Full of Dead Man’s Bones – Part 2

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“I can’t talk right now, I’m playing with my wife” was the message I got one night when I tried to talk to the fundamentalist “missionary” on instant messenger about a problem I was having. I thought that was a little gross, but by that time I’d been groomed enough to just think “ok, that was sort of weird but he’s a godly man so I guess it didn’t cross any lines”, even though this man taught that dating was a sin and that a couple needed a chaperone when seeing each other and that it was to be called courting, and the man and woman could not sit within six inches of each other, could not hug, kiss, or even hold hands. He also taught that women were to wear long skirts and if they couldn’t modestly do an activity in a long skirt it wasn’t a ladylike activity. He was against the beach and water parks because, well, bikinis…you know, those men with no self-control might ravish one of those women in bikinis and then the rape would be her fault because she had been tempting him with that bikini.

I moved on up in their ministry and it felt good because I felt trusted and respected and like I finally had value. I remember him saying when I visited that I was their trophy, in fact I have had other fundamentalists say that to me too when I was on the “ex-gay” bandwagon for a while. I was proud of this for quite a while until years later I realized that I didn’t want to be anybody’s trophy, I wanted to be valued for who I was. This man and his wife always had a “Biblical answer” for any problem I was having at the time and as someone who wanted so much to please God, I continued to go to them for counsel. They continued to let me counsel other teens as I was seen as a “mature believer” seeing as I was following their party line on everything.

These people had me convinced that so many things about my Australian culture were wrong and downright evil, and when I visited them in the USA they tried to convince me to stay because their country was so much godlier than mine. They almost had me convinced, but at the end of my time I did return home, more because I didn’t want to break any laws and I had respect for the immigration policies. I left hoping to return some day, not realizing it would be just a little over a year later that I returned for good to live in the USA, but not as a representative of their ministry. In fact this man tried to pair me off with a couple of eligible and a little bit older gentlemen that he thought would be good for me, saying not only would I be able to stay and work more in their ministry (for free, although they did provide everything plus some while I was there which I see now as part of the grooming process) but that I’d have a man in my life and finally be under godly authority.

What hurts the most is that I truly loved and respected and trusted these people and I had no idea they were trying to manipulate me so much. They even told me who I could and could not be friends with, which we will get to in the next post and one of my friends has given me permission to tell the story of what happened between him and I.

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Full of Dead Man’s Bones – Part 1

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As a lonely nineteen year old just recently moved into a co-ed college dorm and a cheap internet connection, I had two online options: lesbian porn or a fundamentalist Christian teen forum I had found. Since I was trying to atone for the lesbian porn thing, I went with the fundamentalist teen forum and threw myself into it wholeheartedly in an effort to make some friends and live a righteous and holy life so that I might earn favor with God and not be sent to the lake of fire for all of eternity. What my dorm mates said that I needed was to get laid, but what I really craved was friendship. I was good friends with a fundamentalist missionary couple who had helped me out tremendously, but they had kids my age, I really wanted to fit in with people my age, but I was caught up in fundamentalism and that basically cut me off from a lot. Besides that, I was a bigot, and only bigots want to be friends with a bigot.

So I threw myself into that “ministry” and spent a good eight hours a day on the site, making it far more active and saying all the right things in all of the discussions to earn me the honor of being their first ever forum moderator. I enjoyed my new power immensely and was so glad for the fact that I finally fitted in somewhere, even if everyone else who interacted on this site lived in the USA and I was in Australia. When I flew to the USA to meet the forum administrators, among other people, all of whom I’d met on the forum, I enjoyed mini-celebrity status and gained the privilege to speak and sing in fundamentalist churches all across the nation. People were listening to me, treating me with respect, and showering me with attention and gifts. I finally felt like I belonged and I loved it. I also loved the perception of power that it gave me.

My status with this particular ministry began to grow, but it came at a cost which my immature now twenty year old self was unable to recognize at the time. I worked on the website “counseling” people and starting discussions and reciting the fundamentalist party line, telling all the other teens and young adults on the site how to be good fundamentalists. I made sure my skirts were long enough and while I talked about the sin of drinking alcohol I had stolen one of my hall mates vodka cruisers (it was good, too) and drowned my sorrows with it.

The man and his wife that I volunteered for seemed like such wonderful, godly people, and really took me under their wing. It was amazing to have them so interested in me and for them to boost my ego. Little did I realize I was being preyed upon, groomed for their purposes, and that it wasn’t really as amazing and magical as it seemed, and that my involvement would do more damage to more people than I could ever imagine.

Progress

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When I was nineteen, I stuck a knife into my wrist and began to cut, begging for God to allow me to die, but with enough fight left in me that after several half-hearted tries I picked up the phone instead. I had been cutting a long time, since I was about thirteen, after I saw someone else do it and thought it was a great idea. All those years I had bipolar and nobody ever knew, least of all me. I thought I was just crazy and invisible and of no value to anybody.

Sometimes it feels like nothing has changed, because I still today have times, especially lately, where I feel like I am invisible and of no value to anybody. But in reminiscing, I realize that a lot has changed. I have the same lack of self-esteem, I have the same feelings of being invisible, I still feel like I’m of no real value to anybody. But do you know what’s different today? Today, I work on processing those feelings without harming myself or wanting to die. I can look at myself in the mirror without saying “you’re a miserable piece of trash that deserves to be thrown away, no wonder nobody likes you, you are too disgusting.”

Instead of picking up a knife to cut myself which I have not done now in eight years, I work through the issues that are making me feel that I have no value and that I’m invisible. I’ve been through some horrible things this past year, and I realize that more has changed than I thought, because I’ve worked hard and gone to counseling and worked through the issues instead of wanting to hurt myself. My default coping strategy has changed, and that’s a huge positive change in my life.

Some people call my way of processing this stuff “bitterness” because I have to work through a lot of feelings about situations that hurt me that were never resolved. When I can’t understand something I think about it and ask questions and try to resolve it in my mind because I need resolution, I need closure, and often others aren’t on the same page about that. As I’m writing this I’m not even sure what the main point is because I have several points. I wish that instead of accusing me of bitterness, people would truly want to sit down with me and work situations out rather than only wanting to hear enough to justify their own actions with justifications that still don’t excuse what they did. I wish the world were a more compassionate and understanding place. But then again, what have I done about creating the world that I want (apart from turning into a liberal…haha).

I wish that I treated other people with more compassion, just as I want to be treated with compassion. I wish that I showed the grace and the mercy that I want the world to show to me. I want to remember that we are all created by God in God’s image and therefore we are all valuable whether I like that person or not. I wish I would just quit gossiping and being ugly to people, even those who have mistreated me. I want to show others that they are valuable and worthy of being loved, and sometimes I wonder if the reason I can’t do that is because I don’t view myself as someone valuable and worthy of being loved, and that I view others as being created in God’s image but I’ve never truly been able to believe that about myself.

Throw Me Away

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My self-esteem is non-existent. They treat me like I am stupid, like I don’t know anything. They laugh about my degree and tell me to just go work at the McDonald’s who won’t hire me because I have a degree. They tell me to lie on job applications and omit the degree. I find a job to work over holiday season for $8.25 an hour, and another job for $7.25 an hour but I’m a single mom and I have to get a sitter. By the time I pay a sitter and drive the 30 minutes to work, I’m paying to work but that doesn’t matter because I can show a judge I have a job, damn it, and that somehow makes me a more successful person. I then lose said job because one of my children gets the flu and I have to stay at home and take care of him and well, they can get someone else to do that for $8.25 an hour who doesn’t have kids and once again, I’m dispensable.

Just throw me away like I’m trash because of circumstances beyond my control. Those closest to me try to tell me I’m not trash, but I don’t believe it. It’s blatantly obvious that I am. It’s why people throw me away every time I’m no longer useful to them or I don’t conform to who they think that I should be. They persist in giving me advice that does not work for me because I don’t fit the criteria laid out by the government, and yet when I tell them that they get mad and say that they don’t know why I talk about all these things if I won’t follow good advice, which makes me think they just like to hear themselves talk and it makes them feel good about themselves and appeases their need to say something useful that isn’t really useful at all. Somehow they make my circumstances all about themselves and what a terrible person I am to talk about what I’m going through.

Nobody wants to hear me, they say, and so I shut down. Apparently my talking about my circumstances “makes people uncomfortable”. They think that I’m trying to get them to part with their hard earned money to help me out when I never asked. They say that it’s true I didn’t directly ask, but talking about what happened to me is asking, and that I knew that. So I cannot talk about my life because again people think they know my motives. I delete people from Facebook and quit talking to people. Now they are offended because I dared to block or delete them from Facebook. The truth is I just can’t handle the drama anymore. Despite what they think, I’m not into drama, I just want to quietly lead a good life. They make accusations. They spread gossip around about me but somehow think that I still want to let them in on my life. But it’s all my fault for getting into this predicament in the first place.

They tell me to just trust God. I trusted God and I did what they said was right to try to stay married, because you know staying married despite what happened to me was the most important thing. Nothing that was happening to me mattered. It was all about keeping up appearances, nothing that happened to me was real if I would just sit down and shut up. But the message is clear. You’re trash, and nobody cares.

Things are better now. But I wrote this in this way because I felt it better conveyed how I felt during those dark times this past year. “They” of course is talking about different people at different times, and I chose to use “they” because it felt like it was pretty much most of society saying that to me even if it came from specific individuals. This is how it FEELS. I want those with compassionate hearts to see what it looks like from the point of view of the person going through the crisis. I don’t expect the ones without compassionate hearts to really care, because let’s face it, that’s not going to happen. I didn’t write this to tell anybody off, I wrote it merely to show anyone who cares, what my dark time felt like to me.

Evolving Faith

Life is evolution. Not only did humans evolve into what we are today via a very creative God, but so our faith should evolve over time. I’m a radically different person than I was a year ago when I first went through “the weekend from hell” or probably more true would be to say that I went through hell. Things were so dark and I couldn’t see, and I lost sight of God for a while. Although I couldn’t see God, God never did leave me even all the times I felt that God had totally abandoned me.

Over the past year, my relationship with God has been really rocky, and to be honest I’m not out of the woods with that yet. But it’s also lead me to search things out which has sometimes lead me in the wrong direction such as witchcraft, but even with those wrong directions I’ve learned some things such as my need for some mysticism, ritual, and structure. Its lead me to consider the importance of the unity of the church, how important people are to God, even the ones I don’t like. Its lead me to dig deep inside of myself and figure out who I am and what I allow to define me. Its lead me to read, research and write, its lead me to reconsidering all of my previous ideas about God and who God really is.

In a few weeks, I’ll be visiting another church, after the service at my church is done. I’m not looking to change churches whatsoever, I’m just looking to add another to supplement my ever evolving faith. I feel like the best way I can do that right now is to attend one church followed directly by the other. I’m looking forward to it but I’m also nervous. I’m looking to add some liturgy and more structure to my faith, something my current church, while it is amazing, doesn’t offer because they’ve chosen a different method of worship that works for them. I feel like my entire family could greatly benefit from both a low church and high church setting, where we worship with contemporary music and the children are in a dynamic kids ministry, followed by a smaller, quieter liturgical service where the Eucharist is observed weekly.

Some of my children, having different personalities to me, may significantly prefer one of the styles over the other, and I’m hoping by attending two different churches I will be giving my children a chance to worship God in a way that works for them. Although personally I’m starting to believe that liturgy and a more frequent observation of the Eucharist is very important, and I’m feeling the need to incorporate it into my life and the lives of my children. I want a dynamic faith that not only worships in music but in observing ancient ritual, I want to be as fully grounded in my faith as possible, and somehow I feel like this is probably only the beginning.

I Never Thought it Would Happen to Me – Part 2

When I try to find a way to describe the way I felt the weekend I found out for sure my husband had been cheating on me (as in, he finally admitted it) and the weekend he went to jail and the weekend my children were torn from my arms by the state for something I had not done and in fact had not even been present for, the only way I can think of to describe it is that I felt abandoned. I felt abandoned by my husband, by the cops who took him away, by the state, and most of all by God. Yes I had been praying for God’s guidance and help in this situation, but I was pissed off because this was NOT the kind of help that I had asked him for. Looking back a year later, it may indeed have been the only way that was available to me to get out of the situation I was in.

I had been praying and asking God to help me out, I had been actively looking for places for the children and I to move to, looking for a good job, and had been working hard on finishing my Bachelor’s Degree which I finished in November of 2013 despite everything that had just happened. I went on to enter an Honors program and have almost completed all the requirements for that. I felt abandoned because I had tried so hard to be a good Christian wife, I had stayed in a marriage where I was stifled and abused because I had been told it was “the right thing to do”. Looking back, I’m not convinced it was the “right thing to do” and I resent being told that it was.

I was told that I was simply harboring bitterness in my marriage, and I guess that was an easy way for people to overlook what was actually happening. I wasn’t perfect in marriage and yes I did hold on to some things that I shouldn’t have and wish that I didn’t. But I also felt like there was so many things that I couldn’t talk to anybody about that it just stayed inside and I began to feel more and more hopeless. Intellectually I had learned that I didn’t need to be dependent on a man and that I didn’t have to “obey” my husband like I was some sort of inferior creature, and that marriage was supposed to be based on equality, but knowing something intellectually and then doing it are two different things, and I was lost on how to put into practice what I had learned.

It was hard for me to “keep on keeping on” and “keep obeying God” when it seemed like God wasn’t listening and it seemed like from what people were telling me he cared more about the man who was hurting me simply because he was male than he did about me. But I continued on because somewhere deep down, I know that that God is real and I know that Jesus changed my life but at that point in time it was all I knew and I wasn’t able to see anything beyond that. I couldn’t accurately explain what I believed about anything because I didn’t know. The only thing I knew was that I had to, somehow, hold on to God and what little I knew of him because that was the only thing that was going to get me through all this.

Note:

Yes, my children were returned to me.

The only person whose real name I use on this blog are mine. I even use made up names for my children to protect their privacy, and I do occasionally change minor details or omit certain details for privacy sake. This is a common practice in writing it does not constitute lying.

Also, you will notice the donation section on the top right of my blog. I’m not going to write an entire post about how my writing is an art and how I need to use my art to make money, and I don’t want people to feel pressured to give, but when I get it worded right be it tomorrow or in a few weeks, I am going to have a small section under each post reminding people of the donation section. This is common for blogs whether it goes by the name “donate” or “tip jar” etc. Like I said I’m not trying to pressure anybody which is why it’s going to be under the posts so that it can be easily ignored and hopefully nobody will feel pressure.

And finally, thanks so much for reading my blog, it means so much to a writer to have their work read and appreciated. 🙂