Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Who is the better friend?

I had a friend post this on facebook as her status:
"Let's hear some opinions- Do you think a friend is someone who lets you be your self or is a friend someone who helps you become better than yourself?"

I wanted to put an answer, but the only thing I could think of was, "Who the hell are YOU (or ME) to decide what makes someone better?" That didn't seem like an answer that would create the feeling I wanted.

I have literally spent the last two days obsessing and mulling over the question, as well as other people's answers. I've had discussions online, on the phone, and over dinner all about this same thing. I laid awake last night unable to sleep, because I couldn't turn my brain off.

Round about five o'clock this morning, this is what I came up with:
"The friend who accepts me and loves me for who I am is the truest friend. It feels amazing when someone sees ME, knows ME, and loves me. That kind of friendship feels hopeful, healing, and inspiring. That kind of friendship inspires me to be the best me. They don't love me, SO that I will change anything. There is no expectation to change... And ironically, that provides the best environment to change and grow and learn, and become better.

When a friendship is based on, "I love you and I hope you'll change," that feels confusing, lonely, sad, "dried up", and withered away... The opposite of inspired. It eats away at me. Until I have no desire to be around that person, because it is painful and empty.

I also used to get confused and think that I should accept everyone just as they are, which meant accepting things that really hurt me. (Like a friendship I described above.) Now, I can say, "That hurts me, so I won't be around you when you're doing that." That isn't about changing them to be better, its about creating an environment I like being in. I can't know what is "better" for someone else. Only they can know that. And only I know what is "better" for me.

I really like the saying, "Accept me as I am or watch me as I walk away." And I feel like that goes both ways, "I will accept you as you are, or I will let you walk away." That feels like love (true friendship) to me."

I posted it to her status. I feel terrified. At first, I wasn't going to... I didn't find this answer for her, it was for me. But, she did ask for opinions, and just because my opinion was pretty much the opposite of everyone else that posted doesn't make my opinion wrong... 

It might open me up to nasty messages. It IS her wall, so she can hate it, delete it, tell me not to post there, and I think that's fair. I'm still scared. Speaking my truth is new for me, and scary. I'm not used to voicing my opinions when they are different from others... yet.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I posted this on facebook this morning...

One of the required readings for one of my Sociology classes in college was X: A Fabulous Child's Story. I had never heard anything like that before, but I found the idea fascinating and revolutionary. X is genderless... Meaning, X's parents will not tell any of X's teachers, friends, relatives, neighbors what X's gender is. Everyone gets really upset. An Xpert is called in to interview X.

In the end, X is said to be one of the most well-adjusted child the Xpert had ever seen, and when gender is important, X will know what to do...

These parents who are trying to do what X's parents did are fascinating to me.
Is it the "right" thing to do? I don't know. Those kids ARE going to be teased a lot. The parents seem aware of that, and are trying to be there for their kids.

I imagine that eventually those kids will want the approval of friends... so they won't always be so free... but what better time to be free than when you're five? And besides WHO decided that dresses were for girls? Or boys couldn't wear pink? I'm pretty sure that at one point in this country, it was considered immoral for a girl to wear pants.

Is it possible to live in a world where we just accept everyone just as they are?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Defying Gravity

This is my theme song for today. I have always loved this song. (The words are just perfect!) I love, Love, LOVE this version. I would LOVE to be able to sing like this.

Defying Gravity Lyrics:
Something has changed within me.
Something is not the same.
I'm through with playing by the rules
of someone else's game!
Too late for second guessing,
Too late to go back to sleep.
It's time to trust my instincts,
Close my eyes, and leap!
It's time to try defying gravity.
I think I'll try defying gravity,
And you can't pull me down!

I'm through accepting limits,
'Cause someone says they're so.
Some things I cannot change,
But til I try I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love I guess I'd lost.
Well, if that's love it comes
At much to high a cost!
I'd sooner buy defying gravity!
Kiss me goodbye, I'm defying gravity,
And you can't pull me down!

Unlimited, my future is unlimited!
And I've just had a vision almost like a prophecy.
I know, it sounds truly crazy,
And true, the vision's hazy,
but I swear someday I'll be...
Up in the sky, defying gravity!
Flying so high, defying gravity!
And you can't bring me down.

So if you care to find me,
Look to the Western Sky!
As someone told me lately,
Everyone deserves the chance to fly!
And if I'm flying solo,
At least I'm flying free!
To those who'd ground me,
take a message back from me.
Tell them how I am defying gravity!
I'm flying high, defying gravity,
and soon I'll match them in renoun.
And nobody in all of Oz,
No Wizard that there is or was,
Is ever gonna bring me down!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'm here. Now what?

I woke up this morning with a strange feeling. I don't know how to describe it other than, "I'm here."

I remember being in a group at CFC where they asked us to define what recovery would like. How would we know when we were recovered?

My answer was, "When I love myself more than I hate myself."
I've been there for a while. I feel a lot of love for me. And I don't think I ever hate myself... I get caught up in old stories sometimes, but it doesn't feel like the hatred and self-loathing I have felt.

When Paul and I talked about what healing from abuse would look like. I told him I wanted to be free of flashbacks, nightmares, and body memories. (I made sure to differentiate. I don't want to know how to cope with them. I want them GONE!)
I'm not completely free. I am still dealing with body memory pain on occasion. I still have nightmares about once a week. The pseudo-seizures are completely gone. Flashbacks have changed so completely that although I still have moments where I am thrown back to the past, they last for a few seconds, and then I remember where I am, when I am, and I figure that will keep changing until one day I will remember what happened, but not go back there, even for a few seconds. (Not sure if that makes sense. It makes sense in my own head.)

I started this blog because I was SO busy pretending, I needed a place where I could find me. Figure out who I was. Talk about the pain, the abuse, the miracles.

My own family had NO clue that Larry was ever abusive, and very little clue about how my relationship with Dann really was. They had no idea who I was. They had no idea how much pain I was in, or the battle I was waging. They had no idea what I thought about anything, because I never shared. That's different now. I talk pretty openly about what I think, feel, and my experiences. I don't hide or pretend. I have many friends who know ME. I am not in hiding anymore. I am pretty much the same everywhere I go.

I also now stand up for myself. I'm still learning what that really looks like, but I'm not afraid to say, "I don't like that." I'm not afraid to walk away from a situation that is harmful to me. I'm not afraid to say, "No," well... at least I'm less afraid to say no than I ever have been before.

So, now what?
I've been fighting with everything I have to get to this place. I don't think I ever really believed I would get here. I thought I would be fighting for the rest of my life... so, really, now what?

What do I do next? I know I'm not done learning or growing or changing or progressing. I am just not sure what I want.
What do I want this blog to look like? The intro at the top no longer fits. I'm definitely not done blogging... I really like writing. It is still incredibly helpful to me, and I love getting feedback and hearing other people's thoughts and insights. I'm not done... I just feel like there's a change coming.

I'm excited. A little nervous. Full of hope, wonder, joy, and gratitude.
I'm only 32. There's a whole lot of life ahead of me. And it can be anything I want it to be.
This is just cool.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Abuser's Remorse

I went to see the movie Water for Elephants last night. It would be a very appropriate thing to ask, "Jen why on earth would YOU see that movie?"

I hate movies with sex, violence, or any  kind of abuse. This movie had all of it, and I knew in advance that the movie was all about abuse. I just felt like I HAD to see it, so I did.

I'm probably about to spoil the whole movie, so if you don't want to know what happens, stop reading here.

Malena was a lost child. She met August, he took her in, taught her how to be a circus star, and married her. All throughout the movie, she talks about how there is nothing else for her. Her whole world is the circus and August, but he is violent, mean, and nasty to her, the workers at the circus, and the animals.

There were two scenes that were meaningful (for lack of a better word).
The first was at the end. In a fit of rage, August was strangling his wife. I've been through that. I remember the look in his eyes while he was pulling my scarf tighter and tighter around my neck. I also remember the look in his eyes when he seemed to realize what he was doing and stopped. It was hard to watch, because it brought it all back.

The other was after August beat the elephant nearly to death. The circus vet, Jacob, goes to August's tent. August is visibly upset. Near tears. When Jacob walked in, he seemed remorseful and apologetic, but as I listened closer, there was no remorse.
"She'll never forgive me for this. If she leaves, I'll lose my star attraction. I'll lose everything! Tell her I'm sorry. Tell her the elephant is okay. Fix this for me."
It wasn't remorse - it was fear. I'm only sorry, because I don't want MY life to change. I'll do anything... but actually stop being a mean, violent, controlling man... I just don't want to have to face the consequences of my actions. I'm so sorry I got caught.

People often talk about the cycle of abuse:
(Abuse - Apology/Honeymoon - Build Up - Abuse)

I remember asking Bishops and therapists when I would know if the apology was "real" vs. just part of the abuse cycle. I also remember when the apology finally felt real. The real apology was not about telling anyone else he was sorry. It wasn't about his fear. It wasn't about how I "made" him do that to me. 

The "real" apology was, "I'm so sorry I've hurt you. I hope for your sake, you can forgive me and move past this, but I don't expect anything from you. I understand that you may never be able to trust me again. I want you to be happy, and if that means we can't be together because of what I've done, so be it. What can I do to help you heal?"

That apology has meant all the difference to me. As I watch others go through very painful separations and divorces, I wonder how I lucked out. He knows I keep this blog. He knows I sometimes talk about him. He knows that many people may hate him for what he did to me, and he's never asked me not to write. I don't know if that is healthy for him or not, but I am very grateful.

I can't know for sure what another person is feeling, or what their motivation is. I CAN know what I feel when they apologize. For years, after an incident, he'd apologize and I'd feel shutdown rather than loved. I felt hurt rather than healed. That was a sign TO ME that something wasn't right. 

Its been a rather intense day for me as I've faced emotions, memories, old beliefs, and current thoughts. 
Now its time for some Pawn Stars and razzleberry pie (with ice cream of course)!

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 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.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Peaceful Life

Last year, a goat randomly showed up in the pasture where the horses were. I had no idea goats could be so much fun. She was SO excited to see me every time I came to feed the horses. She greeted me with jumping and dancing and running. I would run and play with her.

I played like a little kid in a way that I hadn't experienced before or since.
One day, her owner came and got her and no more goat. :(

Ever since then, I have wanted one of my own.
A few days ago, I brought home Hardy the Goat.

He's five weeks old. Still being bottle fed. And SO much fun.
Because he's still a baby he likes to cuddle. Which isn't something I was expecting. 

 My yard is entirely fenced in, but he is so little that he can fit through the fence. I have a little escape artist. Thus far, he escapes to come sit on the porch.
 I'm quickly becoming a hobby farmer.
A horse.
A goat.
A cat.
And me.

I used to be so afraid of what people would think of me. I used to be so afraid of feeling happy.

It feels good to just enjoy life. I'm sitting outside in the sun. Horses are laying in the sun. My baby goat is exploring close by. My cat is curled up next to me. Watching the seagulls dig up all the freshly planted seeds in the neighbors fields. Life is just... peaceful. I had no idea it could be so good.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A better way

I have so many thoughts going through  my mind.

Osama Bin Laden is dead.
Some people are dancing in the streets. I'm sure that on the other side of the ocean, there are people plotting how to get back at the evil Americans that have killed their leader. And I feel heartsick.

I posted this on facebook:
"They" kill "us", so "we" kill "them". And it never stops. There HAS to be a better way - I just don't know what it is. And THAT is what makes me the most sad. I want and need to know there is some way to accomplish peace, and I don't, and it makes my heart hurt.
Some responses were in agreement.
One said that even Christ removed certain people(s) from the Earth. (When did Christ EVER do that? I admit its been a while since I've read the Bible, but really? Christ said "turn the other cheek", which I also have a problem with... but I think I like that better than the whole "Go get 'em!" mentality.)

As a teenager, I once sat down with my dad and told him that the way he treated my brother was wrong. I'm not sure exactly how I said it... Something along the lines of violence is just wrong. His reply was something about how it was his job to protect his children, and Jeff was a bully. I remember the confusion I felt then. It was his job. He couldn't just stand by and let Zack get hurt because violence was wrong. Still, I believed there HAD to be a better way, even if I didn't know what it was.

Two weeks after Larry and I got married, we went on a vacation with my family. In the van, my youngest brother Justin wanted to sit next to me. Larry demanded I could only sit next to him. Justin (who was eight at the time) got upset and grabbed me around the neck. Larry punched him.

I freaked out. I was SO angry at Larry. My dad tried to talk to me and tell me that I should be grateful because Larry was just trying to protect me. I wasn't grateful. I was upset, but again felt the same confusion. What else could he do?

And now, the US Marines have killed a mass murderer. People are telling me its a good thing, because "some things just need a killin'." THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY!

I don't know what it is. I don't know what would be better. Maybe killing Osama is the only way, but I refuse to believe that. Someone has to stop it. Someone has to do something different. If its not going to be them, then it has to be us. And if we say, "there is no other way", then we'll never find the other way. We'll never find the way out. We'll just keep perpetuating this awful cycle of killing, and war, and sadness, and pain.

If the choices are "to kill or be killed," I guess I choose to be killed. I always have, and I probably always will. Which is one of the reasons I'm grateful there are soldiers out there willing to fight, because I wouldn't do it. Couldn't do it.

So, now, I guess, I'll go about my life. I won't stop searching for something better. I won't pretend that I'm happy or even okay with killing, even if it is necessary. And maybe one day, we as a global people will stop trying to control the rest of the world. Maybe we'll all find a better way.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


In flashbacks and nightmares, I have been told I cry out, "I just wanna go home."
As a kid, home was never a peaceful place. Even when things were good, I lived in constant fear that I would do something to set off my dad's anger.
The day I married Larry (ex #1), I cried in the bathroom for hours. I wanted to go home, but I didn't know where that was... I wanted to get away from him, but knew I was now eternally joined to this man who didn't love or care for me in the least.

My whole life, I have wanted a home, and felt confused that I couldn't find one.
I hoped that when I died, I'd find home there.

As I left Germany yesterday, something felt different.

I am excited to be HOME. United States. Utah. My house. My room. My cat. The horses. 

A place that I feel safe and happy and good. I didn't know this feeling was possible in this life.