Want to Help Fight Child Abuse? Pay Attention

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Edmund Garman.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate Truth. It was originally published on April 14, 2015.

Being the survivor of childhood/adulthood abuse is not an easy place to be.

And I say ‘survivor’ not victim, because I am not the abuse I suffered, I am continually striving to rise out of the pit and to protect myself, parent myself, and heal myself. There are times when I realize just how much I’ve had to do to pick myself up and make sure I am in most ways a functioning adult and that is heavy knowledge. I wasn’t taught anything about how to be an adult. I just knew how to take care of kids, how to grocery shop for a large family, how to cook, clean, be chief book and . I didn’t know anything about money, I didn’t know anything about budgeting. I taught myself or carefully asked people I hesitantly trusted.

Child abuse is not taken seriously in this country, especially among the people where it happens the most. Child abuse is not taken seriously when it’s the adult victims/survivors of said abuse finally breaking decades of silence to speak about what they endured. Those adults, myself included, are ridiculed for making things up, for not remembering circumstances correctly, and for just being bitter, angry, depressed. Well, let me tell you something, children have the purest bullshit meter I have ever seen in any human being. A child knows when they’re being lied to, when someone is not to be trusted, but what to do we adults do? We laugh off their terror, we brush off their tears because what do children know. It makes me sick to my gut to see children dismissed especially in situations of suspected or confirmed abuse.

I learned fast to not cry when talking about the daily abuse I saw and experienced at home. Somehow my tears of absolute heartbreak were seen as a manipulative tool and were taken to mean I was trying to make my story real when it wasn’t. There’s a part of a child that simply dies when they face a constant stream of abuse. If you know what to look for, it’s visible in their empty eyes, their lack of enthusiasm for activities, it’s their acting out and bullying other children. Adults look at children who act out or who even bully and all they see are misbehaving children and they look on them with disgust. What adults and other parents don’t look for is the cause of the acting out. Yes, I’m aware that some children just act out because they can, but more often than not, there is some sort of abuse triggering their need for attention or their need to dominate other children.

I have watched my siblings be those misbehaved, acting out children that no other family wanted or wants anything to do with. I have sat by and watched as we were rejected by other kids because we were so desperate for love and attention. I have also seen people brush me off time and time again because they just saw or see rebellious kids, not the hurting, broken children I see because of the abuse they daily suffer.

My sister is one of the strongest and bravest people I know, but she is seen as a rebellious little girl who is out of control. She is seen like that by the very family who offered to help, by the parents who are friends with my parents. I understand where they are coming from with their point of view, but I see the tears, I see the brokenness she tries to hide, I see the fear and pain from years of being thrown around, emotionally and physically. The adults don’t see that, they just see what they want to see because it is too hard to face the reality of child abuse. It is too hard to dive in and try to fight something of such a strong stigma as child abuse.

I understand the fear of hardship when it comes to people who could be advocating for more awareness of what really goes on in a large percentage of homeschooling homes. Tackling such a huge problem as child abuse takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of breaking in you as you face the realities these kids, myself included, have had to face and still face on a day to day basis. I don’t know very many people, outside of the private circles I am apart of on facebook, who are willing to put in the enormous amount of effort it takes to fight those perpetuating child abuse. Reality isn’t pretty when you enter the world of child abuse, but shame on you world for not taking seriously the horrific crime of child abuse.

There is so much more I want to say, but I am running out of steam now. I am constantly amazed at the scientific studies that are starting to come out revealing the drastic effects of emotional abuse on the brains of children. I don’t understand how people can be outraged about something in the media but then completely ignore the realities of that happening in their backyard. Innocent ignorance I can tolerate, it’s the turning a blind eye upon those who are hurting I can’t.

Pay attention to what happens around you, maybe you can help a child who is broken inside.

Learning Rest: Dealing with C-PTSD

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on July 9, 2013.

My therapist looked at me and told me that I have PTSD.

C-PTSD to be specific.

I had just finished describing her how I rarely got a gift or anything from my parents, specifically my dad, that wasn’t conditional. I told her about a mountain bike I had gotten one year for Christmas. It was a really nice bike, probably cost about $1200. I was thrilled when we all came rushing down the stairs and I saw the bike with my name on it. I eagerly looked it over, and then I got the second part of the “gift.” I had to pay the stupid thing off. I. Had. To. Pay. The. Bike. Off.

I was maybe 11, had no job, I did most of the house work around the house, did a lot of the meals, cleaned the kitchen after every meal, and now I was expected to pay off a bike that was a “gift”?! Paying off the bike meant giving up my birthday money, Christmas money, doing extra yard work (on top of everything else), as well as extra, extra work around the house.

That bike became a thorn in my side the older I got.

I loved the bike, and the fact that I had to pay it off back then barely fazed me. I was so excited to have a really nice bike (it was one step below my dad’s expensive mountain bike; a fact I was very proud of). That bike was one of the nicest things I ever had. But that bike is also one of the reasons that I absolutely refuse to ride a bike today.

My dad does not simply give one of his children something without expecting something in return.

He gave me a ring for my 13th birthday, and I found out the price of that ring when I tried to get married. He believed that he owned my heart. He believed that he must give his consent before I “fell in love” with a man. My parents gave us the use of a timeshare for our honeymoon. Sorry, gave is not the right word. They let us a rent their timeshare for our honeymoon. My dad/parents seek profit from their children, including threatening to make minors pay rent, babysit without pay, making unwilling children pay for their bikes that they didn’t want but dad bought anyway.

Being told I have PTSD makes me uneasy.

It’s almost compared to how I felt when I was told 7 years ago that I was depressed. It’s a feeling of “no, that’s not me. I’m not broken.” It’s like someone saying they’re not crying as tears race down their face, sobs on every breath.

The truth of the matter is I am a classic case of C-PTSD.

I have an underlying depression that has been there for many years, breaking the silence every once in a while to put me in a viscious cycle of multiple days of bad depression. I may seem bold on here, but believe me when I say that the bold things are written after I’ve had a major breakdown, my world seems to fall apart, and/or I feel like shutting down and forgetting who I am. And yes, this post is being written after two weeks of some of the lowest spots I’ve reached in a very long time. It resulted in an emergency therapy session last week because I knew I needed help fast.

I don’t let people see me when I hit those days of emotional breakdowns, but truly, I need someone to be there. I need someone to come sit with me, hold me, and tell me that crying is a release of the poison that has built up inside of me. I just don’t know how to ask, or who to ask. I fear making people uncomfortable and making them uneasy by my open, bleeding heart. To deal with that fear, I push people away because once I know I’ve made someone uncomfortable, I am then extra sensitive to what I say around them, tell them, or ask them to do. It’s pretty screwed up, isn’t it?

I am slowly learning to take care of myself simply because I have to, or else into the deep end I go.

I had a light-bulb moment today when I realized why it is so difficult for me to take care of myself. Growing up I was never allowed to really rest. I used to love going to bed at night because it meant that I finally had time to myself, I could rest, and I wouldn’t be told to go clean or do something. That was until I couldn’t sleep, and then there was no place where I actually felt I could rest. My dad would come bursting into my room with this look of almost blind fury, yelling at me, shaming me, about how mom was doing such and such, and how dare I not do my job.

Even if I was sick, had a massive headache, or simply just needed to rest, I wasn’t allowed to.

My dad would constantly tell me and my other siblings about how mom shouldn’t have to do anything. My dad wouldn’t do shit when it came to cleaning or doing anything around the house. He only did the outside work, putting my siblings to work when something needed to be cleaned up, but otherwise wouldn’t let them help him with the lawn, trimming bushes, or washing the vehicles. (I can honestly say I have never washed a car before.) I only really remember maybe 2 or 3 times of him actually doing some cleaning.

He would sure rant about how privileged mom was and how she shouldn’t have to do any cleaning.

This is making me rage as I write this because the shame and guilt my dad was so good at pouring on me has made it difficult for me to relax in my own home, listen to my body especially when my hands aren’t working well enough to clean. Can you imagine my rage? Can you hear the frustration I feel as I try to function in a healthy way only to be thrown back when this garbage sneaks up on me?

I am finding it relieving to be able to name my mental state.

It is relieving to have something to explain why cleaning freaks me out. I see the dust at the back of the bathroom sink and I have flashbacks to my dad viciously pointing out all of the things I had done wrong with cleaning the bathroom. I tried my best to please him, really, I did, but it was never enough. The only time I can remember where my dad actually didn’t require perfection from me was one fall afternoon as I was raking leaves. I was doing my best to get every leaf I could with the rake when my dad leaned out the door and told me I didn’t have to be that particular. I have never felt so confused.

Dealing with a named condition is easier than fighting in the dark with no idea why you are reacting that way or what triggered it.

Dealing with something that is real, something that is legitimately affecting behavior, mind, memory is easier than being told I am crazy, bitter, or simply vindictive. Dealing with C-PTSD is something I can manage. There are a lot of difficult days still ahead, but I can work with this because I want to get better. I want to feel healthy, whole even though I will always carry scars. I want my healthy, happy marriage to become more consuming than my past.

I want to put my past to rest, resolve what I can, so I can focus wholly on loving my husband, being with him, and being at rest.

Parenting With Fear: Why I Don’t Agree With It

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate Truth. It was originally published on October 11, 2013.

I have long pondered and thought about how I was raised and how my siblings, from infants to young adults, were raised. As we get closer, hopefully, to have children of our own, Phil and I have had lots of conversations about how we are going to raise our little ones. My parents went to several of the Pearls’ conferences, had pretty much all of their books, and I distinctly remember sitting in [home]church watching my dad “train” the baby of the family at the time. My sibling was probably 6 months old, and was sitting on dad’s lap. My dad held a flexible rubber plumbing rod in his hand and would swat the child on their leg if they started making any noise or squirmed. Then of course, the child would start crying and they would get swatted again to be silenced.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with everyone, and dad force feeding another child. The baby didn’t want to eat what was in front of them, and in a few cases, it was because the child was sick. Dad would start yelling at the baby, setting timers, and getting the baby down from the table to be given a spanking, all because they weren’t eating their food. Mom wouldn’t do anything to stop the “disciplining” and all the rest of us kids would sit at the table, petrified that we would be next if we didn’t eat or made a noise. We got disciplined for making too much noise, we got disciplined for running to get mail if we didn’t ask, we got disciplined for not eating or for losing tools we hadn’t even used.

My dad created the illusion of a well disciplined, well put together family, but under it all was this idea that the kids were only there to be seen not heard, and there was no room for children to just be children.

I grew up understanding that children were evil and only capable of disobeying and had to be trained fiercely and kept a close eye on because anything they did was with the intent of disobeying. 

It wasn’t until I started nannying that I began to see just how wrong and destructive my parents’ parenting styles were. I was closely tied into helping raise the little girl I was nannying. I remember many conversations and shared articles between her parents and I. I remember feeling confused and scoffing at the idea that children were their own identities and that their “disobedience” was simply their way of exploring the world they were growing more aware of. I watched my little charge closely to see if maybe my employers were right. I was amazed at what I started seeing as I began adjusting my beliefs on how to raise a child. I saw a child enthralled with the silliest things, things to me that were boring and not worth noticing. But to that little girl, those things were fascinating, something she had never noticed before. The entire world, even if it was only certain areas of the house, was brand new to her. It took a lot for me to break out of the child training ideas I was raised with. It helped seeing how ludicrous those ideas were when it came to this little girl I watched almost every day.

To shut down her healthy curiosity seemed so wrong, to train her to stay in a certain area, even though other areas were safe for her, seemed so cruel. 

I had to go through a massive shift. I couldn’t, in my right mind, treat this little girl like I had been treated growing up. When she cried as she was being put into her highchair, more often than not there was something actually wrong. But, because she couldn’t speak, crying was her way of letting me know something was wrong. It was not her fighting me or being sinful and disobedient. Babies, infants, toddlers, even most young children aren’t fully capable of logically and thoughtfully telling you, an adult, what is wrong. I realized my parents’ ideas of training me and my siblings was as if they were treating us like full grown adults capable of interacting on my parents’ level. There was no leeway given for children’s developing brains, their natural curiosity, their eagerness to understand the bright new world around them even if they can’t understand what is bad for them or not. Nor was there any room given for natural fears a child faces, like a fear of the dark, nightmares, or scary noises. It most likely was just the way my parents were, but I remember there being very little grace and love for any of those natural fears I or any of my siblings faced. Oh, then add in the abuse and yelling my dad did often, and then the entire home environment was one of fear.

My parents raised us through fear; fear of my parents’ spanking stick and the consequences for being a child. I found a quote the other day is the exact opposite of how I was raised.

“Don’t stand unmoving outside the door of a crying baby whose only desire is to touch you. Go to your baby. Go to your baby a million times. Demonstrate that people can be trusted, that the environment can be trusted, that we live in a benign universe.”  Peggy O’Mara

Babies are brought into the world fully dependent on us adults. They only know the warmth of their mother’s womb, the safety in being held by loving arms. An infant has no cause to distrust their safety. Unless we give them cause to distrust and fear us by disciplining a child for something they cannot understand they have done. I am willing to change and give up my comforts to comfort any child I may have. I believe it is very appropriate for moms to find time for themselves and to leave their child(ren) with a friend or family member for some “me” time. But my habits should change whenever we have a baby. I will then be responsible for that child, for its comforts, safety. I shouldn’t expect to continue living as I have and expect my child to adapt to my lifestyle and to force it into unnatural habits.

I believe in teaching a child, when they are old enough to start beginning to understand, the difference between right and wrong. I don’t believe, nor do I agree, in teaching a child, an infant, toddler, or an older child, the theology of sin. If we as adults can’t even fully understand what real sin is, then how can we expect a child, who doesn’t even have half the understand we have, to understand it? Raising a child is raising a fully human being, not a little being you get to twist and train however you so please. They have feelings, they have memories that will haunt or warm them as they get older. But they also need to be guided as they grow and as they begin to understand their place in life. I believe in teaching a child how to make wise choices for themselves and to not be afraid of their own opinions.

I don’t ever want a child of mine to question whether or not they matter, nor do I ever want to give them cause to fear me or Phil. I believe in showing a child respect. Just because a human being is pint sized and needs to be carried by you does not make that person any less important.

Our children are brought into this world helpless, how can we then hit them and treat them like animals to be controlled? 

I heard a phrase once about house-proofing your child. This has got to be one of the most selfish things I have ever heard. The parenting styles my parents’ tried to implement on me and my siblings had to do with them not really changing how they do things, but instead expecting and “training” us to do what they wanted. The only place I think house-proofing anything is appropriate is when you are training a puppy or a kitten to be house trained, but a baby? Hell no. It is so selfish for parents to expect for their children to conform to their ideas of what a well behaved child looks like, instead of taking the time to make the house a safe environment for the unsteady, curious baby. Much less forget about treating a child as a real person.

Comparing my siblings to the little girl I nannyed is heart wrenching. It has only been in the past maybe two years that my siblings have somehow broken the harsh bonds they have been tied up with and are finally starting to act like real kids. But in some cases, it is too late. I never had a childhood. I had to become a full blown responsible adult by the time I was 12. I cooked, cleaned, did laundry, was expected to complete my homework, and became a second mother to my youngest siblings. This is part of the problem I have with having a large family. I know I am not the only one and I know others have not had this experience. But as I have said before, this blog is specifically about what I have been through and my journey out of it.

I want to see my children be happy, allowed to be curious, and their inquiring of how things work to be encouraged. I will respect my children for the amazing little humans they will be. 

Then She Stood By the Brave

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate Truth. It was originally published on April 8, 2014.


**DISCLAIMER: the situation you are about to read about is in good hands and I ask that you not try to contact any of my siblings. They are safe and things are being taken care of.

About a month ago I got a phone call letting me know one of my siblings was being admitted to the mental health ward. All I could think was when it is going to be enough, how many more of my siblings are going to suffer.

Their story is theirs to tell, not mine, but I want to tell you about a story that has continued to unfold over the past few weeks.

Phil and I went to visit my sibling in the psych ward, and I saw my sibling relaxed, a little medicated, but they were relaxed, peaceful, and they were safe there and they knew it. We brought one of my other brothers in to visit our sibling and I found out that he had been faithfully visiting his sibling the whole time during their psych visit. This brother is the one I have had my spats with growing up, and in fact, thanks to him I have a nice numb spot on my hand from one of our fights. This brother is also the one I see holding one of the biggest, caring hearts I have ever seen. The fact that he would purposefully take time out of his day to go visit his sibling in the psych ward every day they were is a huge indicator of just how big his heart is.


I am now barely 2 months away from having this child of mine.

I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is to stand firm with my boundaries when it comes to my mom and my dad. I somehow found myself in a position last week where I was asked by my mom to “draw out” my sibling who had been in the psych ward. My sibling had been asking to be admitted again that morning and wouldn’t talk to mom or anyone else about what was going on. Inwardly I knew my sibling was only going to talk to me and that’s why my mom was pushing me to talk with them. After spending awhile chatting, I knew what I needed to know and just let my sibling know that I was there whenever they needed me. The rest of my visit over there ended in me putting my foot down and being completely blunt with my mom. I told her my exact thoughts on how her staying with my dad was at the expense of the kids and how he wasn’t changing, how I didn’t believe her when she said he was, and just watched her shut down as I refused to let her screwed up logic change my stance.

In that moment I realized I have changed.

I am no longer blinded by the manipulative logic my dad uses to control those around him.

I could see right through everything my mom said and was able to see things I had known were there but had never been able to put words to. I am stronger, I am clear headed, I have changed, and yet, it became painfully obvious she hasn’t changed. She is still toxic to me, she is still clinging to some delusion that my dad is changing, and until she can let go of that and actually protect her children from that man, I have to be careful to keep boundaries in place.

It was encouraging to see how therapy has really worked and I have been able to break so many chains that had previously greatly bound me. I am also in a position now where when a sibling needs help, I’m one of the first people they call, and hell, I’m out the door before they can even coherently say anything other than to beg me to come get them. Which is what happened recently, and which included a visit to my siblings’ school counselor who after hearing our story immediately called Child Protective Services to make a report. I have proven to my siblings, the ones who need it most, that I am not the mean, evil older sister my dad makes me out to be. I am who I say I am and I will drop everything for them if they need me.

I sat in that office and watched my siblings find their strength as they stood up to the abuse they have personally suffered from our dad. My heart bursting with pride, I backed up their stories, and watched as they willingly gave information that will hopefully make a difference. I watched my siblings make very brave and bold decisions despite the possibility of facing retaliation. They are doing what I wish I could have done years ago, they are brave enough to stand up and say enough is enough and it hopefully will truly be enough.

The little girl inside of me wept as I proudly stood by my brave siblings.

I felt like I watched my childhood come full circle. The shame of not being “strong enough” to stand up to my dad was put to rest as I stood there being my siblings’ support. I went through what I had to so that I could be there for my siblings when they needed me. I am stronger now, I have the strength they needed to be able to be brave themselves. I can validate their fears and tell them they’re not crazy despite what the man at home will say. I don’t know about you, but that’s quite a good reason to have gone through what I have if only to be the support my siblings need.

I’m feeling hopeful, I am full of pride, and so relieved I can be there for the siblings who call for help and I can be there to lift up their voices.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” – Elie Wiesel 

The Day I Left

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate Truth. It was originally published on February 3, 2014.

February 6th three years ago marks the day I packed all of my meager belongings and left my family’s house.

It was almost exactly two weeks after my dad had kicked me out. He had walked into my room, told me I wasn’t worth his time anymore, he was tired of dealing with me, then proceeded to blame me for all of the issues he was having with my siblings. After his little speech, he told me I had two weeks to leave, if I needed help finding a place, I could ask, but basically I was on my own. He looked around my room and pointed out the pieces of furniture I could take or what had to stay behind. I was only allowed to take my trunk, my desk, and a dresser I had just happened to buy.

I left that house and never looked back. 

I believe my therapist was right in telling me I had cut ties with my family years ago, but leaving that day was the final string. My dad celebrated that night by taking my family out to dinner, a very rare occurrence. I was asked if I wanted to come as if I was already no longer part of the family. My siblings were confused, here was their dad telling them about how much of a rebellious and bad girl I was. I was an extremely bad example all because I had chosen the man I was going to marry and wasn’t going to back down no matter how much my dad abused me and tried to manipulate me.

I was finally standing up to his vicious anger and this was the consequences.

I fought for my siblings, it was me who held them together, only, no one saw that until I was no longer there. My siblings couldn’t see that, they couldn’t see what I had been protecting them from all of those years; the man behind the mask who grew more and more manipulative and abusive as the years passed. I have never really processed the emotions that went with this event. 

I often feel burning anger towards my dad and also great sorrow because I can see how blinded and truly sick he is.


Recently my younger sister Emma has been starting to find her voice.

She is speaking out about what it was like to grow up, and I am proud of her for standing up to the man whose sperm just happened to be part of creating us kids.

She is calling the bullshit as she’s seen it and she is not skirting around the real issues.

It does my heart so good to see her taking the steps I have taken before her in what will hopefully be a healing journey for her.I am going to stand by her and lift up her words because more of us need to speak out.

It struck me the other day how often the abusers get a free pass. I see the discomfort cross faces when I bring up what my dad has done and how I’m working through it. I hear the sorrow in their voices and see it in their eyes when I say I will not allow my dad to go anywhere near this child of mine. It isn’t sorrow for me so much as it is sorrow that I don’t have the daddy-daughter relationship I’m somehow supposed to have. It’s sorrow and discomfort because my life hasn’t gone the way people would rather have seen it gone. Very very few people I have interacted with in regards to my dad’s abuse has actually had what I consider the right response. Very few people have actually gotten angry, upset because of what he has done. 

Abuse is not something to just brush over with “grace” and “pray for your persecutor.” 

Abuse in any form is worthy of anger and worthy of being stood up against.

I remember when I first started sharing my story and starting to peel back the layers of pain hardened emotions to find the wound holes. No one seemed to understand why I needed to speak. It was all “hush, hush, you shouldn’t say that, it’s slander.” By keeping silent I was allowing his abuse to continue, I, the victim, was being told my story didn’t matter, it wasn’t appropriate to share. 

“Protect the men and their egotistical reputations at all costs!” is apparently the unspoken mantra in the circles I grew up in.

Girls, families, I had spent a lot of time with no longer speak to me, I can’t stand going to reenactments because of running into those people and having to deal with the sad pitying looks they give me because I am the black sheep, I spoke out against the abuse I have suffered, I chose a good, good man to marry and all they saw was a rebellious girl thumbing her nose at the authority “God had placed over her life.”

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. – Elie Wiesel

A friend of mine wrote a post about “Rage and Grace” recently, and I really can relate to her words.

It is difficult to find the balance between not answering the abusers, the tormentors, with how they have approached us, and with being appropriately angry and upset about something we should be upset about. Abuse is never something you should brush off. Yes, the abusers are strong, they are used to getting their way and crushing us.

But just as a little flame can turn into a raging fire, so can our words and our taking stances about abuse, speaking out, and healing from our abuse make a difference.


The day I left was a significant day.

That was the day I stood up and said no more. My mom kept telling me I could appeal to my dad, she seemed desperate to keep me at home. But my heart had already left, this was simply my body making it’s departure from the family I had grown up with. 

I will never stop defending my ground as a survivor and continuing to put up healthy boundaries to protect the fragile healing my heart is still undergoing.

I will never stop standing up and doing my best to aid the siblings who come to me for help. It has taken time, but I believe they are starting to see I am not the bad sister my dad has made me out to be. Not talking with my dad is my choice and it is not a sad choice. It is not something worth your sorrow. It is the choice I have made to protect myself, protect my marriage, and to protect my child. He is a dangerous man and it is not worth placing myself back until his toxicity just for the sake of making people feel like I am showing him “grace.”

I am content and very happy with my life, so please be happy for me?

My life is not about my family. My life is about me, Phil, and my little boy.

See those other survivors who are struggling with family relationships and friend relationships? Be happy for them with the life they have chosen. Be willing to set aside your preconceived ideas about what family relationships should look like, and be happy for us when we share an exciting discovery in our healing or our own personal ventures.

We need you to stand beside us and to be angry at the abuse and celebrate the good.  

This Road I’ve Traveled

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on January 20, 2013.

For awhile now, I have been wanting to write a background for everything that I am working through… I want to write about myself, and who I really am.

Exactly two years ago, I found out that one of my dearest friends passed away from two brain aneurysms. Not only that, Phil’s guitar mentor passed away, the day before my friend, from ALS. Two days later, my dad kicked me out of the house. All through this time as well, Phil and I were trying to get married and get my dad’s blessing. This time was the climax of many years of hurt, emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse, and it was the climax of Phil’s and my relationship.  That January of 2011 was a train wreck for both of us, and since then I have been deconstructing my faith, my past, and my broken heart.

I am the oldest of 9, 10 technically, with 3 sisters and 5 brothers. Being the oldest has given me heavy responsibility and has made me “old” before my time. I half jokingly say at times that I am an old soul in a young body. As with many typical Patriarchal and Quiverfull families, I — as the oldest — got the brunt of the house work. I took care of the children, made almost all of the meals, and all while trying to keep up with my school work for homeschool. I love all of my siblings, and I could never imagine life without them, but I will never have that large of a family. I don’t blame my parents, but when there are major issues that screw up the family, a lot of the love and togetherness that a “normal” family experiences ends up greatly lacking.

I don’t ever want to put my children through what I have been through growing up.

My husband Phil and I recently left Covenant Life Church for the purpose of finding a smaller church. But that wasn’t really my only reason for leaving. I needed to get out of an environment that told me that I had to forget and forgive, I had to not say anything negative, nor could I be angry over something that I should be angry about. For years, all of my life in fact, I have tried to block out, tried to forget, purposefully felt nothing (this didn’t really work though) whenever I saw my dad yell at my siblings, manipulate my mom, or whenever he got mad enough and started throwing things or getting in the kids’ faces. Getting kicked out two years ago, after all of the years I was my siblings’ protector to the best of my ability, all of the years that I have helped raise my youngest siblings, or made dinner consistently to feed the 11 mouths in the house, was the pinnacle of tolerance for me. I knew from a very young age that something wasn’t right in my family, and that something wasn’t right with my dad.

As my family bounced around over the years with dad being in the military, we have been in many different churches. And at each church, we would get a verbal beating from my dad on the way to church, but as soon as we pulled up, all of the fake smiles would go up, and the family would act like nothing was wrong. I could never do this. I could never put the fake smile on and pretend that I hadn’t watched my dad throw the breakfast dishes in the sink that morning because someone dared to speak back to him.

I couldn’t stand by and watch my siblings suffer while no one knew what happened behind the doors of my family’s home.

I don’t remember when my parents got introduced to Bill Gothard’s patriarchy ideas, but I have seen this stuff totally mess up my family, myself, and many other families. One of my biggest griefs with his version of patriarchy is that it enables narcissistic, controlling, manipulative, and abusive men to continue their abuse under the name of “God-given authority as the husband and father to rule over the wife and children.” Fathers who are abusive are enabled through this ideology by basically being “God” for their family.

There is no one above them, and they are the ultimate rulers.

God speaks through them, and never to the wife or children. It’s no wonder that I have seen, read, and watched so many children who were raised under this mindest leave the faith because of the hypocrisy they had seen in their dad.

Bill Gothard’s “patriarchy” says that women are simply baby-making machines who bow down to their husband’s rule, and who aren’t allowed to have a voice. “Patriarchy” says that young women are their father’s property and are to be traded to off to the father-chosen men when the times comes.  ”Patriarchy” seems to have this unspoken rule that even if it is a living hell at home, you don’t tell anyone else. “Patriarchy” told me that when I questioned something dad said, with the purpose of understanding better, I was not honoring him, or respecting him. “Patriarchy” said that when I fell in love with Phil, I was being idolatrous, lustful, and that I wasn’t honoring my dad. “Patriarchy” says that when I talk about the pain, the truth, the real life that I have experienced, I am not being forgiving, I am bitter, I am angry.

Well, “patriarchy,” I am angry.

I am angry that there are so many men out there taking advantage of this so called right to hold abuse over their wives and families and not being held accountable for the pain they inflict. Forgiveness is a difficult animal to deal with. It is not a one time deal, nor is it something I am always dealing with, or never dealing with. Writing these things out are just barely touching the surface. These are the truth, and these are not things I am bitter about, nor are these not forgiven. Patriarchy says that once you forgive, you must go on living life as if nothing happened.

I say hell no, and that is never the case in forgiveness.

When I wrote about reading my bible, and I wrote about how difficult it is for me to open my bible without being triggered, I meant that I can’t open my bible without hearing my dad’s hypocrisy, or without hearing the gut wrenching sobs that I had when my dad told me that he didn’t have time for me, that I was a bad influence on my siblings, that he wanted me to leave as soon as possible, and that he had had enough of me. Even though I have done my best to honor my dad, to initiate time and time again daddy-daughters dates so that we could have an actual father daughter relationship, he tossed all of that out when he told me to leave. I can’t open my bible without hearing the verses that have been thrown at me with the means of showing me how my pain is sin. I can’t open my bible without having flashbacks that start bringing on a panic attack. It’s hard enough opening the app on my phone to look up verses when I do make it out the door to church.

I can’t open my bible without feeling guilty of sin I did not commit and remembering the people who felt obligated to tell me about that so called sin.

The more that I have acknowledged the pain that is hidden in my heart, the harder it’s become to go to church, read my bible, sing worship songs, hear certain phrases, or even speak the lingo. Why? Because in all of those things I have been hurt, I have been burned, I have been broken.

I am eager to get to the place where I can once again enjoy all of those, but I am not there yet.

I am still rifling through the ashes trying to find the burning embers that are still burning me. I will, I promise, be able to open my bible again one day, but the promises that comfort so many of you, bring cries of pain and panic attacks for me right now. I find comfort in knowing that my salvation is never in question, and Jesus is always by my side. Through the uncovering of my broken heart, I am finding peace. But it takes a long time. The number of pieces that my heart has been shattered into time and time again makes it even more difficult to make sure that I have each shard back into place. I don’t think I will ever fully heal, but fully healing is not my goal right now.

My goal is to be able to admit to myself that yes, I have been hurt, and yes, it’s okay to cry.

This I believe is the step I need to take right now towards healing.

My story is an uncomfortable one. It sucks, it hurts, it has made me dissolve into a puddle of tears and totally forget entire weeks at a time because the pain is too great. I have learned great tolerance, compassion, and understanding for those who have been where I have been, and still are.

I can weep with those who are weeping, and I cheer the bold and brave who are finding their voice and stepping forth with their story.

Christian Culture and Fake Love

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on November 11, 2013 with the title “When did Christian Culture become a culture of fake love?”


Disclaimer: I realize this does not cover all Christians, I’m not writing about all Christians, I am writing about what I have seen and what I have an issue with. Do not accuse me of accusing all Christians of being like this.


I am completely caught off guard when a post of mine gets shared over 10 times, but when it’s quite a lot more than that, I just don’t know what to say. I didn’t expect my response to the marriage post that has been disturbingly viral would get so much attention. For me, it was a lot of attention, and I say thanks to those who took the time to comment and share.

It’s always difficult to come back after a post of mine gets a lot of attention. I don’t write to get the hits, I write to process, I write to give myself freedom and permission for my own voice, and I write because I know I am not alone.

I know how important it is to have someone come alongside and say “I’ve been there too. I know what this is like.” 

What I’ve been through has been hell for me personally and it’s the type of hell that makes me feel isolated from everyone and everything. To me, this is a fact. That’s all it is. The feelings aren’t as painful, the anger, blind pain, and suffocating brokenness aren’t my constant companions anymore. But, as I’ve said time and time again, I still have a long way to go.

My writing has been in a slow downward spiral of sorts, I’ve been really tired and not been sleeping well as my body struggles to adapt to sudden changes in the weather. This time of the year always affects me poorly when the weather goes from balmy fall weather to frigid temperatures in the course of a few days. Even though my body is struggling to stay afloat my mind has not stopped mulling over things and trying to continually piece things together. Something that keeps tripping me up is a culture/community I have a part of since I turned 7 1/2, was baptized, and took communion for the first time. I have serious concerns about the Christian community and the more I see the more I no longer want to be a part of it.

I can’t reconcile the fact of Christians turning away and not accepting people who do not believe their exact beliefs.

I can’t come to terms with how vicious Christians get when someone challenges their beliefs or practices, even if the challenge comes in the form of sincere genuine questions. I can’t get over how obscenely rude Christians are about putting down someone who finds a small strand of courage and admits they’ve been struggling with whether God exists or not. I cannot for the life of me understand how Christians, who claim to have the love of God, can so harshly shove verses at and shun someone who participates in an activity or practice that goes against their moral beliefs. Or the same Christians who say they love someone but then cruelly do not accept someone. I can’t reconcile the love Christians say they have with the very lack of acceptance that I have seen time and time again. I can’t reconcile how Christian culture treats those who come out publicly as homosexual. 

I cannot reconcile tearing down someone who is speaking out about abuse and sharing their horrendous story. Those people who have been severely damaged by the church are the very ones who need true love, true acceptance, true willingness to come alongside and say “I don’t care what happened, I’m here now and will not leave.”

I don’t want to be a part of a culture where people claim the love of a higher being but who then horrifyingly rip someone apart who is ever so slightly different than them or who is asking questions.

Love is accepting someone unconditionally, their minds, their hearts, their very being despite what they think, despite not seeing eye to eye, despite their choices.

When I see parents say they love their children but then tell their children how pained and hurt they are over their children’s decisions, I see pride in the parents’ ideas of child rearing. I see pride that has been hurt and being taken out on children who are their own unique individuals who have to make their own decisions and live with their own life. I see parents who are not accepting or truly loving their children. “If you love God you will do what I say” is not something that seems to me to be true love. That’s manipulation of parents who are pushing their own agendas, not loving and accepting their children’s decisions and who their children are, body, mind, and soul.

When I see Christian snub and turn away people who are questioning their faith, who are working through seriously difficult questions about their own sexual identity, I see Christians who don’t want to get their hands dirty and who want to keep their own little sets of predetermined rules. I am still working through my own beliefs about same sex marriage and relationships, but I can say this at the moment:

I hate what I have seen among Christians on this matter, and I don’t want any part of their actions.

No part.

When I see Christians gang up and push down an abused child in order for the parents to gain further control over a nasty situation, I see children being silenced and people being shut down who need to have a voice. When I see Christians turn away people truly in need, I don’t see love, acceptance, I see uncomfortable people who don’t want to have their own beliefs shaken.

Want to know the truth of what I’m actually thinking?

I don’t really know if I want to believe in God anymore. I don’t really want to be associated with being a Christian.

I don’t want to be grouped with people who are known for their vicious attacks on people who need love and acceptance, not the strange version of so called love that spews from the mouths of those who claim to have love. I don’t understand how Christians can be so proud of their “defense” of their beliefs when they are razing hurting people in their path. I don’t understand why my own questions with my own beliefs have been so easily brushed aside as “just a season,” just something I’ll get over. I’ve been shunned by the very people who claim to have a “heart of love for those who are hurting.” I have been silenced and brushed aside by people who claim love but deny acceptance because I’m suddenly a black sheep for asking questions they would never think or even dare to ask. 

There is a massive group of us who are trying to recover from the denied acceptance and love from the Christian community.

I just can’t reconcile any longer the very lack of real love from Christian as something Jesus did or didn’t do. I don’t see the connection between how the Christians I have been around and grown up with act and how Jesus acted/acts. I don’t understand where the disconnect happened, I don’t know where the puzzle piece is missing, but I do know i don’t want any part of it anymore. Maybe one day I’ll come back, and my opinion will change, but that’s not where I’m at right now. I make no promises. 

I can’t understand how the Christian culture has become a culture of defending their faith like sociopaths and turning away people in need of real love. 

In a Closed and Sometimes Tightly Knit Sphere

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on October 18, 2013 with the title “Are Homeschoolers Socially Adept?”

I am at a point in my healing where memories aren’t as painful anymore. I have enough safeguards up to protect me from the pain, even though I can still feel the anguish from that memory especially if it is a difficult one. 

But my heart isn’t being neatly sliced by every memory anymore, which is a relief and shows the progress I’ve made.

Of late, my mind has drifted, curiously at first, back to my first memories of being homeschooled. It is with an odd sense of seeing something for the first time as I cautiously navigate memories which potentially hold mines and booby traps to trip me up. The big memories, the ones which hold the most potent abuse from my dad, are carefully tucked away as I chip at them slowly. But I am now dealing with the memories like helping mom move a massive computer desk across a precarious corner of the stairs as she reorganized rooms, meaning I was getting my own room for the first time.

She rearranged like crazy every so often.

Those days of major rearranging were days when all schooling stopped and all of us caught the giddy excitement of seeing the rooms being transformed.

I am being gently reminded of fuzzy memories of first learning to read and suddenly taking off with my avid love of reading. I was 5 or 6 when I first learned the beautiful art of understanding the funny little black shapes that danced across many pages. I being reminded of the pride I felt at being 10 years old and being able to read college level books and “understanding” them, whatever that really meant.

All mixed through these memories is a significant strain of sadness.

It is something I cannot avoid, it is something so strongly woven through my life’s story that it is a permanent part. As my memories go from those earlier memories to ones where I was being forced in an adult role, I feel the shift in the memories. Those memories are no longer slightly nostalgic, no longer reminding me of the days of exciting new discoveries. They are memories more strongly tinged with sadness and the weight of responsibility I carried proudly even though it nearly destroyed me.

I watch a proud little girl completely unaware and unable to relate to her peers, but eager to please authority figures and eager to be the authority figure to those younger than her. It is through viewing the kaleidoscope of these memories that I pick up on a familiar and explanatory strain of something a lot of homeschoolers I know have faced.

I have long struggled with being able to relate to those who are truly my peers.

It has been a struggle of unknown origins, or at least I had no idea where this struggle had really started. It wasn’t until I started following conversations in a group I am a part of on Facebook that I figured it out. I grew up being taught to impress the authority figures in my life, whether those be my parents or the adults in other families. I grew up being given heavy responsibility with being an authority over my younger siblings and being someone they should look up to. Being the oldest put me in that position. It also put me in a position of having inappropriate responsibilities of helping raise siblings, taking care of the kids, the cooking, the laundry, the cleaning. I took these responsibilities with pride. I was proud of how “mature” I was, and how so many people thought I was so much older (like years  upon years older) than I really was.

I saw the other girls my age and the oldest of their families almost as competition. Was I working as hard as them? Did I have as much responsibility as them?

Were they in authority over me or was I in authority over them?

Being homeschooled meant I was in a closed and sometimes tightly knit sphere. In those spheres, I was either sucking up to an authority figure, or I was the authority figure. There was no middle ground, I was never allowed to be a child. It was impress the adults or keep the little kids in line. I viewed the public schoolers as immature, incapable of handling the responsibility I so proudly and gravely carried. I saw them having “fun,” and thought they were such losers. I apologize now if I have ever offended anyone through this mindset when I was younger! I was never taught to relate to my peers. My peers were simply another name for fellow butt-kissers and authority makers. The kids my age were in the same position I was in, kiss up to the adults, or take charge of the littles. I was taught to be the best, not to relate.

I grew up being told and believing homeschoolers were the better socialized group over public schooled kids. I would scoff and laugh if anyone ever challenged that idea. “Of course we’re socialized!” I would haughtily answer anyone who questioned the socializing of homeschoolers. I knew what I was talking about, I was very well socialized, I could talk for hours with the adults.

Socialized meant I could talk and interact well with the adults I found myself face to face with. 

Socialized meant that I was more mature than someone who wasn’t homeschooled and had a better grasp on what it meant to be an adult. (I was about 13 at the time I started thinking like this.)

Little did I know how wrong I was.

I had no idea just how un-socialized I was until I got out of highschool. I had no freakin’ clue how to interact with someone my own age. I only knew how to be on the defensive and to try to not let them put themselves into authority over me. It confused me so much to realize how happy, content, and in love with their lives these “public schoolers” were. They had a healthy appreciation for their childhood and saw the responsibilities I so proudly bore as strange, concerning, and upsetting

I am just now starting to get references to various pop culture quotes and whatnot as we hang out with friends who grew up totally differently than me or Phil. I am realizing I tried to grow up too quickly, and succeeded in doing so, because that was expected of me. This goes back to my post last week about parenting. I never got to be a happy go-lucky child. I had to put on my big girl pants when I should have still been blissfully unaware of the weight of life.

Phil and I won’t be homeschooling our children unless one of them specifically needs it. 

I don’t want my children to be contained or taught that they are above the kids who aren’t homeschooled.

I want them to have normal childhoods and I want to encourage the grand exploration of finding brand new experiences and things. Homeschooling left a bitter taste in my mouth and I haven’t even touched on everything here. While I do believe there are people who have quite successfully homeschooled “normal” healthy children, I never experienced that. I barely made it out of highschool. I taught myself for most of my homeschooled life, and am lacking skills or classes I should have be taught a long time ago. I don’t like admitting this, it’s embarrassing to me. I haven’t taken more steps towards college because I don’t want to find out just how bad my homeschooling was.

So have patience with me and others of us who were homeschooled as we continue trying to ease into culture and societies that are still foreign in some ways to us.

I’m learning to not take myself so seriously and to relax and enjoy the diversity of those around me. I learning to love the differences I bring to conversations and to greatly appreciate the differences others add to the mix. No one is an authority figure to me anymore, nor do I feel like I have to be in authority over anyone anymore.

I can be me and I’m quite happy with that.

Wrestling with God: By Caleigh Royer

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Wrestling with God: By Caleigh Royer

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on July 21, 2013.

It’s been almost two full weeks since I last wrote. It’s been almost two weeks since hitting a really bad low. A low where cutting (I didn’t cut) was very appealing, a low where I actually couldn’t see up. I hit a low where I did the only thing I could think to do; called my therapist and said I need help now.

I got into an appointment the very next morning, and we talked about how I needed a release because the chaos in my head was crushing and choking everything coherent. 

(Just so you all can be clear, cutting is not a suicide attempt. It usually has nothing with wanting to kill oneself. Cutting is about release. It is about having something that will distract you from the pain; emotionally, mentally, physically. It may help release the pain in that moment but it is not a healthy, good release. If anyone is wanting to cut, or is, or has cut, then please, go see a professional counselor or therapist. They are trained to help you find a healthy release for the pain!)

I expect a few more of these low lows before I can really start climbing up out of the depression and pain. I have willingly opened a door and walked through it. Opening that door is a bold, courageous, and scary move. Opening that door has given me no choice but to face my past head on and deal with it.

Can I just say that this absolutely sucks most days?

But there is a silver lining here. Even though I am being weighed down with more frequent days of depression, I am more easily triggered and face flashbacks of really bad experiences, I am moving forward. I am facing the demons that haunt me, I am standing up and saying no more. Most days forget standing, I’m half kneeling, half lying flat on the ground, but I am fighting back.

Some of the demons and triggers have had to do with hope, beliefs. I am still working on the “daddy” glasses I see God through. I still have a hard time believing that God is a loving, giving father to me. Believing that for others, my husband, friends, that’s no big deal. I can easily see God being a giving god for others, but for me? I don’t know how to believe that I won’t have anything good ripped away the moment I get it. I don’t know how to get back to the place where touching, opening, reading an actual physical Bible doesn’t make me shudder and become blind to the words. I don’t know how to reconcile the things I grew up being taught to what I know of God now.

I like to say that I have a whispering/yelling relationship with God right now.

He’s whispering to me, and I’m yelling at him. A friend asked a question on facebook the other day. She asked what it meant for us individually to wrestle with God. I realized that wrestling with God looks like being honest with him and saying I really don’t know if I want to trust him, I don’t want to keep not reading my Bible, I don’t know how to get to a place of being at peace with that again.

We’re planning on visiting an actual church on this coming Sunday, and I am just about scared out of my mind if I think about it hard. I haven’t been in an actual church building since the end of January. I am still not comfortable labeling myself under a certain denomination. I am still not quite to the point of being able to thoroughly lay out the nuances of my beliefs.

I am resting on the things I know for certain but everything else is still quite fuzzy.

It’s hard looking back at the few years I spent in CLC and how those years really cemented some bad theology. Theology I picked up while I went to Covenant Life Church, and theology I grew up with. I am thinking for myself now, and that was never encouraged no matter which environment I was in. I am wrestling with God and not hiding my feelings, pain, confusion behind randomly picked scriptures that are supposed to be all you need when life get particularly hard.

I don’t believe that scripture is all we need when life picks us up, spins us around until the entire world is a blur, and throws us down the stairs.

I believe that we need to stand before God and yell, scream, argue, cry about whatever our heart really is saying. He can handle it, and I believe that until we are fully honest with God we can’t be fully honest with others or even with ourselves.  I feel a real God when I am most honest before him. It is easier for me to believe him when I sit down, having cried, yelled, cried some more until I have no more tears, and all I hear is “I am with you. I love you. You are precious to me.”

I have an opened a door that will not close until the demons have been dealt with and put to death. Until I can lay the past to rest and have more good days than bad, depressed days, I will continue to fight. Healing is more important to me than staying cowed by the demons pulling the triggers.

I am seeing the progress I have made since starting therapy almost 4 months ago. I am seeing the strength I have becoming stronger as the winds continue to pound, throwing me around in the storm. I may be fighting a fight I purposefully walked into, but I am winning this fight even when it doesn’t feel like winning.

I am wrestling with God and finding peace.

Have I Forgiven Them?: Katharine Diehl’s Story

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was a guest post by Katharine Diehl for Caleigh’s “I Have a Voice” series and originally published on September 16, 2013.

About the author: Katharine Diehl is 22 and lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has a BA in psychology and her poetry has been published in Squalorly and Fickle Muses. She works part-time but she needs more money, so if anyone would like to pay her to write or be a professional poet, she is available. She blogs about writing and writes about other stuff at frozenseawriting.tumblr.com.


I can never tell if I have forgiven my parents.

Not for spanking my baby brother, who was crippled from neuroblastoma and died at the age of 5. The spankings were rare, compared to other families; my dad had a sort of business going, creating “spankers” out of conveyer belt. My sister and I laughed at the children we knew whose parents hit them with spoons or pieces of wood. I was tough. I could take it. But I hid and shivered when I knew they were doing it to my sick brother.

Later my dad held my brother, after the coma, after he was gone, and sobbed.

Once I put a few acorns in my winter coat pocket and zipped it up; when I opened it months later, there were tiny dead worms. I was a little girl and squeamish and terrified, and my dad yelled at me for not knowing that the worms would hatch, and he put the worms in his hand and chased me in a circle around the living room, trying to get me to touch them and clean out my coat. Later I had a nightmare he was chasing me with a WWII Japanese sword his grandfather had given him.

When I told him about it, he cried because he did not know I was afraid of him.

That is the essence of my childhood. I think that my parents loved us but were disappointed that they did not have good children, and blamed themselves, and read too many books by Dobson and the Pearls. I was not good. I had a rebellious attitude. I asked too many questions. My sensory integration problems made me afraid to touch terrycloth or crumbs or let others brush me lightly, and loud noises made me feel ill, and my parents worried that they were signs of rebellion. The other children in our church were so well behaved.

My friends’ parents told them not to tolerate my behavior.

Things got better after the black years of early adolescence — nights when even God would not listen to my pleas to take the burden from my heart and cleanse it. I prayed to him every day and read the Bible, especially the Psalms, but the peace that passes all understanding would not come. But I began college on a scholarship, found new friends, and took long, lonely walks for hours where I was able to inhabit my body instead of dissociating constantly.

I learned to soothe myself with reading and walking instead of food.

My parents, grown more liberal, allowed me to visit a therapist after some panic attacks, and when I got on medication it was as if the dirty pane of glass blocking me from the world had finally lifted and there I was, naked and standing in the singing air.

Last fall my progress shattered, that delicate glass framework that held me up, when my little sister overdosed on ibuprofen. I had seen her, homeschooled, isolated, only one friend who lived a state away, spending more and more time in bed during the day. She woke, ate breakfast, and retreated to wrap herself in a blanket and sleep again. She looked like a sad burrito, I joked, and she looked at me blankly. I found her thinspiration blog, and saw the cuts in her arms. I was afraid to tell my parents, though they were concerned, because I felt homeschooling caused her isolation and I could not say that to their face. After all, I’d turned out okay. Maybe it was a phase. I am ashamed to say that I did not advocate for her, did not tell another adult.

I was afraid like a little girl instead of the woman that I was. That I am.

I was about to present my proposal for my senior honors thesis before a group of professors when she called my cell and hung up. I called back and left a message. Finally she picked up — she was home alone — and asked me what happened when you took too many pills. I said she should go to the hospital, and she started to cry. So I did the only thing I could do. I called 911 and they swooped in and took my skinny little sister, cuts all over her arms, to a hospital and kept here there for a week.

She told the doctors she was trying to kill herself, and then she changed her story.

My parents believed the second story.

She, too, has gotten better — it was the catalyst allowing her to receive therapy. She also has Celiac, and her moods have improved since changing her diet. She went through an out-patient eating disorder program and she is a healthy weight now. She is dealing with other problems now that I don’t feel comfortable sharing, but all together, she is healing herself. She is making herself whole and it has ripped me apart and put me back together, I think, being able to see her do that.

My boyfriend has helped me. He has been my rock and my shelter, as blasphemous as it is to say that- because he is not a god, but a friend and a lover. I met him when I was 20 (I’m 22 now), and he is not a Christian. My mother has suggested I marry him (a law student) and “be very poor” with him. I think she doesn’t want us to live in sin any longer, because when I visit him, I stay overnight. Whenever I return home, my dad says he hopes I had fun — but not too much fun.

My sister says I am wounding my family by dating an agnostic. My aunts asked me if he loved Jesus with all his heart.

The answer is no.

But I love him with all of my heart.

And that is that. My parents have apologized for things that never bothered me — criticizing me too much, fighting too much. I know they love me, but they will never see that their insistence on those rigid Christian values and their insular homeschooling, their need to shelter us, are the things that have harmed.

They did not cause my little sister to become suicidal, but like a mushroom grows best in moisture and the dark, the conditions were there.

I had a dream once that my dad’s mother — an alcoholic in his childhood — came to me and told me that she was the mother of all our sorrows. I have always tried to place my troubles (and triumphs) in a narrative, in archetypes, because it makes them easier to bear; but I have rarely had dreams with such truth in them.

Trouble and sadness are generational. My grandmother’s mother, a strict Spanish Pentecostal, made her kneel on rice and pray for hours until her knees were embedded and encrusted with the raw grains. My dad’s father died in his childhood. My mother told me once that she felt she lived her life in a dark room with no windows. My parents have never forgiven themselves, though I have made halting progress toward forgiving them.

I say this to say that placing blame, no matter how it helps, can also hurt.

My blood has sadness in it from generations of mental illness and cruel religion. I don’t know who to blame. Myself most of all and least of all, perhaps. The blame is dispersed and I hope and pray and tremble that the sadness will leave us — that my children, if I have them, will never be taught about an angry God or fear that they are not scrupulous, pleasing, or pretty enough.

My precious children, I will say, you exist. That is beautiful and I know that is enough.

I pray that God, whoever or wherever He is, feels the same.