Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer's almost over, and we haven't done anything yet!

School's started back up. (This doesn't affect me, except that more than half of my family works for school.) Leaves are changing. (Already?!?!) Nights are getting cold. Fall is here.

I pointed this out to BJ, and he looked sad and said, "I know, and we've hardly done anything!"


I bought myself new waders. I can't even call them new anymore - they've been all over the place.

A full solar eclipse. Complete with an eclipse party.

Riding. New trails. Old trails. All over.

Pride parade

Horse training workshops

Fixing the irrigation sprinklers.

Work. We added several new accounts this summer.

Wild Mustangs


Fishing from a float tube on Strawberry Reservoir

Fishing in Yellowstone National Park

Symphony Concert

Rodeos! (I am going to ride a saddle bronc like this someday!)

I shipped out thousands of pounds of ties...

Riding in the ferns.

Riding all over. This is one of my favorite pictures.

Riding. Camping. Fishing in Uinta Mountains.

Albino fish!

I wore a dress. All day long.

More fishing on Strawberry.
And these are just a few of the pictures of a few of the things...
To which BJ replied, "I guess what I'm saying is there's a whole lot more I want to do, and we're running out of time! But with fall comes a whole bunch of other things I love..."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The "R word" (rape) and stupid things people say

Warning: This post will probably be triggering. I haven't written it yet, but I am about to talk about rape, and I'm angry. I don't plan on censoring myself, so please take care of yourself. Only read this if you are in a good place, and stop (and seek help) if anything I say triggers you.

Rape. It's an incredibly ugly word. It's not a word I like to use. I struggle to use it to describe my own experiences, but I've found that I'm not alone. Many people who have been raped (legal definition of the word) try to use other words to describe their experiences. It has been so hard to allow myself to use that word to describe what happened to me.

Recently, in an effort to convince me to not go to a wedding (that the bride and groom invited me to), I was told that (this person) seeing me would be like me seeing one of the men that raped me. (She blames me for her divorce.) I was confused.

I spend time with my uncles. I would never dream of asking them to not go to an event just because their presence makes me uncomfortable. I have anxiety seeing them... and I have choices about what I do. I can choose not to go to functions where I know they will be. I can choose not to talk to them if I do go. I can choose to be friendly if I feel like it. Whatever I decide to do, I can only choose for me. It has never crossed my mind to ask them to stay home.

My confusion... I know I still have a desire to protect abusers... AND, I want to be healthy. What does that even look like? Is she more "normal"? I don't want to be like she is. Like I said. Confused.

I shared my confusion with BJ... as we talked, and he pointed out what a ridiculous and stupid and completely inaccurate comparison the two things are...  My confusion went away, and I got angry.

On most days, I understand that pain is pain... It doesn't matter if someone else's pain is worse than your own, when it hurts, it hurts. On this day, realizing how irrational that comparison is, made my head spin. How DARE she compare anything she has gone through to being raped?!?! (Even IF her accusations were accurate, and I was to blame for her divorce, there's just no comparison. In one analogy, an adult man decided to end his marriage. He left. He has a right to do that. Rape is a violent, violating, horrible thing done TO someone who cannot defend themselves.) She has no fucking clue what she is talking about.
"That's like scraping your knee, and thinking you must understand what it feels like to break every bone in your body." ~BJ

I don't like using the word "rape". I feel like I have no right to that word, but damn it if I am okay with those who have no clue what they are talking about, never experienced anything close to it, and ESPECIALLY trying to use that word to control and manipulate others... No patience, no tolerance, for that kind of bullshit.

That stupid comparison just reminded me of all the stupid people out there. 
They THINK they know what they are talking about, but they have no clue.

Todd Akin is currently being blasted for his stupid statement about "legitimate rape". It was a really stupid thing to say. My hope is that he was just incredibly ignorant.
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
What does that mean when a woman DOES get pregnant from rape? It's not legitimate?? Who the hell is he to decide what is legitimate and what is not? To take something so traumatizing, invalidating, and awful already... there are no words to describe how much harm that man could do with just a few stupid words.

Last year, there was a bill proposed that used the phrase "forcible rape". Do they not understand what RAPE is??

Up until 1993, there was no such thing as marital rape. The traditional definition of rape was, 'sexual intercourse with a female not his wife without her consent'. Basically, a woman had no right to say no to sex with her husband... And he could take it by any force necessary. The law was changed, but not without a fight. People fought over whether a woman had a right to say no to sex with her husband... and that was only twenty years ago.

Did they think about what they were fighting for? Did they care that they were fighting for the rights of a man to rape his wife? Did they think about how it would effect women?

When I started talking about what Larry did, sometimes, I even got brave and used "the R word". Do you know what SEVERAL people said to me?
"How could it be rape? You were married." 
(And I wonder why I have a hard time using that word...)
Sometimes, I'd try to explain how he did it whether I cooperated or not. It WAS a lot easier if I could just force myself to lay there and take it... but sometimes, everything in me fought against it. I'd try to explain the pain, the violence, and some understood... A few never did. They held to the belief that a man could never rape his wife... After all, a woman is given to a man. She is nothing but his property.

Today, some states still have exemptions for married men. For example, in some states a man cannot be prosecuted for forcing sex on his wife if she is impaired and cannot consent. In other words, if she is asleep, and therefore cannot consent, he can force himself on her without fear of the law. Utah law states that if a person can't consent, then it is rape, with no exception for husbands. 

There are so many other instances of politicians saying things that are just WRONG. Joking about rape. Trying to minimize and sometimes defend it. Protecting everyone but the victims of rape. I don't feel like going into any more of it now... just know there are a whole lot of really stupid people out there.

As a teenager, I read the book Miracle of Forgiveness. I was full of guilt. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to feel good in my life. I believed my unhappiness was because of sin. (I heard it over and over and over in church.) I wanted to repent, so I could be happy... So I read the book.
There are a few passages in the book that STILL make me want to hurl.
"Your virtue is worth more than your life. Please, young folk, preserve your virtue even if you lose your lives.”

-    The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 63
“Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation when there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”

-   The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 196

Up until two years ago, I believed my family would prefer I was dead than to know the truth of what happened to me. I believed the fact that I was alive was proof that I was bad...

"It was better that I had died defending my virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle."

I could not tell anyone the truth. I was barely alive already, and I knew I couldn't handle it if they agreed with me, and said, "We wish you would have died."

I found a great therapist. I found BJ. I found many great people and resources that helped me to change the way I think. I learned the truth. (It was NOT my fault. It is much better to cooperate and LIVE than to die. And so on.) I talked to people that understood... I tried to shut out the people who were clueless.

Now what I want to know is, where are all the people who KNOW?
Why aren't there more talks in church about the effects of abuse? Why aren't there more talks about how it isn't the victim's fault AT ALL? Why hasn't the church apologized for publishing such AWFUL things? Why are they still handing out that awful book?

1 in 4 women nationally, 1 in 3 women in Utah. 1 in 6 men nationally, 1 in 5 men in Utah will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. That means that 33% of the women in any ward in Utah will have been raped or assaulted. With statistics that high, isn't it about time to start talking about it, and I don't mean the people that have no clue... I mean the people that KNOW.

Why are the ignorant people talking about rape? What makes them even THINK they have a right to make a law that effects victims of rape? They don't. Every single one of them needs to stop it. NOW. I don't care that they think they are protecting life... until the conversation is more open and honest and they have a clue about what they're talking about. Shut up. And do some listening. Get educated. Do NOT talk about rape unless you know what you are talking about.

I'll finish with this:

A friend posted this on Facebook. THIS is how rape should be talked about. THIS is what happens when a woman is raped. (And I know it's not just women who are raped.) This is what happens when a PERSON is raped. It's time people understand what really happens and how truly awful, traumatic, life altering, and sometimes life ENDING it is.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Processing an apology

About two years ago, maybe a little longer, I got a message on facebook. It was from a person I didn't know, with no profile picture and no friends. The name on the account was Brielle... The message was incredibly nasty and mean. She referenced BJ and circumstances surrounding his life. BJ figured out who sent it, and sent her a text that night. His text just said, "Brielle is a very meanspirited person. She is also misinformed. Next time get more to the story before you go off on someone like that."

He didn't hear back for a year or more. She eventually sent him a text and apologized. She told him where she got her information and that she didn't mean to cause harm. BJ and I both thought, "that was that".

Yesterday, I got another message. This one from her real account. It was short and simple. She said she apologized to (BJ), but the real person she needed to apologize to was me. She said she thought about it often and wished she had never done that.

I felt happy.
I've watched BJ be isolated from friends and family because of the stories that some people have told, and I feel sad for him. She'd already apologized to him though, which mattered to me a lot more than apologizing to me. Watching people hurt him has hurt me, so I very much appreciate the apology for that reason.

I felt angry.
Talking to friends, they helped me figure out that her apology reminded me of the hurt she'd caused. Her apology reminded me of all the messages and phone calls I got around that same time. Former members of my ward, people I didn't know and had never talked to, and they all knew what I needed to do. Hate-filled messages based on HUGE misinformation.

I felt confused.

I was chatting online with my friend David about it. What he said was so perfect, I'm just going to quote him.
"When a message that hateful is received, even if you know it’s not justified, you have to gird up, form a defense, position your view of yourself in such a way as to be able to look over your shoulder and discount it. It requires diligence, effort. When people take back their harsh words, you’re left with a gap between the defense you formed and the tentative embrace being offered. And because the fear initially felt in the face of such hatred was genuine, there’s almost nothing to do but fill that gap with diffidence, wariness."
For years, I have been braced against the hateful messages that have come my way. With this one person's apology, I didn't have anything to brace against. I felt disoriented. I also didn't know what to do. I have never met this woman. Other than things BJ has told me, I know nothing about her. An apology makes me feel like I owe her something...

So, what now?

Since then, I sat down and talked to her for a long time. She apologized again. She also said it was good to see BJ doing things he loved, and she was glad he had someone to share the things he loves with. She turns out to be the kind of person I love talking to: no filter, she talks about whatever pops into her head, she is comfortable in her own skin, funny. She also happens to love the outdoors, camping, and mountains.

I may never talk to her again... It's just nice to know how things can go. Just because someone is judgmental, or mean, doesn't mean they will stay that way... I didn't worry about her in the two years between emails. I didn't think about what she said much. I just moved on, and when she was ready, and she felt like saying something, she did.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Maybe I'm done being freaked out by weddings

I'm going to a wedding on Friday.
And strangely, I'm excited. For a long time, I have believed that no one should get married. Marriage is an archaic institution. At best, it is a legal agreement. At worst, it is codependent, abusive, and unhealthy. Weddings have freaked me out for a very long time. In my mind, they symbolized the beginning of a horrible hell, but something has changed in the last couple of months... And I blame the bride-to-be.

When I met her, she was going through an awful divorce. She wanted out - He didn't want to let her. All divorce is hell... but in my experience, the hell part was the back and forth before the divorce. In her experience, the hell was the years long legal battle they went through after she had filed for divorce.

I watched her go through having her kids shun her, because they were angry at the choices she was making (combined with the stories he was telling). I watched her decide that she couldn't wait for them to decide to want to be in her life. She loves them and she wants them around, but she's going to live her life and let them live theirs. It both saddened and inspired me. My family didn't make me choose between doing what was best for me and making them happy. Her family did. She chose to do what was best for herself. In my mind, that was the much harder choice.

She started talking about a friend she'd met online. Then she brought him over for dinner. I liked him from the first moment I met him. (He reminds me of my old therapist: easy-going teddy bear, with a tough streak. On several occasions, I have almost called him Paul (therapist's name) instead of by his name.) Although weeks went by between times we saw each other, he remembered what we'd talked about and we just picked up the conversation where we left off. And it was obvious to me that he liked her.

I remember her saying once, "I just want to fall in love. I want to know what it's like to love someone instead of needing someone. I want to know what it feels like to want to be with someone and have them want to be with me."  Watching them together, I felt like she was on the path to find what she wanted. That made me happy.

Then they got engaged. Whenever anyone has gotten engaged recently, I have wanted to go off on them about why they shouldn't. I never shared my thoughts, but it was very loud inside my head. This time, I didn't even feel the urge to go off on why I didn't believe in marriage. Instead, I just felt happy for her.

When I told BJ about my internal reaction, he asked if that meant I wanted to get married someday. HELL NO. I don't.
What does it mean? It means I have finally gotten comfortable enough in my own decision, that I don't need to tell other people what to do. I don't need to tell people why MY choice is the better choice. I can just live my life; make my choices; and let them live their lives and make their choices.

So, maybe I can't blame her for my change in perspective. Maybe, the more comfortable we (meaning people) are with our own choices, the less we need to control others.

What if telling other people what to do is just a way to help us make peace with our own choices?
I feel like I just discovered something important, but it makes my brain hurt. At moments like this, I love insights from others. Your thoughts?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sometimes I feel whiny...

For the past six months, a coworker has not been doing her job. She no longer works for the company. (I originally used the word "fired". That wasn't completely accurate. I said it because this paragraph isn't really the point of this entry at all. I just wanted to give enough of the back story, so that the rest of this entry made sense. I fixed it to be more accurate, and I apologize for my original inaccuracy.) For the past two weeks, I have spent a lot of time cleaning up. Literally. There was more than $5000 worth of invoices that had to be voided out, merchandise put away, and corrected in the inventory.

A few days ago, when I was dealing with the biggest part of the mess, I posted on facebook, "Who wants to listen to me complain? I'm feeling whiny."

I chose my words carefully, because I was just feeling whiny. It's not like I was dealing with a REAL problem... I knew that, but sometimes... it makes the job easier if I can whine for a minute.

The response on facebook blew me away. I wasn't expecting the love and concern that I got.
I tried to explain to my friends that I was just feeling sorry for myself, being whiny, and that I was fine... I tried to explain to them that it was just a feeling of, "I don't wanna," but they just wanted to be there for me. (My Grandma called my dad the next day just to make sure I was okay.)

I felt guilty that I somehow made them believe I wasn't okay. But, what surprised me the most was how loved I felt. 

Most of the people on facebook have no idea the things I've been through. They have no idea the hiding I've done or the secrets I've kept. They don't know about all of the times I stayed quiet when I really needed to scream and swear and complain and (what I would have called) whine.

I still am pretty guarded about asking for help, or sharing "too much". 

And then, one night, in a moment of, "I don't wanna," I reached out, and many people reached back.
I don't know what to say about that, other than, "Weird. And cool. Very cool."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I read a book: Coming Home: A Mormon's Return to Faith

I just finished the book Coming Home: A Mormon's Return to Faith.
The topic interested me. How does one leave the LDS church, and then go back fifteen years later?
WHY would someone go back? 

I almost stopped reading after the first chapter, because it wasn't anything that I hadn't heard at church. The reasons she gave for leaving the church were the stereotypical reasons for leaving... Offended. Angry. Hurt. Lost the spirit. Stopped doing what she was supposed to do.

That's not why I left, and I've talked to a lot of people who have left. Those aren't the reasons they left. John Dehlin has done a lot of research on why people question the LDS church, and that's not what he has found.

She said she was writing the book to those who are questioning the church... Those that have left or are struggling... But if that is her audience, then why did she use phrases like "anti-mormon rhetoric"? Language like that reinforces harmful stereotypes about those that have left. It reinforces members ability to dismiss the "apostates". It definitely doesn't feel helpful to those that are questioning and trying to reconcile themselves with the religion.

I would say her real target audience is LDS people who don't want to know why people leave, who don't want to understand anything outside of their world. It is a story of hope for those that cannot accept their loved ones' new beliefs. As one who has left, others keeping that "hope" would be insanely frustrating.

If my family had refused to listen to ME and accept ME, I'm not sure what kind of relationship I would have with them. It definitely wouldn't be as good as it is now. It would be strained at best, but more likely non-existent. I had to fight too hard to learn to love and accept myself. Having family members also fighting against me wouldn't have worked. In order to survive, I would have had to limit or completely cut off family interactions.

Her experiences were the opposite of mine. She left the church, struggled and struggled and struggled, and then came back and everything was happy. I struggled and struggled and struggled to make church fit me. I fought, I cried, I nearly died, and then I finally left. Everything got better. Almost overnight the world became bright. I didn't feel like I lost God. I felt like I followed God and was lead out. I know that wasn't her experience, so she couldn't write about it... I just want my experience out there too. Leaving was the best thing I could have done for myself.

The stereotypical "TBM" might appreciate this book, but I wouldn't recommend it to them. I wouldn't want people reading this book, and then not listening to their loved ones. This is one woman's story. Her story is important, but it is my fear that people will try to make her story universal. (Similar to what happened with the Josh Weed blog not too long ago.)

There is nothing wrong with going back to the church after leaving it. There is nothing wrong with leaving it. Or staying in it. Or never joining it. I wish that had been more the message of the book... which is to say if I ever write a book, that will be MY message.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

From Present (Future?) Me to Past Me: The only way out is through.

I started this blog for two reasons:
For me. I wanted a place where I could write down my thoughts, my feelings, and just be me. I was so used to hiding behind my own smile and pretending to be someone I wasn't, it was nice to just be able to write down my own thoughts.

For someone like me. When I started my journey to healing, I searched the internet looking for someone who had been through abuse and PTSD and survived. I wanted to find someone who could tell me I was going to be okay. There was a way out. I didn't find anything like that. When things got really bad, I'd think about what it would be like to have someone to talk to.

I pictured meeting me in the future: Future Me had been through hell. Future Me had survived months of not sleeping, Flashbacks, Nightmares, Night terrors, Pseudo-seizures, Dissociation, Pain, Body Memories, Crazy thinking, All of the emotions, The heartache, The loneliness, The suicidal thoughts and plans, The eating disorder, and everything else. Future Me had not only survived, she was happy and healthy and loving life. She would tell me it was going to be okay. She'd tell me there was a way out, and that I just needed to keep walking this path. She'd tell me I'd be okay.

I pictured myself as Future Me. Writing in my blog, and someone like Past Me would happen upon it and feel less alone. Less afraid. Hopeful.

So, for that person, I'd like to say:

If you think you are being selfish for not taking someone's abuse, you're wrong. If you think that you have to take abuse and ridicule because that makes you a good (wife, husband, person, etc.), you are wrong. If someone tells you they love you but you have to change, that is not love. That is manipulation. If someone tells you that no one could love you, they are lying!! That is abuse. Don't stick around and take it. There are people who will love YOU. I don't know who they are or where you will find them, and I know they exist.

You've spent a long time adapting to abuse. You've convinced yourself that's what you deserve... or that is love... or making excuses for the other person... or making excuses why you have to stay... or...

The truth is, there is a whole world out there that is light and beautiful and wonderful.
You know how to find your way. It feels impossible, but the truth is all there inside you. Trust yourself. You know the way.

And when I was in the worst of it, I repeated this line to myself over and over and over:
The only way out is through. The only way out is through. The only way out is through.

It worked. I got through it. I'm happy. I'm healthy. I am way more than okay.
You'll be okay too.