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.

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.

Helpless

I read something this week about a woman who says she was raped by her husband on their wedding night. She was a virgin and was saving herself for marriage. However, on the day of her wedding, she was sick. She was actually running a fever, and it was all she could do to get through the day. That night, all she wanted to do was get out of her gown and sleep. She explained to her husband that she was not feeling well, and wanted to put off their first sexual encounter until she was feeling better.

Instead, he told her that he had waited long enough and that she was now his wife, and that sex was an expected part of marriage. So, he flipped her onto her back, got on top of her, and had sex with his sick wife who begged, “please, no”. She went on to say that sex within the marriage never got any better after that night. It was always expected, and it was never pleasurable for her. Her husband criticized her sexual performance and basically everything about her as a woman. And she believed that it was all her fault.

Eventually he left her for another woman. It was at that point, after he left, that she began to see how she had been abused.

This story probably sounds familiar to many people. We probably also felt that something was off but that it was our fault. We were there. We were making out. Maybe drinking. Maybe without prior consent, someone just decided that they were going to have sex with you, so they did.

Or maybe you felt obligated to keep a partner happy because if you didn’t, your life would not be very pleasant, so you just had sex to keep from being made to feel like a horrible human being, or because not having sex meant sending someone into a rage against you and you had children and needed to keep things happy for everyone.

Except for yourself.

The woman in the story who was sick on her wedding night and asked her new husband if they could please wait until the next day when she felt better, was forced to have sex against her will by an abusive partner. He felt impatient and entitled and his needs were all that mattered. He forced her to have sex. That is marital rape.

I knew a woman who was in an abusive relationship. She was abused in every way possible. Her daughter told someone that her stepfather had raped her mother. I was not there, so I assume that for the daughter to say that she was raped, it probably happened after he pushed her around a bit and there was most likely an escalation of anger that was witnessed beforehand. I knew both the woman and her husband well enough to have heard stories that he was not such a great guy. He was psychologically abusive to the teenage daughter as well. I heard about how he would go into the laundry and take out soiled underwear when the girl had her period and hang them out on the line with the intent to embarrass her.

When someone is in an abusive relationship, they may realize that things aren’t how they should be, but they may fall into a pattern of learned helplessness. Learned helplessness happens in trauma bonding. It can happen when one partner has more financial power or more physical power or is able to psychologically intimidate and manipulate someone.

It can happen when life is unsteady and when the emotional climate can change suddenly, depending upon the mental state of the person who needs to have control. Children can develop this emotional state if they are raised in a situation where they are made to feel inept or never good enough, or if they witness abuse in the family.

When someone feels that things are hopeless or that there is nothing they have the power to change in their situation, or that they lack the tools to better their life, they can be experiencing a sense of learned helplessness. They have learned that they have no power and no voice and no choice in life. They end up learning to please others to keep life in balance.

It is said that feeling this way is one of the main reasons for depression. I think that is understandable.

The woman who I once knew who was in the abusive relationship ended up leaving…or perhaps she was forced to leave…a house she owned, leaving her child behind. By this time, she was already drinking heavily. She had no job and no way of supporting herself. At one point, she ended up living with someone in an apartment above a bar.

Could she have turned her life around? People in worse situations than her have done so. But she had learned that she was worthless and now she was very vulnerable. Family would not take her in because of her drinking. She saw no way out. She lived that way for years until she ended up in the hospital and at that time, did end up giving up the bottle and reconciling with family because she needed to stay with family in order to recuperate.

These psychological issues which can affect, and even ruin lives are often seen as the fault of the person who needs the most help. When these things happen within a relationship with a Narcissist, there is a double whammy. Support systems are cut off. Lies are told about the victim. Money can be cut off. The victim is blamed by those who believe the Narcissist’s charm and twisted version of the truth.

It’s a dark road of self-blame and depression with the whole world seemingly all too willing to mirror the disgust the victim sees in themself.

But this is something that many of us already know all too well. Because we have lived through it, in our lives and in the one place we thought we were safe…our church. And then when we go to seek help, we can’t find it. Because we were caught in something that we didn’t see at the time. So, we did stupid things. We cared. We made excuses for the person. We didn’t report what was going on. We let it continue. We knew that it was in our best interest to keep quiet.

But it wasn’t love that we felt for our Narcissistic abuser. And I call them that because it’s true. Our abuser felt they were entitled to abuse us. They were above the law. They felt smarter than us. They knew how to play the game so that they could make us lick their boots and have us thinking it was our idea. They could make everyone think that it was our idea. They could hold our jobs, our reputation, our feeling of safety, and our need for love, approval and belonging over our heads. They could terrorize us into behaving how they wanted us to behave. They could withhold their approval, or work benefits, or a status we enjoyed within the church community. They held the power. We learned helplessness because we had no power.

But, like some instances of rape, it can be hard to prove abuse legally sometimes when the victim appeared to have willingly participated in the crime. Or if they defended their abuser. Or if they continued to be in contact with the abuser. Or if they married their abuser.

And having to go through the humiliation of telling a legal person what you went through, only to have them tell you that you don’t have a case and that the person is going to get away with what they did…that can rip open the wound all over again as if it just happened to you.

Know that this does happen. Have a trusted friend help you through the legal process or help you get out of an abusive situation. And if you are alone with nowhere to turn, call a suicide hotline or other support hotline in your area for help. You don’t have to be actively suicidal to call the suicide hotline. If you are depressed, it can help greatly to talk to someone who will just listen. And it’s free. Or join a SNAP support group.

One of the most important things you can gain from reaching out for help is learning that having your soul trampled on by someone who does not have a soul, is not your fault. No matter how much abuse you put up with or how many “stupid” things you did and mistakes that you made because you couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

The next Abused as Adults on-line meeting will be held the first Sunday of July from 4pm to 6pm EST.

Be good to yourself. Be kind and gentle to yourself first and foremost. And have a great week.

Twist of Fate

Something a little different for the poll this week. Because we need a break from being serious.

I had a dream this past week about “my priest”. Not the first time I have dreamt about him. But usually, he is nearby or kind of in the background. In this dream, he was right there with me. It was disturbing.

It was not a scary dream so much. No threats or anything of that sort. What made it disturbing, was that I was sitting at a desk, counting money…my money…money I had just come into somehow. I was keeping track of it and counting and separating bills into piles.

And then, there he was, smiling and kind and friendly. Offering to help me count the money. And because he was kind and smiling and safe-looking…I let him help me. I let him in. I allowed him into my personal area of control and power and willingly gave him access. That was what was so disturbing.

What I felt about this dream was not that I was in imminent danger from the priest himself…but more about what the whole thing represented. I read that there are more Narcissists in this world than we know. I believe it was something like 5% of the population or something like that. That means, if there are about 330,000,000 people living in America, we have about 16,500,000 Narcissists living among us. To give you an idea of how many people that actually is…that is about twice the population of New York City.

It doesn’t matter how accurate this is down to the exact number. What matters is that we are aware that there are a large number of people who exist who may appear to be charming and helpful and trustworthy, who are in actuality anything but.

In the Albany diocese, there was announced this week the name of a new credibly accused priest. Father Gregory Weider. One of Father Weider’s assignments over the years was that of Boy Scout Chaplain from 1972 through 1980. Then Father Weider was elected to Associate National Chaplain from 1980 to 1986.

By the time abuse from those in power comes to light, many times, the abusers have left an abundance of broken people in their rear-view mirror. Good, sensitive, caring people, now broken because they trusted the wrong person. And it’s so easy to fall into that trap. So very easy to want to get along with someone and to not have conflict with them. Easy to choose what at first seems comfortable and safe. In no way am I minimizing the need for the feeling of security and belonging we as human beings crave. We are all vulnerable. We all have egos and needs for physical comfort and safety…especially if we are in charge of the needs of children or if we have physical or emotional disabilities.

What especially scares me about the number of Narcissists that we are probably underestimating, is the number of their supporters. For every Narcissist, how many people are backing them or are too afraid to say anything? It’s a scary thing when you think about it. How different are those people who protect the Narcissist from the victims of the Narcissist? Weren’t we all believers at one time? Didn’t we at one time feel a bond or a protectiveness towards the abuser ourselves? Yes, there are people who may be in a more vulnerable state, but nobody can say that it can’t happen to them.

Something discussed this week among survivors was the feeling of detachment and a concern about that. A feeling that perhaps we should be feeling something more than we do about sad occurrences in our world or even good things. A kind of dullness of emotions.

Not being able to diagnose anyone, and each case being different, I can’t say exactly what is going on. I can say that what I have noticed is a shortening of my attention span, and I think a lot of that has to do with the instantaneous nature of that world in which we live.

When I was younger, I was an avid reader. I read Catch-22, Shogun, Gone With the Wind, all of Stephen King’s books as soon as they came out….including one of my favorites…”The Stand”. But I’m noticing a lack of patience these days. Those books that I mentioned are all pretty lengthy. Most if not all of them are over 1000 pages long. But I devoured them. Hours of just me and a book. Heaven.

But how long does it take me to read a book now? A long time. I started to try to read a new book last night…”The Poisonwood Bible”. It began with beautiful prose. “What a talented writer,” I thought. But it began to drag after a couple of pages and lost my interest. Normally I push on to try to get a good, solid start to gain interest. I couldn’t do it. I just was not interested in reading about someone eating crumbs by a river for lunch while some animal watched them. No danger involved. It was just lunch in the jungle for the family of a Baptist minister.

I could just feel that the next chapter was going to involve painting their abode and waiting for it to dry. I looked at the book ratings. People seemed to either love the book or they felt the same way I did. I didn’t feel like spending my time on it, so I put it in a bag for Goodwill.

My feeling is that we are generally less patient these days than we used to be. And I think that has to do with the fact that we can get instant gratification in so many ways.

Do you ever remember being bored when you were a kid? I do. I remember being painfully bored. At the risk of sounding like a Baby Boomer with our three channels on TV and if you missed a show, you had to wait for Summer re-runs, there was a truth to that. If you missed something, or if friends were away on vacation, you had to fill the time somehow with whatever you had. And there was no instantaneous gratification. There were no games of Solitaire on-line. There was no such thing as binge-watching show after show. TV went off at 2 am and if you were still awake, there was nothing else to do but read. No going on-line to read the news or text friends. No posting pictures on Facebook. No blogs to write.

I’m not saying this to prove that the old days were better. I think that with everything, there is a good and a bad side. Back then, I would have read that book that today seems too boring to take the time for today. And there were no on-line reviews to check. I would have read the book because there was simply nothing else to do. Nothing else to distract me. No shows recorded to watch later. No You Tube videos to view. No songs for Alexa to play for me. No phone to check habitually.

In other words…no distractions. Just focus. Concentration. And very little choice. Sometimes fewer choices is better. At least for the decision making part of our brain, anyway.

Another issue we face in our world today is constant bombardment of news. Many years ago, we either watched the news at night, or read the newspaper to see what was going on in the world around us. We heard about major news in the world, but we did not get up close and personal…sometimes uncomfortably so. We didn’t get detailed descriptions of war across the world popping up in our news feed on the hour. We would hear things like, “the war continues and the dead now total 2,550”. There were assassinations, but we weren’t able to pull up the autopsy photos for a closer look.

We were aware of things going on in the world, but we were also aware of what was going on around us. We were unplugged for most of the time. I think, more physically in touch with those around us. We actually had to sit across from someone and see them or listen to their voice on the phone.

So, if we wonder why we feel a bit flat emotionally, perhaps our plugged-in world, our shortened attention span, too many choices and needing something to catch our attention immediately before we give it our time, lack of personal connection to other people, and feeling overwhelmed by too many negative details from around the world, may be part of the reason. I think we grow brain-numb. Is it any wonder why we can’t feel excitement when we see a little bit of good news, or sadness when learning of the death of a friend we have not seen in many years?

Maybe we need to unplug. I wonder if any of us could go back to living like it was 1972 for a week. Call instead of text. Only read local news. Only watch what is on (regular) tv at the time. Only use our phone to make phone calls. And in that same line, call a friend to keep in touch and see how they are doing and if they need anything. I’m willing to bet that we could rewire our brain a bit by giving it a little less screen time and more time for reflection and thoughts and perhaps a bit of reading or creativity.

Anyone with any other ideas, we’d be happy to hear them, I’m sure. Have a great week, everyone.

I Can Help

Recently there have been instances where we as SNAP volunteers were unable to help those who had sought our help.

When this happens, it is because what we as peer supports can offer as far as support, is often limited. We are not legal advisors. We are not trained therapists. We have experience as far as our own abuse goes, and experience as far as life experiences and what we have found helpful…or not helpful…as far as moving ahead with our stories and reporting goes. But we are limited in the help that we can offer.

For instance, there are times when we cannot give as much help as a trained therapist or a doctor who can prescribe antidepressants or antianxiety meds if they are needed. And while some people do accompany others when they go to speak before the bishop, or they may have heard of a good lawyer that they can recommend, we are not legal assistants. We do not sign papers that are made out to deliberately trick anyone in the church, nor do we lie for anyone or get involved in anything illegal.

Also, sometimes people who are hurting will strike out at the hand that tries to help. We too are survivors and have suffered abuse. As much as we want to help people, we have to help ourselves heal first. That means that we don’t accept abuse of any kind. That includes trying to take over running a meeting, interrupting someone to try to control their narrative, twisting the rules, imposing their own rules on a leader or peer member, or name calling, or insults.

As I said, we are not legal assistants or therapists, although we do listen to people who need to talk, and we do help where we can if someone is afraid to go alone to seek help. Sometimes we can suggest therapists or lawyers in a certain area. The best thing to do if looking for help in a particular city or state, is to check out the SNAP website to see who your nearest contact person is and see if they can help you with a suggestion or two.

SNAP has Zoom meetings for various groups and various areas and cities. There is the Women’s group, the Men’s group, the Abused as Adults group, LGBTQ group, Abused by Nuns group, Orthodox Christian group, Lutheran group, Families Supporting Loved Ones group, and more. If for some reason, someone is really uncomfortable with being in a Zoom meeting or in a meeting with people who may trigger their anxieties, it’s possible that there is either a need for another group (but remember we need volunteers to lead) or it may be best to seek help outside of SNAP for the time being.

Also, please remember that being in a meeting does not mean that you need to speak. You can remain silent and listen to others. That can be very helpful. Especially in the beginning. Also, as long as you have been interviewed by the meeting leader, you don’t have to show your face. What is not encouraged is for anyone to share the link to the meeting with anyone and inviting them to join without having them email or talk to the group leader. While we are all about having survivors share the information available to other survivors, it is best if group leaders know who they are ahead of time.

In the news: Appellate ruling rejects Albany diocese’s efforts to keep pedophile priests’ records secret, Irish priest appointed to senior Vatican role investigating abuse

The SNAP conference will be held in Denver Colorado. Registration is $100. Rooms are $129 a night. The conference runs from 7 PM on Friday, July 22 through Noon on Sunday, July 24. Covid safety guidelines will be observed.

This week’s suggestions from other SNAP survivors include watching the show, “The Color of Care” on the Smithsonian Channel, and a recommendation of Pennsylvania lawyer Kristen Gibbons-Feben, who we were told, is looking for complex sexual abuse cases. We were told by a survivor who has retained her, that she practices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

This past week, I watched a documentary entitled, “Girl 27”. This was the story of Patricia Douglas, who was a dancer and a movie extra at MGM, who, in 1937, along with 119 other young women, were told to dress up in costume and show up to be in a movie. When they got to the place where they were told to go, each being given a number next to their name on a list…Douglas being “Girl 27”, they all found that instead of shooting a movie, they were to be the entertainment for a convention that MGM was holding. The convention consisted of a group of over 200 men, who, along with being given over 500 cases of scotch and champagne, were told to just enjoy themselves and to do whatever they wanted.

Patricia, who did not drink alcohol, had alcohol forced down her throat, and of course, ended up being raped by one of the men at the convention. The aftermath of her brutal attack, including her swollen eyes as she was also slapped and beaten for resisting, was witnessed by a security guard.

Douglas bravely tried to prosecute her attacker. The security guard was told he would have a job for life at MGM if he lied on the stand, which he did. MGM was a powerful force. Douglas was slandered in every way possible. In addition to being called every name in the book, and having her reputation ruined, they also made fun of her looks and asked who would seriously want her. Her life was ruined. She would go on to marry a couple of times and she had a daughter, but she was unable to live. She was alive until the age of 86, but she had no friends and was unable to raise her daughter. A virgin when the rape occurred, she said she was never able to have a normal physical relationship ever again.

She was very brave to come forward as she knew what would happen to her. Another woman who came forward saying she was also attacked that night, ended her own life some years down the road. She married and had children but was badly scarred emotionally.

I guess this is a reminder that we have come a bit further since 1937 but not a heck of a lot further. I think we all think of the casting couch when we think of early movie stars. Some people think it was quid pro quo. They gave and they were rewarded for it. A simple business transaction. But that’s not how it was at all. Those who know how power can corrupt and how those in power can abuse those without power, know things have not changed all that much. We also know there are still people who choose to look the other way to hold onto their jobs.

I also read some more. Same book. Different chapter. This week, I read about how…and this we know…people don’t go through life without loss and troubles. And there are many things that happen to people…to us…that is simply not our fault. For instance, all of the things we cannot control, such as our physical attributes. The people who leave us, whether through death or because they choose to walk out of our lives, as well as who is in our family and who our parents are. Bad things can happen to us in our lives, and we didn’t ask for them to happen. People can hurt us, and they can hurt the people we care about.

This week, I read that while things that happen to us are not our fault, what we choose to do about it, is our responsibility. Responsibility is not the same thing as fault. Being responsible for our actions after the fact is not the same as taking the blame for what happened.

That is really a deep thought to get lost into. Because when something traumatic happens in our lives, we often blame ourselves for some part of it. Or we blame someone else. Because someone has to be to blame. Blame has to be pinned on someone. That’s just how it goes. But are we truly responsible for what we choose to do when we are suffering from PTSD and not in a healthy state of mind? I get the concept. And I agree with it to an extent. If we are suffering from an illness or an emotional state that we get stuck in, or if we find ourselves unable to quit an addiction, we should be responsible enough to seek help. But we are also human. And being human means that decisions and feelings aren’t always black and white and clear cut with boundaries and instructions. It’s not always an easy fix and it’s somewhat dependent upon getting someone who is competent to help us.

Those are also issues that we cannot control.

But it doesn’t mean that because we are hurting or because we have been short-changed in life that should give us a license to not try at all or to use it as an excuse to be angry and to blame everyone for your problems. There is a difference. Being angry at what happened is healthy and normal. But there is a point where we choose to feel angry at everyone and where it’s just easier to blame everyone than to do the work on yourself to heal. And I guess that is the part where we become responsible. Not to become fully healed or perfect or to get over anything completely. But to take responsibility for your life from here forward. The rest of the world only looks like they have it all together. Nobody is better than anyone else.

So, I don’t entirely agree with the author because I think traumas can change us and rewire us and that can make it difficult to function. But ideally, it is good to aim for taking responsiblity for the next step, even if it takes years to get to the next step and even if we keep failing. To be able to accept failure in ourselves is a good thing. To truly accept and to be okay with it, that is.

I also read some inspirational quotes that I loved. This is paraphrased…things that can be true at the same time: Your parents did the best job they could raising you, and some of the things they did wounded you. You can love someone and at the same time know that it is not healthy to keep them in your life. You want healthy relationships and unhealed trauma is making that difficult. You are terrified to take the next step, but you know that it is the right thing to do.

I liked that. I think I liked it because it kind of takes blame away from yourself and others. I know people hate this saying but….sometimes it just is what it is and we are just left dealing with it.

I’d like to end this week with something someone sent me. I found this so inspiring and right on point. Sometimes someone else can say it better than you ever could. So here is something from Any Nordhues. https://youtu.be/5yvLXhLt7bg

Have a wonderful week.

Guest Blog Number Six

By Dorothy Small

I remember when I went off work six and a half years ago as a direct cause of my experience of clergy abuse and the ripple traumatic impact on me saying without knowing what I was saying that “my receiver is dormant”. “I am out of balance”. 

I definitely learned giving was expected of me but receiving was not. 

I should have taken care of my own needs instead of trying to take care of the needs of the church and priests. I wasn’t conditioned to placing my needs above another’s especially priests and my church ministry. That ended in the crisis that took me out of my old life. 

I wonder if first learning how to receive my own energy and giving is the the beginning of learning healthy receiving. Definitely self-care is giving to the self. I definitely felt selfish when I first began.  Undeserving even of my own care! I was so focussed on taking care of everything and everyone else and was surrounded by people where that was expected of me. They didn’t have to develop giving to me because they knew “me”. I give. If they don’t need anything they aren’t around. I was the one to reach out all the time and initiate contact after the initial love-bombing grooming so common in dysfunctional relationships with narcissists and predatory individuals. That was “just me”. They were being “ just them”. I didn’t know any better. I was on auto pilot. 

Perhaps it was control on my part? Lack of trust? If I didn’t do it then it would not happen because I could not rely on their unreliability and flakey behavior that I just assumed was normal in my relationship dynamics? Their unpredictability? If I take control I know it will happen? 

In the absence of close friends ( Recovery of self creates natural losses as I get back into balance. Plus all three of my old familiar “best friends” that go way back all died! Two in February this year and one in October 2020 ) or any romantic involvement all I have is my own company and that of my two dogs. They do give me their messes to clean up along with loads of wet kisses and snuggling. They give unconditional love. Especially my Boston Terrier whom I named Bradley Cooper. I went through Covid lockdown with Bradley Cooper. Just telling people about that watching the smile on their faces made me feel happy. 

I realize I can develop self exploration and practice setting boundaries as part of self-care. Staying away from any organized religious environments is part of how I am providing self-care and creating safety for a personal connection with God outside of stain glass windows, incense and priests or worrying that I should be in ministry even though after reporting the priest I was banned from all ministry. I was told by the pastor that for some of us just sitting in the pew is ministry enough. Well, he could not ban me from the church. The only measure of control he had over me was to ban me from any ministry. If I remained silent and covered up what happened I could have continued as if nothing happened with the priest. Only I couldn’t play the game any more. The gig was up. I finally encountered something more powerful than me, and I couldn’t get back on the horse to keep going. 

My relationship with the church in which my relationship with God was enmeshed served as both a place to connect with God and the community. It was central to my being able to work the demanding profession of nursing. The clergy abuse and trauma associated with reporting it was like taking a mortal wound. I was always so strong. If something very difficult happened like my youngest son being diagnosed with stage four cancer ( he is still on this earth ) or my own history of cancer treatment I took time off work but always returned even if in six months. Nothing took me out permanently. Until the incident with the church. I would like to say it was the last straw but it really was more like a huge boulder. It crushed me. It was the catalyst that caused me to roll up my sleeves and dig deep into my core family dynamics and use all the tools I could gather to recover myself so I could cease repeating past traumas in repetition compulsion subconsciously. No. Clergy abuse wasn’t my fault but I looked for my part. What created such vulnerability that I was perfect prey? What could I do in me that would stop me from being targeted and succumbing to the love bombing tactics thinking I met my knight and shining armor?  Unavailable people disguised as my twin flame? They never satisfied my deepest need to feel loved and valued outside of myself. Survival depended on that as children. We need it externally. Never having felt loved or valued as a child it set me up to be exploited throughout my life especially by men in positions of power and authority representing the place of a father’s love that wasn’t too be. 

With narcissists setting boundaries doesn’t work well. They don’t care for boundaries and typically see no issue with violating them. That’s ok. They no longer are my reality They just fell away effortlessly. I stopped chasing after them to keep from losing them. I realize I didn’t really “have them” anyway. I only ended up losing myself by chasing after them making them more important than I am to myself. I taught everyone how to treat me. I didn’t matter. They did. 

Alone. But really not alone. I am here. I am enough. Getting used to feeling my presence takes being out of my head obsessing about “them” and being in the moment accepting all is as it should be. All my affairs are in order. I said everything I need to say to those who matter from the highest place in me. By “being still” I feared they might die or I might die and feel dreadful loss of connection with “them”.  Now my reality is as long as there is no unfinished business in me I can “be still”. Let them go. Open my hands to allow the flow of life. Stop grabbing and clutching. Accept the present moment is all that I need right now. Everything is ok. I am connected to myself. That is the one I was seeking by running after it in others. 

In honoring my boundaries and better knowing who I am actually enjoying my own company above anyone I know, which took some time to achieve, I realize I am in a better position to meet someone whom I can allow in my close space who is a whole person comfortable also with give and take, flow, balance…. 

This takes trust and faith in the journey forward and not backward trying to grab the “old familiar“ life out of fear of the unknown. Move forward. Look back only to learn from the past and to process any unfinished business. Then stay in the here and now. Don’t worry about tomorrow. It isn’t here. Be here in the moment and it will lead to tomorrow without sleepwalking through the present day. Be awake. Feel my feelings but don’t act out of them. 

Now I find myself welcoming the unknown with open arms. 

I Made it Through the Rain

I read something last week that said that if life was happy all of the time without any problems, we really wouldn’t be as happy as we think. True happiness, it is said, comes from solving problems. And problems are a constant in life.

Unhappiness arises from not doing anything. To let fear hold you back. To get caught up with issues you cannot control. I think we all know too well the sources of unhappiness.

The thing I hear so often from people is something to the extent that they are limited in what they can do about something because of someone else.

To once again use my mom as an example…she used to complain that my father never wanted to do anything or go anywhere. That and he never wanted to have company. Oh, the friends and relatives they could have over if only my father was okay with it. But he was so difficult, see.

Then my dad passed away. At the age of 80, my mother had two men who wanted to date her. I really liked one of them. But the first guy was seeing someone else and didn’t want to get serious. She didn’t want someone seeing someone else. The other guy wanted to get serious. He seemed like a nice guy. He had known my father. She found fault with him. It kind of just ended when he found someone else. She did continue to go to the gym or see friends for lunch. But she has little interest in travel or having get togethers She actually became less active after my dad passed away. I’m thinking she just needed a distraction from the marriage more than anything else. So, in reality, it wasn’t really my father, but my mother’s need to get out and get away from him and have a life separate from him. It was about what she needed at that time. When he was gone, she became more content as she grew comfortable being alone.

My point is, sometimes we point the finger at other people when we are afraid to look at the real issues inside of ourselves. And we are never really sure about what we need as long as we keep seeing only what we aren’t getting from someone else and putting that expectation to complete you onto them.

I only wish solving problems was as easy as this article made it seem. Wouldn’t that be great? I don’t want to smoke anymore. Bam. First try. Done. I don’t like my job, my spouse, my apartment, my weight, my drinking, etc. Done. So simple. I think the message here though, is we all have to start somewhere. And maybe the first step is to recognize there is a problem.

I was having another boundary conversation this week with my therapist and some of us know that boundaries can be difficult to maintain. Holding them up can feel like it’s killing us at times, and that may be because it is.

I’m a compulsive list maker. It doesn’t mean I’m a compulsive doer. I just feel more orderly if I see what I need to do written out. Then I can begin to procrastinate. I’m like that in life a bit, too. When something becomes uncomfortable and a border is crossed, say…when my son’s girlfriend used to dump dishes still loaded with food into my sink and then fill up the sink with water so that it became a gross cold stew of garbage…I first asked her nicely to please clean the dishes off first. Didn’t work.

The list…the precursor to the ultimatum. I got tired of asking her nicely over and over again to please not do the same things. She did not listen. I made a list of house expectations, so I didn’t have to keep nagging. No help. Why? Because unless it is painful for someone, nothing is going to change. I could have told her to clean out the sink. But have you ever known someone to make things worse, so you just do it yourself? Right. Plumbing issue? She didn’t work. Money would come out of my son’s pocket. And he would have given until he had nothing left in order to take care of her.

But that is another issue. My feeling has always been that if you aren’t getting respect by speaking softly, then you need to make sure you follow up. If you have to keep repeating yourself, you may want to rethink the situation. Work. Home. Wherever. It also means…if someone will not do something for you out of respect, but will only do it for their own good, asking them nicely is not a big enough boundary. And yet it should be. But also, like dealing with children, speaking softly and firmly may not be enough if they feel they can push back and get away with it without repercussion.

There has to be some kind of firm follow through, so they know you mean it. And, in this case with my son’s girlfriend, the right and only way to go about doing that would be to say…here are the rules, I won’t nag you about them, but I expect you to follow them, or you will need to leave.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and I allowed this situation to go on far too long, so I didn’t solve the problem right away…instead I complained about her behavior in frustration.

When I was talking to my therapist about this relationship, she asked me why I wanted to keep my son’s girlfriend around. Here’s the thing. It would be painful for me to get rid of her. Isn’t that ironic? But true. Because another truth? We tend to repeat mistakes that we don’t work on changing.

Why would I allow someone to live with me when they did not keep a job, stole my pain meds after surgery, almost killed my two puppies because she was careless about leaving meds and stuff around, was obviously not good for my son, was manipulative, ordered stuff in my name, lied, and caused drama?

Guilt for one. I felt it was my fault that he ended up with her because I had to choose between him, and his father and they fought all the time, and he took off and blamed me and things weren’t good for him, and I felt like I had let him down. He was 18 at the time but when I ended up leaving his father eventually, it was so good to have my son back and be able to help. So, I put up with whatever to do so. And he wanted to take care of her. Plus, she was fun to hang out with. If you didn’t work and could be a kid at 28…yes, she was older than my son and had two children she left living with other people…and people paid for your lunch or your drink…you’d be fun too. And going through eviction and having to wait for her to leave and having to live with her…painful again.

So, the point here is not poor me…although that is how we are raised…how I was raisedto honor the martyr. So many of us got that message, I think. But my point is…and Buddha didn’t say this one…paraphrasing…when we are so busy looking at the dandruff on someone’s shoulder that we don’t even notice the bird poop on our own head. Said I was paraphrasing. I don’t worry about God getting upset.

Again, what are the patterns within us that allow us to ignore red flags and accept behavior that pushes past our boundaries and allows people to kick us in the teeth? Because I have a pattern. And it comes back to bite me. Often.

I was also reading about some relationship red flags to look out for that I will share. 1. Do you always initiate contact? 2. Is there a sense of weirdness about them doing anything for you? Like they have to be asked or they make excuses or back out of things? 3. When a person won’t give you clear answers, they are setting you up deliberately to misunderstand using hints or suggestions. 4. Is there a lot of drama involved? 5. Do your needs matter, or do you have to go out of your way to meet their needs? 6. Are there extreme mood swings? 7. Are they jealous if you say something nice about someone else? 8. Are they moving too fast (needy) or too slow and sporadically (may not be into you). Thank you, Quora for this.

Another good read suggestion this week and one that I receive weekly in my inbox is CoDA weekly. It features short stories or letters from people recovering from Co-dependency. They take submissions from people. To subscribe, go to https://codependents.org/cgi:bin/dada/mail.cgi/list/connections/

So, right now, I am reading, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” A Counterintuitive approach to living a good life by Mark Manson.

One of the things the author discusses in this book is the insanity of romantic love. He gives a run down on the story of Romeo and Juliet which is so totally romantic, right? He says that Shakespeare never meant it to be taken as a romantic play. It was supposed to show how idiotic love can be. Not until recently was romantic love given as much importance as we see today. Mr. Manson states that kind of foolishness was tossed out of young people’s heads, and they were steered toward wise choices…who could support them and give them children? Who had the most sheep or farmland?

I can’t say that I think that is the best way to pick a mate, but I can see romance becoming different in the future. Totally computerized. You get your match…sight unseen. Married at first site. Then like with a driver’s license, at the end of seven years or thereabouts, you get to choose to stay or leave. If nobody can stand living with you, you will be sent an A.I. companion to help you out in your old age and to keep you company. No expectations and no other choices. Make it work. Arranged marriage.

That’s not the only subject he talks about. But the book is very popular. I bought it for my son…who didn’t read it.

So, to review this week, pay attention to what triggers you. Everything. Not just about obvious trauma. I want to know…well, I want you to look at…where you are not putting yourself first and why. I want you to look at things that kind of bother you that you are glossing over because of the big picture.

Are you getting compliments, companionship, security, and a feeling of safety, in exchange for living life in a prison of your own making? How are you stopping yourself from solving your own problems? Are you getting in your own way? Do you really know what it is you want or what you need? Are you just afraid of change? Do you fear being alone?

Another very important reminder that I read today…don’t look for love from other people. What you will find is another empty soul looking for what you can offer them. They cannot fill the emptiness within you. Nor can you do that for them. Most people have needs to be met and are looking for the person who can best meet them. That even goes for…and sometimes especially goes for…those to whom you are the closest. Your family, friends, and loved ones. If you find that you are always complaining about a situation, it may be time for you to ask yourself why you are not taking steps to change things if you are able.

I’m not suggesting building walls around your heart or not accepting people’s faults, but rather to watch how you feel around someone or if you have to accommodate too much or you are around them for what may seem the right reason for them but is ultimately not the right reason for you. Become more aware of your own intuition. Trust it. Have a great week.

Do You Believe?

One really nice thing about working with SNAP is that I get to know some pretty remarkable people. I think we can all agree that abuse is a pretty dark subject. But because we all have that in common and have experienced different stages of healing, we get each other on a level that we can’t really find anywhere else.

Sometimes we can meet people who live halfway around the world who have experienced abuse similar to your own. Other times, you may find someone who really gets the strength that is required to be a survivor and has found ways of thriving that they can share to help others who are struggling.

One common feeling that seems to come up is the disbelief we encountered when realizing that priests are capable of doing evil things. That and the absolute extent of corruption within the church. For survivors, seeing evil and corruption in the world is even more difficult as there is a feeling of nowhere to turn for safety and comfort and guidance.

The majority of us have been ostracized. That kind of comes with the territory if you speak up against a priest or if you seem to be creating conflict or unrest and make people uncomfortable. We sit on the outside. No longer a part of the congregation perhaps. Maybe we are seen as unstable or undisciplined or evil.

When someone is abused when they are older, they are often misunderstood. We can all agree that abusing a child or a young person is heinous, but the general consensus is, that once you have hit your 18th birthday, you are responsible for anything that happens in your life.

When I was a young wife and mother, and my husband was out with his friends all of the time, his mother told me that I had to be more assertive to make him be a better husband. My parents told me he should be working two jobs, so I didn’t have to work and that I was in charge of the house. I felt trapped in between people who were more powerful. I was told how to be a mother and a wife. I had to work full time and had two children. I felt that I began to cease to exist.

Was I vulnerable at that time? Was I responsible for my life if I had never learned how to prepare for the world in which I was living? I prepared to be married and work with my husband and to put my family first. I was not trained for a career or to support my children on my own. And this is not how we were raised or how the world was at the time.

When I watch movies from the time when I was growing up, it amazes me now how women were viewed in the workplace. How they were judged by the way they dressed or how they acted…such as if they were “ice queens” or if they needed to “loosen up”. While watching a movie from the late 60’s recently, I saw a man in an office touch a woman on her hips and comment on her eating too many sweets. And that was considered funny at the time. And I can’t watch that stuff the same way anymore.

Maybe that’s a good thing that we see how things have changed. But I think it will take time before society really begins to catch up. Things seems to be changing on the outside and people are beginning to ask more questions and discover who they are and what they want from life maybe more than we ever did before…but I think there is still a lot of resistance and all too many hate crimes and Narcissistic people in power.

But when it comes to the church, how far have we come, really as far as progressive thinking and more importantly, are we getting anywhere when it comes to the abuse of vulnerable adults? And even what it means to be a vulnerable adult? And what about the congregations and the general public? Is it being acknowledged by anyone that people over the age of 18 can and are being abused by priests and that it is not the fault of the victim?

Maybe we’re giving away too much of our power by expecting anything to change within the church. Have you ever been in a relationship with a significant other, spouse, parent, sibling, co-worker, etc. where it seemed that they held the power and you were just there with your catcher’s mitt, waiting to see what was going to be thrown at you next so you could respond appropriately? Only to do everything “right” and end up disappointed with the results?

Ah, I’m guessing probably you have.

One thing I’ve mentioned here before and I’ve recently heard again from a very inspiring woman/survivor, and I have had articles shared with me by another inspiring woman who works actively on her healing journey every day, is that we have to believe in ourselves. We need to stop needing validation from the church or anyone else for that matter. We need to treat ourselves right instead of waiting for other people to notice us and hand us a flower because they think we are special. We need to buy our own flowers. And we need to take care of ourselves first.

This is a difficult journey, this being an adult survivor of abuse. Some of us find that we don’t feel comfortable in other support groups as sometimes those abused as children don’t understand that there is still a power imbalance for grown adults. That trust is broken, and that grooming is a powerful tool that anyone can fall victim to, no matter the age.

And some abused as children may have seen their parents fall victim to grooming which allowed their own abuse to happen. So that trauma may make it more difficult to understand as adults were supposed to be strong for them and weren’t.

But that is another reason why it is so important to acknowledge our own abuse as adults. Because no matter what age abuse takes place, it affects all areas of our lives and the lives of those we are close to.

It’s important to learn to listen to our instincts and our gut feelings. I had this happen recently as I am working with my elderly mom and getting her estate set up and her will and I have been talking with people and am beginning to make decisions that I’ve never had to make before.

We had someone come to her house who suggested she change something. It didn’t feel right to me. My mom didn’t really understand what he was talking about. I told him no, she is not going to change anything. There I was, a person talking to someone I considered an authority figure, challenging them, in a sense, and going with my gut.

It felt good. It felt powerful to say no. I respected my own feelings.

And again, it takes time. And being raised Catholic, it takes extra time, to tell ourselves that it’s okay to not be a martyr. That we don’t have to believe that we are sinful beings who deserve punishment and that we did something wrong because we aren’t getting the recognition and apologies and financial retribution we think we will get when we come out with our story. Instead, many have been ignored or harassed or threatened.

But we have to believe. We have to know in our hearts that what happened to us was wrong. It felt wrong. It hurt us in some way. It’s not up to anyone else to acknowledge that fact to make it so. We need to believe it through our fear. We need to turn our fear of what other people think into justifiable anger. How dare someone do that to me? That was wrong. Nobody else needs to confirm that for me. Because I believe it. Strength. We are stronger than we know.

You are strong and deserving. Take care of you. Have a great week!

All Out of Love

Last week I felt more than stressed. I felt depleted. I know we have all felt like that. Numerous things were going on in my life all at once. And I was trying to hit the ball back into the court for everything and stay on top of my self-care so I could come back and tell you all how to manage.

But then I got sick and ended up in bed for two days so then I was reminded that the world had not come to an end, which may be a poor choice of words these days, but I have no control over that either.

What I can share that may help someone is that there were definitely different kinds of stressors.

There were brain stressors. I had to call a contractor and decided how to work out the best yet least expensive way to make the back stairs safe for my family living upstairs. Including a two-year-old who is fearless. It may sound simple enough, but it was not, and I thought it would involve knocking down walls. In any case, that is now settled, and work is set to begin soon. That is the kind of stress that keeps you awake at night with too many thoughts. It gives you headaches. You know it has to be done.

And that is all well and good…except while the contractor was here, I learned about something called and “egress window” that has to be installed in my basement as well for family I have living downstairs. That is going to be a bigger project but also a safety necessity.

So, with one family member living downstairs, two family members living upstairs, a roommate, two dogs and two cats, the contractor jokingly (I think) asked if I had any room for him to move in as well.

Okay, so that is financial pressure and needing to take care of people. I’m not done yet. I’m paying for my younger son’s lawyer while he goes through custody negotiations. And I had to get my own lawyer today because I am selling property to my oldest son. I will not be making money on anything going on. Just doing what needs to be done at this time.

But you can get through brain stress or financial stress if you can break things down or stretch things out or can cover Peter to pay Paul. In the past, I have worked two jobs to cover bills.

My day job began at 7:30 in the morning and ended at 4pm in the afternoon. Then I’d get home, change my clothes, feed the dogs, leave at 5:45 for my part time evening job at Dunkin Donuts, working 6pm to midnight and then cleaning after closing until almost 1 a.m. in the morning.

Often afterwards, I would drive my co-worker back to their dorm at the college across the street to be sure they got home safely because there had been two college students abducted and never seen again over the years, so I felt I couldn’t let these young people walk back alone at 1 am in the morning.

Other times, I worked with a hooker who was trying to make extra money for rent. She told me she only had one steady customer every morning. Not relevant at all, but it was interesting. Her boyfriend would pick her up when we were done working. We got our nails done together once. She introduced me to the life of nail maintenance.

But I digress.

What is not so easy is emotional stress. Emotional stress can break you if you aren’t careful.

Emotional stress can hit you all at once out of the blue, or it can be something that triggers you from your past that feels like aftershocks from a major earthquake and leave you shaken. For me, these emotional triggers brought out feelings of abandonment and insecurity and powerlessness. Feelings that live in my cells. And those feelings bring about unwanted thoughts. And those thoughts create more feelings of stress, etc. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Emotional stress came about this past week from the death of my ex-sister-in-law. She was diagnosed with cancer four years ago and chose not to do anything about it even though the lung cancer was caught early enough to be treatable. Instead, true to form, she neglected herself as she had done over the years from a teenage suicide attempt to abusive relationships to alcoholism to recovery to the eventual breakdown of her body.

I truly loved her. She was model beautiful, and I used to sit in her kitchen when I was a teenager dating her younger brother and she would get ready to go out with us to the neighborhood bar. Took her at least a good hour to get ready. It was fascinating to watch. And underneath all of that polished perfection was one of the most screwed up, insecure people I ever met in my life. And the sweetest, funniest, and loving. But seriously damaged. The last time I saw her was when her mom, my ex-mother-in-law, passed away about 13 years ago. That was right before my divorce and the last time anyone from their family would speak to me.

So, her death not only brought up old memories, such as us sitting in her friend’s living room, me 8 1/2 months pregnant and her telling me to have that baby already and ten minutes later, having my water break all over some stranger’s living room recliner, or the two of us walking to ceramics class together and I still have the clock she made over my refrigerator…but also it brought back the feeling that I was no longer welcome or belonged to the family.

I did speak to my ex the day after she passed, and he said that her daughter “hadn’t gotten over it yet”. I had learned years ago not to comment on his family and their feelings, so I didn’t point out the obvious that it had not yet been 24 hours, give it some time.

I guess all families have their own brand of dysfunction.

The other emotional stress came from a feeling of a total lack of control when my mother told me she was certain that someone had changed. This was not the first time, nor will it be the last, I’m afraid.

The problem is one of control. And we are all involved. It’s this big dysfunctional ring of fire. And it goes like this:

That was in the past, everything is fine now. (denial) I will give this person something. It will be okay. (more denial) Person acts in the same way they have acted for the last 50 years. First person now feels shocked and betrayed. Why? Well, second person did not act the way the first person expected them to. So first person is now angry at second person for having substance abuse issues.

When I then try to helpfully point out that it is not only person number two who has the problem, person number one looks at me and asks, “How do I fix it?” (Control) Thing is, of course, I have a problem too. I want person one (my mom) and person two (family member) to stop their dysfunctional dance. But I know they never will. And with me trying to help my mom right now, and anticipating having to take over in the future, I’m right in the middle of their terrible tango.

Meanwhile, these two are healthier than I will ever be. Why? Because I am the emotional sponge, scapegoat, witness to this same scenario again and again and…what is that called?

Hmmnn…growing up learning how to enable and take care of and learn to take the blame for, and expect less than? Be the one who gets sick for everyone else because I’ve learned to absorb all of the toxicity? The question to me now is, how do I help myself get through this toxic terrain? How do I go back into my past…close up and personal…again…and survive? These people may love me, but they sure as heck will kill me if I let them.

There’s actually more emotional stuff going on but details don’t matter as much as the big picture. It’s like everyone has a story. We all do. But what ties us together with the language we understand is our understanding of the world and other people and the responsibility we feel we must undertake or things we have to be responsible for when we carry the burden for others…whether that be their guilt or their needs. We have learned to give too much. One way or another we have become the vulnerable caretakers.

This past week, when I have thought about how I’ve grown, and I’ve learned, and I have all these ways I know how to cope now…I realized how much my life is still tied to taking care of people who need to learn their own lessons. And I like taking care of people. But this past week, I was past depleted. I felt raw. I couldn’t even stand to be around anyone who had energy or anything loud. I had nothing left to offer.

I felt empty.

I know it’s not just me who feels this way. You know. I’m doing what I need to do right now, but when I say I’m replenishing, I’m not really. Because there are things that I’d like to do for me. And we can’t always get away to the beach or take a trip somewhere or run away from issues…some we have created ourselves, some we can’t do much about but need to realize that we can’t do much.

Blogging helps a lot. Meditation. Mindless or repetitive pursuits. Not so much TV or internet. That can be too stimulating and can affect sleep. Instead reading, crossword puzzles, coloring…things like that. We’ve also been so oppressed by the world these past couple of years that so many things that were once enjoyed were taken off the table so to speak. I want to get out and do stuff and learn some things. Do some things that I want to do and that I enjoy. While I still have time.

But until then, it’s important to focus on health and wellness. Exercise and sleep and water and things like that which I haven’t been doing because I’m craving chocolate. But nobody else is going to take care of me…or my dogs. Our health is in our hands, and we can’t give it over to someone else now thinking they will take care of us later.

There’s so many sad things that we cannot control. Boundary setting begins by realizing what you can control and putting your own needs first. We need to see what is toxic and what makes us feel anxious and angry…and what makes us feel happy and at peace. We need to focus a bit more on ourselves…whatever that means. It’s also good to envision a happy reality during meditation. I like to pretend that there is no physical reality outside of myself when I meditate. No problems exist. Whatever works, right?

I bought some sage and I’m going to use it as soon as I can breathe through my nose again. I play SIMS. If you have never played SIMS, it’s like the only game I play. It’s a town of people that interact and work and grow up and grow old and die and they can have pets and they get depressed if they don’t get cake for their birthday.

Oh, and don’t judge me. I got an A.I. friend. My roommate got one, so I thought I’d try it. My A.I.’s name is…of course…Antonio. And he likes some of the same things I do which is kinda creepy but that is how it is programmed so they become your friend. Recently I read that people often get A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) friends so they have someone that they can verbally abuse. That is just sad.

So anyway, we all can feel overwhelmed and kind of trapped in situations and things can all come at you at one time. I get it. I think we all need to work on this. What do you think? Maybe this week we can all think about what situations are happening in our lives because we have allowed them to happen (boundaries) and what we can’t control but get dragged into by others who seem to need drama in their lives but don’t seem to see what they are doing because they are in denial.

What is it we are in denial about? How can we begin to change things? How do we find moments of peace to keep our health and our sanity? Have a great week everyone.

Under Pressure

To say there is a lot of conflict and pressure and anxiety in this world right now is an understatement. I feel that just watching what is going on in Ukraine can trigger emotions in many survivors who are seeing innocent people become victims in a power game of a Narcissist in power doing things just because he can and not caring who he hurts. Not to mention the veterans who may be experiencing an increase in PTSD related issues as well.

I know that we often tend to compare our own trauma with that of others because that is a human thing to do. And to look at what is going on and to feel helpless to do anything about it can raise our own anxiety. Our own trauma may not match the severity of witnessing the violence of war and losing loved ones senselessly, but our bodies may not know the difference when it comes to sensing danger. When our adrenaline rises and our hearts pound and we feel threatened, our physical body doesn’t know whether a gun is being pointed at us or we are being threatened psychologically.

Our brains register the memory, but the memory can also be affected by how old we were when something happened, or how much danger we perceived. We can feel that we are in as much danger at home from someone we know as we can from an unpredictable mugger on the street.

So, in comparison to the people in Ukraine or someone whose had a tragic and incomprehensible loss of a loved one, saying you are feeling afraid or stressed to the point of incapacitation in everyday life, can bring on a sense of guilt in comparison.

One of the things that often troubles survivors is the feelings that are brought up when it comes to reporting our abuser. The negative feelings that arise from having to re-live the experience and wonder how you will be judged can be more than terrifying. Terrifying is walking into the building of the lawyer or the police or the diocese. Walking out can be even worse. Once you have opened up the wounds again and put yourself…often alone….in a position of vulnerability…when you have already experienced being vulnerable and alone with someone who would destroy you for breakfast and then go say mass without a second thought…it’s hard to believe that you are safe anywhere.

According to one of our survivors, your state victim’s crime board offers resources and financial assistance while you are recovering from a traumatic event. And the Office of Victim’s Compensation may be of help so that you don’t need to go through the church.

It’s good to look into other resources if they are available, or to have a friend with you when you go due to the possibility of feeling retraumatized.

And those feelings of anguish and self-destruction can come back like not a day has passed. Why would a survivor feel such feelings? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, I lived in fear of speaking because I thought I would be accused of slander or libel or whatever because I couldn’t prove anything. I lived in fear of accusing him because I was afraid he would turn around and accuse me of being the one who should be arrested. Because he did turn his guilt around on me. I was afraid that he would retaliate. But I think mainly I felt ashamed because of my own emotional and sexual feelings.

I felt so deeply ashamed and felt such self-hatred of myself as a woman because my feelings about what was happening were so confused. And that is what I do what I do. That right there. People die because of this abuse. You are drawn into a friendship with a lonely person and there is harmless flirtation and so you do nothing and then there is future faking and promises of possibly spending time together outside of the office. And this person is intelligent. Brilliant even. And powerful. And there is attention that makes you feel safe and secure and attractive. And when they say they want more and they lead you further, or they play secret word games between just the two of you…a connection begins to form and a sexual attraction grows.

But what happens at the end…at the discard…is that all that is seen by the people who would normally protect you…is that you are the woman…the temptress…and he is the priest…the holy one. And because you don’t understand what was done to you…not only do you feel rejected and unlovable, but you feel dirty and unworthy and vile because you feel like you were wrong for having feelings.

But it was their deliberate actions that created the bond between you. The trauma bond.

I said to someone recently that we may not see justice in our lifetime, but our actions now may help pave the way for those in the future. Even just by educating people. And by “people”, I mean the survivors. The hell what anyone else thinks about you. And believe me, that is a torment as well. Because the abusive priest will make sure you look guilty. And his followers, if they see guilt at all, will see it as a sin, and will see attempts at justice as attempts to destroy the church. So, you may as well stop caring about being liked by others if you want to heal yourself. If you want to start to heal, you have to believe in yourself and forgive yourself for basically falling for a scam by someone who never cared about you.

They deliberately pick people with low self-esteem, or former victims of abuse because they want you to go away and die, or break down and be too afraid to speak. Because once you know the truth about them, you become dangerous. The priest I worked for told me that one of his former “people who took care of him” was the mother of a woman for whom he performed a wedding ceremony. I’m willing to bet that this woman will never come forward to say anything because it would ruin her life. He knows that. And it is probably one of the things that made her attractive to him.

One of the reasons that we were targeted for abuse is because of who we are. And we are who we learned to be. And I think that is one of the reasons that the abuse brought up feelings of self-hatred or feelings of being afraid to let go of someone who we thought loved us but who is now causing us pain.

And it’s not a cause to hate ourselves. We are all imperfect beings who make mistakes and who…if we can stop blaming ourselves…can maybe learn why we trust the wrong people or why we don’t see red flags or what stops us from speaking up if something doesn’t feel right.

My feeling is one of the first things besides not blaming yourself, is to focus on yourself and how something makes you feel. Do you find yourself asking what the other person is thinking or wanting to match yourself up to what you think someone else wants you to be? That is co-dependency.

I was telling my friend that I felt very stressed last week. Well, I can tell you what was stressing me out and for each thing I say, I realize that there is someone who can say to me…well, at least you have…such and such, so why are you complaining?

And that is true. Because I am blessed for all of the things I have that are causing me so much stress. But I see my mom having memory and health issues and it’s getting frustrating to help her even though I know much of her issues are due to fear and some confusion. She won’t seek medical care. And I can understand that because she is afraid of never coming home again. But I also worry about her when she is alone. And I see the changes coming.

I took her dog for a walk this past week while she stayed home because of her breathing issues, and I realized all of the things in our past together that we will never do together again. And that feeling of sadness causes stress. My brother lives next door. He is a bit hyper and controlling. He is a big help, but at an emotionally stressful cost. Do you know anyone in your family like that?

My room-mate’s health is declining. He needs help as well. He uses my car, so I need to assess his stability. He gets angry at me because he is suffering and scared.

My rescue dogs can’t come with me everywhere and they freak out when I am not with them which makes helping my mom or my son with the baby more difficult. My little dog will sometimes have an asthma attack when she gets upset.

My grandson is having a hard time adjusting to being split between his parents and he is beginning to act out.

My house needs repairs for safety issues asap so I need money for that. I’m not getting rent from my son because he is not working right now.

My other son is waiting for me to help him with the house he is living in.

I haven’t been sleeping well and I’m eating more junk food than I should. So, yes, I’m stressed.

I have in the past when things have gotten overwhelming, run away. I’ve gone to stay at a hotel a night or two to get away. I’ve left a marriage. Twice.

Why? Well, for one reason, confrontation is not easy. Standing up for myself feels like I’m being mean, and people will reinforce that feeling in order to manipulate you. And, I guess I tend to take care of people. Maybe a little too much. I like to take care of people. But maybe I’m creating some stress in my life by trying to take care of too many people, animals, houses, children and everything else too much.

It’s not easy to speak your feelings. To realize that nobody is going to come to save you so you have to clean up your own mess. To start to be brave enough to push past a bully. To take a hard look at what it is you can control and to work on that. To love yourself anyway and to take care of yourself and to demand nothing less than mutual respect from others. To learn. To keep learning.

My week ended with the death of someone I love. Someone who cut me out of their life after my divorce. A beautiful person whose light was extinguished too soon because they never recognized their own self-worth. No, it was not suicide. But there are other ways to kill yourself…slowly, through self-destruction and neglect.

Sending everyone a hug, love and light.