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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Grab 'Em By The Pussy

*Originally posted as a Facebook post.

I don't know how to start this post. So I'm skipping the intro.
Donald Trump is an abuser. Textbook abuser. He just bragged about sexually assaulting women. He's going to court on child rape charges. He has repeatedly said horrifyingly disgusting things about women. He grabbed his own daughter's ass at the convention and has made lewd comments about her body and how he'd sleep with her if she wasn't his daughter. He raped his 1st wife. He said Paris Hilton was “sexy” when she was 12. He reportedly shoved a married women into a closet, kissed and groped her. "Grab 'em by the pussy", he laughs. "Don't wait, just kiss them". "When you're famous, you can do anything you want." And people are defending him. Saying they’ll still vote for him. Saying it’s not that bad. Bending over backwards to justify his depravity.

And I am broken. Because I have seen this before.

Trump is the personification of every abuser in the church, in the culture in which I was raised. The ones I've met, the ones I've written about, the ones on the news, the ones that made my friends cry while I held them, the ones holding influence over masses of people. The ones who rape little girls and boys then "repent" and keep on leading people. The ones who treat women like shit, as sexual objects for their pleasure, as less-than human, yet are lauded as a Man of God because they have all the best words. The ones that stand up in the pulpit while the people they've abused are trapped in the audience pretending to be OK. The ones paid to smile and preach while doing deeds of darkness behind closed doors.

Every Trump supporter, voter, and defender are every enabler I've ever met, written about, and watched. The ones covering up the abuser's scandals. The ones making pregnant 13-yr-olds disappear. The ones loudly proclaiming we should forgive the abuser because Jesus has forgiven him. The ones sitting quietly in church meetings, acquiescing to the Man of God, instead of standing up and saying "this is wrong and you are done". The ones who say "we don't need to involve the police, it isn't that bad". The ones who don't want to ruin the reputation of the abuser so they instead ruin the souls of the abused. They sacrifice the victims to uphold the career of the abuser, to keep their power, because power is life to them. They turn on the abused and say "you need to forgive, Jesus would want you to, you'll regret it if you don't" and leave pieces of victims’ souls strewn along the road. A worthy sacrifice for the end goal.

And so I feel like a cornered animal, like a hunted creature, claws out, back to the wall, unsafe in my own world. Betrayed, surrounded by betrayers. My flight-or-fight response kicks in because the people around me are the enablers and the abuser is spouting the same words on TV as every church pervert and narcissist has spouted from pulpits and podiums. Because people are praising him and excusing his abuse because of his power, just like they did that pastor, that teacher, that preacher, that elder, that man of God who spoke great things. 

Only this time, the abuser might be president.

He's been supported by so many enablers, that he could be our next president.

America is full of enablers and they are our own families and our own neighbors and our pastors and teachers and Christian leaders and government officials. We are surrounded by people who see the reputation and career of an abuser and what he can do for them as more important than the life and souls of the victims and future victims. We are stuck in a culture that laughs at sexual assault and puts the assaulter in the White House, endowing him with all the power, and tells women to get over it that it wasn't that bad that we're overreacting and need to sit down and shut up, that this is what we need, what is good for us. Take it, girls. You'll like it. We sit here and watch you defend the indefensible and we rage and we cry and we wonder what broke and if it can ever be fixed.

"All men do that, it's no big deal", they say. And we look around us, angry and scared, and wonder if we have been so wrong about the world, if we are in danger from people we thought safe because "all men" fantasize about raping women, according to the enablers and the abusers. My skin is crawling and I want to throw up.

We are trapped in a spiral of helplessness as we watch the personification of all our abusers become the most powerful man in the world, upheld by his enablers, who are people we thought we could trust.

And I die a little inside.

Because in Trump I see the abusers that got away with it, were praised for it. In my fellow countrymen I see the enablers that let them, that gave them power. And no one cares about the victims. Their ideology, their hatred for Democrats and liberals and gays, their desire for power trumps everything, even people's lives.

And they destroy themselves along with us because what they don't know that I do is that abusers only use enablers until they can be of no more use.

We all lose this one. Except the abuser. He wins. Because you, people of America, enabled him.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

In Which I Cuss

"Watch your language!"

No, I fucking won't. I cuss. A lot. When appropriate. I like to cuss. People liked to be shocked at it and tell me no one will listen to a word I say if I don't clean up my mouth. They mistake me for someone who gives a shit.  

I even let my kids cuss, most adults won't like it and they can't use those words at school. My 10-yr-old asked "Mom, if shit means poop, why can we say poop but not shit?" I didn't have an answer that was logical enough for her analytical mind. "Because the culture says so" doesn't fly well with her. "That's a stupid reason". Yes, Baby, it is. In our home, "bad words" are the words used to degrade another human being, not 4-letter words that someone decided are arbitrarily "bad". 

But I don't swear like a sailor just to shock people. (OK sometimes I do, I admit.) I have reasons. They may not make sense to others. I don't care, really. They're my reasons and that's good enough.

From birth, I was controlled. In every way a person can be controlled by another, I was. My body, mind, eyes, ears, sexuality, words, actions, thoughts, and being were all completely controlled by my parents and my church in the name of their god. It took me years and much trepidation to throw off that control.

I started with my body. At 19 years old, I went into a western wear store and bought my first pair of Wrangler jeans (hey, I'm from redneck town, it's what all the cool kids wore). I would stuff them in my backpack and change from a long, shapeless skirt into my new jeans before walking into the community college I was attending an hour away from my home in the mountains. I'd change back into the skirt before going home. But it felt so wild and rebellious. I cut off my long hair and got it styled. I bought short skirts and tights and boots that were more in style and fit my body better, pushing the line of what my parents thought was acceptable and modest. These were all baby steps toward taking control of my own body. I was shamed for it, but I kept moving forward.

I started figuring out my sexuality. Looking things up in books and online, asking questions of people I trusted. Making out with my boyfriend, figuring out what I liked, coming to the awareness that desire was a good thing, a human thing. That I was human after all. Everything that was "sin", that would soil my pure heart. Hell, even falling in love was something I was not allowed. That was the first step of taking control of my sexuality. I slowly, bit by bit, piece by piece, took back my sexuality from the ones holding it hostage with threats of hell and contamination. It was scary and confusing but exhilarating and empowering.

I started renting movies after I left home to become a nanny to pay for school. I rented all the popular 80's and 90's movies that I wasn't allowed to watch. I studied them with all the focus and seriousness of a foreigner studying the culture in which they were trying to assimilate. I bought music I wasn't allowed to listen to. I went out with friends to see movies in the theater, went to concerts, went ice skating where they played rock music, and hung out with people I never would've been allowed to associate with, let alone befriend. I read books that were forbidden. My mind was opened to the vastness and wonder that is philosophy and psychology and science and fiction. The world opened and changed before my very eyes and it took my breath away.

In every way that I had been controlled, I carefully and slowly threw off the chains and chose my own way, embraced my own body, freed my own mind.

And now I cuss up a blue streak. Whenever I feel like it. Because my words aren't controlled by others anymore. I can tell my story if I want and I can say "fuck" if I want and no one can sanction or punish me for it. My words are the last context in which I have thrown off the control that defined my life.

I love words. They flow off my tongue and from my fingertips like shiny pebbles rolling off my hand into the river, splashing and rippling delightfully. Words are my medium and life is my canvass and I use them to paint whatever picture I want others to see, whatever emotion I want them to feel. I like swear words just as much as any others. They're expressive, they're funny, they're shocking, they defy social norms and gender expectations, they are empowering, and sometimes they are the only words appropriate.

But they're also meaningful to me as a symbolic reminder that no one controls any part of me anymore. They're a symbol of hard-won freedom. I choose what words to say and what words not to say and when to say them.

I fucking choose. 

So when you try to control my words by shaming me for them, I can only throw my head back and laugh. Jesus fucking Christ, you don't know what kind of control and shame I've already tossed into the damn ditch. Your pathetic attempt at censorship can't touch what I've already lived through. That shit's got nothin' on the control of my past, the control that I've thoroughly and utterly discarded, and my give a damn's busted.

Or, as I like to say these days, fuck that shit, I don't give a rat's ass, my words are mine. 

Fucking deal with it. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

As A Homeschooler...

I've been watching my kids learn about their world and their place in it. Answering their questions about current events like the marriage equality ruling and "Mom, why would anyone think that's bad?" Talking about American racial tensions and what Black Lives Matter means and how we got here. About why a woman being the presidential nominee is so phenomenal and what it means for our culture. Listening to them talk derisively about Donald Trump and how they're scared for their friends from other countries and "Mom, how could anyone vote for stupid a racist?" Explaining why the man in the museum was being rude and loudly proclaiming that everything there was wrong because his god says so. Me, struggling to explain complex cultural issues to grade school children in ways that honor the complexity and don't create dogma in their heads.

And I remember......

As a homeschooler, I was taught that the Civil War should instead be called "the War for Southern Independence". Or sometimes "Lincoln's War". Occasionally, "the War Between the States". The south was right in succeeding, after all, from the overstepping tyranny that was Lincoln's America. Slavery had nothing to do with it and most slaves were happy with their owners, even though I was taught that obviously slavery was not desirable and we were glad it didn't exist anymore.

As a homeschooler, the only thing I was taught about the Civil Rights movement was that Martin Luther King Jr. was an adulterer and a liberal who stirred up division and not a Christian. My birthday often fell on his day on the calendar, and I remember asking who he was and receiving the above answer. In my child-mind, he was not a good man and "we don't celebrate that day". I didn't know about segregation and Jim Crow until I was an adult.

As a homeschooler, I read biographies of the great Southern leaders, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I read how they were good slave owners who treated their slaves well, how they fought against the evil that was President Lincoln who wanted to take away the state's rights to rule themselves. How the War for Southern Independence had nothing to do with slavery and only godless liberals say it does. Even as an newly-made adult I boasted about being a Southern sympathizer. I was taught they were the heroes for standing up for what they believed in. I read "The Real Lincoln" and learned that President Lincoln was a liberal liar and an evil man that was out to destroy America and family values.

As a homeschooler, I was not taught about the Suffragette movement. I only learned that women couldn't vote, but then they could because some women protested. Also that feminism was bad and once women could vote, feminism took over and destroyed the nation. My A Beka history book glossed over the entire thing, painting the Suffragettes as rebellious women who might have done some good but really should have let God work it out while they stayed home in their place. I didn't know who Susan B. Anthony was until I was a mother of 2.

As a homeschooler, I was taught that history was "His-Story" and only to be viewed through the lens of what God was doing with the nations of earth, else we wouldn't understand it. Strangely, he mostly only did things with the nation of Israel, the countries of Europe, and the U.S.A. I guess the rest of the world didn't matter so much to God. We were taught that America was God's shining light on a hill to the world and He had a special plan for us in His Story. Manifest Destiny was the name of the game, for God's will, Amen.

As a homeschooler, I learned nothing of the history of Africa, Asia, Indonesia, Australia, or South America. I knew nothing of them or their culture or their people. Beyond being told they were dark places of ungodly people who needed us white Americans and Europeans to take the gospel to them and save them from hell.

As a homeschooler, I learned nothing of current events. I grew up in the 80's and 90's and knew nothing about anything that happened during that time, even in my own country. I knew nothing of pop culture. I learned about the Victorians, the pioneers, the Scandinavian immigrants, the plantations of the South, and the Revolutionists of 1776. I knew nothing about what was going on outside my own door, in what is now my history. I am learning it after the fact.

As a homeschooler, I was taught that science was deceptive. That we were enlightened and knew what was really going on in the world, how the world really came to be. We couldn't believe the "evolutionists" and all new scientific discoveries that did not fit Young Earth Creationism and Flood Geology were wrong. I was taught that the earth was 6,000-8,000 years old, that carbon dating was inaccurate, that fossils were made by Noah's flood, that dinosaurs were on the Ark then died because of the harsh post-flood world, that there was a canopy of water above the earth that made the entire earth a greenhouse and came crashing down at the Flood and we didn't have poles before the flood. That there are still dinosaurs in remote areas of Africa and Loch Ness today, thus disproving evolution. And that anyone that says otherwise were deceived by Satan. Everything had to be filtered through the lens of the Bible or it was discarded. I didn't understand evolutionary biology until I was 28. I never knew what plate tectonics were until I was 30. I knew nothing about rock formation, biology, astronomy, hydrology, climatology, or any other -ology until I was a grown woman with 4 kids and hungry to understand the world I lived in.

As a homeschooler, we were taught that the world needed us to show them the truth about Creationism. We were drilled on how to argue with "evolutionists", point by point. How doing so would be showing them God and the light of the gospel and would save them. Now when young Creationists to that to me, I cringe. I was them once. They have no idea.

As a homeschooler, our "social studies" books were from Rod and Staff, a conservative Mennonite curriculum company. All the women in the pictures wore head coverings and long dresses and were homemakers. Everything was American-and-European-centric. There wasn't much social studies going on in those books, other than the study of the Christian culture that we were being raised in.

As a homeschooler, I was not taught any sex ed. At 13 my mom told me the basics of how babies were made. I was horrified. I was told only married people can do this and if you do it outside of marriage it's No Good Very Bad and could result in diseases and pregnancy. Then they started pushing the courtship books and tapes. I was taught that dating was worldly and that we were not to be friends with boys because boys and girls can't be friends. That having a crush on a boy was emotional fornication and would take a little piece of my heart that I would never get back. At 14, I solemnly promised to commit to courtship and the authority of my parents to oversee it, thus ensuring my purity and the protection of my heart. I never heard or knew words like "penis" or "vagina" until I was 18 and in community college. I knew nothing at all about sex until I started experimenting with my boyfriend as an adult and getting advice from my friends in school and looking up books myself. I didn't know what homosexuality was until I was 19 and someone told me a friend was "gay" and I looked it up in the dictionary.

As a homeschooler, I was taught things like "character". Character mattered more than anything else. You could be intelligent but have no good character traits and that made your intelligence nothing. Who cares if you can read and write well if you're not nice to your siblings? Character included obedience to authority, cheerfulness, joyfulness, attentiveness, submission (if you were a woman), peacefulness, all the fruits of the spirit translated in such a way to create a power dynamic of happy, obedience children with parents ruling over them benevolently. 

As a homeschooler, I was taught strict gender roles. I sat through women's Bible studies where they argued whether a woman could work outside the home. I was taught that working was OK in some instances, but being a wife/mother/homemaker was God's best plan for women. That we had to submit to our husband's desires in this. That as a woman, I needed to learn skill like cooking, cleaning, sewing, and childcare to prepare me for my life's calling.

As a homeschooler, I was taught that we were the salt and light of the world. That we were the cream of the crop, smarter, kinder, more godly, more pure, better in every way than our public schooled peers. That the world would see us and glorify our Father in heaven. That the world was a dark place and we were to be in it but not of it. That meant dressing differently, smiling and being joyful (because the world was sad and we were to be different), talking differently, choosing different activities that reflected Christ, knowing our Bibles well, and being obedient to parents. Our long, shapeless skirts and long hair and submissive attitudes were a light to a world that didn't know what purity was. We were pure. It was our badge of honor. We were not to spoil that.

As a homeschooler, my world was small and scared and black and white. Nothing came into my world that didn't fit the worldview of the ones in charge. Everything outside was a threat. Friends were a threat. Books were a threat and heavily censored. TV was a threat. Current events were a threat. Shopping in certain sections of the store was a threat. The world was out to destroy us and we must stay pure, in knowledge and action. Renewed by the transforming of our minds, away from the thinking of the world.

We were The Village, and there were monsters in the woods. No one bothered to tell us the monsters weren't real. Even fake monsters serve their purpose. The difference was that the creators of those monsters actually believed in them.

I come jolting back to reality with yet another question from a searching mind. Where my kids aren't being raised in The Village, but in the world. In it AND of it and proudly. And they will understand it and learn to navigate it and make it their own. Even as their mother still quietly struggles and remembers.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Of Libraries, Flashbacks, and Alternate Realities

I will probably never be free from the memories. No situation or activity is safe from the flashbacks, the comparisons, and the wonder that things were ever so dysfunctional for child-me and that they're so normal for my own kids.

Yesterday we went to the library for a presentation on Mt. Everest. The local university took an expedition to the top in 2012, and they put together a great video presentation for kids on geology, culture, and the amazing feat of scaling the world's tallest mountain.

In the middle of it, somewhere between talking about tectonic activity creating the Himalayans and the sacred ceremony and prayer flags the monks performed for the climbers, I had one of those weird disconnecting flashbacks that happen every so often. Like I'm suddenly an observer of an activity I remember taking part in in the past, and the one I'm taking part in in the present, watching from the outside.

I suddenly remembered being a child and going to presentations at the library. Or the IMAX. Or the Science Center in Seattle. Or a museum. We often went to such educational things. My mom thought we would learn best by experience and exposed us to more than a few really cool educational experiences.

I remembered being uncomfortable as a child every time something science-y was brought up. The words "millions of years ago" would produce an instant disconnect in my young mind. We were trained to hear those words and disregard them from a very young age. We'd usually get a talk in the car on the way home about how "the world" thinks that the earth is millions of years, but we know better and Everest has marine fossils on the top of it because of the Flood, not because of tectonic uplift (which we were told was made up by "evolutionists" who deny the Bible). Geology talks were a waste of our time and I learned to shut them out, as if the words themselves had power to deceive and I needed to be on the alert. 

"Multi-culturalism" was always portrayed as a bad thing. Or joked about as ridiculous. I can't remember anytime in my childhood those words were spoken of in a positive way. Adding other religions and their practices to the conversation only made the speaker more our enemy. As a child, talks of prayer flags and Tibetan monks offering sacrifices to the mountain was very uncomfortable. Not just while sitting there, but also nervously anticipating the talk my parent(s) would give later about how we don't accept that and how wrong it was and how I needed to be sure to respond correctly so they knew I didn't believe a word of it.

And I came back out of those flashbacks as I sat there, an adult, in our library, listening to the person teaching my kids about tectonic activity, geology, and Buddhist ceremonies and so many emotions flooded over me.

Relief. Because my children will never know what it's like to be so foreign to the world they live in. They sat there, soaking up the information, never once worrying that they were being deceived by Satan and the world, never worrying I was going to lecture them about the truth, never scared that they have questions they're not supposed to ask, never feeling like an outsider with an alternate narrative of reality, unable to engage in their world because they're not a part of it.

Frustration. Because child Darcy deserved better. Because I'm 32 years old, in charge of my own life, yet the scars of my past will always be there, showing up in the strangest, most unexpected places. The childhood that formed me, formed me thoroughly and I cannot shake it because it is who I am. Frustration because there are children still being raised with this kind of psychological and spiritual abuse who will one day be adults unable to attend a kid's library presentation without their past smacking them in the face.

Hopelessness. Because my parents will never understand the depth and severity of what they did. The consequences of the choices they made. What was a phase for them was my entire childhood, my most formative years spent in one of the most toxic environments on earth. The lasting effects indelibly imprinted on every cell in my body. They call me bitter and unforgiving. They excuse themselves with "we had good intentions". They say I'm making a big deal out of nothing and need to move on. But they don't sit in a library and have flashbacks. The fact they can call all of this, all of what made me, all of what I deal with on a daily basis because of their choices "nothing" says a lot. I think we will never be able to connect because of this. Even outsiders don't understand. The only ones that get it are the ones like me. The walking broken, the walking lost, the homeschooled impostors who struggle to find normalcy and belonging and peace.

And yet, also hope. Happiness. Thankfulness. Amazement. Because my kids are being raised so.....normal. They'll have a solid foundation from which to choose whatever life they want. If they want to be weird and different in any way, they will be able to freely choose that. They'll know what it's like to be part of the community and world that they live in. To not be an outsider because they're supposed to reject everything about "the world" and own a different reality. To not have a different history, science, and social narrative than everyone else around them and the insecurity that comes with it.

I hope they someday sit in a library with their kids and only remember with fondness the awesome time they had learning about Mt. Everest.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

You're Gonna Hear Me Roar

Today my 10-yr-old daughter got up on stage in front of about 500 people, 400 of her classmates, and sang Katy Perry's "Roar". 

And I cried like a baby.

Because there was my tiny daughter, in a tiger dress, dancing and singing the words "You held me down, but I got up, Get ready 'cause I've had enough I see it all, I see it now. I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, 'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar!".

So I cried because once I was 10 years old and I didn't know what pop music was and I didn't go to school and I was forced to sing hymns for family members at Thanksgiving even though I hated it.

And I wasn't allowed to listen to "rebellious" music, and I didn't have a voice beyond what I was supposed to sing and say. 

Because my voice was a reflection of my parents and not mine at all.

Because I wasn't allowed to express dissatisfaction with my life or overcoming or to be proud of myself because pride was the Devil's sin. 

Because I loved to sing and play the piano and my only outlet for my talent was classical music or special music at church. 

Because when I was 18, I performed "When You Say Nothing at All" at a family party, and my mom told me afterward that she was ashamed because I was singing about sex and it wasn't appropriate for an unmarried, pure girl.

I cried because I'm so proud of the person that my daughter is becoming and the struggles she has faced and will face because of ADHD, and she's singing about being her own person and rebelling against anyone that wants to take her down and make her into something more acceptable. 

Because she does not care what anyone thinks of her, she just sings her soul in a tiger dress. 

Because she's 10 and she has a voice and I love her voice and it has nothing to do with me.

Because she will never know what it feels like to not have her mother as her biggest fan and ally. 

Because I don't understand how any mother could treat their daughter the way my mother treated me. There are no excuses good enough, certainly not the God excuse.

Because I'm 32 and have only recently found my voice and let it roar.

Because as I parent my children, I am exposing, grieving, and healing the broken places in my own heart. And it's painful and it hits me out of nowhere. Even in the middle of a 4th grade talent show. 

You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready 'cause I've had enough
I see it all, I see it now.
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
'Cause I am a champion and you're gonna hear me roar
~Katy Perry 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Fight These Demons - Part 2

< Part One

Part Two
I grew up thinking I was unworthy.
Unworthy of love, nice things, friends, God’s favor. I strove to be the kind of person who would be worthy of these things, but always fell short. I did everything I could to look the part on the outside: I dressed modestly and acted like a godly young lady and played the part as best I could.
“Fake it til you make it,” my Mom liked to say to me.
My journals of that time are so filled with anguish and desire to be accepted and to be good. I can barely read them. I want to go back there and hug that girl and tell her that she WAS worthy, she WAS good, she was enough. But I can’t. I can’t go back there and comfort that girl with the broken heart that was broken by the ones who were supposed to protect it. I am left with the woman she has become. The woman who has had to teach herself how to be loved and how to accept worthiness and how to see herself and the world through different eyes.
When a boy fell in love with me, and I with him, they all did their best to convince him that I was a terrible, selfish person and he would be sorry if he married me. That they knew me better and I was just putting on an act to impress him. He was skeptical, but thought maybe they really did know better. So he watched me, befriended me, and realized I was every bit the person he thought I was and my mom and sister were crazy.
I couldn’t understand why he would persist in loving a person like me, but he did and it was such a wonderful feeling.
I was so afraid he would find out who I really was and would run far away. 
But that didn’t happen. We fought for our relationship against my parent’s wishes and we married very young and very in love. Not too long after we were married, we were talking and I said “Well, I am a selfish person”. He looked at me in surprise and said, “Why do you say that?” It was my turn to look at him in confusion and say, “Well, my mom and sister always told me I was selfish and I struggled my whole life to not be, but I guess it’s just who I am and I thought you knew that.” He took my face in his hands, looked right into my eyes, and said, “You are the most selfLESS person I have ever met. Never let anyone convince you otherwise. You can’t fool me. I know who you are. They don’t know who you are.”
I cried that day, at 20 years old, for the first time thinking that maybe I wasn’t the person my family had tried to convince me I was, that my religion tried to convince me I was, that I needed to hide and pretend not to be so people would love me. Maybe I really was loveable and the fact this man had married me wasn’t because I had fooled him into it. But it would be 5 more long years before I was able to clearly see how dysfunctional my past was, the part that fundamentalist religion and homeschool culture played, and began to heal and figure out who I was really and to fight for myself. It would be 10 more long years before I was able to put a label on the treatment I received from them.
Emotional Abuse. The systematic diminishment of another person….their worth, their dignity, their character.
“Emotional abuse is like brain washing in that it systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it is done by constant berating and belittling, by intimidating, or under the guise of ‘guidance,’ ‘teaching,’ or ‘advice,’ the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient of the abuse loses all sense of self and remnants of personal value. Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be far deeper and more lasting than physical ones.” (University of Illinois, Counseling Center)
Spiritual Abuse. The use of religion and spirituality to control, manipulate, coerce, dominate, and beat down. To control behavior and thoughts by religion.
“Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority, the purpose of which is to ‘come underneath’ and serve, build, equip and make God’s people MORE free, misuses that authority placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly Godly purposes which are really their own.”   (Jeff VanVonderen, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse)
I can’t tell you what came first: the dysfunction or the religion.
But they worked together to create a complete brain-washing and erasing of my self-worth and self-concept. Our religion taught that self-esteem was really pride and God hates a prideful heart. We were not to think highly of ourselves but to remember that we were nothing without God and probably nothing even with His help. To be told that I was a selfish, horrible person but that they loved me anyway “because you’re our daughter/sister” is no different than this view of God that makes us all worms who are only worthy of anything because God created us and therefore must love us. Turning the idea of a “relationship with God” into an abusive relationship between a narcissist and a victim. A manipulative power-play. Is it any wonder that “God’s people” turn out abusive when they see Him as such?
If I try to say any of this to my family, to recount my experiences and feelings, I am told I’m overreacting, too sensitive, too emotional, that these things never happened or “didn’t happen like that”. I’m told that even if they did happen, I should forgive and move on because family is the most important thing in life and I’ll regret making a fuss over the past. That I was raised in a good home and was loved and am ungrateful. I am denied, belittled, and word has spread that I’m a crazy, unstable person who has a chip on my shoulder and is trying to tear apart our happy family. But I am done accepting their definition of who I am, their portrayal of my identity.
I am not who they think I am. I am so much more.
I am worthy of love. I am a good person. I am a human being, wife, mother, and friend. I love unconditionally and fiercely. I fight for the people I love and for people I don’t even know because I desperately want them to know that they are worth it. I fight my own demons to give my children a healthy mother and so I can explain the scars to them someday and they can know that I valued them by valuing myself
— That I fought for them by fighting for myself. That I broke the cycle.
“Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life-choices: learn to self-reference or remain a victim. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.
It’s time to stop playing that role, time to write your own script. Victims of emotional abuse carry the cure in their own hearts and souls. Salvation means learning self-respect, earning the respect of others and making that respect the absolutely irreducible minimum requirement for all intimate relationships. For the emotionally abused child, healing does come down to “forgiveness”—forgiveness of yourself.”
~Andrew Vachss, taken from this excellent website: The Invisible Scar.

I Fight These Demons So I Can Explain the Scars

Note: Almost two years ago, I was in therapy, peeling back yet another layer of my story and finding help in processing it. Just having the therapist give validation and labels to parts of my story was amazingly healing. Part of me processing and working through some of the darker parts that I hadn't faced at that time was writing out this story. I asked it to be posted on Homeschooler's Anonymous anonymously at the time, thinking that it might help others but feeling far too vulnerable and afraid of repercussions to put my own name on it. Yesterday, I realized it was time, I was ready to put my name on this small piece of my story. Originally posted on Homeschooler's Anonymous, July 2014. 

Part One
I was never good enough.
From as far back as I can remember, I was never good enough. I was told I was selfish, lazy, prideful, rebellious, and argumentative. I was told I needed to ask God to forgive me and make me a good person through Him (because we could never be good on our own, only with Jesus’ help and then it was never to our credit, only to His).
When my little sister picked fights with me and I lashed out at her, I was the one scolded, grounded, spanked, had things taken from me, forced to spend time with her to “help us get along”, told to get along and be nice and stop being so selfish and be a better example because I was the oldest. She often got away scot-free, even when she started it. I was told numerous times that if I couldn’t learn to get along with my sister then I couldn’t have friends. Family is more important than friends and how you treat your family tells you how you will treat friends. And if you treat friends better than family, you’re a special kind of hypocrite. I tried to explain why it was easier to treat my friends better. Because they were nice to me.
I was then told that Jesus said “what good is it if you love those who love you?” but loving people who aren’t nice to you is much better in God’s eyes.
Everything I did was criticized. It was never good enough. There was always something to be fixed, some way to do things better. I remember being about 12 years old and telling my mom in exasperation, “All you ever do is criticize me. You never tell me what I do right, only ever what I do wrong.” She first acted surprised and denied it, then promised to try to notice the good before telling me the bad. That didn’t last very long and felt very fake even when she tried. Like she was straining to find something good to say to get it out of the way so she could go on to grasp “this teachable moment”. Of course, when I resisted the “teachable moment”, I was the one at fault for being “unteachable”.
To this day when someone says “teachable moment” I recoil.
I was always “unteachable” because I often argued with my mom’s criticism. Because her words stung and fighting them off was my only defense, as little as it was. I was good with words and knew how to wield them as weapons of defense. I often had Proverbs quoted at me that said that people that were unteachable were fools and only those willing to listen to constructive criticism were people of good character whom God loved. So I guess that was just another thing that God hated about me too.
I was told constantly that I was selfish, and it didn’t take long for my sister to take up that anthem against me. Of course, sister had “a servant’s heart” and was selfless and kind and I should be more like her. She was generous and I was stingy. I only thought of myself and my needs and God was not pleased with that. I should ask God to give me a servant’s heart. I spent many hours as a child crying to God to give me this elusive servant’s heart that I apparently lacked and needed before my mom would accept me and my actions. Then maybe my sister wouldn’t hate me either. We were given roles very early in life and we played them well. She learned early how to manipulate our parents against me and she was always believed over me.
I was a child of many emotions. Sensitive, thinking, opinionated, deeply feeling.
But I quickly learned that some emotions were not acceptable, maybe even a sin, and I was not allowed to express them.
I learned that if I was angry, it was “godly” to forgive and forget that anger and definitely don’t express it. “Be angry but do not sin” meant “be angry but never tell anyone or show it”. There were times I wanted to scream because of the pent-up feelings of anger at my parents, anger at my sister, and anger at myself for being angry with them. I must be the terrible person they said I was because I couldn’t stop being angry and sad all the time. I begged God to make me nice and happy and sweet. “Why can’t you be sweet like your sister?” was something I heard often. I often escaped with a book into my favorite tree, away from everyone I could possibly sin against, away from the constant criticism of my actions and “bad attitudes” and the reminders that I was rebellious against God and my parents.
When I was an early teen, things only got worse. Thanks to a cult leader called Bill Gothard and his seminars and his followers, my family finally found answers to all our problems and embraced the promises to have the perfect godly life if we followed the Basic Principles. I was 14 and I thought, yes! This is the answer! The rule list that will finally make me a good person whom my family will love, who will be worthy of their love and acceptance. I poured my heart and soul into the materials, spending hours praying to God to forgive me for all the ground I gave to Satan. For not accepting my parents as the hammer and chisel that were molding me into the diamond I was meant to be. My resistance of their umbrella of authority must be the reason I’m a bad, selfish person. I was determined to finally fix my broken soul. I befriended many “godly girls” who were homeschoolers and whose families understood and followed the secrets of a godly life, hoping their goodness would rub off on me. Eventually, those girls popped into arguments between me and my mom… ”why can’t you be more like them? They would never treat their parents and sister the way you do.” I wanted nothing more than to be “more like them” and tried even harder.
I had many teary confessions to my parents for being rebellious. They piled on the modesty books and the courtship books and all the books that told me I was a naturally bad person and needed my parents as my authority because I couldn’t trust my heart to know what was best for me. I ate them up, thinking I would find the answer to all my problems. When my sister would lie about me, get me into trouble, pick fights with me until I snapped at her, I would take a breath, search my own heart for any evil thoughts, and beg her to forgive me for being selfish. She always did, of course. It was very magnanimous of her as a good, generous person to forgive my selfish actions.
There were some dark times in there. For a while I was convinced that since I was such a terrible person and my family hated me so much, that maybe God hated me too and what was the point of me living? I began to fantasize about ways I could kill myself and relieve my family of the burden of me. I never went through with anything.
I was afraid of death, that God really did hate me and would send me to hell and I couldn’t die until I turned into a better person.