Sunday, May 15, 2011

What's changed?

My youngest brother started reading my blog. He decided to start at the beginning, which was two and a half years ago. A LOT has happened in my life since then. I started this blog because I had been writing in "The Crap Journal" for Paul. It was dark and hard and AWFUL. It had all of the flashbacks, body memories, thoughts, urges, pains, everything that I had never shared with anyone. It was intense. I filled the whole journal, and wasn't quite sure where to go next. I started keeping a private blog.

I let Bishop C and BJ read the private blog, but it was a little TOO much for C.
I wanted a place where I could be ME. Like the intro to the blog says, I spent so much time hiding and pretending, I wanted just a little corner of the world where I was more me.
At the beginning of my own journey, I desperately wanted to know that someone else had been through what I was going through and not only survived, but was actually happy. I searched, but only found one blog. PTSD and Me. It was helpful. He talked about pseudo-seizures as part of the trauma response. SO helpful to have a name for what I was experiencing. I didn't even care that part of the name was pseudo... Still, I wanted a story closer to my own. I had been raped. Over and over. And never even known it.

I wanted so bad to hear someone's story that had made it through being abused: sexually, physically, and emotionally, I decided I would be that person. Whenever I REALLY wanted to give up, I'd picture someone else who had been raped finding my blog. They'd read about my journey, they'd know I could understand their pain, and then they'd read about how I was happy, alive, and good.

The truth is, in my effort to be uplifting to others, the beginning of this blog didn't even begin to touch on the pain of the fight. I wouldn't use the word rape, but that is what happened to me. Because I was raped, hit, and emotionally beaten down, I dreamed of dying. I planned for it. Hoped for it. Wanted it so bad. I had other people convinced that it might be better for me to die. I would go days and days with NO sleep and weeks with very little sleep. For HOURS at a time, I would lay in my bed with my whole body seized up - every muscle tense and my thoughts racing, as I relived being raped or thrown across the room in a rage. There were times I thought I would die from the physical pain. Sometimes, the flashbacks and memories were so intense, I'd have bruises on my arms and legs - in the same places I had been bruised during the abuse.

I felt panicked ALL the time. I spent many nights under a trailer on the street, or behind a church, because the house was SO frightening and upsetting to me. I slept at my office often, because there was no bed and I was totally alone. I was less afraid to be alone in the street or at my office than in my home. I understood why people would become homeless. I actually feel pretty lucky that I never ended up there.

In some ways, its hard to remember how bad things were. Its all SO different now.

Justin's question brought all of this back. Back then, I went to church and hated myself. I had the hardest time with eating disorder and self-harm urges on Sundays. I'd sit in meetings and shake. Then I'd walk for hours and hours trying to run from something, and I didn't even know what.

BJ told me to stop going, because it made me miserable.He told me to stop forcing myself to do things I didn't want to do. He could see that I was being triggered just by being forced to do something. It felt like rape, so the flashbacks would start, and I would spend the rest of the week trying to recover. Then I'd go back on Sunday, and lose my mind all over again.

I knew divorce wasn't an option in the church. As a woman, I covenanted to obey my husband. And yes, he was supposed to obey God, but who was I to judge when he was obeying God's will? I didn't have a right to question the priesthood authority. And I knew I was supposed to go to church, serve, give, love, and everything would work. It just wasn't working.

I spent countless hours on lds.org. I read EVERY article I could find on abuse, marriage, relationships, depression, addictions. And there was so little that gave me hope. Most made me feel more hopeless. They all talked about how abuse was wrong, but... what was the victim of abuse supposed to do? Go to the temple, pray, read the scriptures, and love her spouse no matter what. If you've done all of those things, then what??

I started reading about abuse outside of the church. What is abuse? What is aggressive communication?
I started to see that almost everything said at church is aggressive communication. (Telling others what they should do. Saying "good" people do this. "Nice" people do that. etc.)

EVERYTHING was to tell people what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and how to feel while they are doing it.I was reading books telling me not to let anyone speak to me in that way, but then I would willingly go to a meeting where mere acquaintances could talk to me that way? It didn't make much sense.

I started reading what most professionals tell a person in an abusive relationship to do: GET OUT!
Then why did the church tell people to stay? And go to the temple more? And read the scriptures? And serve their spouse? And not be selfish?? Often those things TRAIN an abuser to continue to be abusive.

I listened to people at church. I watched others be abused by members of the church - using church teachings to justify her abuse. Just like Larry did. Just like many in my life had. It wasn't just MY experience. My therapist tried to tell me it was just me, but I knew he was wrong. It wasn't just me, and it wasn't my fault!

I started asking questions. I started admitting to myself and others that I had never felt the beautiful confirmation that the Book of Mormon was true. I had never had the answer that Moroni promised. I had felt angry and nothingness when reading the scriptures. I TRIED, but...

Still, I knew all the words to say, I'd been taught how to bare testimony, even if I had never felt it for myself. I stopped pretending to believe. And I stopped blaming myself. If I didn't get the answer, maybe it wasn't because I wasn't good enough. Maybe it was because it wasn't true: the church wasn't what it claimed to be. Or it just wasn't right for me. I didn't know, but I stopped taking the blame for everything. I also stopped taking the blame for my abusive (now ex) spouses. Being raped wasn't my fault.Being beaten was not my fault. Being told I was wrong and crazy and delusional and under satan's control had NOTHING to do with me. None of that was my fault!

When I stopped taking the responsibility for my lack of testimony, everything else just started to fall into place. In a really good way.

I'd fought for so long to find relief, and suddenly, the fear and the guilt weren't ruling me like before.

The final piece came the last time I went to church. I hadn't been for a few months. In January, Bishop C had finally convinced me to stop coming. He'd arranged to have the sacrament brought to me at home, but that never quite worked out. I was too embarrassed to have them come, and then try to explain why I was perfectly healthy but not at church. In April, ward boundaries changed, and I got a new bishop. I went to church once, because Bishop M asked me to come back, but I hated it!

A few weeks later, Justin was singing in church. I went to his ward to accompany him. (I still love accompanying him when he sings!) I have always felt miserable during the sacrament. This time, I looked at it, and thought, "I don't want it."

All at once, I realized I really didn't want it, but when you're taught that is what you SHOULD want... and you don't want it. What do you think about yourself? I thought I was bad, and I needed to change me to want it. EVERY time they passed the bread and water, I felt sick with the knowledge that I didn't want it, and that made me bad, so I'd try to change me to be good, but I couldn't. I couldn't make myself want that.

That day, I let it pass me by. With the full knowledge that I didn't want it, and I didn't have to take it.
And that was okay.

I've never really looked back.

Many in my family think I will come back when I have healed, or when I find love for myself, or... They don't understand that I just don't want to be there. Its not good for me, and as I heal, I grow farther and farther away.

I know its hard for them to understand. They love the church. They find peace and friendship and hope there. I'd compare it to ketchup. Most people love ketchup on their hamburgers. I do NOT. I think its nasty. Jalapenos? Those I love, but I understand that a lot of people do NOT like them. That's okay.

I'm not sure if I've made any sense, but I hope this answers your questions.

8 comments:

  1. Thanks always for sharing!

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  2. This is an excellent post. I agree, when obedience is the centerpiece of a religion, it can only enable abusers. The "True" religion should not just work when people are perfect. It should work well for everyone, meaning it should have a system that actively works to prevent harm from the imperfect and mean-spirited and abusive people who participate in it.

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  3. PS I was wondering, if you have facebook, if you'd like to be facebook friends. Email me at lifeasareader@yahoo.com to say yes or no or just say hi. Take care!

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  4. I loved hearing that all! I'm glad you responded! :) I'm also glad my internet is working so I can continue catching up! Your the best sis ^_^

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  5. Jen, I was thinking about you as I was wakling up the street today. I was thinking about how you fought to heal largely for the sake of others, and not your own sake. I was thinking that you probably were not thinking about people like me. I do not have a background much like yours at all. I have not experienced any trauma compared to you. Yet there are many things we have in common. There are many things which you have learned as you fought through life, and I am glad that you share these on here than I can learn from you.

    Thank you

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  6. Yeti, I think everyone has experienced trauma. I fought for a long time to admit that I had experienced anything hard, because it wasn't "as bad" as others' experiences.

    Thank you for your thoughts! Maybe it was YOU who I pictured. :)

    Also, I think we all have to find our own way through life, and we can all learn from each other. Its one of the most beautiful parts of living. Hugs!

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  7. I really think we have to find what works for us. I know we all have our own beliefs as far as religion goes, but I personally feel like God, as I know him, is in my heart...not in a church building. And I can worship him anywhere, any time, on any day of the week. I haven't been to church in a long time because I had a hard time with a lot of the principles. As you know, I almost joined the LDS church, but ultimately decided not to. I absolutely respect the church and the religion, but it just wasn't right for me. I feel closest to God when I don't have to worry about what others think...whether or not my clothes are appropriate to worship in...whether or not I'm saying the right things in the right way. I find Him outdoors...in song...when I'm alone. Sometimes I stray. Sometimes I'm unsure of what I believe or if I believe. But the God I know understands.

    I cannot say enough how wonderful and inspiring it is to see you start to honor what it is that YOU need to heal.

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  8. Thanks Amber!! And yes, I remember you thinking about the church, and talking to you about it. I was in the middle of an angry phase, but didn't want to discourage you if you thought it would help you, but also trying to be true to me.

    I'm like you. I feel closest to God when I don't have to worry about what others think. If I'm worshiping "right" or praying "right". With music, with nature, with animals, with good friends, even in books or blogs I read.

    I really like living in a world where I can find God anywhere and everywhere. Or not. Depending on what is best for me at the moment.

    I love you girl!!

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