Trigger Warning


TRIGGER WARNING: Many of my posts contain triggers as I fearlessly inventory my emotions.
Some of these are brutally honest as I veer from negative to positive.




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Responsible


I STILL HAVE MY SENSE OF HUMOR (because apparently I can actually laugh at this—in a dark way).

Also I am very susceptible to emotional manipulation.

So you know how folktales, fables, and fairy tales were used to pass on moral lessons to children?  Well here is my story to tell your kids at bedtime to “scare” them.

I started dating someone who was very nice and was in many ways different than my first husband in the way he treated me.  It was nice to be desired and admired and treated well.  It was nice having someone fix things at my house, buy me presents, compliment me, help me do dishes, bring me dinner, and treat my kids well.  Basically he made me feel safe.   I went to the temple and felt like I had been put in this man’s path for a reason – specifically to help him. So I accepted his offer of marriage.  Because he didn’t live in the same state he was spending a lot of time traveling to visit me.  He began to push for a quick marriage.  And so the conflict began.

Here’s just a short list of boundaries that I didn’t keep:

He brought a cat with him on one of his visits.   He left it at my house. (He dropped it off on his way out of town while I was at work so it was waiting for me when I got home).  He wasn’t going straight home and couldn’t take the cat with him where he was going without endangering it (leaving it in the heat of the car for long hours at a time).

He had some paperwork that he needed to go through so he could submit a claim to the military for some benefits he felt he’d been denied.  He asked for my help because it was overwhelming for him.  He said he had some boxes that needed to be sorted so he could get the important documents out.  Every time he tried, he would suffer from PTSD and shut down.  So I said of course I’d help sort paperwork.

He showed up with 17 boxes of paper.  He left the boxes in my garage – unsorted because frankly 17 boxes was a little overwhelming for me too.

He had hurt his back prior to meeting me and it required surgery to remove a piece of bone that was pushing against his spinal cord.  After a hospital stay the VA finally saw him but said they couldn’t do anything for six months.  So he came to see a specialist here and suggested we get married because my insurance would cover it and he wouldn’t have to wait.  He was very concerned that he might be paralyzed if the bone severed his spinal cord.  I felt quite a bit of guilt as he cried about how he was afraid of being paralyzed and how I could save him if only I would marry him.    I managed to come up with another solution which meant we didn’t have to get married so abruptly.  He began to say things like “if you don’t want me…” and I would promptly assure him that I did.

He had a fire up at his property.   He lost a lot of things.  His place was not going to be habitable for the upcoming winter.  He planned to store some things at his son’s here where I live but the son didn’t have room.  So guess where it ended up.  My garage.   Except for the 2nd cat.  That one was now in my house too.

His Bishop and another member of his ward told me that he would come back from seeing me a changed man and how much better he was doing since he met me.  And of course there were more resources for his PTSD and health here with a large VA than in his rural town.

After Thanksgiving, he fled his home because of the weather.  He showed up with a third cat and nowhere to live.  So he was on my couch for the time being and I was hoping no one would notice that I had a man living with me that I wasn’t legally married to.

Eventually he began to say things like:  “If I’m not married by my birthday I’ll just go back to my place and stay until I die.  No one wants me and I’m useless anyway.”


ARE YOU HORRIFIED YET?


Well here I was, with most of his possessions in my garage, three cats, and a homeless VET sleeping on my couch.  Ever heard of FOG?  The three parts of emotional blackmail?  

Fear:  Basically I’m living with a man out of wedlock so I was feeling a little fear about what the church would have to say about that.  Plus I hate conflict.  So there was the fear of conflict if I told him to take his stuff and go.  What if he refused to go? 

Obligation: I’d made promises to him.  That I wouldn’t abandon him because he suffered from depression and PTSD (as his first wife had abandoned him).  And I was supposed to help him.  I’d gotten that impression remember?

Guilt:  He was going to die if I broke it off with him.  

So I grudgingly married him – on the last possible day before his birthday, at the courthouse, with the minimum witnesses, and no fanfare.   And ten minutes later when he handed me his phone to look at our wedding pictures I found porn.   And I wasn’t even looking.

When I immediately told him that it was over there was so much snot and tears and wailing and finally a call from his Bishop asking if I could possibly let him stay until the weather changed because his house out in the country had no water or electricity and was exposed to the elements and if he came back HE WOULD DIE.

Long story short:  I let him stay because I wasn’t so heartless that I could send someone away to die.  But I started saying things like “If you feel like you need to take your life please call someone.  I can call a suicide hotline for you if you would like.”  And every time he said “I’m sorry I ruined your life”  I answered “apology accepted”.  And when he would banish himself to the garage to sleep on the couch and text me “I’ll just leave you alone since I can’t do anything right” I would text back “ok” and just go to bed.  And I got him to a doctor.  And his back is fixed.  And he found a job.   Sadly, I didn’t have to marry him to get him to do all that. I could have done that as a friend.  You know…one with boundaries…

Eventually I did send him away – better than when I found him at least.  And it was painful for everyone.  And I accept responsibility because I had no business dating anyone so soon after my first marriage ended.  And good heavens I need figure out how to say no.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Guarded


I want to share what I’ve learned about human touch.  It can be safe or unsafe.  And that has consequences.  It wasn’t until recently that I realized what some of them were.

I remember the first time I was ever hit by someone I loved. 

One moment I was sitting there on a chair and the next thing I was aware of I was looking down at the floor.  You would expect that I’d be thinking about pain or wondering how I’d gotten there or if there was another blow coming.  But no.  The first thought that went through my mind was “Don’t get blood on the carpet.”  And I picked myself up, cupped my nose, and ran to the bathroom sink. 

Over time as the verbal, physical, and sexual abuse increased I began to guard against human touch.  I didn’t realize how guarded I was until I walked into Sunday School one Sabbath Day and chose to sit next to a sister that I visit taught.  At one point I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees and cupped my chin.  For whatever reason, this sister began to scratch my back and just like that I began to sob. 

The genuine warm touch of another with no sexual expectations or intent to harm was almost too much to bear for me. 

Still later I realized that the problem with withdrawing from human touch because it is unsafe is that it doesn’t discriminate.  This means withdrawal from even safe touch….as in I didn’t hug my children. 

I didn’t even recognize that I had withdrawn physically from my children.  Not until my divorce which gave me freedom from this shell of withdrawal.  Not only did I not have to fear and guard against touch (especially his), I didn’t have to feel guilt for denying him.  And I realized I craved touch. 

I also realized that my children must be starved for safe touch.  Suddenly I wanted to hug my children. Of course I was afraid that they were too old and would reject it – teenage boys after all.  But it warmed my heart when they accepted my hugs with open arms.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Chastened


“I wish there was a flashing neon sign with the answer!”.

I used to say this all the time about answers to prayers.  I felt like my answers were always so subtle and hard to hear and I just could never have confidence that I received answers. 

Friday I was feeling pretty low.  As I journaled I wrote that I wanted to ask to be released from my calling (I have been struggling about what I will teach at the beginning of February in Relief Society).  I just was not feeling up to the task of standing in front of the Relief Society and assuring them of anything since I was hurting and doubting so much.   Let me quote from what I wrote:

I’m supposed to stand in front of them and say “God is at the helm.  Everything has a purpose and works for our good.  Blah blah blah”… I’d rather sit in the back and be silent. I can’t testify of hope.  Not with any sincerity.

I actually use quotations in my journaling.  It’s a quirk of mine.

About two hours after writing that  I received a text from one of our teachers asking if I could fill in for her this Sunday as she was not feeling well.  I said yes and figured I’d better do an initial quick read through of the lesson so it would be in the back of my mind until I had time to really prepare.  So I’m reading along in Chapter 2 of the Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley and come to this paragraph:

We have nothing to fear.  God is at the helm.  He will overrule for the good of his work…Of His ability to keep that promise none of us can doubt.

Flashing neon sign anyone?

Of course I shared this story in Relief Society on Sunday and immediately after I used a magnet to put the words “God is at the helm!” up on the chalkboard.  Even if no one else was supposed to hear it, I was.

 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Done

Warning:  This post talks about physical abuse and may be a trigger


Sometimes I just want to give up.
An Heritage #2 texted me over the holidays while he was with his dad. 

“I need help”

“With what?”
“this stupid addiction”

"What addiction is that?”

“pornography, it’s like every couple of weeks.  It didn’t worry me until I realized I couldn’t let it go.  I would go for like a month but it kept coming back.  I hate it and I thought I could get rid of it myself but I can’t and I need help and I’ve always been too scared to tell anyone”. 

And later in our conversation:
“I was so scared I would have it until I was married and would ruin my relationship and I would never be worthy of a mission.  Can I still go on a mission?”

This conversation covers so many of Satan’s lies:
It’s not that often so don’t worry
You can stop anytime
You can do it by yourself
Be very afraid
You are alone
It’s too late
 
I also noticed something with both of my sons.  They both assumed they had an addiction AND their experience with addiction has been the extreme version of their father’s.  As I was talking with him via text I recalled Elder Oak’s talk Recovering from the Trap of Pornography and felt impressed that I needed to cover it with my boys.

So this last family home evening we took turns reading from it and applying it to themselves.  I hope they came away with the understanding that they are not at the level where it is an “irresistible compulsion” that “takes priority over almost everything else in life”.   That they have not in fact lost agency or the capacity to recover and repent.

And we are going to do some journaling.  They don’t have to share it with me.  I want them to write about what has led up to their viewing of pornography.  I want them to consider the emotions, location, time, and what was happening around them.  Were they curious, sad, lonely, hurt, bored, hungry, tired, up past bedtime, was it the weekend, did they just have a fight with someone, etc.  Are there any patterns?  Because once they have identified these patterns and triggers, then they can-with the help of the Lord-realize his promise in Ether 12:27 “then I will make weak things become strong unto them”.

So that’s the goal. 

Is that why I want to give up? 

No.

It’s that PLUS the fact that my daughter is in an abusive relationship.  She texted me on New Years Eve and I was horrified as she detailed how he punched her and another time he told her he was going to kill her and yet another time he put a pillow over her face and tried to suffocate her.  And then she told me that it was her fault because she had pushed him to it because she was so mean and demanding.  That she has been praying that it will work out because she just knows she is supposed to be with him because he loves her and only wants to do good things in the world with his hands.  (I feel like vomiting as I type this) And though they are officially “broken up now” apparently she spends time with him still because yesterday she said she needed to talk to me but was afraid and then finally said he had been driving her car and was punching her at the same time so that she opened the door and jumped out of the moving car.  Then later still she minimized it while I stared at the bruises and the huge welt underneath them causing her skin to bulge.   But apparently I handled it well (didn’t freak out) so she decided to show me the tattoo she got as well. 

Is that why I want to give up?

Well we’re getting closer.

Because on top of that, the guy that I’ve been seeing, who is supportive and treats me well and wonderful and that all signs were pointing to – including in the temple – apparently he has gender identity issues.  And that’s the white-washed, shortened, tacked on as an afterthought version. 

So it’s all of that.  Like I was in an abusive adulterous relationship for 20 years and finally was given the green light to leave for better things and I’m like ???????

Somewhere, someone is laughing.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Disappointed

Thanksgiving.  Another drop off for visitation.  This time Jolene wasn't dropped off at a gas station to wait (this is really her name and not a play on words.  But really, how cliche is it that the woman H-er cheated with is named Jolene?).  After the boys climbed in the car and the suitcase was loaded in the back, H-er mumbled an apology.  “I’m sorry Jolene was in the car.  I know that is probably awkward.  I know it would be for me.  I wouldn’t like it.”

And I made a split decision.  I decided it wouldn’t be awkward for me.   So I marched right up to the window, knocked on it and after she rolled the window down I said, “Hi.  Nice to meet you.”  She said hi back and thanked me for mailing her stuff back to her.  “No problem."  (Big Smile) "Have a Happy Thanksgiving.”

Was I thrilled that I have to meet the woman he cheated with?  No.  Am I thrilled that my boys get to spend Thanksgiving with the woman he cheated with? No.  But apparently she is going to be in my life forever now so I better just deal with it. 

I even mentioned to H-er that they boys had asked if we would ever all spend a holiday together again and that it would be nice if someday relations were such that we could spend a holiday together for the sake of the boys and Jolene could come too.  Yes I nearly gagged as I said it, but I still said it. (It won't be this Christmas.)

I did pretty well over the weekend.  I was with family so that helped.  When my sisters asked me how I was doing I talked about the grief I feel (and we cried and then laughed at ourselves because we had all JUST applied our eye makeup).

**********

Sunday night I picked them up and as we drove the five hours home I learned that she is really nice and fun and “modern” so they get along with her (unlike the “old” guy I’m dating – who expects them to help out around the house, do chores, pick up after themselves, etc., and who was “forced on them”). She loaded them up with Takis (the treat I always buy them), listens to music with them, sends them birthday gifts—in short—they like her.  And they don’t like the guy I’m dating. 

So to be honest I am struggling with the fact that I should be glad she is nice to my boys, yet I am not because I'm jealous.  If it was any other woman I think I’d be okay with it.  But it’s the woman he cheated with.  

Why should should she get to contribute to the break up of my marriage and be rewarded with MY boys good will, yet a guy who treats me well and who had nothing to do with my divorce gets resentment and disrespect?  For a brief minute there is a flash of anger which means there is a mess of painful feelings hammering me that I'd rather not face:  jealousy, betrayal, disappointment (that they don’t like the guy I’m dating and they like the one he is dating), loss, even shame for feeling negative emotions.  

Just acknowledging them dissolves the anger.  It's painful.  But as my sister said when I told them sometimes I just had to cry and allow myself to grieve:  "Hey, at least now you know you aren't a psychopath".

Monday, November 7, 2016

JOY

My last three posts have been building to an important lesson for me. They've reflected some pretty heartrending painful moments that all happened in an 8 day period.  In fact at first reading it seems incredibly depressing. However...

This last Sunday in Sunday school we discussed the pivotal moment of the Book of Mormon.  The Savior's appearance to the American continent.  Our teacher started by asking for personal stories of the power of 3 Nephi Chapter 11 in anyone's lives. There were those who shared stories from their missions of investigators who were converted after reading that chapter. 

For me it recalled to mind when I was just 13 and one Sunday after church I decided to read 3 Nephi.  As I came to that chapter I was overwhelmed by the confirmation of the spirit that every word I was reading was true.  That it had really happened. And so my testimony of both the Book of Mormon and the appearance of the Savior to the America's was cemented. 

She later asked 

"When they heard 'this is my beloved son'" how did the Nephites and Lamanites react?"  

In my mind I imagine them dropping to their knees because that would be my first instinct. 

And that makes me think of true prayer -- on my knees and actually listening for an answer. 

Still later she asked,  "Why would He choose to keep the marks and then invite everyone to come and feel for themselves? Why would this be important for the people at the temple?" 

Everyone began to discuss how this would be proof for the people etc., and I heard a quiet voice whisper of the symbolism in this moment:  The Savior stands before me inviting me to "Come unto Him" and feel for myself.   Not the wounds but the truth and certainly of His promises.  And that same overwhelming confirmation filled me and my eyes filled with tears of gratitude for what that means for me. 

But the spirit was not done with me yet. 

In Relief Society, I was conducting and I beamed at the sisters as I shared the announcements and made them laugh. I then introduced our two guest speakers from the stake.  They were ARP facilitators. One of the sisters wanted to talk to us about the Savior and how the atonement is about having joy. She shared a truly horrific experience that happened to her which ripped every aspect of her life apart and led to an addiction which further damaged her life. And then she asked if it was possible to have joy while going through all of this.  She testified that it was possible--that she found joy even in the horrible mess of her life. 

And three things came to my mind in succession:

1.  When I was set apart just two months ago I was told to let my joy shine out for all the sisters to see.  

2.  And then, the night after I sobbed myself to sleep on my sister's couch the first two conference talks are about happiness (Monson) and joy (Nelson). 

3.  And here was an ARP sister reminding me that I can feel joy again when for so long I couldn't. 

And because I was conducting that Sunday I got to close and after thanking them for sharing their experiences with us I shared mine.  I said "I was married to an addict and turned to anger in order to avoid the pain of betrayal, disillusionment, hurt, etc.   But when you numb the painful feelings you also numb the beautiful feelings.  I didn't feel anything but anger for a long time. it wasn't until I worked the ARP program and with the Savior by my side I faced those painful feelings and now I can stand before you and tell you about the joy I feel."

Now I'm always looking for the joy--because I can. 



When the focus of our lives is on Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening--or not happening--in our lives.

--Russell M Nelson

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Defeated


Mom can I talk to you? 

I've gone to bed already and he's sitting on the end of my bed in the dark.  

Sure.  What's up?

He puts his head down in his head and I can feel the bed tremble as he shakes. 

I need to tell you...

He pauses and the bed shakes some more.  

I think...this is so hard to say....

I reach out and take his hand in mine and wait while my mind dreads what is about to come out. 

I think...I think I am addicted to pornography. 

He is 12. 

So we talk about it and what his options are and what things we can do.  We talk about his triggers and appropriate activities and how to face feelings instead of running from them. We talk about safety measures. I have all the answers because 20 years with a porn addict have been an education. I reassure him of my love and that he is not shameful and that he has a support system and I am on his team as is the Lord.  I tell him it's good that he is asking for help now before he's had years to live out the shame cycle. 

I want a family some day he says (he knows what porn has done to ours). 

I give him a hug and tell him that it is a brave and good thing he has done sharing this with me.   We say a prayer together asking for God's help in this fight and to turn weaknesses into strengths. 

I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my chest he says and I can tell he feels lighter. 

I'm going to go read Elder Nelson's talk now because I could sure use some joy in my life right about now