Guest Blog Number Seven

Yes. Indeed. The entitlement of the charming charismatic chameleon is all too familiar.

I followed the cord in my life all the way back to where it was plugged in.

Guess who my first love was? A charming charismatic, narcissistic, alcoholic wife beater womanizer! Dear old dad! He was the first man I saw beside the doctor of course. He was my first love.

My mother would have fit the classic codependent.

Our personalities are formed by the time we are five. So the first five years of my life I lived in chaos and abuse.

Then my mother died two months after her 35th birthday. She wanted to leave my father.

She did along with the three of us little children so close in ages. She did not want our father to have us. She asked one of her sisters to take us and keep us together. Her sister said she would but could not. At least my mother died thinking we would be somewhat ok.

The cost of codependency is a heavy price. My father went on to live, if you call it that, until all the consequences of his alcoholism took his life a month shy of his 58th birthday. He had wet brain syndrome from his brain turning to gel after years of being pickled and along with neck cancer from years of smoking unfiltered cigarettes combined with the toxins of alcohol.

The point is the codependent died of cancer long before my father’s alcoholism claimed him. She thought her love could change him. It killed her instead. It did not change him.

My marriage was abusive. I knew I should not have married him but did not want to inconvenience the people who bought their bridesmaid dresses or guest who purchased airline tickets for the event. I told my then fiancé let’s wait another year. He demonstrated really serious red flag behaviors. But he convinced me to stick with the date we chose. I figured if he really wanted to be married to me that maybe things would change and he would be ok.

Things got worse.

I ended up leaving ten years later with a blossoming alcohol abuse issue and cancer. That’s my mother’s story.  But I managed to leave. She did not make it that far.

I am surprised given the complex ptsd created by a lifetime of nothing but narcissist abusive people and throw in there three priest abusers that I still am sucking air and sane.

Today I am doing both. I am breathing and sane.

With a lot of work on self-recovery which is a life time journey I have managed to heal my life and be sitting here in a state of wonder and gratitude.

Everyday hero’s don’t appear on the movie screens in theaters nor are they dressed in fancy costumes. We might not ever be known by the world for our courageous acts.

But just look in the mirror. There is a hero or heroine staring right back at us.

Smile at her/him. Look in her/his eyes and tell them just how amazing they are. Tell them you love them and are sorry they suffered so much. Tell them we made it to here, and the best is yet to come.

Do this every day until those words make it into our hearts. Feel the warmth of true love that never leaves us again never to pour it into empty narcissistic abusers who siphon our light while depositing their unowned darkness until we are depleted and it’s time for them to find new supply.

We don’t have to stay trapped entombed in the prison cells of our childhoods locked inside by the bars of pain and oppression. If that door opens to our cells we don’t have to lie there in learned helplessness even though the door opens ever so little.

We can choose to step off the hamster wheel of abuse and it’s corresponding addictions to ease the pain spinning going nowhere. It takes the first step.

There is an abundance of help out there. The first step is to take the outstretched hand and grab the help. We ARE so worth it even if we were told lies that we are not. Don’t believe it! The investment into self that we poured into others is the best gift of love we can receive.

I learned there are no knight in shining armors out there who sweep down and rescue us. We are our own knights, our own rescuers. We get to choose to rewrite our stories.

I learned how love without abuse feels through how I rescued myself. It’s incredible!

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.

Smiling Faces Sometimes…

The following are stats for the month of May:

The top five countries to read this blog after the U.S. are: United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ireland and China. This blog now has 91 followers. Busiest time is Sunday at 6pm. Top five blogs so far this year are: In My Head, Clarity, Goodbye to Love, Guest Blog #6, and Reflections of My Life. Most people have never heard of the bill tracking site called “Where’s George” (I do it as a fun waste of time), Most people are now seeing a therapist and they feel that it is helping them to do so, the majority of readers said they plan to attend the SNAP Colorado conference on-line, and most of us are working on our Co-dependency issues.

I know that there are things that happened this past week. Disturbing things. Evil hurting innocents. I think what is even more disturbing is that at this point in time, mass shootings have become so common that we can only feel bad for the victims for a moment before the next one happens. And it becomes such a common thing to hear that we begin to tune it out and move on in order to be able to live our lives. The fact that children aren’t safe in school and that there is such evil that exists is a very sad commentary on the shape of our society.

The cowardness of evildoers is obvious. Going after the most vulnerable of people who have no means of defense ensures their sense of power and control. Just the week before the shooting at the elementary school, there was a shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY where one of the victims was an 86-year-old woman. No way can an 86-year-old run quickly to hide. We tend to forget in all of the overwhelming news stories that this was someone’s mom maybe. Just out picking up a few items perhaps. Maybe her grandchild was coming over after school. Bravely going out risking getting infected by Covid. Never suspecting that a mask wasn’t going to be of any help that day. Any plans for life in the future cut short by someone who did not see her as a human being.

It affects us. It has to. We go on and live our lives because there is really nothing much we can do to help, and because we have to go on, but any progress we’ve made as far as feeling safe in our world probably takes a step back. We want to leave justice to our higher power and to those in positions of power on Earth. But some of us may doubt either or both for what seems to be their lack of involvement and action in protecting the innocent.

I was sent something recently which I watched regarding Narcissistic people. Remember that we all have egos and many if not all of us have some unresolved issues regarding being loved enough as children. Well, these days it seems that everyone wants to be recognized. Everyone seems to want their 15 minutes of fame. We see videos of little children who want to be influencers, before they can even grasp what that really means. But we get a kick out of the likes we receive, and the praise and the fame and perhaps the money. And I’m thinking that probably has a lot to do with the increase in violence we are seeing in our country.

Because even as children, we learn that even negative attention is still attention.

Also in the news is that Manson murderer Patricia Krenwinkel was granted parole on May 26, 2022. I was a kid when the murders took place in 1969, and due to the nature of the violence involved, and the fact that the group of Manson’s followers murdered people who were complete strangers to them on someone else’s orders, the details of that night are still horrific to this day.

Yet now that we have a better understanding of how grooming works and how the rollercoaster ride of manipulation…the giving and removing of praise and rewards/love…creates trauma bonds between the perpetrator and their victim, we can maybe understand more the vulnerable position this woman was in at the time. Perhaps we can relate a bit to her connection with a Narcissistic madman whose love and acceptance she grew to crave and need. And of the fear that would have been felt at the thought of losing that connection. As well as the barrier breakdown that was happening so that her own feelings of weakness and self-doubt bonded with that which she saw as strength until she could no longer think for herself.

The drugs and isolation would have contributed to these feelings. And the idea that this happens more often than we want to believe is scary as hell.

I’ve read children who grow up with Narcissists are more likely to fall into relationships with Narcissists. However, seeing how the Narc can be charming, and how they know just how to become everything a person has ever wanted or needed, who wouldn’t welcome their soul mate and best friend into their world? And who wouldn’t completely trust someone who recognized how special they were? Who wouldn’t feed upon the life-giving fuel of pure love?

Until it is snatched away, leaving the person starving and willing to do anything for a crumb. It is then that a person begins to put their Narcissistic partner before their own children, before the values they grew up with, before their financial and physical health, before their own dignity, and sometimes, before their own life. And it happens all the time.

This week, I began to read a book about healing and the body’s energy centers or Chakras. I just started to read this book, so I know very little about anything just yet. I have in the past worked with energy, participating in classes for Tai Chi and Chi Qigong, as well as working with Reiki. But I never actually looked into energy healing as in researching its history or why and how it works within the body.

I do know that I have come to a point in my life where I need to focus on myself and turn my attention inward. And that is what I will be doing for a while. I have stepped back a bit from my SNAP duties. I am suffering from burn out. Covid and world news has not helped. I have found that my well is dry and I need to replenish.

What this means is that I will no longer be doing weekly Abused as Adults meetings. I will be sharing hosting duties for a once a month Abused as Adults meeting with another SNAP leader. Right now, we are looking at the first Sunday of the month from 4pm to 6pm EST. Writing helps me heal so I will continue to work on the blog, although it may not be a regular weekly thing. I have a lot going on as far as family and changes and people needing me right now, so being tied to a regular schedule or even feeling responsible, is not something I’m craving at the moment.

I have been having some unsettling dreams lately. Last night, try as I might, I could not keep up with my co-workers in my dream, and I was in danger of being fired. It felt unfair because I felt that I worked harder than everyone else. Everyone else seemed to effortlessly get their work done with time to spare. Not me. I was sweating and struggling and still coming up short. My boss pulled me aside to counsel me. I felt panicked and like I would never fit in or be as good as the other workers.

I need to not be stressed out in my dream world. Perhaps some yoga might help.

We have talked about what we all do when we are upset or depressed and we need to put our minds into something we enjoy. We will see where this energy journey goes.

I read today about a doctor I once knew…back in the day when I was pregnant and visiting the obstetrician. This doctor had kidney failure and needed dialysis and a kidney transplant. He practiced what we call “Western Medicine”, but he also decided that he wasn’t just going to sit around and wait for things to be done to him. He was going to be an active participant in his health journey.

So, he meditated, and he visualized his body healing, and his family said that he radiated golden energy. I know I always liked him. He was part of the group I went to during both of my pregnancies. He continued to care for his patients, for whom he had a deep respect. He remained positive.

Unfortunately, he did pass away sooner than he should have, but his daughter feels that he lived longer than he would have otherwise if he focused on being a kidney patient. Instead, he saw himself as a person who just happened to have some kidney issues to take care of.

I have to say that I do believe that the mind has much to do with our health. I may have mentioned before that my mom had cancer back in 1995. She didn’t say anything to anyone, but the doctor had told her to get her things in order because she probably had about six months to live. My mom chose to focus instead on cleaning out her sister’s house after she passed away, and getting it sold. She then joined a dance group and did line dancing and then joined square dancing and many exercise classes during the week. She has just lived her life without counting the days. And she is still around now 27 years later.

Okay, she doesn’t meditate, and she hates candles and wouldn’t know a chakra if it hit her in the solar plexus, but she does eat well and she exercises. And every day, even if she feels like staying in bed, she gets up, makes her bed, lets the dog out, has breakfast, and does the crossword puzzle. So, yes, I’m going to be working on doing some of that.

Be good to yourself. You are worth it. 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.

Victim of Love

Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all. These holidays can bring about love and memories and the pain of loss or what may have been…or what never was. It’s a difficult day for sure for anyone who has lost their mom or for a mom who has lost a child. And it can magnify the relationship with your mom ten-fold on such a day.

My brother gave our mom a box of chocolates and a box of chocolate covered strawberries for Mother’s Day. He gave those to her on Friday. I was over there on Sunday. “Where is the chocolate?” I asked. “Gone,” she told me.

Gone? May or may not have been the truth. My mother watches my weight so she may have hidden stuff. But she told me that she went through the box of candy piece by piece and opened each one to see what was inside, eating the ones she wanted and tossing the rest…which I guess was most of the box. And, knowing my mom, she removed the chocolate off of the strawberries. She offered me some plain strawberries in a bowl.

I got my mom a heated back massager because she loves the heated seats in my car and said they felt so good after working in the yard. She tried it but said it was too rough…after all, she has no fat on her back…the implication was clear. It went back in the box. She will be giving it to my brother. I already have one. My back being fat enough to take it.

At this point in our lives, my mom makes me laugh. She told me a story about how as a teen, she was smoking in her room and her mother opened the door…the room full of smoke…and when asked if she had been smoking, she denied it. That made me laugh and feel closer to her. I still hide how much soda I drink, or I will sneak a cookie when I am around her. And she still keeps shoving fruit in my face when I am sitting at her table, but at this point, she has grown tired, and I have been able to step back and appreciate the amazing person that she is. As she has gotten older, there are things I have begun to help her with a bit more and our roles have begun to change a bit.

Perhaps one of the reasons I have been able to emotionally distance myself as far as getting annoyed with my mother is because she is getting older, and I know that our time together is growing shorter. Perhaps part of it has to do with the whole world around us is changing and I want to hold onto the past for as long as possible. Perhaps it is because as I am getting older, I realize how precious unconditional love is, and how rare. But perhaps, also, as I have gotten older and have gone through tough times like a rock through a tumbler, I have come out the other end a bit stronger and more self-reliant.

Yes, I am still reading the same book. I don’t know how many weeks this is right now. But it has long chapters and there is a lot of info to digest. The author, Mark Manson, writes something so eloquent in his book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck”, that I would like to share it here, in its entirety. It basically describes what he calls, “the yin and yang of any toxic relationship”.

Entitled people who blame others for their own emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they constantly paint themselves as victims, eventually someone will come along and save them, and they will receive the love they’ve always wanted.”

He goes on to say, ” Entitled people who take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they “fix” their partner and save him or her, they will receive the love and appreciation they’ve always wanted.”

Wow.

I do see myself in those descriptions. However, there was a time when I would not have seen it so clearly. When we are young, or still very attached to someone else like our parents, or a spouse who perhaps we have married at a very young age, before we have had the time to know who we are on our own, it is so easy to feel that we are the victim. And perhaps in some cases we are. Many times, we may be the victim, in fact. But oftentimes, those who are abused, feel connected to their abuser. As if they are one.

He hit me but I didn’t shut up when he warned me to. If I leave, I will be alone. Nobody else will want me. I’m terrified. I don’t know how to cook, drive, balance my own checkbook, I have no friends of my own, I’ll have to go back to work, I have to do their laundry/dishes, etc. because their place is a mess, and they shouldn’t be living like that…

Anytime and in any situation where you feel you need to save someone or fix someone, or you feel the need to be saved from a situation by someone (which puts you in a position of vulnerability), there is a bit of co-dependency. In fact, what we are saying when we feel the need to nurture a grown person in such a way that becomes unhealthy to both people, is that we aren’t going to let that person take responsibility for themselves. We are also saying that we are not going to have a life other than taking care of that other person.

Why do we do this? Probably because we have learned where we fit in as far as what we were valued for when we were young. There are those who are in some way irresponsible, and there are those who must take up the slack and be the responsible ones so that life goes on smoothly. We witness this in the relationships of the adults that we know and love. In some way we may know that it isn’t the way the rest of the world operates, but we know our place and we know “our people”. We recognize the other piece of our puzzle when we meet them. We connect ourselves to them but then we blame them for either not appreciating us, or not changing their ways and fixing themselves.

We are a complicated people. We surely are that.

One of the things that seems unfair to me and that has bugged me throughout the years is that I’ve tried. I’ve really tried so hard. I’ve gone to therapy. I’ve done all the work for my entire family and then some. I’ve left relationships that didn’t work out or seemed unhealthy. I made sure my son got a DNA test on a baby born when he was in high school. I’ve been to court for custody and harassment and eviction and child support. I’ve lived on my own for many years. I’ve made friends with neighbors who have helped me out. I’ve made new friends on my own. Travelled on my own. Hired lawyers and real estate brokers and repair people. Worked two jobs. Called the police for drug dealers and homeless people living in a vacant house next door and for loud parties held by college students. I sat with someone who was overdosing while the neighbors called for an ambulance. I have worked at being independent. I have worked at making myself stronger.

And I thought at the end of all of this, at some point, there would be a reward. What reward, you ask? Well, to receive the love and appreciation that I’ve always wanted, I answer. Are we sensing a pattern here?

I still want the codependent’s dream. Just to stop trying so hard. Just to love and to be loved. And yet, the traumas I have gone through make me fearful of just being me with someone else just being themselves. Nobody saving anybody or having to offer anybody anything other than me. How can I possibly do that when I don’t know how?

Recently, as I have mentioned, my mother has needed more help with things, and I’m coming face to face with signs that are telling me that somewhere up ahead everything is just going to come to a complete halt, and I will have to process that. And I feel like there is this emotional exchange that should be going on between us. We do say “I love you” and we keep in touch daily and I go over to see her a couple of times a week. But I feel like there is a tsunami of emotions behind a brick wall. I function stoically and remind her to keep her doors locked and drive her places and make sure her finances are safe and sound.

And I wonder why I feel like I am detaching from the mother ship and turning off switches and locking down hatches and shutting down emotions. And I wonder sometimes if I will know when it is the last time we will speak. Does anyone ever?

But as I wonder what is wrong with me and why I feel so very flat emotionally, I realize that is how I was raised. Emotion comes out as control in our family. As in “I love you so I will tell you what I think is best for you.” There is never anyone saying things like, “Honey, I love you so much. I will miss you when you are gone.”

Come to think of it, what I just described was expressing emotion openly. Emotion has to come out in some way. Good or bad, emotion is either going to tear us up inside physically or emotionally or come out when someone finally snaps and does something violent, or it can become a phobia, or an obsessive-compulsive behavior, or it can be thrown into work or alcohol or something, but emotions have to go someplace. And behaviors are learned.

Perhaps codependency is one of those ways we learn to channel feelings. We can’t say how we feel and still feel safe doing so. But if we try to fix things or we take care of people, maybe they will love us or not go away.

I should really read more about codependency. But it may take awhile. I still have to finish this book I’m reading. Have a good week.

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.

Slipping Through My Fingers

As we reach the end of the month, I will share the stats for April.

Most people have had two surgeries. Many of us struggle with boundaries for a variety of reasons, not just one reason in particular. We have been in love but fewer than five times. Many have lost children, and the most common loss was through miscarriages. My sympathy to anyone who has gone through such a loss.

The top five countries reading this blog after the U.S.A. were: Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and Spain.

The two most popular blogs this month tied for 1st place were, Goodbye to Love and Guest Blog #6 which was by Dorothy Small. The most popular time for reading the blog was Sunday evening at 6pm.

I would like to remind everyone that the Annual SNAP meeting will be held in person this year. It will be held in Denver, Colorado in July. Please check out the SNAP website for details in how to sign up for this weekend. It will be wonderful to see everyone in person again. From what I understand, the conference will also be able to be viewed on-line.

Last week I wrote about how we perceive love at different times in our lives. It’s funny how that even in writing about a personal experience and how I perceived it once compared to how I later perceived it or how I feel about it now, that someone saw themselves in what they saw as a similar situation from the male point of view. And in doing so, they tried to defend the male side, which I thought was okay, but I have to point out that the relationships were not alike. The reason being…I did not have a relationship with the young man I wrote about.

That was kind of my point in a way. At the age of 14, I thought I was in a relationship. I thought this person was my boyfriend. But I had no reference to go by. When I look back now, I see that I was in love with what I thought was happening. In reality, I was a 14-year-old girl in the 8th grade of a Catholic school, getting picked up in a car by a boy who could drive and who had his own car, who was 17 years old, and who was about to enter his senior year in high school. It was not a relationship. It was not love on his part. At 14, I did not know in reality that someone would ask me out and be my first kiss and all of that and not have feelings for me. But I don’t remember doing things with him or talking about things with him. I do remember a lot of hanging out in my parents’ basement. And that is all I will say about that. Except, I was not male bashing. I was saying that I did not know that sometimes people…in this case, a guy who I thought I was in a relationship with…could tell me he was going to take me to a concert, and then just walk out the door never to be heard from again. And then I had to go to high school the next Fall, knowing I would probably see him in the hallways. I felt crushed and rejected.

Anyway, that is what affected my self-esteem when I was 14 going into high school. Not the fact that I had tied for the top score on the entrance exams in the city. Not the fact that I was offered a one-year scholarship at an all-girls school, or that shocked teachers told me that I was surprisingly intelligent. What mattered to me most was what some boy who was in my life for only three months thought about me.

And yet, do those early relationships set the stage for how we see ourselves later on? I’m thinking they do. Or perhaps they just confirm what we were already thinking about ourselves.

There were conversations this week about how Covid-19 has affected us and our relationships. I’m not just talking about if we have been sick or if we have lost someone. We have gone through a very stressful time in our world. It’s strained the seams of not just our jeans but our lives as well. We have had more time to have the news bombard us. Everything seems closer and worse as tensions rise and inflation soars, and beloved celebrities pass away, and we get our daily dose of the depression and abusive marriage of Johnny Depp and his ex as they fling dirt back and forth.

All of this input has to affect how we are feeling. Rising food costs affect how we are eating. Rising gas prices affect if we can go anywhere or if we still have to stay home. The world feels grey. It can be hard…really hard…to see our blessings. It can be hard not to see anything but annoyances in the people we live with. Fear and sadness may already have a permanent residence inside of our heads. Somedays it may feel hard to do anything if you feel you’ve done it before, and nothing is making a difference. How are we supposed to cope?

If you are a sensitive person or a person who has grown up learning to put yourself last after everyone else has been taken care of, seeing bad things happening in the world and around you daily can bring back feelings of being responsible. Logically, we know that we can’t help everyone. But emotionally, we find it so hard to read about suffering. That weighs on us and we bring those feelings into our lives. It’s hard not to. And it’s hard to feel that we are helpless. That feeling of helplessness can arouse feelings of anxiety and depression.

I want to stress how important it is to take care of yourself. We can become off-balance without even realizing it. Like how they say we are already dehydrated by the time we feel thirsty. A couple of weeks ago, I had a night where I just felt emotionally flat. I didn’t know exactly what was wrong. I felt like I didn’t exist. Not angry. Not depressed exactly. Just that outside of what I did for everyone else, who was I? It turned out it was most likely a medication thing. I had been on strong meds for my bronchitis, and I had abruptly stopped taking other meds because I didn’t want things to interact. It wasn’t until a day or so later when I felt like someone had turned on a furnace inside of me that I realized I hadn’t taken my thyroid meds in almost two weeks. Plus, taking prednisone can actually bring about psychosis when taken in higher doses.

Meds can affect how you feel. Lack of sleep. Stress. Again, what can we do?

There is so little we can do about the world. We cannot buy Twitter. Heck, I’m willing to bet that many of us cannot even seem to manage their crazy lives. And you may say that you are managing. Really? Are you managing or placating? Do we feel we need people so much that we spend most of our time making sure their needs are met so we won’t be alone?

This past week, my therapist asked me if I had any hesitation in letting my son buy my house from me. This is a house he has been living in for the past six years or so. He has been paying me about half of what I pay for the mortgage. He has gotten quite handy but for the most part, I have paid for the expensive repairs. We have argued. He has told me that if I hadn’t retired, I would have the money to fix up the house.

I told my therapist no…I am ready to cut this cord. Because that is the first step to changing anything in your life. You have to be ready to take action.

Tony Robbins, the self-help guru, talks about what stops us from taking actions that can help change our lives. One main reason why we don’t take the steps we need to move forward or to free ourselves from the things we do have the power to change….is the fear of pain. Think about that. We live in our world, uncomfortable though it may be, but it is the devil we know. We are comfortable living in our familiar un comfortability. We are comfortable being in control of a situation that may be draining us financially or emotionally because it is familiar. Change may be fearful. Fear equals pain. The thought of pain keeps us rooted to where we are.

My life is not as bad as many people that I talk with. Whatever troubles I have, I have either created or I’ve been fearful of changing, or I have felt overwhelmed by other people…which leads us back to boundaries.

But while my issues may not compare with someone who is homeless or someone who does not have children, they are issues because I have given too much or allowed too much or let things go on too long. And those are issues to which we can all relate to some degree. They are issues that are causing me a great deal of stress. I have to say, my therapist has been a big help.

When I am in the right state of mind and can deal with things calmly and clearly, what has and is working for me in interactions with other people and boundaries…is to not try to tackle everything at once. I’ve actually got two major things going on right now with family…maybe three actually. But I am dealing with them one at a time. Let me tell you why this is important.

I have always lived with very emotional people. These people have always told me that I cannot do things. I get laughed at if I suggest I will do something. I will be in the middle of working on one thing and someone will bring up something that I have no control over, and they will get all worked up about that. They will expect me to get worked up too. Or someone will decide they want to do something RIGHT NOW and I need to help them. Or perhaps if I solve this problem, they will say, something horrible might happen afterwards. What will you do then? You cannot handle that by yourself, you know!!

You probably think I’m kidding. I’m not. By focusing on one thing at a time, it helps to see the progress and to see that some things need to be handled by other people and that I cannot take care of everything and if the plumbing starts to leak while I’m putting on a new roof, well at least the rain won’t get in.

I know that many of you have not had supportive people in your life. I know that it is easy to feel that you are trying really hard but that it just doesn’t matter.

I know how that can feel. I was once working full time, going to school at night, doing research in the library, taking care of my kids, living with my parents, and holding everything together when our family imploded due to substance abuse and untreated psychiatric issues. I came home from school, books in one hand, can of diet soda in the other…my dad opened the door for me. His remark? “Just like your brother, always have a drink in your hand.”

I felt that nothing I did mattered.

I’m not the spokesperson for angst. I have always had a roof over my head and for the most part, felt safe enough. So, I can’t pretend to know how it feels not to have that. I’ve had my head played with but have felt physically safe. I’ve been a scapegoat and have been verbally abused but have had people who love me. But, as we know, we do not come out of what we go through without bringing pieces of everyone else with us. We don’t ever really escape, but we can learn to take steps to separate and relearn so that we can begin to focus on what we can control.

And we can begin to let go of letting other people’s anxieties stick to us. And we can begin to stop taking care of other people if it means that we aren’t allowing them to learn their own lessons…or if it ends up hurting us instead.

There is so much we need to relearn. One step. One problem. One thing. One day. One at a time. Focus.

Time After Time

I will start off with press releases and info I received this past week.

From Bob: Hey everyone, Just a reminder that Children Of Pain, a meeting place for survivors of childhood abuse, has a free Zoom event this Sunday, April 24th, 2022, from 1pm to 3pm EST. We’ll be watching the entire 35 minute, 2018 press conference by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro when he released the findings of a two-year grand jury investigation into clergy abuse at six of the state’s Roman Catholic Dioceses, with time for Q&A after. More info is at our website: https://childrenofpain.com

Zoom login info:
meeting ID: 85656905202
passcode: 147237 Or you can use this direct link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85656905202?pwd=ZWJBYjVpTEdyeHNIeTdUOXJOMDlDQT09

This one from David Clohessy:

CHILD USA STATEMENT ON NEW YORK CITY’S NEW LOOKBACK WINDOW FOR GENDER-MOTIVATED CRIME CHILD USA commends New York City for passing a provision which will revive claims under the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law into law earlier this year. This new provision will open a two-year revival window for gender-motivated violence against children and adults in New York City, including claims for sexual assault. It will open on March 1, 2023 and close on February 28, 2025.

And this: TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey Catholic diocese has agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle claims involving clergy sex abuse with some 300 alleged victims in one of the largest cash settlements involving the Catholic church in the United States.

Last week, the poll question asked how many times people have been in love. That is kind of a tough question for many of us. Because we question what love is exactly and if we happened to have feelings for someone who was abusive and perhaps gaslighting us, what may have felt like intense love at the time we later realized was more likely the result of brain chemicals being manipulated by a narcissist. But does that mean that what we felt was not love?

When I was 14 years old and dating my brother’s friend, I wrote the following words about love: “Love is lollipops and stuffed dogs, and long rides in a car. Just being together…” Well, at 14 years old, I had never had a boyfriend before. He took me home. I met his mother. She gave me root beer in a frosted mug. She put on movies from when Frank was a little boy. I figured Frank and I were going to get married one day. I didn’t know that boys sometimes made promises they didn’t intend to keep and that one day Frank would walk out of my house and without one clue, I would never hear from him again.

I cried about it. Does that make it love for a 14-year-old? Or does that mean it is not really love because I had no frame of reference, and I couldn’t see at the time that one day I would walk into a nightclub with my husband and I would see Frank on my way in, casually say, “Hello”, and have him follow us to our seats because he hadn’t noticed I was with someone? Does the fact that I no longer cared about him at the time mean that I didn’t really love him when I was 14? I did feel a slight sense of satisfaction that he felt stupid. My crushed 14-year-old self felt a slight sense of victory that our last meeting ended up with him having the disadvantage.

It’s a strange thing to think about. Our idea of love changes as we go through different experiences, and yet does it mean that because our feelings or perceptions change that what we were feeling at the time was not love?

I often felt that I never really knew what love meant until I had children. To me, that was pure love. Unconditional. A spiritual connection. I love their father. But I love him from a distance. It took me a long time to realize that was the best way. I care about his well-being and that he talks to our kids and that we share that part of our life, while he has a woman who cares about him and is there if he passes out in the bathroom and needs to go to the E.R.

There are people who can’t get the concept of wanting the best for someone and caring about someone you used to love but now love in a different way. Do I love him more now than I did back then? Or is it a different kind of love? Are we only capable of certain kinds of love? This is where I stand back and say…”I just don’t know.” I’ve been romantically involved with a couple of people since we split up, but it did not last. And the only person involved in all those relationships was me.

When I look back at the time before I was married, I see that I was attracted to people I used to call “phantoms”. That is, they sounded like they were real, but they had no substance. I usually met up with them when they were drunk, but there was nothing outside of that. They were emotionally vacant. But I see that they mirrored me at the time. I too, was afraid of emotion.

The men I have known since my husband have been more emotionally present, I guess you would say. We have had conversations. We have eaten meals together. Spent time together. They were functioning members of society. One was a doctor. One was an addiction therapist. I can’t say that I was in love with either one of them. But I was comfortable. They seemed like decent people.

I can say what was “wrong” with each of them that I discovered over time, but the factor that involved me was that in one way or another, I took care of them. And when you take care of someone, unconsciously or consciously, there is some expectation of receiving something in return. I think for me, that “something” has always been either appreciation or respect. And that I did not find in either one of these people.

And I was able to end the relationships. Because I was not out of my head in love. It was what it was. Until it wasn’t. There was dysfunction, but not Narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding.

I am a very slow reader, so I am still reading the same book. This past week, I read about William James. William James was called the father of psychology. Yet, he was a failure in life. He was such a failure, that he considered ending it all. His health was horrible. At the age of 30, he had no career, no wife, no future plans…he was a terrible disappointment to his father. But, he did something that would change his life. What was that?

He gave himself one year to turn his life around. He made a bargain with himself that if things had not changed in one year after attempting to change his life, then he would give up and die. How did he do it? He decided that for the next year of his life, he would take total responsibility for whatever happened to him. In doing so, he turned his life around.

That really seems like a difficult thing to do when you feel like you have no control in your life. I’ve been there. Feeling bounced around between being responsible for kids and a house and bills and a job and feeling like you have absolutely no power in this world at all. And the anger and resentment that can build like a thick fog all around you. It’s hard to see anything let alone yourself clearly.

So, he did it. William James. He once said that he related more to the psych patients he was treating when he was a medical resident, than he did to being a doctor. I guess he used that feeling to his advantage. He is considered one of the leading philosophers of the United States.

I was recently telling someone how I was talking to my mom and how she said she had no food in her house. It’s really something how simple words can stir up so much emotion. My brother lives next door. I got angry listening to her. “He goes out every morning and buys himself beer”, she lamented. What an ass, I thought, as I listened to what she needed and placed an on-line order to be delivered to her.

And then I thought…wait, this is the same woman that had my brother drop her off at a tax place last week because she didn’t want/trust me to do her taxes on-line. The same woman who told me not to take her shopping for food because she would go early some morning by herself. The same woman who I was talking to my brother about just days before as to whether he or I would be picking her up from the tax place. The same woman who did something she is not quite sure of with her money at the bank, when I was sick and unable to help her.

I stopped being angry. Buttons get pushed that have been pushed a thousand times and we go right into the mode we have been assigned in our families. We don’t even think. We react. I got my mom food. She complained about some of it. Didn’t want some of it. Happy to get it but upset at needing someone to get it for her. I think when our parents get older, our buttons get pushed randomly, like a remote on a tv set. Just keep pushing until something ends up working. We react but need to realize that we don’t always have to react.

Its just that the person pushing the buttons is a bit confused and maybe a bit scared, lonely, or facing physical issues that are limiting or uncomfortable.

This past week, I also watched “The Thing About Pam”, and the Dateline show about Pam Hupp and how she murdered her friend who was on chemo after she manipulated her into signing her life insurance over to her three days prior. Pam was/is a psychopath. She is spending her life behind bars. But not for murdering her friend. For that murder, she tried to frame her friend’s husband, who ended up spending three years in prison before he was released. But that was not the scary part. Not the murder. Not even the way she tried to pin the murder on the husband by lying about violent behavior that never happened and staging the crime scene to look like he did it. What was the scariest part?

For me, it was her “flying monkeys. Anyone who has read about Narcissistic abuse has probably heard the term, “flying monkeys”. Those are the people who, without which, the Narcissist most likely could not get away with their crimes. The monkey in this case was a D.A. who was trying her first case. Ego was involved. She needed to solve a case, no matter what. She was duped and charmed by a Narcissist as well. So much so, that she began to manufacture evidence in order for it to fit her story that the husband was guilty.

It would have been funny. If it weren’t so real and so very terrifying. And relatable.

The husband had an iron clad alibi. He was at a weekly game night with friends when his wife was murdered. He was there until 9pm. He stopped at Arby’s on his way home. He had the receipt. They know how long it took him to get home. They know when he called 911.

In order to make the story stick, the D.A. actually accused the four or five people at game night of covering for him. Holding onto his cell phone so he couldn’t be tracked. He must have been having an affair, the D.A. said, and the friends were lying for him. No proof of any of this.

No proof. Nothing that tied him to the crime. No motive. And the D.A. to this day maintains that he is guilty. Because she cannot or will not admit that she was wrong. She is still twisting the truth into her version. Two other people were murdered by Pam, the person who actually got away with the crime…and the life insurance money…before she was caught. It’s terrifying that this happened to these innocent people. The victim, her husband, and their two kids, whose family was ripped apart and who never got the money that was due to them.

It is terrifying because we know that it can happen all too easily. A crime is committed. People are charmed by the Narcissistic psychopath. Coverups happen. The wrong people are hurt. And then more coverups to cover the coverups because nobody wants to admit that maybe they were wrong.

Have a good week, all.

Goodbye To Love

I’ve been pretty sick this past week. Actually, not sure if I caught something new or if the old bug got worse. I got coughed on by a two-year-old. So, my emotions were all over the map last week.

It’s really an amazing thing when the body gets sick. We get to witness how the body fights off an intruder that has gotten inside of us. There are certain signs that the physical body is sick. The temperature goes up. The oxygen levels can go down. A cough develops. For me, there was loud wheezing that was quite alarming along with the warning to go to the emergency room if things didn’t get better after taking antibiotics. And then, there were the side effects of the drugs being used to help cure my afflictions.

The worst of these were insomnia and the emotional toll the body’s defenses were taking on my mind. And those were followed by finally passing out into a state of dreams that can only be described as something you’d find down the rabbit hole. Dreams may be odd, but they can sometimes give you a good snapshot of what is going on inside of yourself.

In one dream, for instance, I literally found myself sharing a bathroom with a bunch of people I didn’t know. People who left a horrid mess for me to clean before I could take care of my own needs. In the dream, I walked out and refused to use the bathroom, even though I was told in the dream that that was where I had been assigned to live. I tried to escape by using the phone to call people I knew but found that I could not remember any phone numbers. My only hope for escape came from a man who offered a way out but with a cost. He would take care of me, and some others, but we never really knew when what he offered us was real or another game. I was hungry and he gave me plastic food.

It’s funny…what was my mind seeing was happening? And this was a physical issue.

Last week, survivor-wise, was a mixed bag of emotions. There was what I consider having been a pretty decent conversation about the connection between sexual abuse as a child and our mixed-up beliefs as we grow up into adults. I’m not sure what normal is as far as growing up into a “normal” human being. But I can understand things that cause conflict in our being.

When something that is supposed to bring us comfort or other good feelings is contiguous on our feeling twisted and uncomfortable and self-sacrificing, dangerous, “icky”, “gross”, weird, wrong, or shameful…it’s going to be hard to pry all of those feelings apart just because we’ve gotten older and perhaps found a partner that is considered a real adult match for us.

Whatever feelings get stuck in our heads most likely transfer to any and all of our adult sexual relationships. Those feelings, and whatever logic we have been taught, along with the relationships of those around us growing up, can form our sense our what we believe a sexual partnership looks like, good or bad.

When we see how our bodies react when a germ invades us or how our minds react to illness when we have vivid and strange dreams, we can maybe begin to understand how our minds and bodies also have reactions to both emotional turmoil, and trauma bonds that are created when we are young.

We don’t always see the connection. So, we blame ourselves instead for having issues with relationships. I mentioned how I saw a video of my dad having lunch with my mom and his sister and cousin about 30 years ago when he was still walking and getting around on his own. There was audio so I could hear the conversation. My dad has been gone for 14 years now, and my body immediately became tuned into his voice and demeaner.

I knew exactly how many drinks he had by the way he was talking. And where anyone else in a social situation thought he was the life of the party. I cringed. I knew what was coming. Didn’t matter that it was 30 years ago or that I love my father or that he was a wonderful man in many ways and that I know he loved me. None of that mattered.

I was transported in time. I was a kid. I was sick to my stomach. Nervous. Darkness was going to fall over the house. I would sit in hypervigilance. My body remembered.

No, he never touched me. He never laid a hand on anyone. But when he drank, he became someone I knew well but did not know at all. So, I never knew.

And we think that nobody else sees or hears anything. I used to think that we were sealed inside of our house, and nobody could hear or see what happened beyond the walls. And we looked normal. I think. Nobody ever said anything to me. And of course, it was “normal”. But I know people must have heard my dad when he was angry.

Everyone had a “normal” childhood. Normal for them. But then we grow up and we find that we don’t attract “normal”…or we are looking for normal in a world where we are carrying a map that only has one-way streets.

I’ve had conversations with people about things like this recently. Again…what makes us appear to be easy marks to predators? Tone of voice for one. I said to some people recently…just listen to your tone of voice. Become aware of how you do or do not project your own voice. How confident do you sound?

Of course, there I am, trying to help, trying to motivate….and how do I end my own statement of “let’s march to the mountain and take on the world?”

Oh, heck…what do I know anyway? I swear I said that. I don’t know. You don’t have to listen to me. I’m nobody really. I’m no better than anyone.

No. We all know…or feel…something. I don’t tell anyone what to do. I tell them how I feel. I feel that if the church made you feel bad that you don’t go back there when you are even more vulnerable and look for someone that is going to make it all better for you. I feel…that God…or whoever is your higher power…can take it if you want to scream “Where have you been, you good for nothing, S.O.B.?” I know. Hard for me even to type that. But liberating, no?

I’ve been there. Anger at God. Then…”Oh, I am so sorry, God.” It’s a downward spiral of self-flagellation that really serves no purpose whatsoever. The big guy is not going to crumble because you scream some curse words at him. And I don’t believe in Hell. Taking that off the table helps, too.

Still, I myself have had a difficult time emotionally since I have been sick, this past week or two. And it’s not like things are getting to me like horrible things like my foot got caught in a bear trap. It’s more like I stubbed my toe. And it’s getting to me because I can’t handle it. Why? I mean, I know for sure, I cannot take any more world news coming at me. I just can’t.

So many horrible things out of our control. You know what I did this week? I sent two dozen tulips to an elderly neighbor. Okay, I am not tooting my own horn. It made me feel good for a change. I actually was supposed to visit and bring her dinner. I have not had the chance. I sent flowers. Her son was very grateful. I got feedback. I touched a life. I didn’t save anyone or cure anything. In fact, I think if anything, I probably infected a bunch of people. But my point is…we still have the power to bring joy to this world.

I’m still reading the same book from last week by Mark Manson. Did you know that for thirty years after World War II, a small band of Japanese soldiers lived in the jungles of the Philippines, continuing to fight for their country? Even when leaflets were dropped trying to notify them that the war was over and they needed to go home, they refused to believe that it wasn’t a trick, and they stayed there…all but one of them…until they eventually passed away. The one lone soldier who was left was eventually tracked down by another Japanese citizen who wanted to see if he was still out there. The two men became friends, and the soldier trusted his countryman enough to go back to Japan.

When asked if it hadn’t been difficult all those years, living in the jungle, the soldier denied that it had been hard to do so, as he had been doing it for a cause he believed in. It was not the jungle that was difficult…it was returning to his native country to see that the country he had loved and fought for had changed and that what he had been fighting for no longer really existed. That realization was the hard part. The fact that it had all been for nothing. Times had changed. There was no old regime and way of life to defend. He was no longer a soldier, but a curiosity. And yet, he did not regret one moment of the time he had spent fighting for and defending, what he believed in.

The point? Perhaps that pain is relative. It’s not painful if it means something to you. I will leave it like that and not say that I would have left after the first leaflets were dropped.

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.