Stop Dragging My Heart Around

Vulnerability. For children it goes without saying. They are vulnerable simply by being young and innocent. But what makes an adult vulnerable?

Recently, I did something out of my comfort zone. I shared the name of my book with a group of close friends and family on-line. I also “came out” and said what had happened to me. That made me feel very vulnerable because I have reached the point where I can talk about what happened and not feel shame. That took a long time. I also realize that what happened was abuse. That too took a long time.

Being involved with SNAP has taught me words like “Grooming” and “Gaslighting” and “Future Promising” and “Narcissistic Rage” and “Cognitive Dissonance”.

Coming out to people who know me but who have not been through the experience is scary. Because I know that someone is going to inevitably ask, “Why didn’t you just leave?” or “Why didn’t you just go to Human Resources?” or “How could you not see what was going on?” or even “What the Hell is wrong with you?”

So. it’s scary. But you know something, I think I’m okay with that. That vulnerability. Because many of my friends and family live in my area. And they will know that what happened, happened right here….to someone they know. By a priest who may be saying mass next week at their church. And though it may never happen to them, it may make them think. May make someone more aware of what is going on. And maybe it could reach someone who needs to hear the message.

We are all vulnerable to physical harm because we are in physical bodies. And we all need other people to a certain degree, which makes us vulnerable to be scammed or used or violated by others who lack empathy, or someone whose desperate need for drugs or money or perhaps emotional weakness may influence their actions.

Taking risks is necessary in life, but don’t hand out trust too easily. Be careful exchanging information with someone you just met. Beware of the charmer, the one who compliments or who wants to get close to you too quickly.

There are times in our life when we can be more vulnerable, and our guard can be let down. Obviously with clergy and at church. But also, in group settings and even in support groups where we are encouraged to share and be open. And of course, if you are alone, be careful to always lock your doors at home and in your car right away and trust your gut feelings if someone approaches you asking for help….never follow someone to their car or someplace where you will be alone with them.

Emotionally, abusers can sense when someone is vulnerable. Think for a moment of a time when you felt overwhelmed. Perhaps you had an abusive spouse, or you were trying to raise and support children on your own, or you may have been taking care of someone who was sick. Maybe you were sick, or your child was sick. Perhaps you have suffered an unbearable loss. Maybe you feel isolated or very lonely. Life can throw a lot at people, and increased stress can lead to depression. Things can seem hopeless, and the world can seem to lack any happiness or hope.

I’ve been there. We probably all have. It feels to me like the world lacks color and joy. You can feel that you’ve lost yourself and that you are no longer living but just surviving. You are emotionally vulnerable.

Having a person listen to you, seem to understand and care about you, take an interest in you, compliment you, find you attractive, or offer help when you need it, can feel like lifesaving rain to a parched flower. The sun comes out when they are around. Endorphins that have lain dormant forever start to wake up again and the world is awash with color. In a sense, you can feel a sense of addiction to that person if you have been in a state of emotional depletion.

You can also fall into a Stockholm Syndrome type of thing if this person is in power over you in some way, or controls important aspects of your life.

I was thinking about the struggle we often face between what we want or what we know is right or not right. The fight between the heart and the brain. Not when you are already in the middle of something and you can’t see the forest for the trees, but when you are functioning in life with other people.

It can sometimes feel like the head is the adult and the heart is the child that holds all of the hurt and the needs and the memories. They argue back and forth like a parent trying to protect their child from harm. Sometimes the head (the parent or experience and wisdom) can rule the heart. At other times, the heart storms out and slams the door behind it like a petulant teenager who has to do things their way, and the head just throws up their hands and says….”You know better but there’s nothing I can do. You’ll just have to learn the hard way.”

And that is, I imagine, how we normally process emotions. That does not take into account emotional vulnerability, when the brain and the body are confused and tired and misfiring.

I think the takeaway here is to be careful if something or someone seems too good to be true. And forgive yourself if you have fallen victim to someone who has taken advantage of you when you were at a low point in your life and needed someone.

Another piece of food for thought…thoughts of revenge can be common when you have been duped or abused. Remember that Narcissistic abusers can often be dangerous people. Directly trying to confront them can backfire and make situations worse. Advice for dealing with abusers is basically no contact.

On another note, I have been asked to share an attachment which I will include at the bottom of this blog.

Oh, also, getting back to my book, the priests are aware that I wrote this. Someone has bought the book, it appears, for the main reason to give it an anonymous one-star rating, and then trying to resell it. So, beware of buying used books from survivors who have written their stories. You don’t know who is selling it.

https://bit.ly/3jhT1Ft

Send in the Clowns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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!

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.

Clarity

Just to comment on this week’s poll, I have always gone to see psychics, much to my father’s displeasure and warnings of God’s pending wrath. So, it’s funny to me that now whenever I go for a reading, it’s my father that always shows up. Once, I went to see a medium with my niece and I did not tell the woman that we were related. She told me that my dad was there with me during my reading…and you, know, of course there is not proof since I could not see him. But then, my niece had her reading and the medium said that my father stuck around for that reading as well.

I know we discuss many sensitive issues in this blog, and I realize that we all have different beliefs. But that is okay. I will throw things out about myself, and my hope is that if anyone does not agree with me, that they will not find anything I say offensive. Like I have said before…that is what faith is for…not about whether you are right, or I am right…but it’s if what you believe brings you peace of mind and helps you in your life. That’s what I feel matters most of all.

For instance, have you ever known someone who you didn’t find attractive who had all the confidence in the world? They were comfortable in their own skin and genuinely liked who they were? Or maybe you heard about a supermodel who was absolutely gorgeous who had anorexia because she never believed herself to be good enough, or thin enough. In each case, it was the belief they held in their minds that made that created their reality.

And this may have affected your belief that all it takes to be happy is to be beautiful. And we have all heard of people who can take this belief to what we see as extreme. But their belief is as real to them as your beliefs are to you.

In the past couple of years, we have seen many people disagree strongly over their beliefs in both politics and health care. Who is right? Is there anyone who is “kinda right? more than somebody else? Is the world just out of control? Are too many people expressing their beliefs, with the feeling that everyone should feel the way they feel and believe things as only they see it?

I think I write because it gives me freedom. Growing up, I never had a voice. And opinions, if they differed from the rest of the family, basically sent my father into his room, slamming the door behind him, and sulking. My mother would get hurt. Nobody wants to hurt their mother. To my brother, I was stupid if he disagreed.

But I never had much of an opinion. My family is blessed with a huge amount of energy. Loud voices, control, opinions about religion and politics to the point where there were always discussions at the kitchen table between my dad and a buddy over a bottle of wine or glasses of scotch and soda on the rocks. Sometimes there were cigars. As the afternoon or the evening wore on, the more the alcohol was consumed, the louder the opinions got.

Most dinners in my lifetime growing up, my dad had a drink or two in him, and would be ranting loudly about something or other. I remember just eating and never saying a word. When I grew up and went back to have dinner with my parents, it was still the same. My dad didn’t drink like he used to, but he was still loud and animated. I swear to you, I would leave there and not have any memory of what I had just eaten for dinner.

My dad was very philosophical. It’s just that our discussions always went something like this: Dad: I’m afraid to fly. I had to fly once when I was in the Navy. It was a horrible experience Me: But it’s really a very safe way to travel Dad: If your plane crashes, you’re dead Me: If your plane crashes and you’re dead, then it was your time, and you would’ve died anyway, even if you were home Dad: But what if it wasn’t my time? What if it was the time of the guy in the seat next to me and I die because I was sitting next to him? Me: Huh?

Our beliefs can keep us from doing things. For instance, the belief that one person cannot make a difference may prevent us from speaking up when it matters to us. The belief that we have to make someone do what we believe they must do can end up frustrating both people. Those are tough when it comes to things and people we care about.

Because I am a very slow reader, I am still reading Regina Wurst’s book. What struck me recently while reading this is how very different the two of us were at one point. She was the oldest in her family and had to be very responsible. She had strong beliefs and she acted on them by getting involved and volunteering and going to great lengths to stand up for that which she believed.

I was the youngest in my family and just did what I was told and rebelled in stupid teenage ways by smoking and drinking too much and skipping school and basically pushing limits while still under the protection of my family.

And while both Regina and I were both unwed mothers about the same time, while I was living at home, having my mom feed me things like liver and walking two miles a night so I wouldn’t gain weight, Regina was moving to another state while pregnant and living alone where she knew hardly anyone and being responsible for herself and an infant like the warrior that she was.

Meanwhile, I was making plans to move in with my baby’s father because I wanted to be an adult…but I didn’t want to do it alone. It took me many years to grow up and live on my own and to begin to find a voice.

You know, we kind of grow up in a bubble. Not all of us, of course, but we only know what we are told and what we are exposed to until we become adults. Until the age of 14, my life was mainly within a mile or so of my house for the most part. I went to an all-white Catholic school. Except for two young girls who I believe were from Jamaica who joined our school for about a year back when I was probably in third or fourth grade. They were both younger than me, so I didn’t know them.

I knew almost everyone on our street and that didn’t change too much. We lived outside the city, so we didn’t even have streetlights or pizza delivery for many years. We went to church. We were surrounded by adults at school, at home, and in the neighborhood, because back then, you respected all the adults, and they could yell at you if they wanted…or they could call your parents because they knew who you were.

I had relatives who lived next door and across the street. And my mom worked at the seminary in back of us. And believe it or not, I still managed to have a party when I was 17 and my parents went away on vacation. I got caught. But it was worth it. Again, I didn’t realize how good I had it compared to other people.

But we bring what we know into adulthood. Along the way, we rebel and may try out other things, but our core beliefs are rooted in what we have learned as far as our place in this world, our self-worth, what is right and what is wrong, how to relate to other people, and most importantly, if we have been successful in becoming adults and being comfortable with ourselves and living in the world.

Not everyone can say that. And yet, despite Regina having a different family life and a different personality and beliefs and experiences than I had, we have both ended up meeting each other somewhere down the road because we share a similar experience. Not the same experience…a similar experience.

And what strikes me about this is…all these different people…men and women…people who I have met since working with SNAP…all different personalities and beliefs and stories. And they were all groomed or taken advantage of in some way when they felt they would be safe. Adult men assaulted and ashamed. Adult women emotionally abused to the point where they are destroyed. Lives upended. Belief systems torn to shreds.

Some people desperately try to hang on to all that they have grown up to believe. They seek the truth within the bible while forsaking the church’s leaders. They cling to the faith they have known to get them through. And some people reject it all and want to begin to look for their own truth, afraid of believing anything anyone ever tells them again. But through all of our differences, we have all found a source of support and understanding with each other.

Stats for February: 1. Top post: In My Head, 2. Top countries (after USA) to read blog in February: United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Malaysia, 3. Number of followers: 63, 4. Answers to polls: Most people watch documentaries occasionally if they seem interesting. People are split on Cancel Culture, some feeling that it is taken too far when it comes to freedom of speech and art, others feeling that it’s about time people became more aware and sensitive. Most people have been diagnosed with depression more than any other mental health issue. And, finally, most people said that it took them quite a while to process their abuse and to understand what had happened to them.