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




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Speaking up about sexual abuse

I am at the point in my life now where for the last several months, I have felt safe enough to process the past.  Although I was sexually abused when I was a child, I didn’t tell my family then or as an adult. I kept quiet because I was threatened with hell and the devil when I was a kid. I was so traumatized, I pushed most of the memories away and didn’t think about them for over 30 years. Now that I haven't been a Christian for over a year, I've lost my fear of hell and devil, and I finally feel unthreatened and able to process the abuse.

The sexual abuse was inappropriate, but at this point in time, I am actually most angry at the religious bullying that kept me from not telling. It’s one thing to commit incest with your child, as a Christian man. It’s quite another to cover it up by scaring an innocent child with threats that she’s going to be tormented by demons and sent to hell.

When I was five, my mom walked in and found out what my dad was doing to me and my baby sister at the time.  I didn’t know what my father was doing at the time was “wrong.” I just thought he was being friendly. It was my mom’s extreme, livid reaction when she found out, in addition to her encouraging me to shut down and never talk about it again, that clued me in that what was going on was horrible.

After my mom found out, my dad asked me to come upstairs to his and my mom’s bedroom. He told me that on this particular day, we were just going to talk. He acted depressed. He sat on the edge of the bed and said that what we were doing was wrong. He opened up Paul Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” and showed me a picture of a grotesque, slightly pink devil with a leer on his face and the flames of hell behind him. I was extremely terrified of this image, and he knew it. He had showed it to me before. Even just flashing the page open quickly and getting a tiny glimpse of that image made me break out in a cold sweat.

He told me that if he kept playing the special games with me, both he and I would go to hell. He told me he was miserable because he didn’t know how to stop.

Then he told me he was between a rock and a hard place. He said that God was angry at him, and what he did with me was sin. He said that if he kept doing it, he would go to hell and I would too. He said he already was at the point where he feared he would go to jail. He told me he had taken it too far with me.

He told me that I could help him out, and that he was depending on me. He asked me if I wanted to help him and I said yes. He warned me that it wouldn’t be easy for me. But he said it was the only choice he had.

Then he told me we would both have to work hard. He said he would study his Bible and some thick books with brown covers that he showed me which were apparently helping him. But he said I needed to do my part too.

He said he couldn’t trust himself to be alone around me anymore, because if he was around me, he would do something he wasn’t supposed to do. He said he would sin if he was around me. He said that sin lurks in everyone, and I brought out the sin in him when he looked at me and was around me.

Then he said that he didn’t plan on ever asking me up to the bedroom again, but if he slipped up and did, he wanted me to tell him “NO!” in an angry voice. He said it was extremely important that I said “NO” and meant it.

He made me practice.

He had me go outside the bedroom door. He had me knock. He opened the door and pretended to be extremely angry and mad, and told me to go away and never come back.

Then he made me practice this with him many times over. He kept pretending to be mad and angry. I remember laughing, because it seemed funny.

He said he was worried that I wasn’t taking it seriously enough, and that I wasn’t being angry or loud enough. He wanted to hear how mad I could get, and how loud I could say “NO!” I didn’t understand at all.

Then he said he would never be alone in this bedroom with me ever again. I asked him if I could come in the bedroom to watch movies with the other kids. He said yes, but he didn’t want me to be the first one to come in. He said to wait until the other kids came in first.

He told me that there were other places that he wasn’t supposed to be alone with him at. He said there were safe places and not safe places to be around him alone. He started listing them.

I was confused about what places I wasn’t supposed to be alone with him at. The kitchen? He said it was OK to be alone with him there. The living room? Yes. My brothers and sisters’ bedroom? Maybe. My bedroom? No and maybe. It depends, he said. I asked what it depended on. He said it depended on if there were the other people close by or not. I asked him if I was allowed to be in the shop alone with him. He thought about it for a while, and said “maybe. It depends. It might not be safe.” Then he said that no, it probably wasn’t safe to go in the shop alone with him, unless the door was kept open. But then he said that probably that wasn’t safe, so I shouldn’t go in the shop alone with him. I kept getting confused. I listed all the places I could think of that I went to and continued to ask him if I was allowed to be alone with him or not. The yard (yes), the bathroom (no), the woods (no), the road (yes),the living room (yes), the kitchen (yes), the attic (no), the bedroom (no), the basement (no), the garage (maybe), the shop (maybe). I told him I was confused because some places he said were ok, like the kitchen, and some places were not ok. I told him I couldn’t remember which ones were ok or not. So he said that he would make it easy for me and he told me that for sure that the bedroom was one place where I was not supposed to be alone with him in.

He said that I reminded him of sin. He said from here on out, he would hate himself every time he looked at me. He said it wasn’t my fault. But he said that from then on, he would have to hate me too, because if he didn’t hate me, he would do sinful things to me that he shouldn’t.  He also said that it would help him if he hated me, because every time he looked at me, he would feel hate instead of desire. He said he would see sin every time he looked at me, and he would hate that sin and would hate me. He said this was the only way he could stop himself.

Then he asked me if I was mad at him. I said I wasn’t. He asked me if I was mad at him for sinning and making me sin. I said I didn’t think he sinned, and I didn’t think I sinned. He asked me if I was scared of him. I said I wasn’t. At that point, I felt safe with him. I had always felt safe and relaxed around him during the sexual games and while we were having this talk.

He told me we couldn’t be friends anymore. He said he wanted me to be angry at him. He said it was OK if I got so mad at him, that I never talked to him again. He said he wanted me to hate what we did. He told me I should hate the things I did with him, and hate him for doing them. He said he wanted me to hate him. He told me that it would make it easier for him.

Then he said that it would be easier if I was afraid of him. He said he wanted me to be afraid of him, just like I was afraid of the devil. I thought that was funny. Then he tried to show me the devil picture and I didn’t want to see it because it was horrible and scary.

He told me he was worried because I didn’t seem to hate him and wasn’t angry enough. He worried that I thought it was just a fun game. He said he was worried that I wasn’t angry enough or strong enough to say “NO.” He told me he was depending on me to pull my weight and help him resist temptation. He told me this was very serious and he reminded me again about jail and hell. He said that he was worried that I wasn’t taking this seriously enough. He told me that we needed to practice me making an angry face and saying “NO! STOP!” to him. So he had me yell at him while sitting side by side on the bed. He kept making me yell “NO!” with an angry face. It was exhausting.

Then he said our talk was over, and that I would never be alone with him again in that room. Then he told me to go out and he shut the door.

After that, my memories closed up. From age 5 to this present time, I didn’t remember most of the sexual abuse or most of the “devil talk.” The parts of the devil talk I did remember was that it wasn’t safe to be alone around my father, and if I ever was, something terrible and horrible involving the devil and hell was going to happen to me. I was terrified of this.

After the “devil talk,” my father began his systematic verbal, physical, emotional and psychological abuse towards me. He hadn’t been this way before the talk. My other siblings experienced his verbal abuse and his fits of rage. But he didn’t have it in for them. He singled me out and let the others alone for the most part. I thought it was a shame, because I followed his rules to a “T,” far more than my other siblings did. I saw how they weren’t in his line of fire, and they were more or less “accepted” and not as bullied. I tried harder to get his approval than the others did by being a perfect Christian daughter and following his rules. Oddly enough, the more I tried to conform to his rules, the angrier he got and the worse he treated me.

I quickly learned from age 5 onwards to be terrified of this man who seemed to have changed overnight on me, even though I didn’t know why. I started having anxiety attacks at age 5, unable to breathe when I heard his loud footsteps thundering up the steps. I didn’t know why I was afraid of him, though. I was living in a good, Christian home and people commented all the time on how lovely a family we were, how obedient and respectful we were, what great people my parents were.

I always thought it was just my fault that I felt weird in my family, afraid, traumatized, the one who was picked on. That that’s just the way it was. I was terrified of my father, terrified of gong out in the world, terrified of unknown situations, terrified of being around people, then terrified to leave my house for years. Afraid, but I didn’t know why.

Now finally, I know why.

Now, finally, I have no fear of hell or demons, no fear of my parents and their religious threats. I’m free.

And I’m ready to stand up to my abuser and tell them that I know about it, and that what they did was horrible.

The last month or so, I’ve been in the process of telling my parents. Let me tell you, it hasn’t been going so well.

I started by writing a long email listing details of how and when my dad sexually abused me. Before sending it to my parents, I called my mom and said, “Hey, mom. So… I wanted to share something with you.”  I tried to be diplomatic and smooth, gentle in tone, but firm. It didn’t work.
My mom flipped out on me. She denied that my father would ever do that kind of thing to me. She started screaming and crying hysterically like a trapped animal. Like a little child stuck in a cage. It was almost embarrassing. My mom is a calm person, balanced and emotionally even keeled. In the three decades I've known her, I actually can’t remember her raising her voice in anger or any negative emotion... until this phone call. I used to wonder how she could be human and not raise her voice or yell, even once. I know it partially has to do with the cult, because she isn't allowed by my father to access and display emotions except for positive ones. True, she has a naturally calm, sunny personality, but the cult sealed it up for her, and she wears her cheerful face like a bright Christian banner. She also has only cried two other times in her life in front of me, once when her father passed away, and once when my aunt died. I told my sisters about my mom's reaction on the phone when I told her about the abuse, and they knew it was out of character. They told me they feared she would have a heart attack and convinced me to wait a week to send the email.

So I waited. Then I sent the email. I waited two more weeks. Then I called my mom to see if he had read it. I couldn't bring myself to ask my dad directly because I am terrified of him and out of self-protection, stopped speaking to him when I was 16. Additionally, he is anti-social and prefers not to speak to on the phone, even with his own children. Plus, it would have triggered me too much to tell him on the phone.

It turned out that my mom read a sentence or two of the email but deleted it before my dad knew about it.  She told me bluntly that she refused to read my email, and she refused to let him see it because it was “horrible” and would “destroy him.”

To be honest, I am still shocked that my mom knew how to get into his email. I’m also almost impressed that she deleted it before he could read it. She is not computer savvy, and I didn't think she had the nerve to do anything this shady. She is the type of Christian who crosses her t's and dots her i's in every way, smiling and being pleasant in actually (what I thought) was a genuine way. My mom was the kind and "safe" person in the house when I was growing up. I guess I didn't know how monstrous she had become in the past decade or so being alone with my father after we all moved out and her world was only his. 

Over the phone, I told my mom I would send a printed out version of the truth. She said vehemently that she would rip it up and never let him see it. I told her I would send it by registered mail so he would have to sign for it. She said she would sign his name for the package, then destroy it.

So over the next two weeks, I sent an email to my dad at various times of the day, especially in the evening when I knew he was home. He doesn’t have a smart phone to check email during the day. To be on the safe side, I sent the email from several different email addresses, as well as from my husband’s email address.

Finally, after I still didn't get a reply back by email, I was fed up and decided I needed to just call and ask to speak directly to my dad. I was shaking and having a panic attack. But I was so angry. I called their house. The phone rang three times and they didn’t pick up. The fourth time I got their voicemail and I left a message. I angrily demanded an explanation for why mom was deleting my emails.

And what do you know. My dad picked up the phone and wanted to know what emails I was talking about. It was so weird, surreal actually to have a give and take conversation with him. But I was angry. I told him mom had been deleting my emails to him, and that I knew he sexually abused me when I was little.

Then he got defensive and started quoting Bible verses. He told me that I was full of demons, and that an evil spirit in me was making me say untrue things about him. He started to cast the evil spirit out of me over the phone. “Satan, I command you in the name of Jesus to come out of AJ, NOW.” I interrupted that business right away and told him I didn’t have any demons in me so he didn’t need to be doing any of that casting out on me. I started to relate to him the various memories I had of him sexually abusing me. Each time I paused, he told me I was delusional. That I wasn’t thinking straight. That I was out of my mind. That I was being cantankerous. That I was sowing discord among the brethren. That God was going to destroy me if I didn't take back what I said.

Then my mom cut in and screamed at me that I was an embarrassment. That she was ashamed of me, and that I was a horrible daughter. She said she TOLD me not to send another email to my father. She told me I had besmirched the family name in the past and that she had never told me how awful I was to do so, but that she was angry at me now and was ready to let it rip, ready to tell me all the horrible things I had done in the past that she disapproved of. Apparently, I had dated a non-Christian man and had been doing worldly, non-Christian things and word got around in her family and she was shamed by them for my actions. My mom told me how dare I, after they sent me to Christian school. How dare I publicly date a non-Christian and ruin my reputation and theirs. (Seriously. She was being serious.)  

She told me that I deserved to have my husband leave me, and she hoped I would have nowhere to go. She told me she would never answer the phone again if I called, unless I got down on my knees and repented for lying about my father.

Then she followed this up with a juicy email that reads as follows:

The title of the email was “sick, sick.”

“AJ, this is Mom, I can’t begin to describe how I feel. Your e-mail was so sickening, untrue and perverted, it was so bad I couldn’t even read most of it, mainly because none of it is true, and sounds like it came from the pit of hell! I know for a fact that these things are not true, you believe what you want, but you will never get better physically or spiritually. Oh by the way none of your siblings believe your father did anything and I think there is something really wrong with you! I’m asking God to heal your mind, I still love you, but with this attitude towards your father, don’t call or e-mail till you can think clearly! Praying for you, Mom.  Your e-mail is blocked, and won’t get through, I won’t answer the phone if you continue to spew out all this hatred!"

This email was particularly interesting, as my mom last month had told me that she didn't believe that God was punishing me and keeping me sick because of some sin I was committing. She said she didn't think God was like that. We were talking about this because I told her that her son in law was preaching in our family that this was the case with Thalia and me. But my mom said he was full of it, and she didn't believe like this. Apparently, my mom is singing a new tune now that I dared to speak up against her beloved Patriarch.

Seriously. This is what happens in my family if someone dares to speak up and say something against the Patriarch. My mom protects him like he's the Pope, like he can do no wrong. She was freaking out because I got past her and went straight to the Patriarch without her permission.

After this, my dad went and did damage control with my siblings. He called each one and told them that I was spreading lies about him that he sexually abused me. He told my siblings to not listen to me, as he felt I was mentally imbalanced, delusional, and demon possessed. He also told them that I was spreading stories because I was bitter towards him because I didn’t like him.  Then he called me the next day and told me that none of my siblings believed me. He told me that when Louisa visited my house for Christmas that I had told her that I was going to hell and didn't care. I told my dad that wasn't true. I said that I told her I didn't believe in hell, and that it was my right to believe as I saw fit, and that I shouldn't be penalized for it.

He told me he knew I was possessed by demons because I told mom in the past that there was a friendly ghost in Maggie’s laundry room making the door pop open sometimes. He told me that Louisa said that when she visited and Sabrina was singing a song from Vacation Bible School, that I told Sabrina to stop singing. Again, untrue.

Sabrina was singing, “I wanna be a sheep for Jesus, ‘cause sheep are meek.” and when she was done, I sang, “I don’t wanna be a sheep, cause I was wanna be a goat! I wanna have a backbone and stand up for what I believe!” Then I asked Sabrina if she knew any non-church songs. And she did, and she sang them.

But apparently, I was wrong to say that and sing that IN MY OWN HOME. In my own home that I helped purchase, living with my husband as adults. Both Kyle and I have decided as adults that we are not Christians. But according to my family, I don’t have a right to voice anything opposite of the Christian way even in my own home, or it will be used as ammunition against me and will be talked about in the family behind my back.

This is why I do not want to invite Louisa and her family over anymore. I was planning on inviting her and her kids over, as well as my brother Matt and his three kids, and my cousin and her daughter. I was planning on having a picnic here with all of us catching up.

But it may not be safe to even have my siblings visit. If they are reporting back even the smallest of Christian infractions to the home base as Louisa did, then I don’t want them in my home. It is too oppressive for me to have to hold my tongue in my own home and not speak my mind about my beliefs. What, even my own home isn't safe now? What, they have control of me even in my own home when I'm married and living my adult life? I don't think so.

God. Why do I have to keep cutting people out of my life? The further this thing goes, the more I see the true colors of my family. Not just my parents. But my siblings too.

I had a conversation with my younger sister Christy last month, and she shared with me two incidences of things my dad did to her when she was a child that were sexually inappropriate. I knew what she was talking about, because I had been there as a child in the room when these things happened. But when my dad was doing damage control and called Christy, she didn’t confront him.

Maybe Christy isn’t ready to talk to him about it. I hope she didn’t stay quiet on the phone with him because he intimidated her. He told her I was full of demons and was mentally unbalanced, so it didn’t set that great of a climate for her to want to say, “Look Dad. You did it to me too, and you know it.”

I am disgusted with the fear of demons that my father uses to keep his children quiet and in line.

I am also disgusted because in my parents' religious cult, adult children aren't allowed to grow up. They are still subject to parental Christian rules long after most normal Christian parents have relaxed their grip on their kids. It's like I'm back in grade school, not having the freedom to voice my own spiritual or non-spiritual beliefs. Even in adulthood, I can't escape their religious scrutiny and control.

Speaking of control, my mom is no longer "allowed" to visit me or Thalia because we are too un-Christian, according to my dad. As if my mom needs that decree. She told me she doesn’t ever want to see or speak to me again until I confess for telling a lie about my dad.

It hurts. I didn't fight back when my mom was screeching at me.  I wasn't ready or prepared for her attack. I didn't expect her to be so riled up. I won't lie. I was shaking afterwards. My parents are making me out to be this horrible, delusional, sexually sick person. In their mind, a good Christian daughter would never have been sexually abused by her Christian father in the first place, and even if she thought she was, she would realize it was a lie from Satan and she would forget about it and go along cheerily in the Christian walk, smiling and pretending like everything was OK.

That’s how it is in my family. If you go against their Christian way, they will reject you, warn other family members to stay away from you, and withhold communication and support from you until you confess. As long as they deem you are out of the will of God, you are fair game. They will curse you, your health, your finances, your mental state, your relationships, your career. It happened to Thalia before it happened to me, so I’m not the only one. It also happened to my Aunt S, who left the church and was called irresponsible, out of her mind and demon possessed for voicing her non-Christian opinion. She was going through a tough time in her life and the last person she talked to was my dad. He told her she needed to repent so her life situation could change from the miserable place she was in, and that she needed to get the demons exorcised out of her. He was the last person she spoke to. She committed suicide that night. She ran her car off the road at a high speed into a tree. My parents are treating Thalia and me now the same way they treated Aunt S.

My family is twisted. They use Christianity as a weapon to keep us silent. Even if my family thinks you are in God’s will, even then you are still judged and talked about behind your back. They judged me up one side and down the other even when I was a church goer for decades and was living a Godly life. When I needed help from them while I was a Christian, they were not there for me, because of the sins they remembered I had done in my past. You can’t win in my family.

However, I will not let myself back down to them. I think that the best way for me to recover from the PTSD induced by my family is to keep standing up for myself. Even if they are swarming like a nest of bees now talking about me and warning each other to stay away from me. Even though I am now quite alone in the family department. Except for Thalia, who has always been there for me.

Well, I will show them. I am getting healthier and stronger every day. I am getting my power back and they can’t scare me in the name of God anymore. I am strong. I am brave. I don’t need to swallow my truth. I can stand up for myself. I don’t deserve their shaming. I don’t deserve their wrath. I don’t need to rely on my toxic, unsupportive family in order to survive.  Other people who I don’t know yet love me and will be there to help me if I need it. But I’m getting better, and I am a survivor, and I am strong. I will show them all!

I will get my health and career back, and I’ll be more than well enough to drive again. I'll buy my own car. And I’ll hop in my car and drive off, away from this mess. I’ll drive so far, and they will never hear from me again. I'll go someplace safe and start over again.

Right now, I just want to be around people who are kind and compassionate, who don't scream or yell. I need to be around people who feel safe. I will practice making a bubble around myself, detaching from the external world and going deep, grounding myself. I can do this. I'm going to start EMDR trauma release therapy in the next few weeks. I can do this. I'm brave. I can make it through this.