Lying Eyes

https://www.npr.org/2022/11/19/1137962421/albany-bishop-asks-pope-remove-priesthood

I am including an article from NPR regarding former Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard, who not only was accused of the sexual abuse of minors, but also of covering up abuse in the Albany Diocese of which he had knowledge. He is now retired but is asking the Pope to remove him from the priesthood.

I don’t really know what this means for him legally. Bishop Hubbard says that he hopes, and he prays that one day before he dies, he will see his name cleared of all of these false allegations. To me that shows how out of touch he is with the situation.

He allowed the abuse to continue. He picked a side. He distanced himself from the abuse and the pain of those abused. Words don’t matter. He is responsible for the actions he took and failed to take when he was in charge.

He is not the sacrificial lamb. He covered up the crimes of his brothers (and sisters) and kept silent.

The recognition of the part bishops have played in covering up abuse is beginning to come under scrutiny a bit more these days. That is a good thing, because they surely know what is going on.

But is part of the reason they do not speak up because they too are afraid? About twenty years ago, there was a priest who tried to speak up about what was going on. Not so much about the abuse, but about how Bishop Hubbard was allowing homosexuality within the priesthood. Perhaps it wasn’t recognized as abuse at that time.

The priest was forced to sign a retraction and the next day, that priest was found dead. A victim, they say, of suicide. The thing I question now, is that about a week or so before that happened, that priest said a mass for another young man who had also committed suicide. I knew and worked with both of these people. Not closely, but we worked at a V.A. Hospital, where everyone knew everyone somehow or knew of someone…and nobody saw anything amiss with these two people before they died.

It makes me wonder now if the two deaths weren’t somehow connected. Had the young man who died a week or so before the hospital priest been a victim of sexual abuse in the past? Is it possible that one or both of them were victims of foul play?

Is it possible that those who live behind the church walls are coerced and threatened into silence as many of its victims are? Or are they just so adjusted to the order of things that they have a bent system of justice? Perhaps they have lied so many times that they believe their own lies to be the truth.

I don’t think this is the time to be discouraged. Things are beginning to move slowly in a more positive direction.

I recently watched a mini-series on Netflix called “Anatomy of a Scandal”. It really got me feeling some uncomfortable feelings.

If you have not seen “Anatomy of a Scandal”, here is a quote on something written by John DiLillo,

Anatomy of a Scandal is pretty dark: It follows a prominent British politician whose marriage and career is threatened by a credible accusation of sexual assault. The show covers trauma, sexual harassment in the workplace and gendered double standards.

I didn’t think I could sum it up better than that.

At the start of the series, we see a very happy well to do family. Then we find out that the husband had an affair with his assistant that lasted about six months…after which, he ended it, but the woman still had feelings for him. The man tells his wife about the affair, she forgives him and says everyone makes mistakes and all seems well enough as life goes on.

But then, a plot twist…the first of many. The assistant is now charging the husband and her ex-lover, with rape.

So, what is the first thing that we have been conditioned to think? A woman scorned, right?

What really struck me about this show is the realism. The relatability. We understand what went on in the mind of the victim. We get to understand what went on in the mind of the accused. We get to see the facts that the jury sees. And we get to experience the feelings of the wife as she sits at the trial of her husband and begins to fit pieces of a puzzle from their past together to come to her own conclusion.

The prosecuting attorney states that the accused and his assistant did indeed have sex in an elevator at work. This happened after he had broken off the affair. She willingly followed him onto the elevator. When he initiated a kiss, she willingly kissed him back. But then things changed. He became aggressive. There were bruises and torn clothes. She tried to push him away. She said no. He did not stop.

The victim took the stand and admitted that she loved the man. Admitted she had felt unhappy about the break-up. She admitted that when she followed him into the elevator and he kissed her, she had hopes that he had changed his mind and she was willing to resume their sexual relationship. But when he became forceful, she tried to push him away and told him, “Not here”. Instead, he bit her and ripped off her underwear and did not stop, all the while calling her a “prick tease”.

The man’s attorney stated that the two had sex in the building in which they worked before. Consensual sex. The attorney asked why all of a sudden was the woman shy about being caught? The attorney further stated that “Not here” did not mean “No”.

The man said that the woman lured him into the elevator. She had that look upon her face, he said. He said that she kissed him first and threw herself on him and that neither one of them said a word. He never heard her say anything. And he would certainly not use such language. If her underwear was ripped, he said, it was because she wore “an inadequate brand of underwear” and it must have happened in her haste to remove it. Furthermore, it was only a love bite, and he was not trying to hurt her. They knew each other well and he would never force himself on any woman.

The jury believes him, and he is set free. However, the verdict is particularly upsetting to the prosecuting attorney, who the wife feels looks a bit familiar. The wife goes to visit the attorney.

It turns out, in yet another twist, that they all used to go to college together. Back when the man and his wife were the beautiful people on campus and the lawyer was living her hippy style life with baggy clothes and unkempt hair and going by her maiden name. Of course, the big man on campus gets into some illegal stuff and upon running away from the cops in fear for his bright future, literally runs into our future lawyer, drunkly staggering home to her dorm after a party. Can you guess what happened?

Campus man aggressively makes out with future lawyer, she stops him and says she wants to leave, he pulls her back again and… pushes her against a wall, rips off her clothes, calls her a prick tease, then apologizes to her because he said he didn’t realize she was a virgin. Had he known that he would have taken a little more time.

He’s a charming guy.

Interesting thing, when the wife learns about this past rape and confronts her husband, he looks startled and shocked. Rape? No. I have never raped a woman. Sure, she seemed somewhat disappointed when I was done…figured that was because she was a virgin.

Now, I think the guy sincerely did not believe he had raped anyone. I think he felt entitled to whatever he wanted. Perhaps used to always getting what he wanted. Maybe he was used to women wanting him…I don’t know. But what struck me was his total inability to see beyond himself.

I know this was a fictional story based on a book, but it did have something important to say. The legal system looks at facts, but they do not have a psychological background. I think that many people abused as adults can relate to the thing that can screw you up emotionally and be used against you.

And that is…you can feel that you care about someone, you can feel that you love someone, you can feel that you were a part of, or allowed certain things to happen. But when your mind screamed “NO”, things changed, and you were not responsible for someone else’s behavior.

I think with my own story…I didn’t mind that we were friends or that he confided in me or flirted a bit with me…but the final couple of weeks where I felt painted into a corner…where I was told I had better get over my hesitation or else…things changed. But by that time, I felt that I had walked into the trap willingly. By the time I knew the truth, it was too late. And by then, I wasn’t sure what to do.

The same way the law has in some instances, may feel that if you were drinking, or if you went to someone’s apartment after a date, you wanted sex. And perhaps you did. And that can destroy you. Because you blame yourself then if someone becomes aggressive or does not respect your words if you say no, or your body language if you push them away, or you are raped because you passed out after drinking, or you feel threatened and coerced and forced.

But like the woman in the elevator in the tv show who became uncomfortable with what was happening and tried to put a stop to things by saying “Not here”…because she at that moment felt horrified that the elevator door would open or was horrified at the aggression in the man’s demeanor…we know that you can be raped by a partner, by a friend, a neighbor, a priest…and be less likely to be believed if it is someone you know or if you were with them willingly or if you had feelings for them.

And there are people who think they did nothing wrong and that their name should be cleared because they just cannot seem to grasp the hurt their actions or lack thereof, have caused others.

I hope you all had a very peaceful and tasty Thanksgiving if you celebrate the day. Our next Abused as Adults Meeting will be held Sunday December 4th. I have had a request to make the time earlier as those in other countries have to sleep. But I also have to run that decision/change by a couple of people. So, for now until you hear differently, the meeting will be from 4pm to 6pm EST on December 4th. Dorothy Small will be running the meeting.

Send in the Clowns

Do you ever feel like you are stuck? Just existing? Just trying to hold it all together so you don’t come undone? Afraid or unsure if you should move or change anything and not really quite sure where to start if you did?

I have been feeling like I am in the middle of a juggling act for a while now. The thing is, we often find ourselves in the middle of the circus wondering how things got so crazy, and we don’t recall putting up the tent and sending in the clowns. And how could we know that we have done that when it all felt so familiar and so right? And how can we go anywhere now that someone has to keep the lions in their cages and make sure that those who choose the highwire act have a net in case they should fall, and someone has to pay for the popcorn….and without makeup, we can’t tell the clowns from those who aren’t clowns.

When we first open the door…and we all need to let people in…we may notice a few things that are off, perhaps a bit odd. But we sweep those thoughts away like sawdust on the floor under the big top. But why do we do that? Why do we push our instincts aside?

Denial, I think is one reason. Also, my therapist recently asked me…what would your mom have done in this situation? So, we have learned by example. Was this kind of abnormality normal when we were children? We are taught religion as children. Remember hearing about all of those martyrs? Remember that we are also learning these stories as children when we have no reference to what life is like outside of the classroom and home.

God is always watching. The flames of Hell are licking at your heels. There are many stories and messages we learn from the bible as children that don’t prepare us for a life of watching out for ourselves and how to go about loving ourselves. It is mentioned here and there, but as a child in religious class, I heard about a lot of deprivation, suffering, violence, poverty, forgiveness, and miracles that we were born too late to have experienced firsthand.

We grew up learning respect, which meant even when adults weren’t right, they were right…which meant that even if we were right, we were wrong. So, we learned to be quiet and to be told what to do, even if we did not agree. We learned to say we liked something even if we didn’t, so we would not hurt anyone’s feelings.

We may have grown up having to keep secrets to protect people we loved. We may have learned that there were things that we did not talk about outside of the house. We may have learned to adjust our own behavior or actions in order to not stand out or not feel we were going to make someone else’s behavior worse.

In other words, we may grow up without learning the skills to process and understand and accept our own thoughts and feelings unless they directly relate to someone else and what they have said or done. We may judge ourselves by what other people say about us.

We may always wonder if we are good enough. We may find ourselves wandering into our darker side and doing something our religion has taught us is wrong and weigh ourselves down with guilt and shame.

Or we may struggle at our attempts at becoming more assertive, having been taught to bury the truth to appease authority and so as not to be unkind.

And stepping out of our comfort zone can cause feelings of anxiety and a variety of lovely physical symptoms that go with the overstimulated nerves. Our bodies are affected by our thoughts. And we generally don’t like to feel uncomfortable. We tend to avoid things that make us uncomfortable. Like discussing feelings or speaking up instead of staying quiet because it causes less discomfort.

So, if we head back to the circus where we began, we see that we allowed people to come into our tent. Some people smiled as they entered and seemed friendly, and some people engaged with us right off the bat and wanted to help out and that felt good. Perhaps we are shy, or we find it difficult to connect with people. or we are lonely. Or perhaps we still have that empty spot inside that we are not quite sure unless someone else tells us, so we feel we need to attach to someone. We have a vulnerability which is not a bad thing. Unless, of course, we need validation in order to survive.

I don’t think any of us are ever really whole. And I believe that the more times we have been knocked down and have gotten ourselves up again does make us more resilient. More self-reliant emotionally. But we can still be susceptible to being wounded again by a predator.

Recently, my therapist pointed out that I have more power than I realize. She said that sometimes when we get angry, we push that anger inward and it becomes depression. And when depression settles in, we can go into “freeze mode”, as in, “fight, flight or freeze. And when we are in freeze mode, we may feel that we have no power or control over anything. That may be a stage where many of us got caught up in at one time or another.

Think about our “mirror image”, or the clown in the mirror for this post. We react to them. We may feel we need them. We may doubt our own beliefs and self-worth when they turn on the gas in the house lights.

Remember that they only have the power if you give it to them. Unfortunately, we need to hit a kind of our own rock bottom in order to see what is really going on. By then, the clowns have taken over the tent and we may feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin to assert our own power…which is…the power to say no. The power to respect your own needs.

You will be able to spot the Narcissist in the crowd. They will be the one who will throw a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. They will have fits of rage. They will become the victim. They will blame you and want to turn others against you. They will threaten you.

But then they will apologize, or they will be helpful. And this will feel good and because you don’t want to poke the bear again, you hesitate to speak up, knowing it will only create more rage and threats and abuse.

And you’re not sure that it’s abuse. Because they will tell you that you are the one that caused the problem. And that will confuse you. And you will wonder if that is true. So, you are essentially being trained to do what this person wants you to do. But they will always point out that you had a choice. You’re not completely sure about that but you know that there was no physical violence, and you know that it’s easier just to give them what they want…which is essentially the entire point of training you and gaslighting you into submission.

There may also be a feeling that one or both of you may not survive without the other. They indeed will probably encourage this belief.

Our power is in moving forward no matter what. Seeing that the true person is the person in their rage when their entitlement is questioned. Our power comes in turning a deaf ear to the words they use to confuse. It’s hard to break through the fog of frozen depression to reach the heat of your own righteous anger.

Like I said, it usually has to come when we hit rock bottom. When their behavior affects someone we love or when it gets out of control and becomes physical abuse, or when we find our own inner strength to withstand the force of the storm coming towards us to stand our ground. And to not apologize for doing so. And no second guessing ourselves.

That is when the clowns will pile back inside the Volkswagen and you will have peace.

The next Zoom meeting for Abused as Adults will be held on the first Sunday in November….think that is the 6th…from 4pm to 6pm EST. Link will be sent out a day or so before the meeting.

Guest Blog Number Eight

by Dorothy Small

I read a reflection yesterday about where we stumble is where we dig for treasure. It caused me to reflect on my own journey as I stumbled countless times along the road littered with potholes. I guess a way to look at it is I have been on a treasure hunt.

The author of the reflection talks about how we all have leprosy. In the Bible the leper was seen as being unclean. Untouchable. How many of us feel untouchable out of shame or guilt or even emotional and spiritual struggles?

Having struggled with complex ptsd and it’s symptoms certainly felt like leprosy. Like a curse. Like the woman hemorrhaging for twelve years in the Bible story was unclean and ashamed to do anything but touch the tassel of Christ’s cloak hoping to go unnoticed. No one could cure her. She sought doctors who could not stop the bleeding and lost money in her search for a cure. No one could help her.

Most of my life I kept standing at the bottom of a dry well screaming for water only getting a mouthful of dirt when the solution for me was to drink solely from Christ. Narcissists are like dry wells.

Where our weakness is that is where we dig for our treasure.  It was in my weaknesses that I felt driven to God not my pride. It’s my weakness that reminds me who I am before God. It’s in having to pour in knowledge, prayer and love into my weakness that I can be of help to others struggling with similar issues. It becomes the gift. Help ourselves and then be of help to another who is walking a similar road.

I pray not to be arrogant. The only time one should look down on another is when helping to pick them up.

It’s the very things I felt ashamed of and the absolute messiness that I believe God used when I stood up against the biggest giant yet, the church.

This weak and foolish thing, even a worm God used to place on the end of the hook on His fishing line casting me into the sea of difficult people thinking they got a bite of me but instead bit into God, would not have been as effective if I wasn’t such an emotional mess from enough trauma to take out the strongest of elephants in the herd. God knew what created the mess. God placed inside of me the compulsion to keep wiggling, to keep struggling to free myself from all I ever knew. The God who walked with me through countless “valleys of the shadow of death” as well as on the mountaintop moments of respite and higher perspective views before once again descending into the valley to battle more demons.

Every time I wanted to give up, I received soft inner words of encouragement telling me to persevere. Surrender. But don’t give up. Keep going the distance. Take heed, look up. Things won’t always be this way. Joy comes in the morning. And on and on…. The inner messages of consolation and encouragement became what I call breadcrumbs from heaven along the path to follow to show me I am being guided and seen. Heard. Listened to.

With the emotional wounds processed providing much needed relief I notice how much deeper scripture reaches inside of me. I pulled away from attending church while recovering for as long as it takes. However, I never pushed away from my relationship with God. I explored it outside any religious institution and discovered greater intimacy in myself through a connection with God outside church walls. Without the triggers of the church or priests I became closer to myself. I provided safety in order to heal from trauma so I could reach all the way into my childhood trauma. What happened with the priest had a ripple effect. I could not heal from what happened at the church without going all the way back excavating into my earliest childhood experiences.

I was digging for treasure, and I didn’t even know it. What did I find? Myself outside of anything or anyone but who I am through my God. I had to peel away layers upon layers of debris to reclaim myself. To individuate.

As I open up allowing love and kindness inside and more easily deflecting what isn’t love, or true I am being drawn closer to the center of love itself as it connects with me at my center. My core. My heart. My mind. The head and heart connection.

More shall be revealed….

It’s a journey that won’t be complete here in earth. But when asking to be like Christ, I feel that I can climb a bit higher each day toward infinity. I see no ceiling. No limit. I believe that as long as I keep looking up, God has the horizontal events unfolding according to His plan and not mine.

Desiderata

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog. I’ve been busy with family things and a small additional foot surgery. I’m fine. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mother as she was recovering from a leg ulcer that almost put her in the hospital and she had many, many follow up appointments. That, and her elderly dog had cancer surgery…he’s fine as well. Plus, birthdays and some necessary home plumbing issues.

So, things have been rather busy. But one day while at my mom’s I was reading the letters column in her newspaper. And I happened to read something that I thought you all may find heartening.

Legally, things in this area as far as prosecuting priests has been held up by the diocese not releasing records of the accused priests. This prompted a member of the congregation, a cradle Catholic and church-going bishop-appreciating, non-clergy victim, to speak out against the church publicly. This is not right, she said. If you have nothing to hide, then release your records. And if there is something to the accusations, then punish the bad priests. What is wrong with you people?

Or words to that effect. In any case, this person brought to light that the congregation sees what is going on. And the congregation is getting sick of the church not handling things in an open and direct manner. That is encouraging. Because this is causing non-survivors to question things and to begin to step away from a church it feels no longer can be trusted.

They don’t make it easy, though. It’s not easy, any of it. It’s so tempting to curl up into a ball under the covers with your remote in your hand and a bag of chips or an entire chocolate cake…or whatever it is you reach for when you realize once again that your half empty glass is not going to refill itself.

Today, I’d like to talk about how we are affected by situations and the other people in our lives. And more importantly, how we handle those triggers.

I think we have all had people in our lives who have not liked us, and we don’t know why. I used to work with a woman who had to walk through my office to get to her office and she would walk in with lunch that she had ordered for everyone…everyone but me…and then she would call people…who had to walk through my office…to come and get their lunch. I mentioned to her that I would be interested in ordering lunch too, and she kind of acknowledged that…and then did the same thing the next day.

It can make things awkward when people use group tactics to isolate a person to get their feelings across. It is particularly difficult when you have to be in contact with that person through family or at work. It can also bring out feelings buried inside. We may feel exposed and vulnerable. Someone has found out that we’re not as good as we thought we were pretending to be. Or we may feel angry and not quite sure how to go about expressing that feeling for fear of making things worse for yourself. Or if you are like me, you are non-confrontational and don’t ask uncomfortable questions.

Or perhaps you have felt rejected by someone. That never feels good. Or you write something, and someone gives you only one star and you begin to wonder if what you are doing makes a difference to anyone. Because that little voice has been nestled there inside of your brain for ages just waiting for a chance to speak up.

There are always flip sides, remember. For every time you have felt rejected or bullied by someone, there is someone who appreciates you and who you are.

For instance, my ex-husband used to tell me that I was “too nice”. That was meant as an insult. On the other hand, one of my co-workers told me that I was one of the nicest people she had ever met. Both people were saying the same thing, but it was meant differently.

At work, I had been praised by a supervisor for defusing a difficult situation with a patient, told by another person that I was kind and sensitive when I was covering for the patient rep, had another boss tell me I was a diplomat when working with people….and then had another boss tell me the same thing as an insult. And yet another supervisor said I was a bleeding heart.

My point is that as humans, and as sensitive humans, we tend to care what people think about us. It feels so good to get a compliment, and so bad to be insulted. But the thing is, we are still the same person. It is the other person who is seeing what they choose to see in us. I’ve read that what we think we know about someone is only a tiny bit of who they are. And that someone who knew you when you were 16 does not really know the person you are now at whatever age you may happen to be and whatever experiences you have gone through that have changed you.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t learn anything new about ourselves from the feedback we get from other people. But just as hurtful words and actions from others can make us feel bad, so can hurtful thoughts and beliefs within ourselves about ourselves do the same.

I was thinking recently…what if we flipped our own script? We may be so used to believing we deserve the bad comments or treatment because we see all of our own imperfections. What if we say to ourselves…so what if I am not perfect? So, what if the best I can do is not as good as what someone else can do? This is me, and I am good enough.

I’m thinking….and serious about this…that in addition to a gratitude book…we also start writing a self-love book. And write in that book every time you do something that makes you feel good about yourself. Or every compliment you receive from someone. And read that shit. Often. Love starts from within.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mom lately, as I said. And I realize that like most people in this world, she has some issues. Of course, as her kid, her issues were taken as my issues because as kids we don’t understand that parents aren’t perfect. And my mom…fluctuates as to what it is she wants. So, this has always made it very difficult to please her. And punishments were arbitrary. So, if I did something, I’d find out it was wrong after the fact, and I was told that something good was going to happen if I hadn’t done what I had done but not any more. That was so not fair. And confusing.

When I was married, she constantly criticized everything, which made me feel like I was in between my mother and my husband. Then when I left my husband…well, then and now, he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Also confusing. It can be very difficult to not please those with squeaky wheels, but sometimes it’s more difficult when you do live your life carrying the oil can around with you for everyone else.

When I was younger, I used to take Karate classes. One of the things you learn in Karate is how to ground yourself so that your opponent cannot easily knock you off balance. Grounding and balance are used in many energy practices for a good reason. Think of yourself feeling strong and connected to the Earth. You belong and are a part of creation. Think of the energy in your solar plexus…the core of your being…your strength. Think of your connection to a higher power…whatever that may be to you. Visualize and calm your own energy. Let other people own their own energy and not topple yours out from under you.

An inspirational book I have been reading by our own Dorothy Small, is called “From Darkness into the Light”. Dorothy has a gift for expressing her thoughts and in this book of personal poetry, she credits her higher power for helping her through some of life’s tough times.

I don’t try to tell anyone what to believe or what they may find works for them. Some people have held onto their religious beliefs. Some people have changed their religion. Some people have gotten upset with me for even mentioning anything other than what they have been taught. I feel that whatever best gets you through your life and whatever life throws at you, is something that works for you. Might not work for someone else. But that is what makes us unique.

And we are all unique. You are a child of the universe, and you have a right to be here.

Somebody That I Used To Know

This past week, I received something from SNAP leader David Clohessy from “Into Account” which seems to be a decent place for survivors to share stories of abuse. I will include one of those stories and a clip from the survivors of one abuser named in the article.

Also, I want to talk about some emails I received this week and how I answered them. I received an email from someone who said they sought help from SNAP and received nothing. This person…and many people like him, want action. They don’t want to talk about what happened to them or be in a support group. They want to do more, and they want more done about the crimes that have been and are being committed by the Catholic Church.

I get that. I once had someone ask me to join them in a protest outside the diocese…with the stipulation that we refuse all food to call attention to what is going on.

The thing is, we all handle abuse and healing in different ways, and we are all at different stages of healing. We also have different comfort levels in what we are willing to do or to be seen.

What I told this person who emailed me is…once again, we are basically a non-profit peer support group. Volunteers and fellow survivors lead our group meetings. But more importantly, just because you don’t find an answer where you go looking for one, does not mean you have failed. It just means you may need to look for another path. Or perhaps you need to begin a new path with other like-minded people. New ideas are born from people who hit walls and don’t give up.

Also, in other emails, I want to say that we all have our triggers. We are all individuals. Personally, I cannot listen to Howard Stern. I don’t dislike the man personally, but I cannot listen to his show or the way he talks without having uncomfortable flashbacks of someone asking me personal questions for their own boundary crossing enjoyment. We are all human beings who are sensitive to stimuli that trigger memories both good and bad.

As someone who has led support groups, I can say that like anything else, I try to be fair to everyone, but there are limits and rulings to be made. Some of these limits and rulings come from gut feelings. In fact, most of them do. Each meeting is different depending on who is there. And as we talk and email with people and lead meetings, we begin to tune into people’s vibes. And we try to keep the meetings to be a place where people feel they can talk freely without being peppered with questions or told to keep quiet. In other words, a safe place for survivors.

I have myself refused to get back to people if they have become abusive to me. I have suggested to people that perhaps they find another group if they appear not to be on the same page…such as someone who is not there to listen or to share or to heal but rather to harass or control or go off on tangents that have nothing to do with the group.

Because as leaders, we are responsible for the flow of the group as much as that is possible. That doesn’t mean we don’t run into all kinds of people and issues because it is a constantly changing and bumpy road with all kinds of raw emotion and pain.

People may not like me. They may not agree with me. And that is okay. But I also feel that there is respectful disagreement and then there is disagreement which in itself can become disruptive to the group. When it reaches that point, I feel that feelings can get toxic and be detrimental the group itself. That is all I will say.

Also, this week, I was going through some old papers and journals. One of the things I found was a letter I had written to the priest on his birthday. I never gave it to him, and I am glad I did not.

I just want to say that it is okay to love someone. It is okay to have feelings. I know so many people over the years who have had some kind of buddy crush on a priest. I’m not saying that to be disrespectful. Priests are supposed to be safe. I knew a girl in grade school who used to pal around with the priest. She even gave him a nick name. She did the same thing to one of the priests in high school. She called the priest Radar and treated him like he was her buddy.

It happens that old Radar has been defrocked for sexual abuse and he used to be our vice principal, but I don’t know if this girl was abused or if she just felt he was safe to joke around with. I have no idea.

I have said that we used to have priests and nuns at our dinner table and in our pool when I was young. I felt particularly close to one seminarian who came to dinner and brought me a small gift and carried my guitar to practice for me one day. I felt honored to be noticed as just a kid. To not be invisible. But sometimes they cross that line. That didn’t happen to me…until I got older.

But as I’ve said before, we trust that as soon as we walk into a church, we are safe. Completely. Our secrets are safe. Our pocketbooks are safe. Our bodies and our souls are safe and sacred.

So, when that line gets crossed and things get twisted, it is okay that we felt honored to be noticed, or attracted to power, or safe to feel vulnerable, or flirtatious within a safe boundary. It’s okay to wonder what is going on. It’s okay to ask. You are not/were not stupid. To love or to care is not to be stupid. But we do need to learn to take care of ourselves and not give ourselves away completely to others. That is nothing to be ashamed of either. But we need to be aware that we have this…empathy…that attracts people who should not be given our trust.

I ended up tearing up the letter and throwing it away. It is not something I need to hang onto anymore. It is not something I want to hang onto. I don’t even want its energy around me or in the house. It’s gone forever now. Perhaps I should have burned it.

No…perhaps it would be healing to write a letter to our abuser. Or to anyone that we are angry with or any situation over which we have no control…write a letter and then rip it up and burn it and let it go. Symbolically.

I also ran across a journal from when I was married and dealing with what appeared to be quite a lot at the time. I had pages of writing and “what to do with this situation” kinds of things going on. I looked it over and it exhausted me to read it. I think I made the right choice to get away from all of that.

Does not mean I got away from myself. But am still learning. And growing. As are we all. Please see links below for more about intoaccount.org.

https://intoaccount.org/2022/07/29/youre-not-ready-the-controlling-deception-of-david-haas/

Halfway ‘Round the World

Some people may wonder why we share personal stories about our lives here in this blog instead of focusing mainly on the problem of priests and what to do about them and what is being done about them.

My feeling is that we who have been abused at the age of 18 and older share some similarities in our stories and our lives. I’ve heard it said, and I believe it to be true…that it is not the abuser who should get credit for our survival and for our finding our way out of the darkness into perhaps a better existence, but it is us ourselves who discovered our own strength when we needed to find a way to get up and go on…alone.

But while there had been patterns of abuse and co-dependency and fears and feelings of inadequacy throughout my own life, nothing quite put up the “STOP” sign quite like running across an evil and narcissistic priest. Because in order to begin to heal, I had to begin to also look at what made me a more attractive target.

That kind of dysfunction does not just happen, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And the reason we want to learn what made us an attractive target is not so we can blame ourselves, but so that we can understand ourselves better so that we can begin to separate the facts from the personal persecution. So, we can then begin to let go of the self-blame and even the hatred towards those who abused us and begin to heal.

Notice I did not say “forgive” those who abused us. I am talking about lessening the intense emotions going on inside us…we don’t have to fix or forgive anyone. Besides, forgiving a Narcissist is only inflicting further harm upon us. There is a difference between becoming more aware of how things happened so we can distance ourselves and find peace…and looking for more trouble by having anything to do with someone who is set on destroying you. We do not have to make nice or be responsible for anyone else’s healing.

Today we can talk a little bit about boundaries and how we probably don’t have any and why that is and what we can do about it. It’s not easy.

First of all, we may know by now that when we start to set boundaries, we are going to have resistance. And we are also probably going to lose people from our lives.

And that is exactly why it is so hard to have boundaries. Because we care. We are like puppy dogs bouncing along into the junkyard wanting to hand out bones and make friends with all of the other strays.

And let me just say here…I grew up in a puppy mill. When my mother’s family got together, it was a contest to see who could give everyone else the most stuff to bring home. “You take it” “No, you need that” “No, you will enjoy that later, you take it”.

And it seemed to be a genetic thing. I was told that my grandmother would hand out sandwiches to people who came to the door asking for food during the Depression. And I mean…sandwiches. Not by today’s standards. Piled high, nobody leaves here hungry sandwiches. Probably pie too. And my grandfather would be insulted if you didn’t take home half of the table and the silverware.

To this day, anything I give my mother, she gives back to me saying I can use it more than she can. And as a kid, you can view this as a form of rejection. I’m sure I did. Now I see it as my mom’s own kind of mom craziness and love because that is what she knows obviously. But that’s another story for another day.

Thing is, we learn this behavior somehow. Whether it be, like it my mom’s family…it makes people happy if you give away more than you can afford to give. Or as we see at work, at home, or in friendships or romantic relationships, people switch up behavior depending upon who needs to be pleased at any given moment. Many times, what we may be witnessing is people trying to placate a Narcissist at the expense of others.

While it’s best to avoid Narcissistic rage, the way to do so is to go no-contact with the person…and that is the only boundary that is going to work. If it is a romantic relationship or if there is a child in the middle of things, I feel it is best to have a lawyer take care of matters so that you have as little contact with the other person as necessary.

If that no-contact boundary is breached, you can find yourself sliding that slippery slope back in to be used as needed and discarded when they are done with you. Over and over again.

Someone told me recently that I have a bad judge of character when it comes to people. I don’t know if that is the case or if it is more about having a short memory and needing to be liked and to have a connection. The needing to please thing again. I think it is also easier in the short run to use a go-to pattern. If pleasing people worked in the past, we’ve learned to use that system. It can be difficult to try to consciously go against the grain at first until it becomes second nature.

My life has felt like a minefield in many ways. I find myself taking care of people who probably should be taking care of themselves more. And so, when I give, what I get back is a sense of entitlement and what feels very much like betrayal.

I recently sold a house I owned to my son. It worked well for both of us. I sold it to him for half of what I owed on it because I wanted to give him the best break I could while for me, I would still owe money, but I would owe half of what I did owe with a loan instead of a mortgage and I would no longer be responsible for repairs and taxes and such.

My son being who he is, would probably describe the situation differently than I. I felt emotional during the closing. I felt that it was a big day in both of our lives. I had asked my son if he wanted to go out with me afterwards for dinner. He said he had to work.

Tension was very high in the conference room where the closing took place, and I don’t think my son ever made eye contact with me. He was on his phone to work. He did, however, give me the finger at one point. He did. He then told me that anything that was mine that was still in the house was going to get tossed into a dumpster. I asked him could I come over to see what I had there. He said no. You haven’t needed it in 7 years. It’s junk.

When we were done, he left the room quickly to get back to work, without acknowledging me at all. I told him congratulations and that I loved him. He ignored me and walked out.

My lawyer hugged me.

Now they say we teach others how to treat us. That sounds exhausting. I just want to live in a world where if I am kind to you, you are kind to me. But none of us live in that world.

I know my son, obviously. I have known him for years, obviously. I know that if asked why he acted that way, he would have a reason. Work is stressful. You pissed me off. Your lawyer is incompetent, and he was late.

I’m not going to change my son. I don’t feel like telling someone how to treat me at this point. But I probably won’t make him my health proxy. I did, however, find myself falling into a trap of my own making.

After the closing, I was thinking perhaps somewhere down the road, I could buy an RV. That way I could always bring the dogs with me on vacation, and they would be in a familiar spot and not freak out when I am gone. And I could pack it up and go away for the weekend and not worry about hotels and things like that. Just a thought.

But then I thought…what if my kids want to borrow it? I would love to share something like that with them. I would love to see them happy. But I can’t. Because I have to be the one who is responsible for who I give to and how much I give.

Boundaries are not so much about what other people do to us. They are to be set in order to not allow someone else to do something to us again and again. They are about not expecting different behaviors from someone after their behavior has hurt us. And it’s about not giving more and more to someone and expecting them to suddenly act differently towards us.

I have found also that when I do give too much, thinking that it is out of the goodness of my heart, people do begin to expect you to continue to do so. So, when you begin to pull back and put your own needs first…like I needed to do when going through my divorce…it can be seen as not being nice. And because we want to be nice and we want people to like us, it can feel devastating to feel that you are losing people and sometimes more importantly…losing people’s approval of you. But sometimes we need to remember that the people we have lost were part of our dysfunctional past. In order for them to remain in your life, you would have to not change and just keep accepting bad treatment.

The thing is, the pain is usually inevitable, and the loss is usually already there. We tend to stretch things out and prolong things so that we put of letting go for as long as possible.

Someone recently reminded me to re-read “Co-dependent No More” which I need to do. Something recommended for anyone suffering from a lack of power in their life due to feeling surrounded by people and situations they feel the need to fix.

You know, I do believe that emotions tend to go inward or outward or sideways. But I think they go somewhere. If someone were to ask me how I handle less than loveable people in my life, I think I’d have to say that there was a numbness to it…because you grow used to it. That’s just the way that person is. Where I often find it to affect me is with totally unrelated people. Emotions happen in a situation, and you cannot explain why. Like someone is nice to you and you back away in fear of being hurt.

One book I found on Amazon that looks pretty interesting is “Boundaries: Where You End & I Begin…How to Recognize and Set Healthy Boundaries”.

Families and people who you see the most often are probably the hardest to set boundaries with. But perhaps they are the first you need to practice with. That is the first step to boundary setting. Practice.

Okay, practice. Well, back up a second…I lied. The first step is to see a therapist. Because we can’t practice what we don’t know how to do or where to start.

Okay, so you now have seen a therapist and you know what you are doing. You have a roadmap to go by. That is a GPS for younger people. We used to use roadmaps. So, what are we going to practice? Saying the word, “No”. No. Hard to say? That is why our lives are in the shape they are in. No.

When do you want to say this word? Well, you want to recognize that your needs are important. It’s starting to get harder now. We actually have to identify our needs. Needs. Hmmn. What are some of those? I looked this up and the term “needs” seems a bit vague.

No abusive behavior; No being used or taken for granted; No letting anyone control your emotions or dictate your actions; No disrespect or making you feel inferior; No spending time with people who don’t respect your boundaries; No doing anything that is uncomfortable or violates values; No one else determines your happiness; No allowing yourself to have lingering negative thoughts or feelings; No being a doormat or pushover; No being an afterthought to anyone else; No one else makes decisions for you.

Well, wow. Now that we have seen the list of where boundaries need to be placed, know that you are allowed to only do family functions that feel doable. That’s right. You can stay home on Thanksgiving and not feel guilty if your family bullies you.

Also, be firm and kind. Ha-ha. I mean, I agree. I just remember coming home from the hospital with a new baby and having night number one at home with the new baby and a two-year-old and what a huge adjustment that was. And having to explain, firmly and kindly to my mother-in-law that I would be coming home on Friday and that I would prefer not to have any visitors until Sunday. But that anyone who wanted to come on Sunday was welcome That did not go over well.

Boundaries do not always make you popular.

Be direct. Be assertive. Be consistent. Be firm and kind. Remember, you are in charge. Nobody can make you feel or do anything you don’t want to feel or do. That’s a lot of words assuming that we’ve already got this.

Hence, the need for therapy. You are going to need back up on the road to reinvention.

I Can’t Make You Love Me

Well, the SNAP Colorado Face to Face weekend has come and gone. I hate to say that I didn’t make it there, but for those who did, especially the first timers, I hope you had a wonderful time. For those reading this who are not survivors of abuse, that may sound strange, but I myself have met some of the best people at SNAP. There are people who give of themselves and work to abolish clergy abuse tirelessly. There is a healing power like no other when you see survivors face to face. There is so much support for each other. Plus, there is ice cream on Friday night.

As I have mentioned, I have felt the need to step back. At least until I can get some things in my life back on track. But before I get into anything else, here are the end of month stats:

First of all, not a stat but important. Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233. Mental Health emergency number 988.

Now blog stats: Top five countries reading after U.S.: United Kingdom, Canada, Philippines, Brazil, and New Zealand; Total monthly views 213; Total followers 95; Total words written so far this year 46,699; Favorite TV show with religious theme: Joan of Arcadia and Miracle Workers tied; Calling or texting a friend is the most common way people alleviate feeling lonely or isolated.

I have included a YouTube video that I thought some may find helpful. What I particularly liked about this video, which describes Narcissistic Rage, is that the woman describes how rage differs from anger, how growing up with the Narcissist affects you as an adult, and especially, how working with a Narcissist affects the workplace. Anyone who has ever held a job can probably relate to how a Narcissistic tantrum from a co-worker, or worse yet, a boss, can affect the environment. Especially since the tendency is to placate the Narcissist at the expense of the other workers.

And in a relationship, how many of us are afraid to leave the Narcissist? How many of us live our lives in a prison because we are trapped in a situation where we feel we can do nothing except appease the Narc in our lives so that the rage does not erupt? Rage, which when it does erupt, burns a path of destruction, killing all in its way…whether immediately or through years of ceasing to exist except to please someone else.

I myself have been there, and I have to say that it can be a confusing dance sometimes. Confusing because often gaslighting goes along with abuse and being with the abuser can be quite pleasant when all is well in their world and so you don’t even realize how hard you are peddling to keep up that pace or how many times you have made excuses such as “everyone has a bad day”, “it was just the way they were raised”, “I’ll just communicate with them and tell them how that made me feel, or work harder on the relationship”, or my favorite “no marriage is perfect, my mom (or dad) had it worse than this and they didn’t give up”.

I have been guilty of denying that abuse exists. Sometimes it is because I just didn’t want to see it. Because I knew that it meant I had to leave someone even though I felt that I loved them.

And I will tell you, many of us understand what triggers are, but nobody can trigger you like family can trigger you.

Funny thing is as I sit here writing this, I had a dream last night about a gun. Speaking of triggers, right? I didn’t connect that. In my dream, I put a loaded gun in a dishwasher…not because I was washing away prints, but because I needed to clean it for some reason. And then, in the dream, I was afraid that it would go off.

We survivors, we know triggers. I’m trying to take one thing at a time, right? Well, I have been trying to work with son #1 for the past ten months…ten months…to sell him a house for half of what I owe on it so that he can own it instead of paying me rent and I won’t have to be responsible for the repairs…I will need a loan…but whatever. I want to help my son. I love my son. My son and I have a difficult relationship. Why?

Well, he tends to blame me for everything and so that is kind of hard to get around. It happens. Especially when Dad has been difficult and tended to be a blame placer-oner.

Again, people, I say these things not to hate on anyone but to be aware of relationships and so that we can become more responsible for what we accept in our lives. Because learning is the goal here. And it can hurt like Hell to learn as we all know.

Without going into a lot of detail, son #1 triggered me badly recently. I’m just going to say that he chose his father over me in a situation where it seemed very unfair that he did this. It may have made sense to my son, but to me, it was very insensitive, and it hurt.

However, being the survivor that I am, because we all are that…survivors…and because it was a familiar hurt…and because some of the variables have now shifted to where I realize that I have a bit more control…it still hurts…but only one or two tears hurt. And then I went into either numbness from having been through it so much that it can’t hurt me anymore and/or because I realized that my son is making a choice based on fear.

You see, I stepped away from that. My son never did. I never made anyone choose. Yet, lines were drawn, and people stopped talking to me when I walked away. People that the child within my older son is still afraid of losing. He may direct his anger towards me, and all of the blame, but he knows I’m here and he won’t lose me.

Then I did something stupid. I called my mom and told her what happened and that I had felt hurt. We joke about how if my mom worked on a suicide hotline, she would talk people off the ledge…but the other way.

And this brings me to another kind of trigger. Toxic Positivity. I hate to say it, but I’m guilty of some of these things myself.

You know how you have those moments…those days…when you just need someone to understand? Well, here are some of the things that you don’t want someone to say…even though you know they mean well.

It could be worse. Look at the bright side. You’ll get over it. Everything happens for a reason. Stay positive. Think happy thoughts. Everything will work out. Just get on with it. Don’t think about it. It was meant to be.

Or in my case with my mom, I was told…well he did used to live with his father. He is close with his father, etc.

The thing is, I was feeling stronger and not so very bad, but having someone try to “explain” things to me…or actually what was REALLY happening…making excuses for someone’s behavior and then telling me I should not be feeling bad about being treated with disrespect for whatever reason and making me feel like it was my fault….oooh…does this dysfunction sound familiar to anyone?

Anyone else recognize the poison that was pumped into you (again no offense to my family as I don’t believe anyone is doing anything….) oh, F**k what am I doing making excuses for these people? Seriously?

What is this? Even after I told my mom that I didn’t need anything fixed and that I am a grown woman who can fix my own life, which is only half true…she said, yes, but…and kept going. And I learned. Be nothing but nice. Smile. Don’t feel. Everything is okay. People shit on you for a reason. They have their reasons. Try to understand.

And if you can’t? If you push it down because you aren’t supposed to make trouble, and nor you are supposed to understand it is okay for other people to do whatever they want, and you are just not allowed to feel because that just means that you do not understand, and you are just too sensitive and so something must be very very wrong with you.

And so, you can get it ingrained in your head that it is your problem and that there is something wrong with you, so that when someone else tells you this as an adult, you believe it to be true.

Thing is, growing up trying to understand why other people do things is not really such a bad thing in itself. I understand why my mom tries to fix things and why she has her beliefs. I know she grew up in a house where her drunken father beat her mom, who suffered in silence and just continued to stay there and clean and crochet and bake pies on Sundays. She learned from the time she could talk that it was better not to talk at all.

But trying to talk to my mom about any of this…about how it affected her…and she gets defensive as any kind of “issue” gets interpreted as an accusation of mental illness…which was very misunderstood and scary back in the day and still is. But back in my mom’s day even more so.

And I think it’s that fear of the dark side…that fear of talking about it and bringing it out to the light…is probably why we say things like, “chin up, stiff upper lip, let a smile be your umbrella”, stuff like that.

Because emotions can be dark and scary and uncomfortable. And because like in the dream, perhaps we wish we could just wash away the triggers and hope nothing explodes.

Last Night I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All

It seems like many of us are feeling lonely. It seems strange to feel so all alone in a world with so many other people around us. But loneliness has nothing to do with how many people live with us or how many people we talk to in a day.

Feelings of loneliness can be caused by the death of someone close to us, a huge life change such as a divorce or an empty nest, moving someplace new and starting over and not knowing anyone, physical isolation such as when you are sick or recovering from injuries, or even from emotional issues such as shame, social phobia, past trauma, trust issues, and low self-esteem. Substance abuse can also cause isolation and feelings of loneliness.

Divorce and a shift in family dynamics such as an empty nest can disrupt a life and cause feelings of depression…even if the change was for the better or looked forward to. Both of my kids moved out within two weeks of each other, and it was a major life change. I grieved for a good six months.

I have likened major life changes and loss like beating a rug and having all of the dust particles fly off into the air. Nothing feels solid or settled and nothing will feel settled for a while to come. We have to settle in to change. Adjust. Shift position. Accept the horrible feeling of panic and anxiety that comes from the unknown until the newness of the change begins to feel routine and safe again.

I ended up focusing my attention on my dog and then my dog had to be put down five months after my kids left home. So, then I got two dogs and I found that, as all pet parents know, you cannot replace a fur child. And a pet can’t stop the feeling of sudden loss when you’ve been a mom since you got the news you were pregnant. Sometimes you just have to feel the pain of loss. So, you cry. And if you are me, you write.

Loss through death rips out a part of you as well. Life gets rewritten. I once lived alone in a small house in the city, next to an abandoned two-family structure that attracted homeless people and people looking to do drug deals. It was a night about a week after my dad had passed and had seen a man take a sudden turn from the sidewalk in front of the house and walk right into the vacant house next door. The lock must have been broken by that point. I remember feeling so alone and vulnerable. I actually never slept in the bedroom in that house because of that feeling. I wanted to be able to get out if I had to.

I did call the police, and they took care of it, escorting the man who insisted he lived there, out of the house. But part of me felt that I no longer had my dad to protect me, and that was the hardest part. My father had been very sick and weak and would not have been able to physically help me had he been alive, but he would have cared and that feeling of protection would have been there, instead of feeling alone.

Being newly separated or divorced or getting transferred to a brand-new city where you don’t know anyone, can lead to feelings of isolation. So can going to college and being away from home for the first time in your life. When you have either been attached to another person or part of a family “pack”, being apart from those people and being in a new situation where you feel majorly aware of being alone, can create upheaval and uncertainty. Perhaps for the first time in a long time, or maybe the first time in your life, you are responsible for things by yourself. You have to make decisions for yourself. With freedom comes responsibility. Not everyone is emotionally ready for that.

When you are alone, without another person to distract from the noise and thoughts within your head, thoughts can run amok. If you are prone to emotional issues, radical change and too much time in your own head can raise unwelcome thoughts. Self-doubt, fear, self-hatred. Not feeling as good as other people. Past emotions begin to come forward again. You know what I’m talking about. Old family patterns. Nobody ever really understood you. You didn’t fit in. Things weren’t fair. You never lived up to expectations. Your trust was broken. Punishment was too harsh. There was alcoholic rage. You felt responsible for other people. There was trauma that you buried that now wants to emerge in the silence around you. We feel shame and are afraid to let anyone come close because we fear that we might disgust them.

But one of the surest ways that I’ve found to feel lonely is to have nobody understand you. To have nobody else “get” you. This happens a lot with trauma and growth, I think. With trauma, you can be forced into silence. When you grow up reacting to other people’s issues, these issues tend to become normal for you. When you grow up and out on your own, you may begin to question things you’ve known, but we all feel comfortable with what we know. So, we begin to sow the seeds of dysfunction with our children and they, too, begin to see it as normal. It’s not that someone may be “bad”, but rather unaware of any other sense of normalcy. And being comfortable and unaware tends to keep things stagnant and without growth.

So, when something happens within us that creates feelings of not being so comfortable…when it’s familiar but you begin to become aware that something isn’t quite right…change and growth may begin as you see other options and thought processes.

Make no mistake about it, gaining a new sense of awareness is scary as hell and brings about a sense of loneliness that can seem to be unbearable.

When we take an emotional step back, we begin to depersonalize other people’s issues. We allow others to fix themselves. And by detaching, it can also be a bit like a daisy discovering that it is supposed to be a daisy and not a dandelion. Discovery can feel lonely, but it can also let in the sun and the growth can actually start to feel good. And all at once, you can take notice that other daisies exist in the sunshine. They were there all along, but you’ve had your head buried under some dandelion’s butt trying to give them all of the sunshine. You get what I’m saying…nothing against dandelions.

Another thing about loneliness…when I first began to “grow”, I felt wrong. I thought that something was horribly wrong with me, and I didn’t know why. I grew up with such a normal life, and I was loved and not deprived…so what the hell was my issue? I had always been told my life was normal and that it was other people who had tough lives, so anything I felt that was odd or different must have meant that I was just defective or ungrateful.

Growth and insight are like the layers of an onion, both of which can bring on tears.

When I began to go outside of my comfort zone, getting an apartment for myself and my kids and becoming independent from both my husband and my parents, I began to develop panic attacks and agoraphobia. I was in a very dark place at that time. What kind of a parent was I? I was supposed to be a grown up and strong for my children. What was wrong with me?

In addition to what was happening inside of me, on the outside, I wasn’t really receiving help or information about what was happening to me. This was before the internet. Also add the stress of a major life change…moving out of my parents’ house into an apartment for the first time without someone there to help me, raising two boys who had babysitters quit after taking care of them for two hours and who were having their own emotional issues and school problems, having a full-time stressful job, having my mom tell me that I should be a better mother, like my friend, Irene, and having a brother recovering from addiction issues and suicide attempts…well, something had to give.

And. the hardest part? Not having emotional support or anyone who understood how I felt. And feeling like a failure. Feeling like I was alone at the bottom of a black hole with no way out. And feeling like it was because I was a “mistake”.

Anyone else ever get to that point? Where the stuff in your head is your worst enemy? That’s loneliness. You feel alone. Nobody should feel that way ever.

I remember I called my doctor asking for help. I was told there was nothing she could do for me. Nothing. I called the suicide hotline. I talked to a wonderful person…actually I cried to that wonderful person, for a half an hour before my son came home from school. And then I got angry. I was a mother, damn it. My kids needed me. I (looked up in the phone book…yes, before internet) and got ahold of a local college who needed volunteers for an anxiety program. I joined the program. They asked me how long I had been depressed. And like many people with depression, I asked…”What do you mean?” What I felt was normal to me. Other people with problems had depression.

But ultimately, it helped. I went to my doctor and said I was told I was depressed, and I needed help. I was asked (not the first time in my life) “What are you, a doctor? You are giving me your diagnosis?”

I got the meds. I don’t judge people who choose to self-medicate with liquor or drugs because I could have very easily turned to something like that in order to cope. And you know what is funny about that onion with its layers? It wasn’t until just recently that I connected the dots between my anxiety and panic at the time (and will always be there on some level) and the memory of when I was a child, and our family would be getting ready to go someplace. We would be getting ready to leave the house to go out socially. My father would be, for lack of a better word, a real asshole the entire time. Anxiety skyrocketed through the roof in my house from the moment we began to prepare to go someplace until we had arrived, and my dad got a drink in his hand.

You don’t realize how much you internalize and normalize patterns in your life with your family growing up. You don’t realize how it lays there, coiled up waiting for the right moment to come out and strike. What brought it out?

Perhaps, it was the message that it was wrong to leave my husband, or that a woman wasn’t strong enough to take care of things on her own. Yup, growth can hurt. It can tear you apart when you have to face the demons inside of yourself. And we have all been there at one point or another. Even in seemingly loving households, we got error messages that have to get sorted out as adults.

Loneliness can tear you apart. And in this world, it is a deadly epidemic. The question is, what can be done about it? What can help? There are no one-size fits all solutions. And it can be so difficult to have to pick yourself back up from the puddle on the floor that you feel you have become, to have the strength to do anything about it. It can be a destructive cycle. What has helped other people break this cycle? Please take a moment to answer this week’s poll about what helped you or what you would try in order to be less lonely.

Thank you and have a great week.

Hello, In There

Thank you to the person who told me that he reads my blog each week. And a shout out to the least represented, but still important, readers in the bottom five most active countries: Zambia, Russia, Tanzania, Czech Republic, and Ecuador.

This week, we had some discussion about Narcissists and anger and victim blaming and triggers, as well as trauma bonding, self-hatred, gaslighting, forgiveness, fear of having others not believe us, boundaries, and close personal loss.

Firstly, we are all somewhat Narcissistic. We all have egos to protect. And even the most giving of people, rarely give until it hurts…willingly. We have self-preservation. Except for family, who we may not always like, but who we probably love unconditionally, who tend to love those who give us something back. We are drawn to people who make us feel good in one way or another. Whether they cook for us, laugh at our jokes, compliment us, flirt with us, comfort us, listen to us, make us feel special to them, take care of us physically or financially, smile or give us positive feedback, praise us, pay us, thank us, or give us likes and upvotes, we like people who like us and who make us feel good or feel good about ourselves.

But what are we getting out of abusive relationships? What are the “rewards” of staying in a relationship that does not appear to be good for us?

From my own experience, and from hearing others speak about their relationships or victimization in Narcissistic partnerships, fear plays a big role. The reward is giving up oneself in order to have something the other person is offering in exchange for us not feeling fear.

Let me explain. I allowed my ex-husband to do whatever he wanted without confrontation in exchange for not having him threaten to leave and telling me what I already felt inside…that I could not survive without him. I was unable to take care of our kids by myself. I could not take care of the house by myself. Nobody else in the world was ever going to want me as a partner. I believed him. And I was terrified. And it was not just me who would be punished but our children as well. It may not seem like much of a reward, but at the time, it was. I knew it was not right, but changing things meant that I had to change, and that concept did not feel as solid as the life that I knew, good or bad. By “solid”, I mean, what is known. What is real to a person.

Many victims of abuse find themselves stuck in a situation where they feel they have no power. Why? When I look back now, I know that my husband was repeating back to me what I already felt. Not just how I felt about myself, but how I felt about the reality of marriage. I was reliving what I knew…what I had grown up to believe. As was he. He and I were the only ones of our siblings who did not have a problem with alcohol. But that did not mean that we did not have a problem.

Many people who have had dysfunctional role models seek to be rewarded by attempting to help, or to fix, or to understand what it was they could not when they were children. And Narcissists? I don’t claim to understand them. But I know that they look for people with a need. They swoop in like a moth to a flame. And for those people who knew dysfunction or abuse when they were young, meeting the Narcissist can feel like they have finally found the one person who gets them.

A relationship with a Narcissist has been compared to being hooked on Heroin. I don’t know what Heroin is like, but from what I understand, it is so fantastic that once someone has tried it, they get hooked because they are looking for that feeling they got the first time they used it. When someone who has lived in the shadows on the outside of other people because they feel they don’t fit in or they are not worthy for some reason, has someone “find” them, and insist that they are worthy…when someone who is supposed to be trusted smiles kindly and shares their own vulnerability…leading the other person into what feels like the light…they get that other person hooked. And that person who is now hooked, does not want to lose that feeling.

GaslightingI never knew how common a thing that was. Gaslighting is like taking a trip down the rabbit hole. It’s like…you really want things to be good between you and someone who likes you and makes you feel good, but something seems off and the ground does not feel solid under your feet.

For me, I remember the day I asked the priest if I could talk with him. I was so nervous, but I couldn’t stand the tension in the office. Talking to a priest about sex feels like asking your parents to describe what goes on in their bedroom. It feels wrong. It feels incestuous. So, I asked my boss what it was he wanted from me. I asked him if he was implying that he wanted to see me outside of the office.

He looked at me. And I think we all know that look. A bit smug. But careful. Always careful not to trip up. “You are making me feel so uncomfortable right now,” is what he said.

I felt like throwing up. I apologized profusely. I felt lower than dirt. What I did not know is that I was being gaslighted. He wanted me to be confused. He wanted me to feel unsteady. He wanted the upper hand in the situation. He didn’t want me to ask questions. He didn’t want me to trust my instincts.

Not only was he gaslighting me by denying what he was doing and making me feel like I was crazy, but he was also establishing trauma bonds with me…whereby I was being abused by him, but I felt sympathy for him.

If this seems like insanity, it is. What is even more insane is that not only can the Narcissist make you feel like everything is your fault, but they can and will convince the people around you of the same thing. We call that victim blaming. And when you’ve been a victim enough in your life with the people you have trusted, you get angry, and you stop trusting. But at the core of the betrayal is the feeling that you somehow deserve it. Self-hate.

We often discuss forgiveness. What a burden to put on a victim. Sorry, not sorry. My belief is that forgiveness for the person who wronged you should be for your own good. For instance, if you are obsessing about hurting that person or getting even with them, I think it is best to let that go. One person said that they hoped their abuser got an STD or became impotent. Some anger is healthy. Being able to turn obsessive vengeful thoughts into a wish for something uncomfortable and unlucky for the universe to bequeath upon a person turns it over to fate and gets it off of yourself. Can even make you laugh instead of cry.

My belief, though, is to focus on learning about what happened to you and why it happened to you to the point where you understand, and you begin to use that understanding in your own life. Living well is the best revenge, they say. Read, learn, educate yourself. Learn to love your imperfect self.

And that brings me to…having other people not believe you. I understand. I’m at the point where I believe I was abused. I was sexually harassed by a sick man. So, telling my story is easier now than it used to be. The shame has lessened somewhat, and it does not matter as much as it did as to whether or not other people believe the story that I tell. But that doesn’t mean that I’m ready to go shouting it to the world. Because there is still a stigma attached to being a victim of a sexual crime. There really is.

I called a law firm this past week about going for a civil suit and compensation. But in order to move ahead, I need to be ready to be “that woman”. That woman who may be judged for any decision I’ve ever made. That woman who, by just making this public will never be looked at in the same way. Labels. Slut. Prude. Shame. We don’t talk about this stuff.

Boundaries. What are the fears that prevent you from maintaining your boundaries? And I’m not talking about being rigid here. But I am talking about being manipulated because you are afraid of not being loved or of being alone. But what is the alternative? Being used, having your vulnerabilities used against you, being told that you are unable to do anything for yourself and that you need someone else, being guilt-tripped into giving someone else what they want? Be aware. Just be aware. And fight for your boundaries. It may feel like you are being a horrible person. The manipulator or Narcissist will tell you that you are being horrible to them. You are mean. You are abusive. But you are not. Maintaining polite boundaries will prevent abuse because there will be more honesty and less resentment.

None of this is easy. It takes a lot of bravery to begin to change yourself. Life can be scary and unpredictable, and nobody wants to be alone or unloved.

This past week, another friend was lost too soon. It’s so hard when someone you care about passes away. They take the memories you shared with them. But it also reminds us that there is good in the world, although it hurts that much more when the good is gone.

Just a reminder that our next Abused as Adults meeting will be held on the first Sunday of August from 4pm to 6pm EST. Have a good week, everyone.

Let The River Run

Stats for June…most popular time to read this blog is Wednesday at 7pm. Guest Blog Number 7 was the most read post. Top five countries reading the blog (after the U.S.) are Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, China and New Zealand. Most of you…in fact, everyone, believes that marital rape is a thing and is included under physical abuse. One reader said it has happened to them. And most people are not familiar with energy work.

I realize that when it comes to religion or politics, people have different viewpoints. And we survivors get triggered by things easily. Whenever I share information that may seem unfamiliar or controversial, I’m not doing so to offend anyone. I’m just sharing information. Some people may embrace an idea and find it helpful to their healing. Others may be fearful of anything new or different. Some people may be able to relate, and others may not.

Like many people, I was raised to believe in God and Jesus and guardian angels and miracles and sin and Heaven and Hell. We were told to pray for people who had passed away in case they didn’t make it into Heaven. They had to wait in Purgatory, which I can only imagine resembles a parole board hearing where you are required to spend time pondering your sins until you come before the board. Then if you don’t get approved, you have to start the process again until you either get enough prayers from people speaking for you, or you have been there long enough, so they decide to take a chance on you and send you through to Heaven, but you have to check in with your guardian angel on a regular basis. You screw up, it’s straight to that “other place”.

Nobody really tells you anything about yourself when you are a kid and learning about religion. Where did you come from? Your mom and dad. Why are you here? Because you were born. Where did I come from? From God. What does that mean? We don’t know. Why do bad things happen? It’s God’s will. Why did everything happen over 2000 years ago? Here is a book to tell you about it. How do we know this really happened? Because we say so. What does my guardian angel do? Protect us from evil and tell us to be good. Who are we exactly? Children of God. Why is everything so vague? Have faith, my child.

The problem, I think, could be that we as children are taught things in simple language so that we as children behave because we fear punishment. And many of us never really grow in our wisdom as we grow into adults with adult issues. And those who taught us the basics when we were children, were teaching us from what was understood over 2000 years ago. And even if there was more to be understood or told, the stories were passed along so that the people at that time could accept and understand them.

As children, we are shown pictures of holy people with halos around their heads. We never really question this. Some people merit halos, but most of us don’t. That’s how it goes. The pope has to say you deserve a halo in order for you to be shown in a picture with one over your head. You have to be a saint. You have to have that special glow. Mainly, we learned that most of the saints died horrible deaths for their beliefs. I give them much respect. However, not everyone who has died a horrible death standing up for their belief has been given sainthood. So, what are halos exactly and why do we see them over the heads of holy people in the bible?

From what I have read about halos, there are a couple of beliefs about how they came about to depict a holy person in a painting or a stained-glass window. Firstly, when telling a story to many people over 2000 years ago, you were basically trying to convey an idea to people who could not read or write for the most part. And throughout history, the story was retold to illiterate people, and to people who spoke different languages. Showing a glowing light coming from the crown of the head, said what needed to be said without words. These people were special. These people were blessed. These people had God within them.

Another interesting theory about halos…is that way back when, before streetlights and electric light bulbs and neon lights and TV’s and loud music and computers and phones, and car engines and planes and all that we have in this modern day that we tend to drown out and tune into, is that people were more sensitive to the energy of other people. In fact, it is believed that way, way back, people could actually see, the halos, or energy fields of others. Someone emitting a white aura was said to radiate peace.

Today those energy fields are known as auras, and although most of us cannot see them, they do exist. We are spiritual beings inside human bodies. Our spirits are energy.

And this is why energy healing is a thing. And has been for centuries.

But, as I have said, the things we don’t understand can scare us.

I first began to understand death when my grandfather died when I was eight years old. It was my first time going to a wake and I had never seen a dead body before. I understood from losing my grandmother two years before that death meant you wouldn’t see a person again. But this was my first time realizing there was a process that was done leading up to that.

My mother has always been a paradox. She taught me to be afraid of many things in order to protect me, but if she sensed fear in me, she would inevitably push me to get over it. And so, in order for me to get over feeling uncomfortable around a dead body, my mom kept pushing me to kiss my grandfather goodbye. No way was I going to do that. I’d kissed my grandfather’s scruffy, drooly, tobacco scented cheek many times when saying goodbye, but this was different.

Thing is, death is an unknown. We see the scary and sad side of it. My dad tried to explain the concept of our energy living on by saying that my dead grandfather could be in the room with me, but I just couldn’t see him. Well, that just made things worse. Then he told me that they were a new star in the sky. I became afraid of stars. Then they gave me my grandmother’s old sleigh bed. I had just seen my first coffin. Do you know what a sleigh bed resembles? For me, at least, I was terrified of every sound at night. I was sure that I would wake up in a coffin next to my dead grandfather.

It was because of my fear and the lack of satisfactory answers in part, that drove me to become more curious about life on the other side and other unexplained mysteries and things that I had never been taught growing up in Catholic school and in a time when answers to these questions were just becoming available.

My first introduction to energy healing was after my mother had gone through cancer treatments. She brought me to one of the classes that was being offered for women healing from breast cancer. It was called Chi Qiong which translated from Chinese means, “energy cultivation” or “working with the life energy”. Chi Qiong is visualization, breathing, poses, and meditation with a goal of quieting the mind and releasing unneeded energy while accepting healing energy. We visualized the energy within ourselves in order to achieve a healthy balance within.

The woman who held the class is also an energy healer who does Reiki, a form of energy balancing and sweeping while also detecting blocked energy within the body causing disease or distress.

I understand that many people reading this may distrust a person who claims to be able to heal someone with energy. And usually, nobody makes that claim. Someone who is a true healer is not someone who makes any claims. Nor would they try to take advantage of anyone.

Energy balancing is said to be essential to our health. I am reading about Chakras and the energy of stones. The body is said to contain seven Chakras. They are the Root Chakra, the Sacral Chakra, the Solar Plexis Chakra, the Heart Chakra, the Throat Chakra, the Third Eye Chakra, and the Crown Chakra. Each of the Chakras is like a vortex of energy located at different parts of the body. If the body is in balance, then the cells of the body work in harmony. But if the energy in the body is off, physical and psychological illnesses can result.

Trauma can and does affect the Chakras. Addiction is said to be located mainly in the Throat Chakra, but other Chakras can be affected as well, depending upon the cause of the addiction, such as if there is shame, avoiding processing painful emotions, feelings of low self-worth or powerlessness, heartbreak, or feeling alone and disconnected…each affects different Chakras.

In addition, each Chakra has a specific location on the body, physical body parts that it affects, dysfunctions that may arise if out of balance, mental and emotional issues if out of balance, possible causes of energy blockages, crystals or stones that may be carried or placed on the body for their healing energy, and essential oils that have healing properties.

The book also discusses diet, yoga, meditation, has yoga positions and photos of different stones and crystals. I am just a beginner really. So, this book is a wonderful guide for me.

The name of the book is “Chakra Healing, A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Healing Techniques That Balance the Chakras” by Margarita Alcantara.

Like I said, this may sound strange or scary to some people and other people may not believe something they can’t actually see. But then again, isn’t that what faith is all about? Believing that something unseen exists?

This kind of healing technique may not be for everyone. Scents can trigger memories so be careful there. Meditation and visualization can be used for calming and grounding and have been found to be a good way to lower blood pressure and clear the mind when overwhelmed. As with everything, do only what is right for yourself and don’t push yourself to do anything uncomfortable or triggering.

Have a wonderful week, and take care of yourself.