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.

In My Head

I wanted to add to something I had said about faith. That is, I don’t know that anyone has all the answers, but we are taught from a young age what the answers are, and what we need to do in order to please our higher power once we pass away, but, in reality, it seems as if we are taught what it is that we need to do and believe in order to please our friends and our family.

Religion is very much about belonging to a group. And if someone can find the comfort and guidance they need for their life by being a part of that group, then that works for them. If you are not sure what is right and you are looking for answers, there are more than enough people who are willing to share “the truth” with you.

For instance, you may have heard the theory that Mary was not visited by an angel, but rather an alien being who used artificial insemination in order to ensure her pregnancy. And that Jesus was indeed a good man who was able to perform miracles simply because people at the time did not understand the knowledge He possessed. I have also heard it said that Jesus did not die and rise again, but rather was healed of His wounds by medical advances that are advanced to us even in this day and time. And that the ascension was not necessarily back to Heaven as back to another planet.

But what is truth to one person, may seem like blasphemy to someone else. My feeling is that belief is personal and what makes sense to someone and brings them peace and the ability to handle life, is what they need to go with.

And yet, as much as I respect others to have their own opinion and beliefs, I still get triggered and riled up and feel the need to stifle an “Are you nuts?”

I have been especially sensitive to trusting people and hearing how nice someone is because of their outward appearance or their occupation or social status. My mom and I can get into a disagreement very easily…like we did this past week.

For years, my family had a family lawyer. He was the family lawyer because he was my dad’s age and my dad’s cousin had lived with the family and was basically their nanny. They were a very wealthy and prominent family in our town. So, this man took care of all of the family’s legal needs…until he passed away in 1995.

It was then that his son took over. His son was about 40 when his father passed, and like his dad before him, he was a partner in the law firm. My dad did not have the connection with him that he had with the father, but it became a generational thing, and I had no reason to question anything. So, nobody questioned him.

I did not question anything when my father passed away and this man seemed to spend a lot of unnecessary time with my mother, sending her a huge bill for services for basically transferring her own money from my father to her.

Long story short, he is now disbarred and in jail for stealing from clients.

My mother is concerned for his well-being. You read that right. My mom wanted to be sure that he is in the good jail for people who didn’t murder anyone. She was appalled at the thought of him actually being behind bars. And…she made excuses for him. He was weak. He was used to having money growing up rich like he did and even though his salary was almost a half a million dollars a year, it wasn’t enough for the things he wanted and that was…understandable. Right?

This type of thinking makes steam come out of my ears. He did hurt people. He took money from people who needed it and didn’t give it to them when they were dying or needed access for things they actually needed. He most likely padded my mother’s bill. I don’t know. He could have called her ten times a day to chat and charged her each time. She would have thought nothing of it.

Does this sound familiar? My mom said that he was such a nice man…”a true gentleman”. He shouldn’t be in jail.

Again, a person in a powerful position over others took advantage of that and was sorry that he got caught. Yes, we are all human. But my mom didn’t want to hear that maybe, just maybe, this lawyer was not as good of a person as she thought he was.

She had a preconceived perception of him in her head and anything that didn’t jive with that image had to have an explanation. We have all seen that happen before when we just can’t believe, or maybe we don’t want to believe, that someone isn’t who we thought they were.

This is why I don’t think it’s a great idea to feel the need to forgive. I think we need to have a firm grip on the reality of a situation and feel strong enough to accept the truth without emotional fallout to ourselves before we can release. To forgive someone when you only have half of the picture can be misleading.

How many times have we projected our own thoughts and intentions onto someone else in order to make them more human in our minds, or to understand them better and what it is they have done?

They were lonely. They were confused. They were desperate. We try to put ourselves into their shoes and ask ourselves what would make us do such a thing? They didn’t really mean to hurt anyone. They aren’t bad people because they hold a high place in society. They know good people. They have done good work. They have helped others. They are educated. They don’t look scary. They didn’t have a weapon. They were good to me.

I’m not morally better than anyone else. I have done stupid things in my life that I am not proud of. Mostly before I turned 18. And I claim stupidity, never knowingly setting out to hurt anyone and not caring about it. There is a difference. A line that gets crossed. Boundaries that get pushed. And when that happens, it is never “okay”. And it needs to be stopped, not forgiven. Not excused. Not allowed to continue.

Power needs to be held accountable so it can then be trusted, not automatically given trust because they hold the power.

Because for every person in power who abuses their position, there are far too many people who enable them. It’s a sickness that runs in families and into congregations and belief systems in society. And it can get really exhausting holding up boundaries and trying to figure out everyone’s motives. Don’t get me started on the trying to please everyone.

The thing is, I have no power to convince anyone else of the things that I believe. I worry about people being vulnerable to unscrupulous people. But I’ve been told that worry is a form of control. A need to have things under our control. All I can say is that I have learned to start by forgiving myself. And I try to follow that up by the knowledge that my father gave me when he said, “People are not against you, people are just for themselves.”. In other words, don’t blindly trust anyone. Don’t make excuses for bad behavior. Doesn’t mean you slap someone back, just means you recognize that friends don’t hurt you. You walk away from people who keep hurting you, no matter what reason you think they have for doing it in order to justify not walking away, or firing them as your lawyer if that be the case.

I’ll end with a kind of a funny story. It’s about my poor mother who I write about because she is a large influence in my life. I was at her house one day last week and I was looking over the knick knacks she has collected over the years in her China cabinet. Tucked in the far left corner was something I had never noticed before. It was a very old pill bottle. I asked her what it was. My mom has been known to hang onto medicine for years. She didn’t know. So, she reached in and took it out. I saw something move inside the plastic bottle. Looked like rolled up paper. Um, no…couldn’t be what I thought it was. But it was. She opened the screw on top and out came…what was most likely a very very old…marijuana joint.

I was shocked. Where did she get that? She said she had it for years…she found it laying around in my brother’s room. How long ago had he lived there? Maybe temporarily about 20 years ago. But then she surprised me even further. “What side are you supposed to light?” she wanted to know. Um…either one, I said.

I don’t know if my mom will ever light up the joint, but if she does, I hope she does it when I’m there with her. I’d love to see that. Have a great week!

It Wasn’t Me

This past week, I watched either 20/20 or Dateline about a woman who was raped in her own bed while her husband was out of town and her children were in the house. Even more unnerving was that although someone had cut the phone wires, there was no sign of a break in, and the doors had been locked.

It took 11 years for them to find a DNA match for the person who committed the crime. In the meantime, the victim was re-victimized by the police and by the community. Much of the reason for this is because she didn’t “act like a victim”.

Her children had slept through everything. That was because she was afraid they would wake up, and she thought her attacker had a gun, so she stayed quiet throughout the attack. She had not wanted her children to witness anything or to be victimized themselves.

The fact that there was no sign of a break in raised suspicion. It appeared that she was just covering for an affair that had been discovered. (so people said) And the fact that she did not call her husband right away raised eyebrows. Why hadn’t she? Because he was at a wedding and had to drive back the next day and she didn’t want to upset him before he got home when there was nothing he could do.

She was harassed by the police and almost arrested for filing a false claim. Even when another detective took over the case and admitted that the crime scene and follow up had been totally botched by the first crew, and even when another complaint in town years later prompted a request for DNA evidence that ended up a match for her case, there was still doubt about her story. Why? Because the man was a respected member of the community, a close family friend who happened to know her husband was out of town that night, and people just could not believe he would do such a thing.

So, it seemed all the more obvious to people that the victim had cried rape when it had been consensual. She still couldn’t catch a break.

Finally, this guy was caught trying to drag a teenage girl into his van at a high school parking lot and prosecuted for that. But the statute of limitations was up, and the first victim could not charge him with rape. They ended up charging him with kidnapping.

What was even more chilling was, this man had been a friend of her husband since kindergarten, and the families had gotten together since the rape to picnic together. It goes to show what many survivors know…it is far too common for a victim’s story to not be believed if the perpetrator is someone who is well known or respected, and because of that fact, many more people are hurt before anything is done. Also, the wolf can be someone that you know and don’t suspect.

Also, this week, someone posted on Facebook that they had seen the documentary, “The Keepers”, and how powerful it was and how sad. They went on to say how they don’t trust the church and how they have heard stories about people who were abused when they were younger. Others commented along the same lines, saying how bad this area is and how they still believe in God, but not the church. Maybe it’s time for some more documentaries to raise awareness of the abuse targeted towards adults.

Someone suggested to me that predator priests may be finding it harder to look for children to take advantage of due to more awareness. They said that perhaps if that pool was drying up in a sense, those same predators may go seeking vulnerable adults.

I’m not sure about that. I know it has always made me feel sick to think about the things my abuser said to me and how it made me feel. This past week, I was speaking to my therapist, and I told her that after the discard/firing, I felt such a strong surge of emotion that I didn’t know what to do with. So, I paced and chained smoked (after having quit due to cancer) and talked to anyone who would listen, and played and replayed uplifting music, and wrote and wrote and wrote until I wrote a book. I could not eat, sleep, sit still enough to watch any TV, or stop thinking about what had happened. But, I said, I am older. I drew on my experience of past heartaches and horrible things, and I knew that with time this too would pass. At least the initial traumatic feelings would pass.

And, yes, I was able to successfully quit smoking again. It’s now been almost four years since I quit. My drugs of choice now are chocolate and caffeine. With an occasional martini.

A child doesn’t have experience to draw from. And it makes me sick to think of evil people hurting children. But my abuser seemed to choose adult women. Would he, or had he ever, taken advantage of any other age or sex due to availability and vulnerability of the situation? I don’t know. Would he cross over if he saw the opportunity? I don’t know.

From what I understand, pedophilia is a dysfunction on its own. Within that group, I have read that there are “exclusive pedophiles” and “non-exclusive pedophiles”. The first group is only sexually attracted to children. And within that group, some prefer boys, and some prefer girls and there are also age preferences as well. A “non-exclusive pedophile” is attracted to both children of certain sex and ages and adults as well. For instance, there may be an attraction to adult women but only those who resemble children in height and weight and demeanor. And for others, it all depends on what strikes their fancy.

So, I would assume that if a predator clergy person was on the hunt for potential prey, that they would stick to who they are most attracted to and the plan that usually worked for them before.

But we are also talking about the priesthood here. The brotherhood. Behind the wall. Kind of like living the life of a rockstar. We don’t really know what they do behind closed doors either…but we have heard rumors. And we know they live in a world apart from ours. Or perhaps the life of a priest can be compared to prison life. Separated from the rest of the world, experiencing sexual urges, and taking whatever is available.

But then there is another thing to consider. Location. Where are the pedophile nuns and priests mainly found? Most likely they can be found where there are children. In schools and camps and wherever a child is vulnerable and needs a friend. Not all children have parents who they feel they can report to if an adult crosses the line with them. In some cases, sexual abuse may even be happening at home.

Another way of finding a child to groom and abuse? By grooming the parents of the victim. I heard this week of instances where the mothers were emotionally groomed and used in order to gain access to her children.

But where are those priests who are looking to groom adults? Where are they choosing to work? My boss was the head of the Tribunal. What did he do? He talked to men and women about their failed marriages. He asked them personal details about their sex lives.

Boy, what a way to get a foot in the door.

He is also on the board at a local college. Not sure how hands on he is there or what interactions he has with students. But he may act as a counsellor of sorts to young women there.

And he also acts as a counsellor for those who are struggling to get back on their feet. The counselling center is next door to the home for unwed mothers. The building in which I used to work used to be a Center for Children and the building next door was a maternity hospital. There was a tunnel in between the two buildings. Babies who were born and taken from their mothers for adoption would be brought through the tunnel into the other building.

When I was first out of school when I was young, I used to work in an office in that building for the social services department where they worked with troubled children and their families. Some of the children lived in the building.

So, I guess what I am saying is there is no shortage of vulnerable people in the world for whatever reason. And clergy people are supposed to be there for spiritual guidance and comfort and to offer food and shelter and counselling to those who come to them for help. That makes them vulnerable. The vulnerable come to the predators. That is the whole nature of the way we view the church and why we need the church. Because we are all vulnerable at some point in our lives.

I don’t know who any priest prefers to abuse. And I cannot guess if any one of them would choose to molest an adult due to lack of available children, but I do think that you are more likely to find pedophiles around places with children like schools and those who prefer adults in places where adults will be like colleges and in positions where they will be counselling fragile souls. That just makes sense.

Everyone please have a happy and healthy week. Look for the blessings in your life…because they are there. Look for the good in yourself. Remember to be good to yourself. Don’t wait for other people to be good to you. And, please take this week’s poll.

Steal My Sunshine

The first thing I would like to share this week is that we had a leaders’ meeting this past week, and at that meeting, it was proposed that SNAP put together a deposition template from past court proceedings in order that those who are going into court to testify can have something to use as a guideline.

While it is still in the talking stage right now, I think it would be a wonderful means of support for survivors heading to court to face their abusers. It can be difficult to know just what to say or how to put into words what happened. To be able to have some kind of guideline when you are feeling so vulnerable and alone can be a great comfort. More on this as information becomes available.

As long as we are talking about going to court, I watched a documentary this week on women who have been sent to prison for murdering their abusive husbands.

So, what does this have to do with survivors of clergy abuse?

Well, I have often said that details may be different in each case, but the stories and how the abuse comes about are similar. Whether the abuse is by a priest or a therapist, or a teacher, or a spouse, there are similarities in how the relationships begin, progress, and continue to exist if they do not come to an end in some way.

In these cases, they all involved women, but we know that abuse happens to men as well. The thing that I found the most interesting…and disturbing…about these cases, is that time and time again, the women were advised by their lawyers not to bring up anything about the abuse they suffered at the hands of their husbands. The reason for this is it was felt that it showed motive.

We have heard about victim blaming. I’d like to think that times are beginning to change, but I know we still have a long way to go as far as abuse is concerned. For instance, we still tend to ask, “Why didn’t she leave?” instead of asking “If he thought she was that horrible, why didn’t he leave?” or “Why did he beat her or abuse her?”

We are still putting all of the responsibility on the victim. And the victim? One woman said that she had the kids packed up and ready to leave and her husband came home and put a stop to it. She said that he told her she was not leaving and then he locked her in the basement for a week without food or water.

Another woman ran away to another man only to have her husband find her. Her boyfriend ended up shooting the husband and she was charged as an accomplice.

And we have seen that sometimes victims are just too terrified to call the police or they have no means of supporting themselves or a way of escaping the situation. Or their self-esteem has plummeted, and they believe they are worthless. Or they feel that they cannot survive without their partner.

I have mentioned before that I have spoken to survivors who are not sure if what they have been through is abuse. And I get it because I have been there. It sounds kind of crazy explaining what happened to someone who hasn’t been through it. Because as I once said to my own abuser, his words were like smoke in the wind.

How do you explain to someone that a priest was looking at you while consecrating the Host? That he did not take his eyes off of you. That you felt too uncomfortable to go to mass after that because of the way it made you feel. And that you wondered how he could sincerely be a man of God if he used the most sacred part of the mass to stare at you. It sounds like you’re nuts.

And how do you explain defending the actions of your abuser or saying the words, “I think I’m in love with him,” knowing it’s crazy but perhaps the flood of emotion that is felt beats feeling flat and emotionless and alone in the world. Or perhaps you grew up loving and defending an abusive parent who your whole life depended upon.

In any case, any abusive relationship can be complicated. Mental illness and substance abuse can add fuel to an already stoked fire. And sometimes children can be used as pawns in sick adult games.

And then there may come a time when it may come down to kill your abuser or be killed. Or it may feel like there is no other means of escape. Or maybe after years of madness, a person just snaps. And it may be hard for a jury to understand the situation the abused spouse was living in at the time the crime was committed. But in the documentary I watched, these women went to jail for many, many years. And finally, when someone cared enough to try to fight for them and put the abuse on the table as a defense for the murders, I believe it was only one woman out of eight that was granted parole after serving about 30 years behind bars.

My point is that society has tended to blame the victim when it comes to abuse. In certain cases, such as in a marriage…or when it comes to people we tend to hold in high esteem such as priests, society gets uncomfortable and would rather choose to look the other way. And we as a society want to find fault with the victim, because in doing so, we can separate ourselves from that person and such horrible things won’t happen to us.

I feel that it is only in looking at what makes us uncomfortable and facing the truth that we are able to learn. And since abuse is so prevalent in families and at school and at work and in personal relationships, and because each generation that does not learn how to prevent abuse ends up spreading it to their children and their children’s children…it hurts too many people and becomes everyone’s problem.

There are so many misconceptions and misunderstandings as to what abuse actually is and how it happens that still lingers in my own family.

As I have mentioned before, I was attacked at high school by someone I had just broken up with. He threw me to the ground outside of school and whipped a jean jacket with dozens of hard snaps on it over my head again and again. People watched and did nothing.

Years went by and this same person, now a grown man, contacts me via Facebook and asks me to meet him for a drink. I never replied. I just let it go. I figured by saying nothing, it would not spark any anger on his part.

My mom, however, asked me why I didn’t go meet him. After all, it was just a drink…just getting together again after all these years…and what happened took place in high school. He has probably changed since then.

I wasn’t willing to find out.

Kids need to learn more of this kind of thing at school. Red flags in relationships. Reporting stuff. We know it is never too early for kids to know how to protect themselves. We need to stop normalizing or minimizing abuse. Or worse yet, holding the victim accountable for the actions of the abuser.

Thank you for reading. Have a great week. I ended up re-injuring the foot I had surgery on when a heavy medicine cabinet decided to fall off the bathroom wall and I was left hanging onto it while it was still attached by wires to the wall. Pulled or tore a tendon in the ankle. Cabinet got fixed. I’m still mending. Please remember to take this week’s poll. Thanks!

Till I Gain Control Again

We all have our own Christmas/holiday traditions and memories that our unique to our own families.

When I was a kid, Christmas Eve was also my father’s birthday, so we would have cake after dinner, and he would open up his birthday gifts. Then after dinner, I would do a Christmas gift exchange with my relatives who lived next door and across the street. Usually, it was liquor and something for the dogs. Or some kind of food item. I liked that part because we got to open those gifts on Christmas Eve, and usually we got a big gift box of cheese and crackers and candy from my father’s sister. This was back in the day when the pizza people wouldn’t even deliver to our house because we were so far outside of the city, so anything that was a snack out of the ordinary was considered special. Plus, we got to have soda with it as well.

So special was this gift to me, that when I first met my soon to be husband’s mother and we had our first gift exchange…well, guess what I got her? Who doesn’t like cheese? Well, his mother, from the look of disappointment on her face. That was one of the first of many life lessons for me. Life as I had always known it, would never be the same.

I have always loved buying gifts for people at Christmas. But, once a gift is given, it is up to the recipient as to what to do with it. Or even if they will acknowledge it.

As I shared in our group meeting, I ordered and sent cookies to two people I knew and got very different reactions. One person was pleasantly surprised and was happy to be remembered. They said they were enjoying the cookies. The other? Not a word. None.

True, once the gift has been given, we have no control over what happens. But we do have control over who gets cookies sent to them next year. Some kind of acknowledgement is nice. Even just to know they got them.

We talked a bit tonight about the holidays and about families and dysfunction and avoidance of certain family members.

I was very hurt this past week. I’m trying to do something to help my eldest son. It’s a big something financially. The thing is, like giving a gift, if you choose to help someone, there shouldn’t be any strings attached. However, my son usually works every Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday but this year, he has both holidays off. He spent Thanksgiving with his dad and his father’s family. He told me outright this week when he stopped by to drop off his rent that he will be off for Christmas, but that I should not expect to see him.

My first reaction, instead of saying something to him, was to reach out to a friend to say……”why me?” Because family does not just say one thing when they speak. Family lives in a hall of mirrors, where words hide in corners and come out after many years and bring their friends with them, magnified and multiplied and bouncing off surfaces over and over again.

“Who was always there for you?” I wanted to ask. Who held you when you cried? Who took care of you when you were sick? Who was home every night with you? Who went to school meetings and to court when your friends were jerks and who got the DNA test when you were 16 years old and had a child? Who took care of your child every weekend? Who drove your child back and forth and had to deal with the lunatic other grandmother who was trying to get kids to beat you up at school?

Who has been paying for repairs for the house you have been living in and who has been charging you only half of what I owe each month so you can have what you need?

And as I told my friend this, how unfair it all was that my son does not see me as the “fun” parent, or the parent he wants to “hang” with, I had to ask myself…well, then, this is nothing new, is it? He has always gotten what he has needed from me. It was his father that he craved the closeness with.

So, now like his dad, he tosses out verbal abuse and rudeness like turkeys from a helicopter on Thanksgiving. With pretty much the same effect. (Not everyone will get that reference)

There was a time when I felt trapped in abuse. I left my ex-husband to get away from what was going on, only to go back to the life I had been trying to escape by moving out and getting married.

And I didn’t understand why this kept happening to me.

And as I told my friend about how hurt I felt that my son did not want to come to see me….and his brother and his baby nephew…on Christmas…after all I had done for him…the answer was pretty clear.

Why am I still giving him so much? What am I not taking care of myself? He is a grown man. And my kid or not, he is not appreciating what I am doing for him enough to treat me with the respect I deserve as his mom.

I read something that a survivor sent me this week. It was about the responsibility we carry as victims when it comes to being abused.

“Responsibility” does not mean “fault”. And it sure as heck does not feel like we are able to do anything about the abuse we get when it happens. I don’t feel like I can do much more than tell my son that he has hurt my feelings when he does not seem to care how I feel. And that doesn’t seem very powerful.

What I am going to say next is not going to be very popular. When we are involved in a dysfunctional dance, we are still dancing even if someone else is leading. Why do I do so much for my son? Because I love him, obviously. But if I am being honest, it’s also because I want him to need me or I want to still be needed. Otherwise, I would not continue to be over-supportive. In some way, I am asking him to love me, instead of taking care of myself first.

Someone said to me, “I think I have a right to be mean after all I’ve been through.” Well, I think we have a right to be angry, and to express our anger, but I don’t think we have a right to be mean to anyone.

But there is that line that we have to learn about when we have been abused and unhealthy for so long. I understand. I used to think being assertive meant that I should say anything without caring how someone else felt. It’s not. But it’s a learning process.

I can still love my son without over-giving. I can pull back my support if I choose to do so without being mean. I can still be fair and treat him as I would anyone else who takes what I give and then does not speak to me lovingly.

Someone mentioned that being alone for the holidays is nicer and more peaceful than being with toxic family members. Perhaps I need to look at it that way as well. Toxic people will tend to leave your life as you grow less tolerant of their behavior and begin to take care of yourself. Instead of feeling a loss with my son this Christmas, perhaps I should look at it as I would rather not have you here if you are going to upset me.

It sounds sad, as family and the holidays just seem to go together. But sadder still is feeling the need to grab onto someone’s pant leg as they kick you away.

Healing and growing is a constant thing. We can go from feeling like we are at a “10” one moment and then go to “0” when something triggers us, and emotions take over. But from what I read, it is far better to focus on our own growth and what needs to change within us, than it is to only see what someone has done to us and to feel the need for revenge in order to feel whole.

Very often, it said, getting justice is not as satisfying as we think it is going to be. And by the way, seeking justice is always up to the individual. It is not mandatory and certainly not something that needs to be done if it is going to retraumatize someone. But abusers are out there, not just in the church. And being a nice person or doing nice things does not guarantee good things will be done in return to you. Sometimes people will take you for granted or will take advantage of you. Sometimes we need to learn that it is okay to get angry enough to stop being so nice to people who will not return your kindness.

So, during this week of giving, make sure to give enough to yourself. Make yourself a priority in this season of love.

Merry Christmas to all!

Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

I had so many things in my head to talk about this week and now I can’t think of a single one.

I guess I could start off with something I ran across in a meeting. When we do our Zoom meetings, I think it is great that people add comments. The only comment I want to comment on is…..my feeling is that it is best not to put contact information out there for everyone during a meeting. Unless, that is, you are a member of SNAP. Otherwise, be cautious about sharing personal information or asking people to contact you, or for that matter, contacting people who you don’t know or have not met personally even if they sound like wonderful people…..or sharing personal information with them if they are not SNAP leaders.

Just saying….as always, please use caution. And I also ask that it is not done during one of my meetings as I am not vouching for anyone’s character by allowing them into the meeting. I do screen but that does not mean I do background checks.

As you know, most of us are healing…if not from priest abuse, then from something in our lives. I think we have to give ourselves credit for how far we have come. Sometimes I talk to people, and it reminds me of those priests of old who would beat themselves in order to be worthy. Like, I said something good about myself so I must now compensate by taking a cane to the kneecap to even things out.

Well, we were raised that way, were we not? Weren’t we taught to die for Jesus and that the meek would inherit the Earth and that we should honor the martyrs? I swear that I felt I could not like myself or anything about myself unless someone else gave me permission to do so.

I don’t feel that beating yourself up every time you have a human feeling helps you to heal. And I am not saying that concept is an easy thing to grasp. I think that there is so very much we need to unlearn. I see myself move forward and then I feel as stuck as I ever was.

I heard the words this week that so many of us fear the most. “I am getting older, and I am so afraid that I will grow old and die alone without ever being loved.”

And that hit me in the gut. Because underneath every other fear, that is the fear that sits at the bottom of the others…pushing the rest to the surface. I don’t want to die alone.

I read a couple of articles about the subject this week. With Thanksgiving, I read about someone who was dreading spending the day by themselves. Someone else had a wonderful answer to that.

Hey…no arguments at the dinner table. No hurt feelings if someone is not invited. No spending all day cooking for people…some of whom you may not really like. Break out your best China and candles. Make a pork roast in your microwave instead of a turkey? Why not? Treat yourself to the nicest, most delicious meal and listen to the music you like and watch what you want to on TV.

Another was a question to someone as to how it felt to be old and alone. The person said that they were over 90 years old, and they went out every day and saw people at the store or the hairdresser and had dinner at their son’s house once a week, and that they did what they wanted to and cherished their alone time. They said they would rather live alone in their small apartment than in a larger community setting.

I think we tend to confuse being alone with being unhappy. Or being older and being unhappy. We are more than likely going to die alone when we go. Perhaps we just hope that there is someone left to care about that when the time comes.

I had an aunt who passed away not very long ago. So many people at her house worrying about her will while she lay alone in her hospital bed. All of these people were around as long as she had money a big house and jewelry to be passed out or cruises to take. I did not see one of those people by her side while she lay dying and supposedly “out of it”.

I was there with her in her final hours. So was my cousin who moistened her dry lips. My mother came to see her to say good-bye. My friend was with me. We talked to her about her life and the people we knew and at one point, she was able to acknowledge that we loved her. We finally left her around 1:30 in the morning with the intent to return in a few hours, but she ended up passing away, alone a couple of hours later.

So, when it comes down to it, what does “dying alone” really mean? To be fair, my aunt was never alone while she was alive. She lived in her house with a nurse who came over 12 hours a day and a housecleaner and a relative who ended up moving in with her. But nobody thought about being at the hospital with her in her final hours because it was probably thought that she wouldn’t know the difference. Or some people can’t handle hospitals and death.

It is said that we don’t die alone anyway because someone from the other side comes to help us transition.

But maybe that is not really what we are afraid of. Maybe it’s not the dying part that gets us. Maybe it is the living part that hurts the most. Growing older and living alone.

Yes, maybe that’s what it really is. I get it. Seriously. When we are older, we are no longer considered physically beautiful. We aren’t as firm or as thin as we once were. We may develop illnesses. We may need assistance. We may start to become invisible to people who would rather not have to see us.

What happens if we start to love ourselves but nobody else is around to care? That is truly terrifying. And all too real.

Well, the thing is, we just don’t know, do we? We don’t know what is going to happen. Ever.

There is one thing I do believe, though. We really can’t focus on that fear. Because we don’t know. Because the future is a myth. A big wide-open concept that does not truly exist. Life only happens a day at a time. One day at a time. Those are such beautiful words to live by. Where have I heard them before?

I do believe in living today like we are going to live to be very old. That is, taking care of yourself as best as you can. Take care of yourself like you will live to be 100 but be prepared to die tomorrow. I’m telling myself that, you see. I just bought myself a book called “I’m Dead, Now What?” so I can fill it out for my family in case something unexpected does happen. But I am also trying to drink more water and eat less carbs (I said trying, not always succeeding) and there was a discussion at tonight’s meeting about “Trauma Informed, Gentle/Restorative Yoga” that I want to look into. I also meditate.

Another thing that I feel may be helpful is this….if you are afraid of being alone (not talking romantically or not involved with a partner) as you get older, start now to get involved with groups and friends. Well, Covid doesn’t help unfortunately…..but take walks, visit older relatives, get involved with hospice at a local hospital, or volunteer.

The more you connect, the more valued you will feel and the more you contribute, the less alone you will be. And the more you begin to care about others and their needs and their feelings, the less you may be concerned with your fears.

Hey, again, I don’t know everything. And one size does not fit all. But begin where you are.

Tonight, I had my usual conversation with my mother. She needs stuff from the store. Does not want to go to the store. Should really not go to the store. But needs groceries. I have stuff delivered to her for her dog on a regular basis, and when I ask, she tells me she doesn’t need anything…until she needs everything.

She says she needs to learn how to order things on-line herself. She says, “I am not stupid”. She’s not. I can’t win a game of cards with her. But when it comes to computer stuff with her, I want to pull out my hair.

Why? Because we go in circles. First, she tells me it is my fault that she does not know how to order on-line, because I never show her how. Then when I ask her if she want to try something “right now”, she looks at me (because we can video chat), and I swear to God, tonight she actually said, “You are not my mother”.

She wants to learn. She is not stupid. But she never wants to actually learn because she doesn’t want me to teach her anything. But it is my fault she does not know anything because I never teach her anything. And so, we go around and around… and I either order her food anyway or she sneaks out and does it herself.

Until the next time.

Why? Because we all tend to get overwhelmed when we are confused, or we are facing something unfamiliar and maybe a little scary. We tend to feel that we need to know everything in order to be comfortable trying anything new or making any kind of a move. And don’t get me wrong, we should know what we are doing before making a big move…but it is not necessary to start out knowing everything.

It’s okay for a surgeon to go to med school before they pick up a scalpel. For most people, the idea of performing surgery is terrifying if we know nothing about it. So, we don’t just assume we are stupid if we can’t just jump right in and know how to avoid cutting anything vital. We all need to start at the beginning and be patient.

It’s okay to not know everything right now. It’s okay to understand that things we don’t know about can be scary and overwhelming and that we may end up freezing in fear or moving too fast if we don’t take a breath and slow down and accept that we all had to learn about “A” before we could learn about “B” and that there was a time when “Z” seemed way beyond our reach or comprehension.

One day at a time. One thought to process to move another step.

This past week we lost Phil Saviano. If you don’t know who that is, watch the movie “Spotlight”. Thank you, Phil, for everything.

Free Fallin’

Last week, I mentioned how difficult it was to separate from my ex-husband and how, even now, I have moments when I doubt myself over my past actions and the mistakes I made along the way.

I just wanted to add to that by saying that my relationship with my ex-husband was one of….I have to leave, I want to stay….and based on emotions and a need for myself to become less dependent on someone else. In fact, one of the biggest red flags for me in knowing I had to do something was the feeling of needing someone else to alleviate my fears.

I did not want to be in a relationship because being there meant that I felt safe despite the problems that I knew existed. I didn’t want someone else to have control over me or for me to allow someone to have control over me because it was easier than facing my fears and walking away on my own.

In the same way, I didn’t want to acknowledge the red flags. And yet, as much as the relationship would reach a point to where I thought I had to leave, as soon as I did leave, he would begin to try to pull me back in. And that was harder. Way worse. Because it was then like trying to escape from everything that I wanted him to be and everything I felt I needed.

And so when I did finally leave for the second and last time, pulling away felt like trying to learn to drive with a clutch. My movements were jerky and uncertain. There came a point where I knew I needed an ultimatum. And when I say “ultimatum”, let me say that this was not a popular choice with anyone. I said that I could not reconcile without couple’s therapy.

Now, he had already told me that he would never go back to therapy. And my son told me that I knew that he would not go back to therapy. And I tried to not make it sound like an angry ultimatum. but one that made sense. Because in reality, it was not my ex that I was issuing the ultimatum to…..it was to myself.

I needed an end to the craziness. An end to the confusion. An end to the “should I stay or should I go?” dilemma. And I didn’t expect miracles. I just expected something to be different from what we were doing. Something other than “I will try” which sounds great until you are in the middle of things with no other place to go and just depending upon someone else to work on their own issues with no incentive to do so.

Well, he refused. Not a big surprise. And I’d like to say that I was a tremendously strong person who immediately sought a divorce. Nope. What did I do? I bargained. I couldn’t face the results of my ultimatum. But I had painted myself into the corner deliberately so that I could not get out. Bargaining….getting down to please just go with me to counselling like twice a year or something….just to say we are working on things….did not work.

I had to face reality.

I eventually did initiate divorce proceedings. And everyone gets along now okay. But when I feel pulled back into my feelings, I need to realize that there was a reason that I did what I did. And that reason was I needed to stop making decisions based on emotion. Because I didn’t really trust my emotions.

I had to put up a wall….a boundary…..however flimsy it began…to emotionally separate myself from a confusing situation that pulled me in all directions.

I know this is a blog about abuse by priests. But abuse is abuse. And our ability to set boundaries or put our foot down and say “enough” whether to someone else or to ourselves when we don’t have the tools to process a healthy existence at the time, does not matter who we are interacting with or who is trying to manipulate or use us.

But with the priest, the difference is….he would be the one we would be telling this to and the one from whom we would be seeking help.

If there was a blessing for me being psychologically and emotionally abused by a priest, it would be that it put a name to things that happened to me in the past. And it helped me to see that I have to be careful to not let my wall down wherever I go.

And that in itself is difficult, isn’t it? That reaction to betrayal by someone we trusted by not allowing anyone to be close to us in order to protect ourselves is called a “Trauma Response”. That is just one of many trauma responses. And we can even feel conflicted by this….wanting to feel safe by avoiding closeness with others, but than not feeling safe being alone either.

My lack of trust and avoidance has mainly to do with the church. I don’t trust the motivations of those who seem to be kind or helpful. My feelings of distrust are raised whenever I hear someone speak of a good priest who tried to help them and I wonder what was the priest’s motivation behind doing the good deed. Especially if it has to do with a child or a vulnerable adult who is kind-hearted and trusting. I want to say, “please be careful who you trust”.

I am still working daily on becoming more aware of trying to fix things for people and things in general with people. I’m trying to let go of caring too much about what other people think. Like I said….my feeling is it may take a lifetime to change old patterns, but I feel that it all begins by becoming more aware of ourselves without judgment.

I have a friend who I have known since childhood. I reconnected with her after many years and since she had a child many years after I had my kids, we would often hang out at her house while her child was growing up and needed her there. I often would help out at parties she threw for her daughter and I’d play cards with her family….things like that.

One day she said she was going to have a couple of people we both knew from grade school over for lunch and did I want to join them. Having never been very close to the two friends and having not really seen them since grade school, I declined, saying no, that’s okay, they were more your friends and I haven’t seen them in years, or something like that. Never meant it to be something to hurt anyone’s feelings. Didn’t seem like my not being there was important to anyone.

I happened to see one of the friends on Facebook and thought maybe it was time to reconnect with an old classmate. I was ignored. Saw the same person at our reunion and they did not speak to me. It was obvious that our mutual friend had told them she had asked me and I said I was not interested in joining them.

Especially since said friend has not attempted to get together to do anything with me since this happened a couple of years back.

I never thought it was going to grow into anything. Thought she was just having lunch with some friends who I had never seen while I was hanging out at her house….or ever…since grade school. But I felt the need to fix things and make it right.

But my new non-fixer awareness said….”why?” How good of a friend is this to talk behind my back and not ever get back in touch with me? And I had attempted to be friends with and talk to her friend and my ex-classmate already to no avail. What did I attempt to fix? Do I tell her that I know what she did? Do I try to fix things with her two friends who by me not having lunch with them may have taken that very personally and want nothing more to do with me? Do I need this kind of drama in my life?

I realize I don’t need to fix this. I send my friend a Christmas card each year. We are friends on Facebook. I’m here if she wants to get together. I have already tried to invite her to something and she declined. Time to let the issue go, leave the door open, but not try to fix things or to get anyone to like me. Does it make me a less likeable person because someone else does not like me?

It sure feels that way. Even though I haven’t really known these people in many years and never see them and they have no affect upon my life. But it feels like a poppy seed stuck in between your teeth. Life can’t go on until that seed is unstuck. Must fix.

But that is how I feel. And I am aware of that. And I am aware that I don’t need to fix things for people. I can be continue to be friendly if I ever run across these people but I don’t need to be responsible for their thoughts and feelings or anyone else’s actions.

One last thing I want to talk about. Noticing the good things in our lives.

I woke up one morning last week to the sound of rain falling outside of my window. It was a dark morning and I didn’t have to get up for some time yet. My little dog was lying next to me with her head near my ear, softly snoring. That sound, along with the rain, was so very peaceful. And I wanted to bottle that moment in time. Because we know all too well that these moments of perfect peace don’t last. Life brings new changes every day. We need to hold onto those moments….to become aware of those moments….and all of the things that bring joy into our lives.

Life changes. Just found out today that someone who lived in my neighborhood when we were kids passed away from cancer. His mom is still alive. She used to let us pick her flowers to bring home to our moms when we were kids.

Blessings to all this week of Thanksgiving. My thoughts go out to anyone who feels alone or who is missing someone they love this holiday.

I Get Weak

This past week when my ex-husband was in the ICU, it brought up so many feelings from the past. Feelings and self-doubt. Did I do the right thing? I know it was not the easy thing for sure. Neither way was the easy way. But sometimes I wonder if things would have worked out better for the family if I had stayed in the relationship.

And with him being so sick (he is home now), it caused us to reach out to each other. We texted and we talked on the phone. And I felt a sense of anxiety at possibly losing a person I have a connection with as far as our children and grandchildren. We have a connection there that I will never share with anyone else. And that brought up memories of good times together and a bond that we will always share.

We met through a mutual friend when I was still in high school. He was 18 and I was 17 and he would come to my school at lunch time and me and some of my friends would hang out in his van and stay warm during lunch. That’s code for other stuff that I won’t get into. He knew everyone and when I was with him, I felt kind of important because then everyone knew who I was. His friends. People I would not normally know or hang out with if I did not know him. A very large group of friends. And he was cute and he was nice to everyone, and it was fun to be with him. And when it wasn’t….I made excuses….so I never noticed the cracks.

When I was 20 and he was 21, I got pregnant. We ended up having a baby, moving in together, and then getting married within a year. Because it was what you did. And for me, someone who wanted to get married and have children….the situation was rewarding. And I was happy. At first.

Now this is the part where I break down what happened, even though I did not know the terms for anything when I was younger.

They call it “Trauma Bonding”.

I loved being married to this man that I loved. I loved sharing my life and our child. I was getting positive reinforcement all over the place.

A lot of things happen in the beginning of a relationship. You have the wedding and the honeymoon and the gifts and the new life and new place and new experiences and friends getting married and showers and babies and you get to see your friends a lot still for awhile because you are still young and many of your friends are still single and they come over to hang out and there’s a lot of activity and things to distract you from each other.

And then along came baby number two for us and we began to look at houses. Oh, boy….more new and exciting things. More good brain chemicals being associated with my husband.

And it was at that points that the cracks really began to show…when I was in our house alone at night with our two babies while he went out almost every night….staying out very late.

I told myself that I enjoyed being at home and being a mother and he enjoyed being out and about with his friends and not feeling tied down. Because that is what you do when the cracks begin to show…..you justify the other person’s behavior. Because it was easier for me to justify him going out all of the time and working every Saturday all day as something he needed to do to be happy….than it was for me to confront him about being out a bit too much and me and the kids needing some attention as well.

Especially when doing so brought about anger and unpleasant words. Things were just easier when he was happy. That is what I told myself.

And in between these not so great days and moments….were anniversaries and parties with friends and holidays with the kids and nights where he was home and things were good hanging out together.

I always called it “percentage”. There was always that “percentage” that kept me there whenever I thought that things weren’t right and I acknowledged outright verbal and emotional abuse that was happening…..but I did not want to have an emotional confrontation and I was terrified because I had never lived on my own or taken care of anything on my own, and I had two children as well. So, I did what is known as “freezing”, or deciding to stay in a situation because leaving felt too difficult. Freezing can also mean staying in a situation because it seems like the right thing to do. “Right” sometimes meaning what is best for others or that it feels safer at the time to not make a move.

In a trauma bond between two people, there is sometimes a feeling of a power differential. Whenever I would speak up to my husband, he would threaten to leave or tell me to leave instead of listening to how I felt. And I didn’t want to be an obligation to someone. But the power he held….and this happens often…is that he took care of everything and he knew so many people to do things and for me, my world got smaller so that it became me and my kids and going to work and seeing my parents. I became more isolated but he did not.

A trauma bond relationship has cycles of abuse with intermitted reinforcement of rewards, and then when the partner is beginning to feel hope and renewed affection, there is punishment of some form. People who experienced this type of behavior in childhood…the ups and downs of emotional whiplash, are especially prone to relate to this kind of situation and it can feel familiar and in a weird way….just “the way things are”.

I loved my father very very much, but you just never knew what could set him off at times. Alcohol was predictable but other times, during vacation or an otherwise pleasant times, he could fly into a rage and all you could do was quietly wait it out and pretend it wasn’t happening.

Trauma bonds don’t just happen in romantic relationships. They happen in families as well. Anywhere where you go through cycles of reward and abuse and reward again. Anywhere there are feelings of fear, excitement (anytime adrenaline rises), or sexual feelings….these can create an entrapment where someone stays for what they perceive as something mostly good, or they make excuses because they fear leaving for one reason or another, or because they feel they can’t leave for whatever reason. Or because they have convinced themselves that the abusive person is really a good person at heart, or that life isn’t all happy times.

Another thing to know….we hear about the law of attraction and how we need to put out positive vibes and ask the universe for a good partner or for happiness or whatnot, but as long as we have not worked on our own trauma bonding issues, we unconsciously seek out our unhealed issues in others. Our subconscious seeks out what we believe to be true.

So you can give your order to the universe for a healthy relationship, but as long as we are blaming ourselves for past mistakes, failing to put up boundaries, not being able to see a person for anything other than how they once showed themselves to be even when they begin to change, not seriously believing you are good enough, being afraid to have an opinion, being afraid of alienating or losing people….not because you are rude but because you do what is comfortable to you and you listen to what is comfortable to you…..until you can do that…or at least begin to acknowledge and work on those things….you are going to keep attracting what is familiar to you.

And, after all, familiar is comfortable, right? It’s not easy. That is why, after all these years, I still carry guilt that I feel I must right and I still feel that I should be the one taking care of my sick ex-husband and that I would be there if I hadn’t left and all of those feelings come back. And I’m still trying to control….had I zigged instead of zagged, things would have turned out better. Like everything in life depended upon what I did. Nobody else carries any responsibility for themselves. It’s all on me.

And I need to remind myself, as we all do, that we cannot change anything in the past, and that we did what we needed to do or thought was right at the time with the information we had, and that guilt is a useless emotion that does nothing but destroy you. Make amends as best you can if you need to and forgive yourself.

When it gets tough or uncomfortable in your healing journey, remind yourself that it’s okay (again) to take care of yourself and to not fix things for everyone.

Trauma bonds can last for years. Old emotions can get triggered. You can find yourself getting pulled back in. You may find yourself blaming yourself for things in the past that you cannot change. You may find in healing that you have had faulty beliefs.

For today, it’s enough to be aware that “there’s a name for that”. Just become more aware. Have a great week.

Oh, ex-husband was very very sick. Does not know how he got sick. It was not Covid related. But he is home now and feeling very weak and needing a lot of rest.

Recovery always takes time and focus on taking care of oneself.

MacArthur Park

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard not to worry about the people I love. Even though I know logically it helps nothing, it’s hard not to worry. Do you agree?

I imagine it is a co-dependency thing born of an upbringing that may have included alcohol or parents who were controlling or overprotective or who worried a lot themselves. And it becomes ingrained. A habit. It becomes like a very worn out rabbit’s foot that we have to hold onto in order to ward off bad things from happening.

As children with little control over our world, worry was the only control we had over anything. And my guess is that as we grow, some of us develop into complete adults who have a “good sense” of worry, while others develop a more neurotic, co-dependent sense of attachment worry….where we have a difficult time separating ourselves from others and feel the need to fix and to care for them. In other words, we learn to enable.

In some families, especially in families where alcohol is a problem, the focus tends to be on the one using. So then, the focus tends to be reacting to the abuser. You grow up with this so there is no comparison, really as to what normal is. You learn not to let your emotions get too loud or troublesome and you learn to help fix things to help cover up the embarrassing behavior of the people that you love.

And then you may also run into the addict/abuser who seems to relish the attention they get from having a crisis and having the entire family focus on them. And no matter what is going on in your own life, you are expected to take care of them. Co-dependents tend to be self-sacrificing. That’s a trait that I would guess would come from years of having to put your own needs second to that of someone else for the good of the family….and as you would tend to see it as a child….your own survival.

So when you grow up on edge, waiting for the next shoe to drop, you can never really let down your guard and relax. And I believe that habit that has been learned carries on into adulthood. And because we already know that there is so little that we can control outside of ourselves, falling back into a state of worrying and trying to fix and putting our own needs last to help someone else is what we know.

We can try to fix or take care of our spouse or significant other. We may find ourselves in a situation where we are doing most of the giving or we are attracting partners who are more than willing to take from us. Or we may find ourselves with unhealthy partners who have addictions that we feel the need to cover for or make up for. It’s a position we feel comfortable in even though it may make us feel uncomfortable and resentful.

And we may find ourselves repeating family patterns of enabling our children. Constantly helping them out of problem situations. Always trying to protect them to the point of not allowing them to make and learn from their own mistakes. Continuously helping them out of situations that they repeat…trying to alleviate our own constant worry but actually keeping us connected in an endless loop that really benefits nobody because it allows dysfunctional behavior to continue.

It’s like buying someone a birthday cake and they forget it outside in the rain and so you buy them another cake because you don’t want their birthday ruined but then you eat the soggy cake yourself so it doesn’t go to waste.

Another problem with worry and enabling others besides it robbing you of your own happiness, is that the more you give of yourself, the more other people tend to take it for granted that you are going to take care of things and the more they take you for granted. And the less reason they have to make any changes in themselves. And although it feels so counter-intuitive to let go of someone….of taking care of them every time they need something because of their own issues….the more it drains you and the less love you feel. In fact, you can start to feel angry.

Anger…..we have always been taught to repress it. Tuck that away. That’s not nice to feel that way. You are not a nice person if you raise your voice or throw up a boundary or ask for what you deserve. You could lose people from your life. I know I have.

That is why I asked the question I did in today’s survey. Not to be personal because I know cheating is a very difficult topic. But because sometimes when people cannot find another way to express themselves and their frustrations in a relationship, they search for validation outside of the relationship.

It may be personal validation or it may be a way of getting back something of what they think they deserve when not getting that from someone they have constantly given to. A way of channeling their anger.

Unlearning co-dependent or enabling tendencies is not easy. But it can be done. Once again, listen to your feelings. I’m not saying that life will change overnight. I’m not saying life will be easy. I’m not even saying I’ve done this successfully myself. But I am saying, become aware of patterns that aren’t working or if you are giving too much trying to help and nothing seems to be helping or your efforts are being met with disrespect or anger if you begin to do something for yourself instead.

Another thing about co-dependent behavior…..it tends to attract unwanted personality types. Users, addicts, Narcissists….you get the idea.

Those of us who have been in relationships with these personality types know that they don’t always show their true colors right away. So those people who think we should know better or choose more wisely should know that abuse takes many forms and it can be hidden well behind pleasant masks. When problems do arise, usually the rest of the relationship is so nice that we make excuses for the person or tell ourselves that nobody is perfect. Or by that time, we are already in too deep.

It’s not easy to walk away from an otherwise nice relationship, whether it be romantic or friendship or family. What I have found is when there is a problem that does not seem like it is going to change, ask yourself if you can live with that because you most likely aren’t going to be able to change anything.

Can you live with a partner who doesn’t value family? Or someone who is constantly needing to borrow money or having you pick up the bill or pay for the things they want? Can you forgive someone who has lied to you or cheated on you? And I’m not saying if you cannot live without them. I’m saying, can you willingly live with their behavior?

Co-dependents tend to blame themselves for things other people do. Most likely because they feel responsible for the other person’s well being and happiness. They have also learned to “clean up” after others whether figuratively or literally. Enabling forms an attachment and it’s so hard to let go when you feel that someone you love may fall without you holding onto them.

Speaking about all of this, I just learned that my ex-husband is in ICU. Our kids are going to visit him today. I called my mother to tell her about this and she said….”What a shame…he is such a nice man.” And I feel so wrong reminding her of why I am not with him. Petty. But hearing her say that makes me feel like things were my fault and I know that makes no sense. I mean, it really doesn’t matter at this point. And I still care about him very much. I miss being married. It was so difficult for me to acknowledge the problems that I could not unsee. I am praying for his full recovery.

Worry. Attachment. Being afraid to let go of someone even if it’s only in our fearful thoughts. Too much of these negative or controlling thoughts and feelings distract us from our own growth and feelings and well-being. Be mindful this week of how much focus is put into things and people and situations that we have no control over. Things that we think we should be fixing somehow for people. Stay healthy.