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.

Respect Yourself

Last week I wrote about fixing up your house a bit and making it stronger in case of a storm. By that, I meant that you are the house.

Someone mentioned in a comment that they could probably exercise more and eat less sugar. Well, yes, but why? If it is because you want to put more nutritious food into your body or prevent future illnesses and ensure continued health by doing so….okay. If you are doing it because you care about yourself. But if you are saying you should have healthier habits because that is what others expect of you or because you feel other people will judge how you look, or that you are not good enough as you are….then are you really making your house stronger…or are you just trying to put a pretty wreath on the door to make other people happy?

I think that life itself is strange in that we are born into a world where we feel the need to fit in. We do what we are told. We stifle our feelings. We work. We compare what we have and what we have accomplished with other people we know. All of our life is spent with a catcher’s mitt on our hands. All we end up knowing about ourselves is how well we were able to catch the balls that were thrown our way and how good we appear to look on the outside.

Our individuality is praised a bit more when we are children. We are asked what we want to be when we grow up. We play that we are heroes or villains or dancers or movie stars. Our work may get stars put on it and be put on the fridge for display.

But it seems that the older we get, the more we are encouraged to put away our dreams as they are deemed to be childish thoughts. And our choices become more limited and we tend to be squeezed into what is expected of us.

And in some ways, it may feel comforting to be told what to do. It can be overwhelming to have our live be open-ended and have to make big decisions. Or to feel alone in a big world unsure of which way to turn. It can feel comforting to do what we know. What we have seen our parents and friends do.

I just finished watching the series “Mad Men”, and what struck me….besides all of the drinking and smoking they did….was how limited the lives of the women were back in the 1960’s. Remember, it wasn’t until 50 years ago that women were getting credit on their own and if a woman got divorced, she could end up with nothing…..no home, no money….even no children.

I remember enjoying art and writing and psychology when I was younger. But I chose to take secretarial classes because nothing else seemed solid or like a real thing for me to do. And then in high school, the guidance counselor suggested I become a nun, which was the farthest thing from my mind at the time, and in college (for medical secretarial classes) I took a test which suggested that I should be a funeral director.

We may learn about who we are from what other people tell us. But not all of it is helpful. For instance when I was told I should be a nun or a funeral director, nobody really pulled it together for me at the time and suggested that there may be other professions that needed someone who was kind to others or who scored high in empathy on a test.

And it goes the other way as well. It doesn’t feel good at all when someone puts us down or they don’t like us. And unless we truly know who we are and like who we are, we may believe that other people know us better than we do ourselves. So the bad words stick and we end up believing them.

As we go along in life, if we pay attention, we can begin to learn about who we really are. What kinds of things interest us? What kind of personality traits bother us? Do we prefer the beach or the mountains? Do we feel the need to be in control of things all of the time? Are we able to relax? What kinds of things fascinate us? What would we like to learn? Where would we like to go? What makes us sad? What colors do we like? What food do we enjoy?

This is what I am talking about when I say to make your house stronger. I’m not saying do something to “improve” yourself. That would imply that you aren’t already perfect as you are. The thing is, you are perfect, you just don’t know it. And you are not going to know it by listening to what other people say about you. Because what other people say about you changes from day to day…..minute by minute. While you are working on the strength of the walls inside your house (your boundaries), consider also making your rooms to your liking. Use the colors you love. Listen to the music that brings you joy. Cultivate an aura of love within your own walls.

Add an addition to your house. I have started to paint, so I would need a studio. Something with lots of light and perhaps some classical music. I will say that when I compare myself to other, more talented people, I can’t really paint well. But the hell with saying that. Saying that you can’t do something only guarantees that you never will do that. I love to paint. It takes me away from myself. I paint differently than others, not better, not worse than. I have my own style.

I have a friend….a fellow survivor….who reminded me that we all have our strengths. She loves to talk to people and to network and to learn. I love to write and to organize things for people and to learn about behavior.

My friend sends me lots of articles about Narcissists and co-dependency. And I think I am learning. I listen to my son talk about his relationship and I hear him talk about the other person. It reminds me of what I used to do. What I still tend to do if I don’t think it out. The question always being….are we reacting to what others are doing? Are we trying to control what someone else is doing because it makes us uncomfortable? Are we owning our own feelings and actions?

One article I read said that when we are recovering…and that means healing from abuse….we should not jump into dating or seeking another relationship. I can understand that if you consider the red flags we are supposed to watch out for.

Instant love and attraction. Wanting to know everything about you. Wanting commitment right off the bat. Jealousy. We’ve heard these things before but when you are looking for a love connection, these things can feel like love.

Another thing….and this was important because I had never seen anyone talk about this before….was building a story in your head. And this is common. Think obsession. That is the extreme, but having someone smile and be kind and compliment you….and seem like they are interested in you and that they want more with you….but then they don’t seem to follow up….can be just what it seems to everyone else in the world….nothing. But in the meantime, you are already fantasizing about what your children will look like and your feelings for this person are growing.

When you have co-dependent issues, you need to actively work on your recovery. Or you can face a lifetime of self-inflicted pain. It takes work. Boundary work is important in recovery.

We discussed this a bit tonight at our meeting. Boundaries can be a foreign concept to some of us. One insight was that we need to learn that we aren’t responsible for someone else’s problems. That doesn’t mean we don’t care or can’t offer help. But it does mean that we aren’t responsible for fixing things for someone else. And that can be very difficult to learn. Especially when we have been taught we are responsible or we have been made to feel responsible since we were kids.

Another thing….it seems that we may have things we subconsciously revert to when stressed. We may find ourselves shopping more without being aware that it is related to not being able to control something going on in our family, for instance. We may find ourselves feeling worse when we thought we were doing better and not understand why. All I can say is that when I find this happening to me, I ask myself what it is I’m not looking at. What am I trying to repress?

We are perfect spiritual beings living in imperfect physical bodies and living in an imperfect world. Healing from trauma or co-dependency or anything for that matter is a slow life-long process of becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings.

Please don’t tell yourself that you can’t do something you may want to try. Please don’t tell yourself that you aren’t as good as someone else. An apple cannot be an orange. Listen to the tapes that play in your head. The ones you have played over and over and now believe are the truth about yourself. Pick them apart. Put new words in that are more positive. Begin to play more positive words in your head. It’s not easy, I know. Like I said, lifelong work ahead.

And remember that if you missed out on an opportunity to do something in your life, you still have time. Maybe you won’t be able to do exactly the same thing, but instead of thinking about what could have been, try thinking about what could be….

Sending socially distant hugs to all. Have a nice week. Be good to yourself. Trivia….top five countries reading this blog in November were: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and Portugal. Blog most read was Guest blog #3.

Don’t Stop Believing

Does anything we do ever really matter in life?

Sometimes I wonder.

This past week we saw some guest blogs from survivors who wrote letters stating how they felt to those with some with the power to change things. Did it make a difference?

When we were young, we believed that good always triumphed and that God was always watching and that the grown ups were in charge and could handle anything fairly. Fair is what mattered back then. Fair still matters.

It can feel frustrating to put yourself out there and to speak from the heart only to get the feeling that it didn’t matter or change anything. It can feel like just one stone in a well. But I don’t believe that any action done with good intention does not have some kind of affect in this world. If not just being the inspiration for others to toss their stone into the well. Eventually if enough people believe in the power of good, change will begin to be noticed.

It can be hard to keep going at times. It can be easy to get discouraged. Sexual abuse….whether physical or psychological…is something people don’t want to discuss and it can feel isolating to be a survivor. And just saying that you were abused makes you appear different to some people. As Regina put it in her letter…..it is if we are wearing a scarlet letter on our chest.

Someone at last night’s meeting shared a couple of resources that I would like to pass along. Dr. David Pooler (David_Pooler@Baylor.edu) is interested in researching Clergy Perpetrated Sexual Abuse of Adults. Also, there are many blogs to read at “Awake Milwaukee” with survivor stories of clergy abuse and different insights to broaden horizons and perhaps contribute a story of your own. I’m not familiar with either Dr. Pooler or Awake Milwaukee, so as with anything, use caution before contacting anyone.

One of the things that came up this week is….what can we do with all of the anger and frustration we feel after being betrayed or discarded by someone we trusted? One person I spoke with is focusing on not being powerless again by going to law school and putting that energy into helping others.

And I thought that was a great idea. When we are at our lowest point and when our vulnerability and our weaknesses have been used against us, it is devastating. That is another thing people who have not been abused do not understand. That is, an abuser will pretend to be someone they are not in order to gain someone’s trust. They will get under someone’s skin and into their head with the sole purpose of destroying that person for sport. Just to get off on their own power. So they may help you crash and burn because you handed them the keys to your car so to speak.

And that makes it ten times worse. Because we trusted and we feel like we participated. We allowed ourselves to be open with someone we thought had our best interests at heart. We may have shared some very personal stuff. So when we hit that tree going 100 miles an hour when our emotional brakes have been cut, we are destroyed. Mortally wounded. Gutted without a stitch of armor left to protect us.

And these feelings can hit us at any point in our lives because life can be tough and pain and loss are a part of living.

But what makes us survivors is the fact that we keep getting up the next day and starting over. We go on. And the difference between existing and surviving may come down to our next step.

How do we choose to rebuild ourselves after a loss or rejection or when we find we need to restart our lives once again and we begin to question our self worth because of others?

I do think we need to grieve. But when we grieve, I think we also need to listen to the words we say to ourselves. Forget about the laws of attraction and being responsible for allowing other people to treat us a certain way. Let go of that. When you are hurting, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as if you have been physically burned. Don’t use sandpaper on that wound. Begin within.

I think it also helps a bit if we stop putting other people on pedestals and realize that they don’t know any more than we do really and they are just as flawed and their actions are separate from who you are as a person.

What they did is on them. You were probably a good friend or trying to help someone or maybe you trusted them because you are a person people can trust. So go lightly on lumping their issues in with your own. We all have enough on our plate.

I like how the person I spoke with decided to strengthen their armor by increasing their knowledge of the legal profession. Even if they never finished law school, at least they are learning and will know more than they did before. And they are rebuilding their armor.

For me, I won’t lie….I can hit some low lows. I can feel depleted. But remember, you are never too old to change your life. It is never too late to learn something new. Instead of focusing on what you have lost, focus instead on something that will help you grow as a person.

Think of it as rebuilding a town after a tornado rips through it or a fire has decimated its buildings. It is not the fault of the buildings that were destroyed that they happened to be in the path of destruction. But they can be rebuilt as often as needed….perhaps with stronger materials or a better structure or in a similar but different spot.

Another thing I heard this week is someone being told by someone else that they should maintain their anger about what happened to them. To me, that sounds like the belief that if we find a sense of peace or if we let go, then we are letting someone get away with something.

I don’t know that I agree with that. People heal at their own pace. And it’s said that we don’t necessarily get over things, we just learn to live with the scar. And who is to say that someone who feels more at peace may at that point be able to accomplish something they could not have when they were in a state of raw emotion?

Nobody can say what someone else should be feeling.

Be good to yourselves and have a great week.

The top five most read blogs this month so far are: Guest blog #3, Guest blog #4, Always Something There to Remind Me, Guest blog #5, and Tainted Love.

Please remember to take this week’s survey.

Guest Blog #5

A few days ago, I read the Associated Press article by Nicole Winfield: “Vatican-backed sex abuse research institute expands mandate, The Catholic Church’s foremost research institute studying sexual abuse of minors is expanding its mandate to also include the sexual and spiritual abuse of adults”

Vatican-backed sex abuse research institute expands mandate – ABC News (go.com)

The article quoted Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, the head of the former Centre for Child Protection and a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Zollner is now president of the new: Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care. The Institute is taking over the child protection effort and expanding to study the abuse of adults and also spiritual abuse.

In the Associated Press interview, Zollner mentioned the Vatican’s definition of “vulnerable adult” and said that it was under discussion. My letter to Father Zollner was intended to primarily address this issue. I sent this email to the Institute at the Gregorian.

October 14, 2021

Hans Zollner SJ

IADC

CollegioBellarmino

Via del Seminario 120

00186 Roma

Dear Rev.Zollner,

I read the article yesterday about the new Anthropology Institute at Gregorian University. I am glad that you have expanded. The title of the article above gave me hope that you were now addressing the abuse of adults, also. Yet, when I read the AP article, I saw that you are speaking of seminarians, nuns, and “vulnerable” adults. I notice immediately the influence of the McCarrick case and of the work of Doris Wagner Reisinger. However, my heart sank when I read your statement on vulnerable adults.

I would like you to understand and those who study with you to understand that the focus should not be on whether the woman is “vulnerable” or not. The focus should be on the man. Many of the Protestant churches have such clear and modern abuse policies. The clergyman has a fiduciary responsibility. The focus should be on the man and what he may not do. The laws everywhere need to make it clear that a clergyperson may not violate the professional ethics of his office. The question of child abuse is clear because laws exist; before those laws the children were often blamed. We need laws that make it clear that abuse of adults is also criminal, unethical, as well as morally wrong.

That discussion on whether women are “vulnerable” or “temporarily vulnerable” is insulting to me, someone who has been raped by a priest. It should be a question of whether the priest is unprofessional, unethical, criminal, and dangerous. Put the focus on the man who commits the abuse and not on the woman who is the victim. And I say “victim” because the clergyman is always in a more powerful position and especially in the case of Catholic priests is not even supposed to be sexually active, so there is a huge violation of trust for him to sexually approach anyone.

In conclusion, I hope the Catholic Church at some point affirms the dignity of women and removes the “Scarlet Letter” that we survivors of clergy sexual abuseas adultshave been wearing forever.

I am going to send you a copy of my recently published book:

Amazon.com: Josh: My Story eBook : Wurst, Regina: Kindle Store

If those at the Institute want to understand the story of one woman who was assaulted by a priest, I hope they read my book.

Sincerely,

Regina Wurst

joshmystory@gmail.com

I received this timely reply from the Institute:


From: Institute of Anthropology Dignity and Care <iadc@unigre.it>
Date: Mon, Oct 18, 2021 at 12:35 AM
Subject: Re: for Rev. Zollner and IADC


Dear Mrs. Regina Wurst,


Fr. Zollner has received your email. At this point, it is difficult for him to reply in person because of the recent inauguration of the Institute and all what is connected to that.

We are very sorry if the interview has upset you. However, in the interview there was no special mention to women, but to vulnerable persons. And as the recent report on abuse committed in the Catholic Church in France has shown, the question is indeed not only whether a clergyman has abused, but also male or female laity in the church have been victims or perpetrators.


The article in AP could not reflect the whole conversation between Fr. Zollner and the journalists. In any case, there is an ongoing discussion on how to address this issue, also in different legal constituencies around the world.

There is no question that those who abuse sexually or in another way another person, be he or she, a minor or an adult, needs to be called by his or her name and must be prosecuted.

In this sense, we are looking forward to receiving your book. That will help us to deepen our understanding and inform our teaching.


Best regards,

Secretariat

Institute of Anthropology 

Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care

Pontifical Gregorian University
Tel.: +39 06 40048453

In reaction to this letter from IADC, I take issue with their view that the AP interview “upset me.”I agree that “in the interview there was no special mention to women, but to vulnerable persons.” Exactly. That was my point. I can only claim I was abused if they judge that I was “vulnerable.” That is contorted logic.

Their letter also emphasized that“the question is indeed not only whether a clergyman has abused, but also male or female laity.”Well, yes, laity have abused, but I specifically want to keep my focus on priests, clericalism, and misogyny in the Church, as well as the requirement of celibacy which seems to exacerbate the problem of clergy abuse in the Catholic Church. Certainly, my abuser objected to celibacy when he called it “cultural imperialism” and stated that he could do whatever he wanted. I won’t accept that these issues are obfuscated and diffused.

I read in another article, though, that the IADC was beginning to look at the abuse of women, and adult men. They have started with the abuse of nuns and seminarians, and we can help them widen their viewpoints with our input.

Guest Blog #4

 
October 18, 2021

Hans Zollner SJIADC
Collegio BellarminoVia del Seminario 12000186 Roma

Dear Rev. Hans Zollner,
Attached are two articles that address the topic of clergy sexual misconduct/abuse of adults. The first article is by the AP regarding the effect clergy misconduct and abuse had on my life and faith practice. It crushed me as it struck at the core of my being. 
Having served the sick as a Registered Nurse for forty-one years in the medical profession, the patients entrusted in our care are all considered vulnerable. We seek medical attention for physical ailments, mental health professionals for emotional distress impacting our mental health, and attend the place of worship for spiritual growth and healing. The pastor of my former parish often referenced the church as a “field hospital” for those seeking spiritual healing. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. 

It is necessary to address the whole patient. The emotional, spiritual and physical are interconnected. If one area is suffering soon the other two will follow. 
As professionals we are taught to cause no harm. There is an imbalance of power making true consent impossible. Mental health and medical professionals are trained to protect all ages as those who seek our care place their trust in us. Trust is implied by the shear nature of the vocations. So it is with clergy in the field hospital of the Catholic Church. Both a maternal aunt and cousin were nuns. My aunt served the needs of the clergy in her order based in Canada. I loved the church. It meant so much in my life. Even if I stepped away at times something always drew me back. It feels as if it is in my very DNA. 


Therefore, the point isn’t to distinguish the vulnerability of the adult but to place the focus of responsibility where it belongs which is squarely on the clergy as professionals both feeding the flock in its care as well as providing counseling when needed. Even if therapy is involved in a secular setting an adult will often seek a spiritual perspective. 
All who enter the church need to feel safe and protected from predators who wear sheep’s clothing. The degree of trust implied by celibate/chaste clergy increases the vulnerability of the adult who isn’t prepared to have to protect themselves from the very men who took vows of service to Christ and who are representing Christ to those under its roof and its service. 


There can be no consent between a priest and adult because of such a power imbalance. The one with the greatest power holds the greatest responsibility. In the wake of # metoo movement the topic of power imbalances with adults came into much attention. A movie producer and politician hold power over those who are looking to achieve careers or who are even awe struck. However, clergy represents the highest power there is; God. 


There is no age limit for vulnerability. We are all God’s children regardless of the age. Many factors influence vulnerability such as a history of highly adverse childhood events and the impact of life on its own merits throughout the life span. It is a well known fact that under emotional stress we regress to earlier ages. Adults abused as children can regress to the emotional ages of the childhood trauma and abuse. Trauma effects the brain. 


Although chronologically adults, the level of regression can place the adult at a much younger age with the lower part of the brain in control over higher reasoning. Even if the childhood was considered to be without unusual trauma life itself can deliver harsh blows. For instance, the loss of a spouse through death or divorce, loss of an adult child, the pain of parental estrangement, substance abuse issues, loss of health or employment are only a few events that create extreme vulnerability even if temporary. One does not need to have a caregiver making decisions for them or be rendered incapable of functioning normally to be considered vulnerable. Calling it an affair, a temporary lapse in the priest’s vows or “sin” misses the point and seeks to minimize the real issue at hand. It is an absolute act of emotional, physical and spiritual betrayal, violation, and abuse of spiritual power and authority often subconsciously translated into God being the perpetrator. Christ overturned the tables in the temple driving the money exchangers out with whips because it was abuse oi the place or worship. What would He think about the decades of abuse covered up under its roof of not only the most vulnerable of all which are the minor children but of adults who are also His children? Who will advocate on behalf of Christ by exposing what takes place in the darkness so it can be addressed in the light of day and brought to justice leading to corrective measures to protect all of us? Abuse is killing people and is implicated in addictions which is an epidemic greater than Covid. The Church can take center stage and address it under its roof setting an example for all. 


I speak from personal experience that it was a devastating experience. Reporting it was the right thing to do for the sake of the church, the priest who needed help, and to protect other possible victims from going through what I experienced. I was strongly encouraged to remain silent to protect the institution at the expense of the individual whom it serves. Yet, what happened to me as a result of reporting and going public compounded the trauma and pain. Love does not enable. Love dares to speak truth to power. Love dares to confront the wrong because to remain silent is to be complicit in works of evil. 


Evil does its work in the darkness and in silence. To speak truth brings light into the darkness which is what Christ did. It got Him killed. It almost killed me. It certainly caused my old life to fall and crumble away including needing to retire earlier from my career because its impact was the last straw in a life of nothing but abuse starting from early childhood. One can’t determine by outward appearances whether someone is hemorrhaging inside from wounds so deep that nothing works but God. God is what kept me alive while I wondered is I would ever heal through trauma informed therapy which is a slow and arduous process.  We can manage to function in our professions yet be utterly vulnerable relationally. 


The deepest fundamental need is to feel loved and valued. How many of us suffer from wounds because we were not loved or valued or could not feel it because of poor self worth? The predator is skilled at targeting the right prey through expert grooming. If an adult responds it does not imply consent. It is a natural human response. 

Sincerely,
Dorothy Small 

https://eprints.qut.edu.au/205923/8/Stephen%20Edward%20de%20Weger%20Thesis.pdf#page52

https://apimagesblog.com/sundays-after/2019/12/19/sundays-after-dorothy-small

Owner of a Lonely Heart

Well, this week I had another session with my new therapist. Somehow we ended up venturing into what happened with the priest.

So, if you remember, the last therapist asked me why I had a thing for priests and told me that I had pursued my boss. “But, but….” I said. “Oh, I know what he did,” she said, which made no sense to me.

I just want to point out here that not all therapists are good therapists. Not all therapists know everything just because they are therapists. This lady let her answering machine take calls while I was in her office and patients left messages while we sat there. She also had a patient come in to set up an appointment while I sat there in the middle of our time together and once someone brought her lunch during our session.

But I continued to go to her. Until the day when she scheduled me for an appointment on a holiday and the building was locked and I couldn’t get in. She called me to tell me that I had been a no-show. I said the door was locked and nobody was there. She said I should have called her to come down to let me in. It was at that point that I stopped going to her…..or anyone….until now. That was over four years ago.

So I was hesitant to talk about what had happened with me with this new therapist. I know a lot more now than I did back then. But still, I thought she might tell me that I was stupid or why didn’t I do anything?

So when she asked me why I thought it was my fault, at first I thought I had heard her incorrectly. I thought she asked me why I didn’t think it was my fault. But then I understood and I said…because I thought it was personal. I didn’t know at the time that it was a game. I thought that I was responsible for his feelings and for fixing things.

And she did ask me why I didn’t tell anyone what was going on. Because I was afraid of what he would do if I said something, I said. Because I didn’t want to create a scandal. I didn’t want unwelcome attention. And because I felt protective of him. He was a priest. I didn’t want to ruin him.

And it’s weird to say that I felt afraid and yet protective. But she understood. She said it was not weird at all. In fact, it was pretty normal to feel that way.

And then she asked me if I ever felt triggered by anything still.

No, I’m fine. Absolutely. I’m good. Totally. Fully healed. Ready to move on.

Not entirely true.

I heard this week that trauma and PTSD causes uncontrolled reactions. At first, I reacted by avoiding the 90th birthday party of my friend’s father. I had known him all my life. He taught me how to ride a two wheel bike when I was a kid. He was the caretaker of the seminary in the back of our house and my brother and I were friends with his kids and my parents were friends with him and his wife…and he had worked at the diocese in the copy room when I was there. I missed his birthday. Because I was afraid of who I would see at the party. I didn’t want to run into Father or anyone from H.R.

And when I had to get another job and I was working at the store and a woman from the diocese came in and saw me and asked me didn’t I used to work for the diocese and why did I leave…..because nobody ever chooses to leave. I panicked. All I knew was I had to keep the secret. Or else everyone would know how horrible I was.

But then she said….”We need to talk….I’ll be back”. But I never saw her again.

But that was then…I feel much more confident now. I have spoken to the bishop. I have told the bishop, who tried to downplay the abuse by asking me if this kind of thing hasn’t happened to me before….no…it has not. Not like this. Flirting, yes. Even things that crossed the line into inappropriate. But I have never felt threatened by anyone. I never lost my job because of it. This, I told the bishop, was like rape. Yes, I said that. I was being coerced and threatened into doing something that was degrading while being gaslighted and isolated.

So I’m stronger now. Triggered, she asked. Yes, I said. But not so much about what happened directly.

Maybe it’s not so much triggered, but I’ve changed a little. I can’t do games. I think I am more sensitive if something feels off. I still doubt myself first but I’m beginning to get a sense of believing I deserve more and knowing that it is up to someone else to fix themselves.

But last week, I started reading a book written by a survivor and it was difficult. I felt like she was writing my story. She’s a wonderful writer who goes into much detail and the way she wrote about trusting her therapist even though her inner voice fought back and how she silenced the inner voice thinking she was wrong because he knew what he was doing…..it hit me.

And the way she describes how when she cooperated with him, he would giggle and get almost giddy and she would accept that almost affectionately thinking how goofy he was….from the outside looking in, you can see the net closing in on her but she can’t. And why should she?

And the way he begins to make her feel special…..well, why shouldn’t he build a rapport with his client and make her feel comfortable? All simple gestures we should be able to trust with the people we put our trust in. And yet, I could feel the anxiety in the pit of my stomach as I read her words.

So, yes, I’m still affected by what happened to me and things still trigger an emotional response.

Another thing that I happened across this week that I want to make clear to anyone who has not been a victim of abuse by a religious person…. is that many of us have been thrown out of our churches or jobs or choirs or seminaries or schools. We did not have a choice but to leave. We became the villains in our stories by perpetrators who claimed they were victims. Or we were judged less than virtuous by those who once were our friends. We became not welcome where we once belonged.

It’s not that we are against the church or what it stands for. It’s that the church and it’s members have betrayed us and then failed to truly help us when we needed support. We were further victimized. And then we were told to be quiet and to get over it.

That’s why I feel it is so important for us as survivors to get together to help each other because nobody quite understands how good an abuser can be at not leaving a “fingerprint” and turning the tables on the victim. You get it when it has happened to you.

I hope that everyone reading this has been able to get whatever help they need with a good friend or a good therapist. Good therapists and proper treatment can help save lives. I’ve been patched back together more than once and I’m still going. One thing, one step, one day at a time. Take care of yourself first. It was not your fault. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Don’t worry about who likes you or doesn’t. Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts.

Have a good week. Stay safe and healthy.

Always Something There to Remind Me

In our guest blog this week, the author talks about how their abuse affected their entire life.

Some may wonder why people just can’t “get over it” and “get on with their lives” as it was “just sex” or “not even a real relationship”. Or perhaps it was “just psychological”. That last one is a big one. I get asked by people many times if they are eligible to join the Abused as Adults meeting because their abuse was “just psychological”.

Much is misunderstood about the lasting effects of trauma and what is considered trauma by one person and perhaps not by another. Some effects can be seen, such as declining grades or severe depression. Other effects can linger for years underneath the surface. People can seem to function. They can get up and get dressed and go to work and go home and make dinner and pay the bills, but they can be put together on the outside while crumbling on the inside.

I have a little dog that was in a puppy mill until six months ago when I got her. She was forced to produce puppies. Then she was dumped at a shelter when she was no longer useful. When people come to the house, she hides behind my back and burrows her head underneath my shirt so she can’t be seen. She has no outer scars. Nobody who comes into my house has ever hurt her or ever will. But she will most likely always have trust issues. She also has problems with some men and things that aren’t familiar and loud sounds. You might say that she is “damaged” emotionally or psychologically from things she has endured in the past.

Yet, I’ve actually had people say that she should be getting over that by now because she is safe here. But I don’t think she will ever get over what has been hard-wired into her brain for survival.

And that’s how it works, doesn’t it? We learn survival skills. We started out learning how to survive as children. We learned how to get what we needed. Whether it was food, or attention or love or approval, we learned what we needed to do or how to act. We learned how to avoid punishment. We learned how to make friends. We began to learn how to survive physical and emotional pain.

We took those skills as we learned them into young adulthood. We made some bad decisions along the way. We learned some more. But coping mechanisms don’t always line up with knowledge. We can learn that something isn’t good for us but still find ourselves being drawn to a situation out of a high drama tolerance. Just associating having our heart race for the wrong reasons.

Studies have found that couples who go through a frightening experience together will be more attracted to each other. Such as if they go on a roller coaster on their first date. Adrenaline gets the heart racing which mimics sexual excitement.

So it seems to make sense then that we can find a bit of danger or power exciting. Especially when we are young and hormonal and our sense of reasoning hasn’t fully kicked in. And when heightened adrenaline has been inside you all along growing up, it may feel you have found a match when someone triggers that response.

But almost always inevitably, we end up hurt because there are always people out there waiting to take advantage of someone with poor judgement or someone who is looking for acceptance. And those feelings of….not being safe, not knowing who you can trust, not knowing if you can trust yourself….begin to become a part of who you are. Emotions and responses that become ingrained in order to protect sooner or later become unwanted armor that we cannot shed.

We learn that when we hurt, alcohol or cigarettes or drugs or food helps us cope. We learn that if we avoid, we will be safe. And so, as they say, we become a prisoner of our own device.

Is there any loneliness lonelier than a self imposed prison? Is there anything lonelier than wanting to be close to someone but being terrified to do so? To be alone not by choice but because you can’t get through your own armor?

For me, the thought of someone coming so close to me that they can see all of my imperfections….that they can see me as I am without defense…vulnerable to judgement and rejection…..is terrifying. The thought of commitment used to make me hyperventilate when I was younger.

That is a life lesson that I have worked on and struggled with for many years.

Abuse can filter the way you see yourself in the world. I have seen many very attractive and talented and intelligent people destroy themselves or at the very least, not see their own worth, because they can’t see clearly. Or they get stuck in unhealthy patterns from which they can’t seem to escape.

So we see this guest blogger and how their life was going in the right direction….from a poor struggling beginning to a prestigious college and a bright future….to a life that never gets off the ground. And it’s sad. And we can try to analyze why this intelligent person fell apart and took years to put themselves together again piece by piece and still working on it…..or we can ask why this was allowed to happen and nothing was done about it.

Because this person had a bright future. And a predator saw their vulnerabilities….perhaps their emotional home life or the fact that they were not rich or maybe because they were trusting and naive and in need of a mentor or friend….and they took advantage of that and they not only robbed this person of their happiness and their GPA, but their future and their feelings of self worth and how they feel others see them in the world. And how close they allow people to get.

And this is just one person. The life of one person. And this person’s life branches out and touches other lives. They affect the people they interact with as well. And the world may have lost a brilliant doctor who could have gone on to do great things.

And some, tragically, don’t make it at all. Some can’t live with the pain.

Multiply this one life times however many people one predator abuses in their lifetime. Five maybe? Ten? 25 or 50? Maybe even more.

And you begin to understand why it is important that these predators are taken out of circulation. Jailed. Incarcerated. At least lose their job and positions and licenses to counsel and to be in positions of trust.

And it starts with people becoming aware of what goes on. What abuse looks like. And it continues with people speaking up and not covering up.

And it continues with healing. Talking helps. When you learn that you can talk and what you feel is shameful and shocking and will have people hating and shunning you….once out in the open…..is accepted and love is given back….it helps.

Anyone who would like to write a guest blog is welcome to. Just contact Albany@SNAPnetwork.org

Guest Blog #3

The following was written by a survivor of sexual abuse to their Alma Mater upon asking for an update on their life since graduation:

Ginger,
I have a story I would like to share. I have never submitted any “news” for updating my classmates and I suppose its time. Please feel free to share it with the Class as you see fit. 
I had a terrible tragedy occur while on campus. It happened in 1974. 
I read about the lives of my classmates here. Marriages, children, grandchildren. Deaths. Trips. Vacations. Whole lives led and enjoyed. And I grieve.

I would like to share with the Class of ’77…my class…my terrible story. The sexual abuse that happened by a priest when I was a sophomore. The betrayal by the man, the counselor, the priest. I would like to tell you all about the betrayal by the Notre Dame Administration. The lack of love, the lack of Christ’s Spirit. The lack of holiness to be sure. 
I have such a different view of Notre Dame now. And it’s too bad. 
The priest hurt me, stole from me. Robbed me of the opportunity to build a life. 
After the abuse my GPA went away. My friendships went away. I went away. I wanted to quit, but my father talked me into staying and finishing. I barely was able to get to classes and I certainly couldn’t focus any longer. My grades were good my freshman year. I thought I was headed to a medical school. But the abuse changed everything. Wrecked everything. My grades slipped. My friendships slipped.
No family for me. I wasn’t able to trust people (especially men and especially God). I kind of died that year. 1974. It was a mortal wound.

I told the administration about it. They didn’t want me there…I kind of forced the visit. I asked for another education, since the one that my parents and I had paid for didn’t really happen. (I got a WAY different education than what I had signed up for…and we were not wealthy people). My parents sacrificed to get me to that campus. And the love of Catholicism and God and Mary propelled (compelled?) my application. 
I asked the University to put me through school again. Let me become a therapist and help others. Help
me. Help me get the higher education I had been denied. That was stolen from me. 
But “no”. There was no help at all. Only a resistance to accept any responsibility for the priest they had kept on campus. I DID get an “apology”. “We are sorry such a thing happened”. Or something along those lines. A “third person” apology. Hollow. Meaningless. Only meant to protect and deflect the institution. It was not made to me by the way…it was put into the press. I had an article in the Associated Press and
they had hounded the University…and THAT is what made them finally agree to see and hear me. They had to be forced. 
So, my life has been so hurt. Lots of “survival type” jobs. My first job after graduation was at a Howard Johnson’s at the Thruway entrance in my home town…as a short order cook. They didn’t want to hire a guy that had just graduated from the University of Notre Dame. I would never stay they said. 
I spent years waiting table, tending bar. Delivering vehicles. No med school for me. No grad school. Not with THAT GPA. I tried, but I was too hurt. My self confidence and will to live…all shot. I now know that this is typical of sexual abuse victims. The effects of sexual abuse are staggering and actually life threatening. 
So, I read about the Class of ’77 and I grieve. I hurt. All that didn’t happen in my life…that should have. I grieve a life I didn’t get. I had friends my first year there. Good people. That too dropped away. Again, perfectly normal for a victim of abuse. I had all the tell-tale signs. The depression and anxiety. The pain of it. The shame of it.

So, Ginger, please know that not everyone had it so lucky as you or most of the others. 
Every time I read of a mission trip to some other country to help the needy…it hurts. And when I read about Notre Dame being so wonderful and humanitarian. Well…quite frankly…its bullshit. Maybe it is humanitarian where and when its handy. But it seems to me at least, that the “helping” is most advertised and performed when it can be used as image-building. Notre Dame most certainly hasn’t been “humanitarian” towards me. So much for “en loco parentis”. 
Its to bad. The way Catholicism has gone. The way Catholic Institutions have gone. The way Notre Dame has gone. Such a shame. “Our Lady” would never have acted in such way. And Her Son never would have either. 
So, well, I have a lot, lot more. Perhaps I could write a weekly of monthly update on the Clergy Sexual Abuse scandals. I could write about my experience and/or the experiences of other survivors. And I’m not kidding. It really would probably be helpful…to wake up. To see reality. If the Class would really like to do some helping…

A long time ago John Salveson came out with his story. He was an RA in Grace Hall…as was I…our senior year. I remember he wrote such a beautiful article and it was published in the Notre Dame Magazine. And when I went to the 40th Class reunion he was mentioned…kind of like a hero. Well, I would like the class to know, that I also took sex abuse from a priest…I just took so much longer to come to terms with it. I am a hero too. To survive such a thing is heroic. And I have been helping so many others. A true humanitarian. And I never even had to leave the country. 
My friends from freshman year mostly became MDs and they travel and meet up and go to games. They are social. One goes to Africa to help the needy. I would have loved that life. To have so much extra…to be able to afford to not work and just go help others. Awesome. I never had that luxury. 
The abuse put me on a whole different life trajectory. Didn’t it.  
BTW, I love the way you write and you do an amazing job. I am not angry with you or anyone in the class. I wish all well. I wish you well. And I wish the University would reconsider and reimburse me for the education I did not get and for the life I did not live. So far, I am NOT happy with the Institution. At all. 
So, there you have it. I don’t know how you could put this into the “Class of ’77 news”. But please feel free to do so. I am totally OK with that. It is all the truth after all. 
Peace Ginger. Best to you and the Class of ’77.

Tainted Love

As far as the poll goes this week, I want to proudly say that I can speak English fluently and can say the “Our Father” in Latin. I can also say “Hi” in sign language, and can proudly announce that my umbrella is yellow in French to anyone who should care to know.

My dad took German when I was younger so I guess I can also add a “Sprechen Sie Duetsch” to that as I heard him say that often. Dad also had a law degree and all I know of that is the meaning of “attractive nuisance”

So where are we all this week? And what is the meaning of “Tainted Love” other than the song itself? What does that make you think of? Something forbidden? Something tarnished perhaps?

Well, I’ve just passed week five post surgery. Emailing a good friend of mine the other day, as she put it “Honestly, I would have killed myself by now”. Well, I’m not there just yet. Instead, I bought myself a new computer chair. I really hadn’t thought about it until now, but I was sitting on an old….and I mean old…kitchen chair. Like from the 50’s or something. Don’t remember where it came from or who gave it to me. Splurged on a nice chair. Has a foot rest. Reclines. My dogs love it. They think it means they can now permanently sit in my lap.

Do they love me, or do they love my chair? Hmmn.

This past week, I got back into therapy which was a big thing because I have not had a regular therapist since before everything went down five years ago with the priest. Seriously. I went to the one therapist who questioned my daddy issues and why I was chasing priests. That confused me even more. And then there was a very nice nurse practitioner who was able to listen for five minutes and say “You’re doing well….keep it up” and write a new script for an antidepressant before going to the next patient. So this was a full hour of just unlocking the brain.

I think I overwhelmed her. But now have regular appointments set up and she seems nice, so we’ll see.

I was also able to attend an on-line angel circle reading. If you have never heard of that or don’t know what that is, it’s basically a group reading where a medium channels the advice of a guiding angel.

What was interesting about the reading was that I was told that I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life which was basically prepping me to relate to other people who are going through stuff as well. I kind of knew this. I know without a doubt that what happened with the priest was meant to be. Everything that happened. I wasn’t supposed to get the job, but I did because someone else who got the job backed out at the last minute. The absolute ridiculousness and unfairness of it all made me keep going because I thought that I couldn’t possibly be the only one this happened to, and if I was, someone needed to know about this…..made me search out answers and other people and made me write until I got it all out of me.

The angel reading also said that I am somewhat of a counsellor. And that I reach people around the world. That rang true as we are all connected and that is a wonderful thing to know we are not alone.

So when the medium then told me that I needed to let go of worrying about everything because it was impeding my physical healing (understand that I had not told this person anything about me at all), I was inclined to believe him and take it to heart.

Many of us in this group know what it is like to feel powerless. And this feeling did not just pop up overnight. For many of us, we have been struggling our entire lives with being that person who needs to take care of others or feeling like the odd man out inside of a crazy family, or trying to please those who won’t be pleased.

So to have to sit back and do nothing is a foreign concept. But at week five post surgery, I am still not doing a jig. If my foot is not elevated, it still swells and that means that I am still doing a lot of sitting and wheeling from chair to chair. Leaving the house is a big deal and even going out to sit on the deck means having to hop over a step and a door jam in front of open basement stairs. So I can’t do a lot. I’ve seen my grandson once in the past two months. I speak to my mom every night. My younger son has been here once or twice. He made me lunch, did some laundry for me. I paid him. My older son….well.

My room-mate has taken care of the dogs, who won’t go out without me. That means he has to put a leash on them or pick them up and put them outside. Or clean up after them. He feeds them. He feeds me. He puts the groceries away. Does the wash. Gives me clean clothes. Goes to the bank for me. He yells at me if I try to do anything. My conversation to him one night consisted of a two word response. I have to laugh. I never swore before I got married and had kids. I mean, I would you know, to be cool….but it was like stuck in my throat. I don’t have that problem now. But it was a bad night.

I guess I never realized how much I worry about my family until now when I feel so helpless to do anything about it.

My mother has an infected foot. Finally she called the doctor’s office where I got her set up a couple months ago. She went there, found out the woman she is seeing is not a real doctor, decided she was not going to take the antibiotic, and was “too busy” to call the office back. Three days later, she called them, they gave her another script, and she decided she didn’t like that one either so is not going to take that. I worry ahead of time. I worry that she is going to end up in the hospital with sepsis because she doesn’t want to get diarrhea from the antibiotic. Talking to her makes no difference. But how do I let go and worry just about me?

I worry about my youngest son. He does not take care of himself. Having worked in a plant where they process meds, he will not get the COVID vaccine, and he will not see a doctor….for anything. His grandfather on his dad’s side passed away suddenly without warning two days before he turned 46. His dad had his first heart attack at the age of 44. When he was a child, this kid caught everything. You name it. He had it. Allergies, pneumonia, chicken pox, every virus known to man….his brother never caught anything. He did. He passed out at work once. They took him to the E.R. He was told to follow up. Once they released him from the E.R., that was it. No follow up.

My ex-husband’s family tends to do this. Don’t have a doctor. Go to the E.R. Get a script. Like an antibiotic. Take antibiotic until you feel better. Stop antibiotic. Put on bathroom shelf until needed again and then take to treat yourself as needed. Don’t go to doctor. Wait until people have to break down your door and take you to the hospital because you are now unconscious and will die soon. Don’t do what the doctor says. Don’t get surgery for treatable cancer. Refuse all treatment so nobody can tell you to stop smoking.

It bothers me because I worry about him. I feel like all I can do with my family is nothing. I can’t help anyone.

My oldest son. Comes over with the rent. All upset. First, my dog is barking at him. So instead of petting dog who is wagging tell and expecting attention, he screams at dog to shut up. Then yells at me have you got thing set up with the bank yet? (am selling him the house but have to get things set on my end. I point at my foot. “Oh, yeah.” he says, totally forgetting.

But the real reason he is upset? He just became a grandfather. But his son and new wife will not speak to him. To be fair (?) they are not speaking to me either, or to my other son. They are, however, speaking to a couple of my son’s cousins. Enough to play a childish game of “We only talk to some people….the ones we like”. And one of these cousins had sent him a picture of the baby and a congrats. Sadly, I know the game they are playing is being done deliberately in a way so that my son…and me…and the rest who are not included….are hurt by it.

Although I know I should not, I do go to the baby mamma’s facebook page to see the pics. And on her public page, along with where everyone should shop for them (baby registry) are posts such as “we don’t need to talk to toxic family members” and stuff like that.

So my son is hurting. Actually both sons have been excluded. I can’t do anything to fix the hurt. Over the years, I did everything I could.

When my son’s girlfriend was pregnant, I bought her fruit and some decent food to take home because I knew they were on food stamps and she was eating canned spaghetti and such. I gave them a living decent used living room set. I babysat every weekend. I cleaned mold off of the baby bottles and without accusing anyone, showed the momma how to clean the bottles so the baby would not get sick. We got harassed by her friends and ended up in court.

And then, of course, when I was no longer babysitting and he was living with his father, I was told to go to court if I wanted to see my grandkids which I ended up having to do in the long run when they were older.

But he is my kid. And he is unhappy. And so I hurt for him. And again, there is nothing much I can do to help him. I gave him advice. Nobody ever listens to my advice. But at this point, that is all I can do.

I told him to let them go. For one thing, he is doing what we all tend to do and many of us have been there. We ask…..why don’t you love me? Why are you leaving me? What can I do…tell me…anything…what can I do to get you back?

And it’s understandable, isn’t it? That’s his kid. Whatever kind of dad he was, he paid his child support and gave away his yearly bonus to the moms of his kids for their school supplies. I’m sure the kids never knew that. But now they aren’t listening. So what can he do?

Perhaps I watch too much “Dateline” and things like that, but when it comes to nasty custody battles and people who use children like pawns in a game, I wouldn’t want to deal with these people. I want nothing to do with them.

My son….I said, let them go. And get yourself some help in dealing with this.

Maybe it’s now the frustration of not being able to do much. Maybe it’s the fact that we all reap what we sow, but also that we don’t see that we are sowing seeds of doubt and of sickness while we are working so hard to raise a good crop. And we look back and we see that we were handed those seeds by those who came before us who also trusted that if we just worked hard and planted and watered and trusted, that all would turn out well. And you see that as much as you cared and as much as you feel you tried, you still end up in a field of dysfunction.

Another message that came through for me is that when you let go and you let others take care of themselves, things tend to work out and they tend to take care of things themselves.

Worry is a form of control. I heard that once. If you think about it, we obsess about that which we cannot control. We can’t seem to let go of that which isn’t going our way. All of those things outside of ourselves that we can’t do much about at all.

It isn’t easy, is it? If we let go, it’s like we don’t care. We may have been taught to care and to help and to fix. And part of doing that was being sure that we suffered. Don’t sleep. Stay up and pace or smoke or do something self destructive because if we can’t destroy the problem then at least we can destroy ourselves.

So instead of buying the baby a gift, I bought myself a nice comfy chair with down padding and a foot rest. How do I feel about that? Of course, I would have rather bought the baby a gift. I would give them anything they needed. I have to remind myself that it is not being petty or vindictive taking care of myself instead. And I’ve told my son to make a will making sure his kids don’t get the house when he buys it from me. Or anything else he has worked hard for.

It’s not about forgiving and turning the other cheek. It’s not about the baby being innocent in all of this. I think there comes a point where you have to let go of people who are willing to hurt you. Whether or not you love them. I think sometimes you realize you should have let go a long time ago.

And I think sometimes you reach the point where you are tired of games and having to jump through hoops. You come to a point where you say….you know what? You know where you can find me. I’m done chasing. I deserve to be treated better than this.

Perhaps that was the point the angel was making. When you feel yourself sinking into negativity….it’s time to let go. When you have a bad foot…you have to heal your own foot before you can help anyone else.

As far as my son goes….the oldest one…I told him to drop off the rent at the door from now on as he is not allowed in my house. Why? Because nobody treats my dog that way. I don’t care who you are. You don’t scream at my dog.

Perhaps I need to handle everybody’s issues that way…..don’t bring them inside my door.

I’m going to see how I can get my chair to recline and get a blankie and take care of myself. Maybe get an iced coffee. Maybe finish learning another language.

I have one dog who made her way onto my lap…..they like the chair.

Meetings are back on…..see you later.