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.

How Modesty Teachings Hurt Men, Too

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on June 26, 2013 and is modified for HA.

Someone posted this article today on Facebook, from a famous Christian author and blogger:

If Only She Knew ~ Thoughts On Modesty

I read this against my better judgment and honestly, I’m sitting here furious. I have said for years that boys in conservative Christian homes are conditioned to struggle with “modesty” and everyday normal things regarding female bodies. That they are programmed to see non-erotic body parts as erotic. This article is the perfect example of that. This poor boy, and every boy like him have been set up by their parents for a lifetime of failure and shame. Then they have the audacity to blame all the women in the world for their terrible parenting. I’m just so angry at this type of spiritual abuse and bondage!

Here’s how the article starts out:

“Avert your eyes, Son. His dad started saying it to him from the youngest age – when he was only a little boy. Might have been an alluring commercial while watching the ballgame. Or a billboard while driving down the highway. A pop-up on the computer screen. As parents, we had purposed to teach him purity from the beginning.  

Temptation can be found anywhere. Even in Target. Target? Yeah, I know. That’s what I thought too. Until one day we popped in to pick up some flip-flops for the summer and I remarked how he kept bumping into things. What is your problem, Son?? “I’m just looking down, Mom,” And with a nod, he indicated the ads placed strategically above us. Billboards for the lingerie department. Yikes. I’d not seen them. “

I’ve written about how modesty teachings enslave women, well this is the perfect example of how they enslave men too. The first few sentences infuriated and shocked me. They created their son’s struggles. They conditioned and brain-washed him to think there was something wrong with seeing females in clothing they didn’t approve of. That looking at a woman is somehow shameful. They did that to their son and they are patting themselves on the back for it. They didn’t teach him “purity”, they taught him shame and objectification of women.  They taught him that natural attraction is something to feel guilty about and be avoided at all costs. They should be ashamed of themselves. They have set their son up for failure, and now he is going to be under such a heavy burden his entire life for things that are not wrong. He’s going to struggle with “sins” that aren’t sins but that he’s been brainwashed to think are “impurity”. The sight of normal American women all around him is going to send him into such a frenzy of natural emotion and arousal that he’s not going to know how to function in the real world. This poor boy! I cannot imagine doing anything that unhealthy to my sons.

Oh, but it gets worse:

“It was a hot July day and we all packed up and headed out for fun and fellowship with a bunch of other believers. Picnic blankets, cold watermelon, and squirt guns. It was promising to be a great day. 

So I was surprised to see our oldest son hanging back from the festivities. He’s an outgoing guy and usually one of the first out there mixing it up. Except not this time. He stayed close to our small spot and played with his little brothers instead. What is your problem, Son?? 

He hesitated for a moment. Then answered, “Mom, I don’t know what to do. Dad’s taught me to ‘avert my eyes’, but there doesn’t seem anywhere I can turn here.”

Nowhere he can safely look. Because women in swimsuits and summer clothes are everywhere and he’s had it drilled into him from a tender young age that women in swimsuits are off-limits, tantalizing, and “impure”. This poor boy cannot even go swimming or play outside because of his parent’s brain-washing. How is this “purity”? It isn’t. It’s heaping guilt and legalism on a child’s head and causing untold confusion. This isn’t healthy. This is so very toxic. He’s just a little boy. Yet his innocence is being trampled into the ground.

My cousin Matt said this when he read this article:

“He [the boy in the story] wouldn’t have a problem with it if his parents didn’t make it a big deal. If they approached sexual attraction as a normal thing, and taught him how to control his actions, he wouldn’t have to live in fear of seeing bare skin. Now, it seems like he is afraid to even go out in public, because of all the eye snares around him. Its almost as if he – or his mother, at least – expect girls to cover up for her son’s sake, as if the world revolved around him. 

If he was in the real world, you know, the one that inhabits the spaces around his stifling mother and father, then he would find that real men really don’t worry about bare skin. Those of us who control our desires know it is not wrong to look or enjoy the sight of a beautiful woman. We also don’t expect them to serve us because we know they aren’t the temptresses this mother is insinuating that they are. 

What he needs is for the walls of his little world to come crashing down. People like his parents think they are helping him walk in victory, but it isn’t victory when you are afraid of the world around you. It isn’t victory when you demonize something God created: beauty in a woman. It trivializes His creation. It makes it seem as if women are there to set you up for failure. 

What’s wrong is not the world around him, but the world in which he lives. Open your eyes, son, look up. Nothing says you have to look at the lingerie ad, but you won’t go to hell for lingering a second longer on it. Look at it and move on. It is part of the world around you. Your urges are part of your world. Your desires are part of your world. They aren’t your whole world, as your mother seems to emphasize.” 

In essence, these parents are crippling their son. There’s no way around that. And this mother is encouraging other mothers to cripple their son and to see all women as objects of temptation.  Not to mention using emotionalism and spiritual-sounding language to urge all women to cater to her dysfunction. This is a glaring example of spiritual and psychological abuse.

I’m not going to post the rest. It’s an appeal to emotion that ends up blaming all the women in the world for this boy’s and every good boy’s “struggles”; blaming women for toxic, spiritually abusive parenting they have inflicted on their son. You can read it but be warned, it’s painful.

This is a real, serious problem, but I’ve never seen it outlined so perfectly as this post does. Making normal, non-erotic body parts erotic does a grave disservice to boys and men. And this is a wide-spread problem among conservative Christians and homeschoolers.

Here’s what my friend Katie had to say in a conversation we were having on this topic:

I believe the ultra conservative teaching many of us grew up under modesty-wise, has hurt men as well as women. Men who grow up so sheltered that they find a cap sleeve enticing and whose moms cover their eyes if a woman with cleavage walks past, never learn how to deal with normal American dress. It is no wonder they experience such trouble at a beach or a pool. Regardless of how you personally believe God would have you to dress, you have no right to control the rest of culture. Your husbands, brothers, sons, etc. will be exposed to cleavage, shorts, bikini’s, mini skirts, etc. We do boys no favors when we raise them so strictly that such normal clothing is hyper erotic to them. Instead of sheltering them we end up hyper sexualizing them. I feel sorry for guys raised that way that struggle thru normal daily life like going to the grocery store.

I hope our generation will do better than our parents at teaching our children (boys and girls alike) how to view the opposite sex. Lust is not a sin that only effects men. Women can struggle with it as well. Part of the problem is that we call sin things that are not sin thereby heaping guilt on men and women for simple biological hormonal reactions.

It is not sin to find a person attractive. It is not even sin to feel turned on by them as they walk past you. That is just a basic function of biology and hormones. It is a sin, to dwell there and savor the moment, to go back to it time and again, or continue to fantasize about that other person (ie undressing them in your mind or worse). We need to teach our children the difference between a hormonal reaction that is biological, and choosing to expand or camp in that reaction and indulge in lust. We need to practice personal responsibility in our handling of situations that are struggles for us personally, and we need to teach our children personal responsibility for their own reactions to others around them. Men and women alike need to dress in ways that do not violate their conscience, but they also need to realize that they can never control anyone but themselves and master their own thought lives.”

Fear, shame, guilt, rules, “temptation is everywhere”….a little boy whose innocence was taken by the very people supposed to protect him. And all in the name of “purity”. My heart is breaking. I may be a woman, and I experienced these lies from a woman’s perspective, but I saw what they did to the men in my life. To the boys programmed with shame. I continue to see the effects of such teachings as the boys I grew up with are now men. An entire generation of men who were raised with shame and fear, like this little boy, have grown up and their stories are enough to keep the tears flowing and the hearts breaking. I have two little boys of my own. And I cannot imagine raising them to fear the world, women, and themselves as the parents of  the boy in this story are doing. I hope they see what they are doing to their son before it is too late to undo it

(Warning: I would suggest that if the above sickens or triggers you, don’t read the comments on the post I linked. Some of them are worse by far than anything in the post and completely disgusting.)

Kevin Swanson, Child Abuse, and Dead Little Bunnies: Kathi’s Thoughts

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HA note: Kathi is a Bible-belt midwest transplant to the beautiful Pacific northwest. After homeschooling her kids for 10 years (she decided that high school math and science were not her strongest subjects), both kids are in public school. She is a former church goer and finds herself in that unstudied demographic of middle-aged Nones. She has a B.A. in Urban Ministry and a M.S.W. Her goal is to work with children who have been abused or are in foster care. She loves to knit, cook and read (not in any particular order). The following was originally published on Kathi’s blog Moving Beyond Absolutes on April 5, 2014 and is reprinted with permission. 

I had never heard of Kevin Swason until after I got done homeschooling. That’s how out of touch with the Christian homeschool movement I was during my homeschooling period.

When he did a show on March 18th titled, How to Recover from Sexual Abuse, I had to listen. This program included guest Keith Dorscht from Biblical Concepts in Counseling. Here’s an interesting point to make note of – at the end of the program, Keith Dorscht tells listeners how to get in touch with Biblical Concepts (www.biblicalconcepts.org — this is the URL he provides). However, when you go to that URL, it shows up through Sedo’s Domain Parking and it gives someone the option to purchase that domain name. Because of this, I’m not sure how anyone who listened to Swanson’s program would be able to follow up with Biblical Concepts in Counseling.

I became interested in this particular program because of my social work focus in child abuse, my past work with children who had been sexually abused, and because of my own personal experience with abuse.

I admit that when I saw the title of the program I sighed and thought myself to be a glutton of punishment. (Swason’s voice tends to grate on me a little — okay, a lot. But, there’s nothing that a glass — or two — of wine can’t cure!) I tell you this because I am passionate about helping people who have been abused.

Unexpectedly, and thankfully, there were some good ideas and thoughts on dealing with sexual abuse. What did not surprise me were some of important things that were left out and the prevailing attitude toward victims that creeps in. I transcribed** the show and am here to offer my opinions on the good and the not so good of what I heard.

The Good

1. Keith Dorscht acknowledges the fact that sexual pleasure can be experienced at any age. At the 7 minute mark he says,

“What that means is that from birth, there can be sexual stimulation, excitement, that feels good. And, you can’t stop that as a child of any age, you can’t turn that off. God wants you to have that.”

That is true. It has been shown that babies are able to experience genital stimulation. Our bodies are hard wired to be that way.

2. Right after this remark, he continues saying,

“When some perpetrator comes in, takes advantage of that, but they also overwhelm you and you feel guilty because you know something is going on wrong. So one of the main damages is that someone at any age is experiencing something that feels pleasurable, but they’re feeling guilt. And there’s a knitting together, a marrying together, of those two emotions.”

Very true, too. Abusers will manipulate a victim for their own pleasure. Threats, fear or simple words such as telling the victim that this is something “special” shared between them and that no one else should know about it, are tactics used to keep them in their grasp. The victim, realizing that what this person is doing is wrong, may feel pleasure in the act. Thus, the feelings of guilt may become overwhelming.

3. As far as responding to a child who tells you that they have been sexually abused, Dorscht says the following after the 10 minute mark:

“You can pretty much trust that they’re telling truth. Only half a percent of children actually make up a story of this. So if you’re getting signs and statements being made and strange behaviors in your child, you want to definitely consider the idea that perhaps someone has sexually abused them and get talking about that.”

While there have been times when a child will lie about sexual abuse, it is very rare. If a child tells you that they have been sexually abused, always believe them.

4. Dorscht offers hope to victims of sexual abuse. Just before the 9:30 mark he says,

“There is so much hope for people who have been sexually abused. If I can say one thing on this program today and leave people with something, is that there is hope. That God can restore. He can finish the work.”

There is hope for a survivor of sexual abuse. A person can be made whole again. It takes a lot of time, patience and hard work with a therapist to get there. I do believe that God can help in that healing process. However, if the person does not have a faith in God, healing can also be accomplished.

The Not So Good

1. Kevin Swanson seems to think that sexual abuse did not happen as often in the 1800’s compared to today. In the opening of his show, just before the 1 minuted mark he says,

“See, we have social sins now that were almost unheard of in the 1800’s. And they are common place today. The 1 in 10,000 occurrences we saw in the 1800’s, now 1 in 100, the 1 in 100 now 3 in 10.  The free sex movement of the 1960’s has resulted in people thinking they can get any kind of sex they want for free. And they’re doing it all the time. They’re doing it with kids. It’s hard to get accurate numbers of sexual abuse. But accounts have it as high as 20, 30, 40%

“The stories abound. Priests abusing kids. School teachers abusing kids. Babysitters abusing kids. Everywhere. Part it is the absence of parental oversight in the training of children. And, part of it is the whole sale raw eros sex on MTV and the whole music culture. Part of it is the lack of phileo love, agape love, and all that is left is animalistic physical copulation. Whatever the cause, the consequences of this free sex, this fornicating sexual abuse culture, the consequences of this stuff is just devastating. The purity has been stripped away.”

And, just after the 5:30 mark he says,

“Just horrific to see what is happening. And of course I believe this has been increasing over the last 30-40 years. This kind of thing was not happening as much 100 years ago.”

Dorscht follows this statement by saying,

“No, and you can blame the internet for that. Blame media influences and parents letting their guards down with their children and not protecting them the way they need to be.”

Does Swanson realize that, while avenues for reporting sexual abuse existed in the 1800’s, the response to those reports were very different than today’s response? Also, means of storing numbers for statistical analysis did not exist in the 1800’s.

How about the fact that there really was not a clear definition of child abuse in the 1800’s or child abuse reporting laws or laws set in place to help protect victims?

My only other note to Swanson is that if you are going to supply a fact in the form of a percentage of something happening, please make sure you do your homework and make it very clear to the listener. This “20, 30, 40%” of reported abuse does your listener no good. Let them know the facts up front.

2. Swanson wants to deal with the problem of guilt. Rightfully so. Children who have been sexually abused may feel guilty about their participation in the act, or in their lack of ability to stop the abuse from happening. Just after the 13 minute mark he says,

“You know, some Christian perspectives of psychology will tell us that man suffers from guilt and often he will resort to masochism or sadism, that is hurting themselves or hurting others, as a means of atonement. Because, of course, guilt cries out for atonement. And when people try to self atone for that guilt, by mean of masochism or sadism, they are denying the atonement of the son of God who came to atone for those sins. And that in itself is a sin, right Keith? If we don’t go to Christ and say, ‘Hey, your atonement is sufficient for me,’ you’re denying his offering.”

So Swanson wants to heap on more guilt for a person who is trying to deal with their abuse. (Shaking my head) In essence, he is saying, “If you don’t rely on Christ, you are sinning.” I’m sure this extra layer of guilt will be helpful for the victim.

3. Bitterness — one of my least favorite words. Swanson wants to deal with it though. Just after the 14:30 minute mark he says,

“Well, Keith, there’s also the issue of bitterness. Perhaps we should talk about this as well. This is, of course, carrying other people’s sins and holding them against them. How often do you see this problem of bitterness where they hold this bitterness against the violator?”

Dorscht responded at the 15 minute mark with,

“They’re holding that bitterness. Every single week in the counseling office those people are holding on to that bitterness. The problem is too often that the perpetrator is out of their reach and not receiving any of that bitterness. And, again, it can turn back on them. Or turn back on a spouse, or to parents. A girl will have anger issues with a father or a brother, and they may wonder where that’s coming from. And those people are paying.”

Swanson continues the thought after the 16 minute mark,

“And, you know, as we bring the guilt and the bitterness together, this is precisely what Jesus puts in the Lord’s prayer when he says, ‘Forgive us our debts, our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.’ So, Keith, I think that these things come together in the counseling situation where we go to the cross of Christ. Yes, we drop our sins there, but while we’re there, we drop everybody else’s sins too. It’s almost as if the bitter person, the guilty person, is holding two burdens. He’s got his own sins, and then he’s got everybody else’s sins. I don’t think anybody can carry that much.”

It is important to note that Dorscht is identified as a “Biblical” counselor.

I don’t have any training in Biblical counseling, so I’m not exactly sure how a Biblical counselor works in a therapy session. What I have heard, though, is that Biblical counselors stress the need for a victim to forgive a perpetrator. Dorscht confirms this at the 17:30 mark:

“When they forgive that person, I’ve seen people instantly, when they pray, ‘God I forgive that person.’ And they open their eyes, they look at me, and they say, ‘Can I pray for that person?’ And I say, ‘Why would you want to do that?’ Just to kind of test them. They say, ‘Because I know how much I’ve been forgiven. And I know now how hurting that person must have been for them to hurt me.’ And not in every case does this happen. But, I think people can get to that point where they can say, ‘I want to pray for them because they are hurting also.’ And that is a sign of genuine heart-level forgiveness. They have compassion. If that person needed a meal or needed a cup of water, that person is free to give that to them. That’s a minimum requirement.”

KS: “Wow! That’s true deliverance. And, that’s walking in Jesus’ ways when he says, ‘Pray for those who despitefully [sic] use you.’ And, if there is anybody who would despitefully [sic] use somebody, that would certainly be one who sexually abuses. And, to pray for that person is exactly what Jesus wants to see happen there.”

I’m not downplaying anyone who says that they are able to forgive someone who has victimized them. If they are able to say and do that, then more power to them. However, some people may never be able to forgive the person who abused them. I would never consider that person bitter, and I would never question their faith. I would also never say a person needs to forgive their abuser because they were hurting too. There is never a good excuse for someone to sexually abuse another person.

Saying that a victim is bitter because they are unable to forgive the perpetrator is another way of placing guilt and shame on a victim.

4. Going back up to point #1, did anyone else realize that Swanson never states that parents may be the ones who are sexually abusing their kids? He mentions priests, school teachers and babysitters, but not once in this radio show does he admit that a parent may abuse their child.

Just after the 18:30 mark, Swanson asks Dorscht what a parent should do when a child tells them that they have been sexually abused. Dorscht’s advice is to first allow their child to talk openly about what happened; to hold them and cry with them. Then at the 20 minute mark he says,

“You’ll want to report something to authorities if that’s appropriate and necessary. You want to warn anyone else who may be in danger. Again, I said there’s a 90% chance that you know the person who abused your child, so you might know other people that could be in danger.”

Of course it’s “appropriate” to report sexual abuse to the authorities! Along with being there for your child, this should be the first thing a parent should do — even if it means that your spouse is the perpetrator of the abuse.

5. Toward the end of the program, Swanson talks about the cold, hard reality of sin in the world. Honestly, at this point in the program I started getting an uneasy feeling and here is where Swanson’s voice starts to grate on me. Just after the 20:30 minute mark he says,

“And, Keith, I think the cold, hard reality of sin and this sinful world comes home to us. Not just in the case of sexual abuse, but when the family has been robbed. You know, when somebody has broken into our house or into our car and stolen our things. Or, even when we have a horrible disease or when somebody dies in the family. I mean, you know, it’s not as if these people who have been sexually abused are the only ones who have suffered the consequences of sin.”

Okay, “these people”? How condescending are those words toward a victim of sexual abuse? I would never refer anyone to Swanson for counseling. I do not think he has the ability to feel empathy or compassion toward someone who is suffering.

He brings in another illustration to emphasize his “cold, hard facts” about sin in the world. This is just after the 21 minute mark:

“And the cold, hard reality of that sinful world comes home at certain times in our children’s lives. In fact, just yesterday, two little bunnies died that we were trying to take care of that we found in the wild all by themselves. And my little daughters were crying. Oh, it was such a hard thing to see the little bunnies die. And they’re still recovering this morning.  You know, we had to tell them, this is what happened when man sinned against God. This is what sin has brought into the world. Little bunnies die. This is the real facts of the matter. But, the hope is in Jesus. We’ve got to give them hope, don’t we Keith?”

Creepy. Dead little bunnies.

And to suggest sexual abuse is one of the the cold, hard realities of a sinful world that enters our children’s lives is horrendous.

*** Please note:: In my transcription I may have missed some words, and I intentionally did not include “filler” words (ummm…, and, or any repetitive words). Even though I left out the filler words, I maintained the cohesive thought of the speaker.

I Am Not A Spartan

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Caleigh Royer’s blog, Profligate TruthIt was originally published on May 18, 2013.

Write the hard thing.

I have not been able to write the hard thing this week because I have not been able to figure out what that hard thing is. As I am writing this, I am listening to a conference call for my Story 101 class and we are talking about writing the hard things.

I feel like there is something that is sitting right under the surface for me.

There is something floating right there about my emotions, something about not blaming my parents but being in deep emotional pain. Something about being made sick with memories that I don’t want to face because they hurt so very much. I don’t want to face those memories because they continue to tear my heart up even though it’s been years since those first happened.

It is overwhelming because I don’t want to blame my parents, I don’t want to blame my mom, but I have pain.

I have excruciating pain that makes me physically sick as I remember being left at the MRI clinic. I have pain when I wanted — no, needed — comfort from my mom, I needed my mom and she wasn’t there. I needed that comfort and the tight hug accompanied with a whisper of “it’s going to be okay, I’m here.” I hate this pain, I hate the depth that is reaches because it kills me every time I face those memories or something triggers them. I hate that I feel pain when I face my mom, I hate that my heart breaks all over again when I look at my dad and remember the pain of finding out what he had done.

I feel shame.

I feel like I am a terrible person, and I feel like this deeply emotional shredding of my heart is something I should feel guilty about, like it is something that is disgusting and makes me worthless.

Facing these feelings of shame, guilt, and worthless and hearing my therapist softly tell me that no, I am not bitter, I am not blaming, I am feeling the pain I should because I have a heart and it deeply feels and that is good.

My heart is soft, my heart is easily broken, my heart beats to help others heal, and it seeks to comfort and protect those from the pain it has felt already. Some of my deepest fears involve fearing a stone cold heart, and fearing the bitterness and blaming that comes with a hard heart. I have always felt frustrated as I feel the pain, I have felt anger when something strikes my heart with resounding accuracy because my heart is easily reached. I used to think that setting up guardrails or those walls to keep the arrows out was okay.

I used to think that that was more important than letting myself feel.

I used to fight the feelings and try to be stoic and unfeeling. I felt like feelings were dirty, shameful, and something we should fight, not allow in, and certainly not allow out.

Friends use to tell me that I was being too emotional whenever I had some sort of emotional response to their words. They would tell me in such a way that it seemed like they looked down on me for emotionally responding, good or bad, to what they were talking with me about. They were the friends who first made me feel like I had to shut my emotions down. They were the ones who first told me, in their own stoic, spartan way, that emotions were not acceptable. Emotions were disgusting and worth very little.

Emotions were a failed sinful part of our human bodies and not to be trusted or allowed a voice.

Those friends were the ones who made me feel ashamed of the glorious, beautiful, redeemed emotions that the Lord of the Universe has created within me.

Hear me say this: I am gloriously emotional and I am a gift.

I am gloriously emotional and I am a gift.

It has taken me a long time to accept the emotions that bubble up within me as a good and beautiful thing. It has taken hearing my therapist’s gentle words of reminding me that I should be feeling this pain to accept the pain. It still totally sucks, and I find myself drained after a wrestling match with those memories. It still is difficult when I feel something so acutely and feel like I have to be a spartan and hide my feelings.

The hard thing is accepting the truth about myself and reveling in the beauty of a torn heart. Yes, there is beauty in a broken heart. There is a certain amount of glorious vulnerability that comes from allowing the broken to be revealed.

There is an astounding amount of release when I acknowledge the pain that has driven me to weep time and time again.

I no longer fight this pain but simply let the tears flow, the pain wrenching my heart. It is my way of healing, it is an act of letting the tears bind up a deep and bleeding wound. Those tears are my heart’s way of telling me yes, I can still feel, I am not a spartan robot, I am a redeemed emotional woman.

I believe that women are created specifically to feel the hard things, the painful things, the gut wrenching things. I believe that I am supposed to feel the pain deeply, I am supposed to and should cry because I have been deeply wounded. To not cry would be killing the specifically designed voice I have deep within me that allows for those feelings to be let out.

I am done killing my “wild voice.” I am done hiding the emotions I once felt ashamed of.

I am ready to stand up and point down to the feelings I once turned my nose up at and called dirty. I am now ready to announce them beautiful and precious.

My hard thing is accepting the emotions that course freely through my heart and soul. My hard thing is allowing for my eyes to be overwhelmed with tears as I feel the pain and am reminded of what I have faced.

Crying, weeping, letting the Holy Spirit decipher the deep groans for which we have no words is a beautiful, glorious, healing thing.

I Am Not A Victim, I Am A Survivor

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sheldon, who blogs at Ramblings of Sheldon. It was originally published on Confessions of a Heretic Husband on June 21, 2013.

“Where are you going?” she kept asking over and over again, with defiance and a hint of amused contempt as she stood in the middle of the only doorway out of the room. I had told her just minutes before that I was leaving, and she immediately blocked the door. I had some of my stuff packed, and I was desperate to leave her home for good, but she just stood there and said I had “no right” to leave.

Was I some pouting 12 year old kid at the time? No, I was 21 years old. I was desperate enough that I was willing to leave the home of my Mom and Dad with just a few hundred dollars to my name and an old van.

What drove me to this point? It was many different things, and I should start from the beginning. Just two years earlier, I had come back from a prominent Southern Baptist college after a nervous breakdown that included severe depression with constant fatigue, muscle pain/weakness, and some bizarre panic attacks. Needless to say, I couldn’t keep it together, and had to return home.

When I did return home, I explained what had happened, and all of it was dismissed as “guilt” and “not having a right relationship with god”. You see, in her mind, my struggles with mental illness were not an illness, they showed a lack of character. Her attitude reflected much of what what can be seen in fundamentalism: that true happiness can only come from serving god, and if you aren’t happy, then that must be a sign that your relationship isn’t right.

The real kicker is that I actually believed for this for two years, and generated a lot of self hatred and frustration. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. I begged god for “forgiveness”, I doubled down on my dedication to my faith, but it wasn’t working. I was beginning to realize that the relationship with god had little to nothing to do with it, and that I had a real disorder. The problem was that my mother was never going to see it that way, and dealing with her ignorance left me feeling trapped in this situation.

It was pushing me to the point that I was starting to become suicidal. For a while I pondered jumping off a local bridge during the winter, but then I started to think that if I did, I would be giving my mother exactly what she wanted: control over me for my entire life. That thought bothered me more than the thought of ending my life. I knew I had to do something, anything, to break away, but I was stuck.

At the time, I was in a local college, and I was starting to realize that they were a scam, but of course, she didn’t see it that way. I proved it to her in so many different ways, I even told her what some people in the field that my major was in told me at a summer job (that the college was a scam), but all to no avail. It didn’t work.

She told me the only acceptable plan for my life was to go to college, and she kept pontificating about how supposedly I would never make it financially without that piece of worthless paper from the scam of a college I was in at the time.

Allegedly, I would be working 3 minimum wage jobs, have no time for anything, and would be starving. She called me “lazy” because I would rather work (I still haven’t figured out the logic behind that argument). She tried to make me feel without hope, that I would never leave, and that I couldn’t make it without her. I knew that was a lie, and meant to keep me defeated and powerless. I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere while trying to reason with her. I knew that if I stayed, it would be many more years suffering under her rule, and it might just lead me to finally end my life.

So I packed some things, and was going to leave that morning, but there she was, standing in the doorway to barricade me in the room. “Where are you going?” It’s not as though she didn’t know, I explained it to her just minutes before. It was more of a challenge than a question. I had a phone sitting out, because as angry as I knew she would get, she hadn’t become violent with me since I was 11 years old. But she loved to threaten it when nothing else worked, and I couldn’t be too sure. 

She noticed the phone sitting out, and insisted to know why it was laying on a desk. She figured it out, and told me (keep in mind I was 21 years old at the time), that if she were to hit me, I would deserve it. I pointed out to her how hypocritical her statement was, due to the fact that she was always ranting about how bad her childhood was with a physically abusive father (and rightfully so). She had nothing to say for once, she simply walked away.

I realized that if I was to ever reclaim my life, and get back any sense of hope, I had to push back, and resist in any way possible. Eventually I would wear her out, reasoning sure wouldn’t work. I refused to go along with her plans, and finally won on the college front. I got a job (not three minimum wage jobs), and saved my money, paycheck by paycheck

She tried to slow me down by making pay “rent” for living in her home (the home “I had no right to leave”),  which I payed, but I kept pressing on anyway. The muscle pain and weakness came back, but I fought through it, sometimes working up to 64 hours a week, despite the pain and stiffness. She told me that I was so lazy, that even if I did get a job, I wouldn’t stay at it very long.

Guess what? I have not only been at the same company since September 2011, I have moved up within the company (thankfully to a job that is no longer physically demanding). I saved up enough money over the last 2 years to buy a foreclosure house, and closing procedures will take place next week (the week of June 10, 2013) [Note: this has happened!]. I paid cash for it, and won’t ever have to worry about house payments. My finances will be a little stretched to say the least while rebuilding it, but I never would have thought I would have gotten this far only 3 years after that day that I was barricaded in that room.

There are times, like when I’m writing a post like this, that I feel much the same way I did that day: defeated, humiliated, like a victim, but then I remember, I’m a survivor. I fought, and clawed my way towards finally getting the right to start my own life, and won. I survived the toxic self hatred and ignorance of fundamentalism, and cast it aside.  I have a long way to go to rebuild my life, financially, emotionally, and in so many different ways, but I won the fight for my freedom.

Coming Out: Kierstyn King

Coming Out: Kierstyn King

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap It was originally published on May 1, 2013.

I’ve never talked about this explicitly publicly – I’m open about it to people who ask, and I don’t hide it, but I’ve never really felt the need to come out and say it (because honestly, it’s no one’s business).

The reason I’m coming out with it now, is because I embrace it – I’m proud of it even, and it would come out eventually, so why not?

I’m bisexual. It took me a long time to admit to myself due years of repressing my sexuality growing up, years of feeling guilty because I wasn’t completely straight – but I embrace it now, I love this about me, and it’s so freeing to be open about it.

The other reason I haven’t mentioned it was because I was afraid of the fallout with family. I’m not anymore, because it doesn’t matter. I’m not a different person just because I’m bi (I’ve always been bi) – but this doesn’t mean that I flirt or drool over every female I encounter, just like I don’t do that with every male that I encounter. Just because I’m not 100% straight doesn’t mean that I’m on the prowl or uncommitted to my husband (because he’s my favorite person. period.).

Actually the openness about it has been beneficial to our relationship – because hiding part of yourself from your spouse or significant other is never a good thing.

So here I am – I am the same, I haven’t changed (except for getting a tattoo) – I’m just not hiding anymore.