe the table, I sweep the floor, or I just stand there. A few times out of experimentation, I actually spoke, but that turned out incredibly bad. So then I stopped doing that. But anger feels like knives in my skin, and I can't just be in the same room as it. So I started to walk away. K wouldn't let me. He would scream and follow me. I would have to run to a room and lock the door, but even after an hour or so when I came out, it would start all over again.

But I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of forcing me to yell back at him. I won't become a monster towards him just because he was being a monster towards me. I was not about to allow him to force me to change my personality and I wasn't going to let him turn me into a loud, angry person. Because if I yelled back at him, and got used to it, I might start yelling for no reason like he did, and I didn't want that to happen. I didn't want to start acting like my dad.

So for over two years, I've been simply "taking it."

But then after I spilled the beans in my family and told them my dad sexually abused me, the family dynamic shifted quickly. Since then, I've talked to my mom a few times on the phone. At first, my mom cried a lot. Then she started getting angry. By the fourth phone call, she was livid and that's when she screamed at me. My gentle mother, who never raised her voice, screaming at me? Telling me I was an embarrassment? Telling me I was a liar, a sinner, that I should never contact her again, that I deserved to be abandoned by K with nowhere to go, that I deserved to be sick? What made my mother turn on me like this?

I was confused for awhile. But now I think I've figured out where that anger came from. That anger was pent up from over 40 decades of my mom just "taking" my dad's wrath. She never let that anger out. He hasn't felt a smidgen of it. She has never released it. It's been inside of her for so long. She's been brainwashed to be submissive, and she obeys his every command. She adores him, even though he screams at her. She knows he has a problem with lusting after other women, and she knows on some level he was doing things to me and Christy that were inappropriate. But her number one duty as a wife is to protect her man, not her kids.

So when push came to shove, she chose to automatically believe my dad's innocence and blame me. But on some subconscious level, it made her furious that she had to side with this man who she doesn't trust, over me. So in an effort to protect him in a holy, angry way, she let forth her tirade of wrath on me. Wrath built  up over the years towards him... it all falls on my lap. I'm her scapegoat.

My reaction to my mom's screaming fit:

1. I felt like I was punched in the stomach and had no air to breath. I was betrayed by my own mother. My life hero, my safe person... had turned on me.

2. I was impressed that she had that much anger and for the first time in her life stuck up for herself/him (they are one identity, not two). For the first time in her life, she was not a push over.

It took me awhile to process the aftermath of this incident. I went on many long walks in an effort to sort out my feelings. Here I was hoping that this didn't mean I would be completely cut off from my family. I knew that on some level, a bridge had been crossed and there was no going back. My parents did not have my back.

Some two days after my mom blew up on me, K decided to do the same. Something crossed his line of vision that caused him to flip, and suddenly I was in the cross hairs. As he geared up louder and louder and started becoming verbally abusive, I looked at him.

He said something like, "I don't think you should be __," in a pouty, rude manner.

And in an instant, a switch inside me flipped. My mother did not have my back anymore. My mother, my hero, is a person who screams. I am her daughter. She no longer has to bite her tongue, so neither do I.

I suddenly hear myself echoing back to him, "I don't think you should be ____." I used the same pouty, rude tone.

He looked at me, shocked.

I had never echoed him in his rudeness, never echoed his tone.

I raised my eyebrow. I told him, "If you can say that to me, I will say it right back to you."

Gunpowder. Explosion. After this followed one of the worst arguments we ever had, and for the first time, I yelled back at him, allowing myself to be angry, allowing myself to show him exactly how it felt each time he took another jab. I echoed it back.

He actually had to leave the room. A first. He actually cried. A first. He threatened to leave. For the first time I told him I had plans to go live somewhere else, and I had a location and a support network who was ready to take me in.

He froze.

He didn't think I had that power. He thought I was too sick, and too friendless, and too scared to go. He found out that was not the case.

He has Asperger's Syndrome. He isn't able to feel or comprehend another person's feelings very well. He doesn't read social cues easily. He has a difficult time understanding how other people are feeling, even if you clearly tell him you feel a certain way. The part of his brain capable of having the imagination to step inside someone else's shoes doesn't function like a neurotypical brain does.

In any case, combining a loud, angry man like him who has Asperger's with a female like me trained out of fear to be quiet and submissive has been a recipe for disaster.

I see now that he really didn't understand how bad it was for me until I started acting like him and actually dished it back to him 100% what he was giving me. Afterwards, my throat was hoarse and scratchy. I had never yelled for three plus hours like that before.

But afterwards, he looked at me with a new respect in his eyes. And afterwards, I wasn't angry anymore. After two years of hiding my anger, it was finally out. And I'm glad.

I am submissive no more. Thank you mom, for blowing up at me. In a way, you still are my hero. I finally have permission to yell, and God, it feels great.

Monday, July 28, 2014

You deserve respect

This VW is in no rush to do or be anything but what it is: awesome.
You do not deserve to be rushed. You deserve a right to your feelings. You don't have to blindly say, "how high?" the second someone tells you to jump. This bit of wisdom coming to you from the formerly boundary-less girl otherwise known as me. 

It is still a bit uncomfortable for me to take a stand for myself even in the small areas. It still feels like sinning. I don't mind being transparent, so I'll share something that happened two months ago.

It was mid May, and I was out with K buying balloons for my niece's birthday party. So K left the shop while I was checking out with the cashier. While collecting my change, I saw K through the shop window pacing. I knew he didn't like to wait, and I knew how exasperated he gets. He gets angry at the drop of a hat, and anger unfortunately is a PTSD trigger for me.

So instead of carefully putting my change in my snap purse and my money in my wallet, I stuffed it in my bag and took the balloons and walked quickly out of the store. But as I did so, I got mad. The money could have easily slipped out of my bag while I crossed the parking lot. And I hated feeling rushed. By the time I got to the car, I was fuming inwardly.

I realized for the hundredth time that the dynamic between K and I is pretty much the same dynamic I had with my father the Patriarch. K gave me the angry treatment for taking a few too many extra minutes gathering the purchases together, just like the Patriarch would have. And yes, K does explode if I try to speak up about his anger, just like the Patriarch did. K does not allow me to show emotions other than the ones he approves. I am not allowed to show the slightest hint of healthy anger around him. I'm not allowed to cry around him. He yells at me and threatens me until I stop, even if I go to a distant room, shut the door, and try to muffle my crying in a towel. He finds me and yells. I am only allowed a few emotions. Complete submission and compliance to his wishes is one acceptable way I'm allowed to be. I'm also allowed to be happy, but if I'm not showing this on the outside, I am resented or shamed.

I have lived in fear of K for quite some time. But I recently have been reminding myself that I will not be punished by God for speaking up for myself in front of either of them. Still, my knowledge of this hasn't yet translated into courage to speak up to K on a regular basis. His angry responses still do cause me to decide to stay quiet instead of speaking up. So on this particular day, I didn't say anything.

But next time, I will. People will push you only as far as you allow. I have a feeling that my ingrained fear of the Patriarch has created a fertile ground for K to behave just as the Patriarch did with no repercussions. I wonder if I didn't have such non existent boundaries, would K have treated me more respectfully from the beginning?

So, back to the shopping excursion. When we got home, I opened up the back car door and leaned over to get the balloons. As I was gathering the balloons, K suddenly asked me to look at something on the mailbox. I looked over at what he was pointing to, and in that second, I felt something sliding through my fingers.

One of the balloon strings was sailing upwards, and I reached out to grab it, but it escaped. I was mad because I realized that I still give immediate attention to what someone else asks me to do, even if it is a detriment to my own task at hand. It's like just because a man asks me to do something, this means his needs are automatically more important at the moment than mine, no questions asked. That's not healthy.

This too is a subconscious habit ingrained in me by the Patriarch. I see that I still haven't shed it to the degree I'd like.

So here are few affirmations I am going to practice:

My needs are important. I have a right to move at my own speed. I don't need to blindly obey a man just because he's a man.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer, vulnerability and healing

Here's a Rose of Sharon tree from our side yard.

"Nothing heals us like letting people know our scariest parts. When people listen to you cry and lament, and look at you with love, it's like they are holding the baby of you." A. Lamott

This blog is my safe place. It is where I share my story, process things, and heal. In doing so, I've met some of the most amazing friends along the way, and to each of you : you mean the world to me. Even if we don't talk much, or we have just said a brief 'hi' online, I want to say thank you! To know that you know my story and still want to be my friend, that you say you admire me for sticking to my guns and speaking up... it means so much!

Here's a view of my garden out front this summer. I've been busy weeding it and transplanting vines to cover an old rock wall in my back yard. That and sitting out on the patio working on a tan.


This is a family photo taken on Mother's Day two months ago. Only two of my three sisters are here, as well as one niece and my mom. I have a feeling this is the last photo I'll have with my mother and I both in it.

I am not OK with that. But this is one price I had to pay for telling the truth in my family. I didn't know she would cut me off a matter of weeks after this photo was taken. But if I had a chance to have do it over, I would have told the truth all over again.
The plant on the left is a butterfly bush. This part of the garden is in my front yard. I have yet to see butterflies around this plant. Hmmmm.
I've been going on many long walks along these rail road tracks lately. Walking is cathartic. Especially on warm summer nights. Crickets rasping out evening songs. Charbroiled burgers wafting from backyards along the trail. Bruised honeysuckle lifting and falling in the air every now and again. Tangled thoughts unravelling. While the woods sigh in swollen humidity. And that breeze lifts the sweated curls off the back of your neck.
I get angry a lot. Angry at injustice. I feel like screaming or punching something. But I don't. Walking channels the anger and helps it temporarily evaporate out of me.

Queen Anne's Lace along the trail.  
And of course, summer isn't summer until a mushroom makes a random appearance in your yard.
 then puffs up in a matter of hours...
 taking on a toasty appearance...


This is all the further it developed. I knocked it over with a stick and then split it apart. The texture inside was spongy. Like one of those anisette sponge cookies dipped in milk, sort of. I would show a photo, but dissecting it was something that you had to be there to appreciate.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


You are not safe out in the world, they told me.

You are safe here in your Christian home with us to protect you from the world.

You won't be safe if you leave our house without first getting married to a Christian man who can protect you from the evils of the world, they told me.

The world is a dangerous place for a single woman. It will eat you alive, corrupt you, chew you up and spit you out.

If you forsake our rules, things will go horribly wrong for you in the future, they told me. God will punish you. And when things go wrong for you, we won't be there to help you, they said.  We won't interfere in God's will when you are punished. You make your bed, you lie in it.

You aren't safe marrying a non Christian man, they said. He will cheat on you, abuse you, then leave you, they said.

Well guess what, parents, cult and church?

You are wrong. Seriously misguided. YOU are the unsafe ones, not the world.

I was safer out in the world than I was in my own home growing up. You abused me in the name of God and you still attack me in God's name. My nonbeliever friends and boyfriends treated me better than the Christian ones. I didn't experience abuse in an adult relationship until I married a Christian man.

It's the Christians who scare me now.

Even though to be honest, I'm not scared as much as I am wary of them.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It would have been easier

It would have been easier if my father had just been a regular old sicko who committed incest. I wouldn't have been as mad if he was just a regular joe pervert who also was abusive.
It’s the way he used Christianity as his cover to hide the abuse, as well as using Christianity as his weapon to threaten us into not speaking of it, that makes me angry. Also, that he had all of us believing that the abuse was God approved.

I find it disturbing that I didn’t feel safe enough to process the sexual abuse until after I left Christianity and no longer had a fear of hell and Satan. I know that if I was still a Christian steeped in fear of hell and Satan, I would not have allowed myself to confront the abuse. I would never have confronted my abuser.

My parents were already abusers and solid church going Christians for many years before they entered the cult. They had been abusing us for eight years before they discovered the cult, and the sexual abuse occurred four years before they joined the cult. They also had been Christians since they were both teens, long before they got married and had us kids. So they were simply your average Christian parents going to a regular Fundamental Christian church during the most intensive years they were abusing us.

They didn't need the cult to introduce and encourage them into abuse. What the cult did was appease their conscious and protect them in the name of God for the abusive ways they treated their children, after the abuse occurred.

So in this regard, it's not the cult I blame for their actions. I blame the cult for lulling them into a dulled conscious after the fact.

I do blame them as Christians for using their Christian family name as a protective boundary around them to hide their actions. I blame them for saying God would send demons on me and send me to hell in order to manipulate me into silence. I do blame them for the twisted, f***** up view I've had of God for some time. 
Here is what the cult says about abuse.

There is no such thing as abuse if you are living under the protection of a Christian man, whether he is your father or husband. God ordains Christian men so that they are simply funnels for God’s will. If the man does something that you as a woman deem questionable, this is not the man himself punishing you. It is actually God using the man to do God’s will in your life.

If something like sexual abuse happens, it’s not allowed to be called sexual abuse. Because “abuse” is something that you don’t deserve, and God only gives you what you deserve as long as you as a female or child are living under your umbrella of protection, which is your father or husband. So if you are under your umbrella and are sexually abused, God is allowing this to happen to you because you either deserved it for dressing immodestly or tempting the abuser. Or God let it happen to punish you for sins you committed. Or God allowed it happen to allow you to “grow mighty in Spirit.” In which case, God is being generous to you, and you should thank God for the “abuse.” In any case, if a woman or man feels he’s been abused, he should know that it happened completely with God’s knowledge and permission. God is fair, but not an abuser.   So “abuse” never really happened after all. You only got what God knew you deserved or wanted to gift you with. Praise the name of Jesus, amen.

And welcome to the world of religious sickness. Brought to you by Bill Gothard’s IBLP  cult. The Christian ministry that attracts and protects men who are sickos and perverts while telling you they are in God’s will. Just because they are born male and have the Christian label prominently slapped on their forehead. Welcome to the cult. Feel free to abuse and crush others in the name of God. You’re welcome. Have fun.

Realize that the world is now your playground. Women and children are not allowed to speak up to you. You are God’s vessel, and you have a right to get angry and yell at them for questioning you, because you are never wrong. As a Christian man, you are a Patriarch, the leader in the home. God speaks through you whether you know it or not. When you open your mouth and have no thoughts to express, God will express them for you. If you get angry or mad, don’t worry or feel bad. God is divinely using you as a weapon of wrath to punish your sinful child or wife. You can do no wrong. Rock on.

Compassion. Not your problem. The tears of your wife and children. Not your problem. Mercy is weakness, but a tough calloused exterior is a mark of spiritual maturity. Now go and wreak havoc. And enjoy. You deserve it. You’re a man, a Christian man. Have the time of your life. Thank you for joining the cult. – God