So, I emailed the pastor….now what?

So, I emailed the pastor. I’m regretting it at the moment, because I haven’t received a response yet. While I kmow that it hasnt even been 24 hours since I sent my email, and that this isnt the sort of email you send a casual reply to, and that everything is probably okay, I am really wishing I had listened to my instinct to hide, not sent the email. Anyone invented an unsend button yet?

Anyway….here is the email I sent. I feel like I shared too much information, and am feeling over exposed and vulnerable right now.

Dear Pastor,

I’m writing because 2 sundays ago, during the first talk in the church vs hate series, at the end of that talk, you said if anyone had something they wanted to talk about, something they needed help with, that you were inviting them to start a conversation. You gave out your email address. I’m hoping you meant it, because I do have something I need help dealing with. I’ve been praying and wrestling with this concept of reaching out to someone else, and I’ve felt compelled to write today.

There have been some really serious topics at church lately. Topics that have just really stuck with me, but more than that, they have brougt all this hurt and pain in my heart to the surface. The RPMS series made me see that this is not a church or a ministry that avoids being real, that only wants to touch on the shiny surface. Then came the starting over series, where the whole idea of needing to start over from something that was done to you was brought up. And the story that was shared was a woman who was sexually abused as a child. Then on another Sunday, part of the testimony in the Larry Nassar trials was played. And now, we have the separation of church and hate series, and both Sundays I have cried and felt my heart just rip in pieces because there is so much pain beiing touched upon. The last two Sundays, I have felt that if I made a choice to, I could talk to someone at church, I could tell my story, with all the ugly pieces, and it would be okay. That I wouldn’t be condemned, or hated, but that there could be a conversation about these beliefs and hurts and fears and confusion and struggle with believing God loves me and I’m forgiven that I’ve been carrying around almost my whole life.

But I’m not sure where to even start. These aren’t things I really ever talk about, because they aren’t easy, nice or neat things. They are hard and messy. I don’t need a therapist, I have someone I see twice a week. She’s the one who encouraged me to go back to church, and while we have talked about God and my feelings and hurts and fears, ultimately she is a trauma therapist and hasn’t studied the Bible and Christianity and she lacks the ability to really answer questions. It has taken me five years of therapy to even be ready to find a church. (Church) wasn’t the first church I visited when I started looking for a church. It was the first church that felt comfortable and safe. I’m really happy being back in a church. It feels like I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my life. I never stopped believing in God, but I have been struggling with these feelings of not being good enough, with this fear– this belief– that God can’t love me, can’t forgive me because of all the bad things in my life, this fear that even though I believe Jeuss died on the cross and rose again, believe He is God’s son and that through him there is eternal life that I am somehow exempt from salvation and lastly, I am grappling with anger. I am angry at God. In some ways, according to my therapist, my anger is legitimate. She says God can handle my anger at him in the same way I handle my daughter’s anger towards me. I’m not sure that she is right, but I hope she is.

I grew up in church. Youth group was my social life. Lock-ins and outings and small groups and retreats and summer camp. I was a junior CIT and and CIT at church camp in the summers during my teens. I’ve been the one in the position of counseling another who is grappling with their faith. It’s been a long time, I havent been in a church to worship Jesus since I was 19 (I’m 35 now) but I havent forgotten everything. I understand that there is this thing called freewill, and that freewill means people can make choices to hurt others and that pain and hurt are not God’s fault. I know that God can– and will– use all things for his glory. I know that our pain is never in vain; God will use it. I know that we can be given tough situations because it is those hard things that draw us nearer to Him.

I know these things, I even believe these things. That doesn’t take away this hurt and pain that I hold. It doesn’t stop me from being angry and disappointed and confused. It doesn’t change anything. And I have prayed and prayed and yet, I’m still lost. I don’t know what to do with all of this. My therapist believes I won’t be able to heal until I fix my problem with God. She says I need to be able to accept that God loves me, and has forgiven me my sins.

Somehow, this feels like I have simultaneously written too much information and not enough information. Unfortunately, I need to keep things vague right now. I suppose I am testing the waters a little bit, seeing if you think you can even help me find answers.

Best,

Alice

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Grappling with God and Why he lets bad things happen

What do you do when some of the things you need to work through are God and church related, and you have always kept those topics very off limits because they carry such weight and pain, but now you may have an opportunity to work on these old hurts? And not only work through them with your therapist, but have a church that could help you?

Because oddly –shockingly– enough, that is the situation I find myself in.

This all started back when we first attended our new church. The church, the people, the way the pastors taught and spoke, everything about this church felt open and real to me. There were some services that triggered me, and some services that just made me stop and think. But every service has continued to convince me that this is a church where I might be able to ask my questions, to have my feelings about God and to be authentic

On Sunday, the entire service was about #metoo, and how God intended for men to treat women. The talk started out with acknowledging that this could be a diffiicult topic, but that it is an important one, because the magnitude of #metoo shows that we have a seroius problem in our world. The pastor said this talk may be painful and triggering for so many women, but that it was important the church doesn’t hide from messy, hard topics. Then the main part of the talk was what the Bible says about how men are supposed to treat women, and how God intended things to be. At the end of this talk, when the pastor started to wrap things up, that was about how God sees sexual abuse, harassment, all of those #metoo things and how those things are never okay, and we can see God clearly condemning these acts in the bible. Then he said that it’s not just women who can claim #metoo, but girls, and sometimes very young girls and they need to know there is no blame towards them in God’s eyes. And then it was the usual praying with a point to say there were people available if something about today hit home, or triggered you, and that if you were going through something or dealing with abuse or trauma or anything you could use support in, that the pastors are available to talk, or to even email, that you dont have to go through whatever it is you’re going through alone. There was even a mention of hooking you up with a therapist if that’s what is needed.

On Sunday, I email Bea that I did church and it was hard and that I can’t write about it or talk about it even though I want to. She sent back a short “I’m still here. 👂👁🤝🐶🍫” message. Last week, when the teen got stirred up, I asked Bea to please be sure to respond to emails, but not to use words. They teen is very, very good twisting words around and making things seem really awful and bad when they aren’t. It’s a defense; if she can stir things up enough to create a big ruture with Bea, then whatever ugly, messy crap has come up to the surface gets shoved back into a big lock box so that the rupture can be dealt with. The wisest part of myself wants to avoid that this time. The teen needs help processing these raw painful feelings. So, we use emojis instead of words when we email for now. It may be silly, but its given the little girl reassurance that Bea has not left, and the teen a way to forrm a connection with Bea and be seen.

Monday then, Bea asked about chuch, and we talked. Well, she talked, raised questions, and I filed it all away for when I had my notebook and pen. It wasn’t until Wednesday, however, that I really started to process Sunday’s service.

There was this funny sort of acknowledgment that I have had this firm “no church or God talk” rule from the beginning of therapy. It’s really true though. It was a boundry because I was too afraid to go there, it was too painful. I don’t know if Bea reallized just how messy this all is, or how much hurt and anger and big feelings there are because I kept it all separate.

Its messy in the way that teen years are always messy; big intense feelings, emotional ups and downs, school and fitting in, parental expectations, all of those things. And then there is the confusion of crushes, and first kisses, and new feelings in your body, and peers thinking about sex and then you add on the church sex ed talk, the realization that I had been having sex, my belief in being bad and going to hell. Now, all of that is piled on this other layer from childhood. Littte Alice prayed and prayed for God to make it better— she prayed for kenny to leave her alone, for things to not hurt, for no more blood, she prayed to be saved. And God didn’t save her. So she tried harder to be good enough, to be perfect, to pray better, to deserve to be saved. The little girl remains hurt and sad and disappointed that God did not save her.

The teen is mad. Mad doesn’t even begin to cover it. She is livid. How could God not save her? It’s not okay. She can’t make sense of it. She understands that there is this thing called freewill, and that freewill means people can make choices to hurt others, like Kenny did. She knows that God can– and will– use all things for his glory. She knows that our pain is never in vain; God will use it. She knows that we can be given tough situations because it is those hard things that draw us nearer to Him. She doesn’t want to hear those things. They are rote responses to pain, hurt, suffering. The teen wants and needs a real answer. She is so mad, she may even hate God for being all powerful and doing nothing to stop the hurt.

And so, the grown up me is grappling with this. Bea has encouraged me to reach out via email and talk. I’ve reminded her that if I were to talk about the anger, I would have to break the number one rule: do not tell the secreet. Bea sugggested I say I’m grappling with this anger towards God, and that I am reaching out to start a conversation. She suggested I could explain all the things that have led up to my thinking about asking the pastor to help me find answers. I’m just not sure what to do. I suppose I’m going to grapple with that for a while longer.

I can’t do that (when the filter left and so did you) again

It’s Monday morning, and I’m walking into Bea’s office as usual.

“Hey,” She says, smiling when I walk in.

“Hi,” I say softly as I sit down.

“Before we get started with anything, I wanted to make sure you were feeling okay after my second email.” Her tone is gentle, and she sounds like she really wants to make sure.

I look down at the floor. “Yeah, I was okay. I mean, it’s not like it doesn’t hurt to hear you can’t offer more right then, especially if I was needing more, but really, it’s like….if you don’t acknowledge that and try to respond, I always know something is….off….”

“You do always know, sometimes even before I can recognize it for myself!” She interjects.

“The thing is….if I feel something off, I assume it’s me, or I said something wrong, or did something, or needed too much, or am being a drama queen, or that I broke you and…..that’s worse. It’s so much worse. I’m trying to just be better about asking if I did something, but it’s easy for me to just get….I guess to spiral into this black hole of those *I broke her and she’s leaving* feelings. It’s so much better if you just tell me. And even if parts of me don’t really get it, the grown up does, the mom in me gets it. Because there are times where I just can’t keep talking to Kat, or playing toys, or whatever it is, and I tell her that we are going to have some quiet time. Sometimes I need 15 minutes, sometimes an hour. But it’s never, never about Kat being too much, or needing or wanting something that isn’t okay. I’m just tired, my brain needs a break. So that is something I understand.”

“You do get that, don’t you?!” She sounds a little surprised.

“I really do.”

“I wanted you to know that after you emailed again, with what you had been needing, and asking if you had done something, I went back and read your email and my response, and I felt a little sick. I completely ignored all the pain and hurt you were feeling. I was like, my gosh, I didn’t even acknowledge this stuff, or let her know I’m still here and that it’s okay to feel how she feels! I’m so sorry I did that. I did read all of your email the first time, while I was eating breakfast. I think I was just feeling like I couldn’t fix this for you in the 15 minutes I had to respond, and like there was nothing I could say to make it better or to help, and anything I did say was going to feel upsetting. So it just sort of got left. And I’m sorry for that. I am glad, though, that you did write back to me, and ask what was going on, and let me know you needed something more. That was so good. I know that wasn’t easy, but I was really glad you did, and that we didn’t end up back in one of our patterns of you feeling hurt and abandoned and me feeling helpless.” Bea looks at me as she is saying this, and her face says she was sorry she didn’t respond better that first time, and that she really does care.

I look away, because feeling like she cares is sometimes too much. “I really don’t expect you to fix anything. I don’t think…..” I pause, searching and thinking, making sure my next words are true. “I don’t think any of the parts expect or want you to fix things. Even the little girl.”

“Then your little girl part is way ahead of most people’s small parts.” Bea smiles at me.

I shake my head. “No….it’s more like……my mom always needed to fix me…..or ignore the problem. But….no, it’s more like fix to me– to all of me– means that someone is going to want me to bend to their expectations, or something. Even the little girl, she doesn’t want someone to fix things for her, or to fix her. She just doesn’t want to be alone. She wants to be heard. Because no one ever did that for her.”

“Ahhhh, yes. You’ve had people who fixed things for you, or who tried to fix you. Fixing was really about what they needed or wanted, and you were expected to conform. That was how things were fixed— by adults making you conform to their wishes. But no one really listened to you, or saw you, did they? You were completely alone with your feelings, with the Kenny stuff, with the mom stuff, with just normal kid stuff. It makes sense, why it is so important to you now to just not be alone. To be heard and seen.”

I nod my head. “That’s all I need. Really.”

“I would do good to remember that, wouldn’t I?” She asks. I don’t answer, because it’s partly rhetorical, and partly an apology for not remembering this before.

“I did write about this, some. If you want to read my book.” I’m quiet as I say this, and maybe a little unsure if I want her to read what I have written.

“Of course, yes!” She says. “Let’s look at your writing.”

“Can I have my blanket?” I hand her my book as I ask, but I won’t look at her now.

“Sure.” She takes my book, and setting it on her chair, she gets up and grabs my fuzzy blanket.

Once I’m hiding under the blanket, she starts to read.

The question you asked, about the memory in my pink polka dot book, the one I had you keep. You know the memory. We were working with it in the fall. I can’t even write out the memory in a coherent narrative because it’s still too painful and triggering and awful.

Knees on my arms.

Something in my mouth.

I can’t move.

I had a bruise on my arm.

I said it was from gymnastics.

That’s all. I can’t say more. But we were working with that in the fall, and we were using SP stuff and it was hard and painful and scary but also mostly okay. Until it wasn’t. And that memory was the big thing that pulled off the filter. Because I asked you if it was just a silly game then why was I so scared? And if I wanted to do this, then why was he making it so I could not move?

And more and more came up later in the day, and the next day and then the filter was gone, and so were you. There wasn’t enough of you to go around and I was just all alone. I was just left going through torture all alone. And I can’t do this again. I just can’t. I can’t do this, dig into stuff with SP, or any method really, if [well, I don’t even know how to fill this sentence in]. Maybe just that I can’t do this and be left alone again. I just can’t. It’s a scary thought that this could happen again. I don’t want it to happen again.

I don’t want you to fix me, but I can’t say things won’t come up outside of your office. If we start digging around, stuff is liable to come up. I can’t stop that, and either can you. It just happens. But how do we do this? Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold the *big overwhelming painful I need someone to hear me and see me and sit with me and not be alone* stuff.

“So first of all, I don’t want what happened in the fall to happen again, either. I won’t promise it will never happen again, but I certainly don’t want to put you through so much pain again. So, with that in mind, I would ask that you text me if you are feeling that big awful feeling, and we set up a time to have you come in or for a phone call. If we know at the end of a session that a lot is coming up, we can try to schedule another appointment before you leave— or I can at least let you know some times I have open. Because I agree, Wednesday to Monday is a very long time to hold something all on your own.”

“You do?” It’s my turn to be surprised. I was sure she would feel like it’s really only four days in between, and not that long at all.

“Yes, I do. That’s almost 5 full days. That is a long time to feel alone.”

“I don’t….it’s hard to…I mean, phone calls, or whatever, it just feels like asking a lot.” I whisper.

“It really isn’t. This is about what works for you. I have one person who just sends emails, and doesn’t want a response. I have someone else who texts me after every session to ask for a phone call because stuff comes up for them right after leaving. I have someone else like you who emails and needs a response. And all of those things are okay. The thing about email, though, is if there is that big awful overwhelmed feeling, sometimes what you are needing is hard to address in an email. It’s easier to address face to face or over the phone. Those times, I would feel better going that route, espessially to make sure that the fall doesn’t happen again.” She’s just sort of matter of fact and calm about this, like none of it is a big deal to her. I still don’t like it though. The thing with email is that I can explain things or say things that I might not be able to say aloud. It’s the same with writing things down in my book. There are so many things I’m afraid to say. For the moment though, I’m okay with how we are leaving things. We have a plan for how to deal with situations where I need more of an attuned response than can sometimes happen over email.

“I do remember the memory. I remember it was a particularly awful feeling one for you, and there was a lot of body stuff coming up with it. And that was also hard for you to cope with. A bit like the nightmares coming up now.” Her voice is soft, and careful. She doesn’t want to send me back to that awful place, but she wants to acknowledge it. It’s such a fine line our therapists walk at times, isn’t it?

“Yeah. Just like that. And….it was….I mean….it clashes so much with the story I tell myself. Told myself. It didn’t match, and that was hard.”

“That was hard. It was really difficult to wrap your head around it, wasn’t it?” She says.

“Yeah.” I whisper. I’m starting to feel just the slightest bit fuzzy, and I really don’t want to go back to that place.

“Now that we have talked about this a little, I can see how this can add another layer to the fears surrounding SP. Of course it would be scary for you no matter what, but this adds the layer of we were using some SP and working with body feelings and that opened up this black hole, that I just left you alone with. That just makes this much scarier, and harder to trust it will be okay, doesn’t it?” She’s so reasonable. How did I ever get this lucky, to find a therapist who just gets it?

“Yes. It makes it really hard.” My head feels sort of floaty as I answer her.

“I think anything we do with SP would be just about body feelings and nothing else. We would keep memories out of it. And if a memory did come up, and parts wanted to talk about that, we could. We would just leave the SP stuff out of it. And, if parts just have stuff they need to talk about, we can do that, too, just leaving SP stuff out of it. We are going to do this very, very slowly. Okay?”

“Okay.” I’m still not sure that all of this can be separated, but I agree with what she is saying for now. It’s a good plan, and we have a plan in place to deal with any fallout. So I’m okay. Bea is okay. We are okay.

Therapy and the what if

Wednesday’s session was weird. Not bad, just weird. It’s always like that when Bea has been on vacation, even if we only missed one session. I have this sort of compulsive need to talk about nothing and make sure she is still Bea, that it is safe to dig into the rubble of my life. I always need to do this to a certain extent; I need to form this more superficial connection, to test the waters before I hand over my notebook and bare my soul……..

It’s Wednesday, and Bea is back from her trip, and I’m back in her office and all is right in my world. She came back. I’m okay. I was okay while she was gone. And yet, I can’t settle down. I can’t get out my new notebook, even just to show off the pretty turquoise blue and cream striped fabric covering it. I love nice, well made, beautiful notebooks, and this is a really pretty one, with smooth cream colored paper inside.

I ask about her trip, and I tell her about Kat’s school, and we chat about nothingness. “I’m sorry,” I tell her, “I keep trying….I’m not trying to not talk. I just, I don’t know.”

Bea shakes her head. “You are okay. And honestly, these parenting things, and relationships, and all of that, these things you see as wasting time? These are things lots of people go to therapy to talk about. So I don’t see this as you wasting time.”

“I know, but it just..I beleive you, and I know that stuff can be hard, but for me, that’s the stuff I can usually handle no problem. It’s the other stuff that I need to talk about because I can’t talk about it anywhere else. I don’t know. Never mind.”

“Okay, so what other stuff do you want to talk about today?”

“I have writing.” I finally pull my notebook out of my bag.

“Let’s start there then,” Bea says.

I give her my notebook, but even as she is reading through it, I’m struggling to settle down. I keep talking and fidgeting. “I’m having a hard time. It’s the end, I mean the last two things I wrote about, I’m having a hard time.”

“Do you want me to stop reading?” She places the ribbon bookmark in my journal and closes the book. “I don’t have to read it, it is up to you.”

“No, read it. It’s just hard.”

“Do you want your blanket?” She asks, and I nod yes, so she goes and gets my blanket and drapes it over me. I can hear her sit back in her chair and start reading again.

“Okay,” she says once she has finished reading, “I think we need to talk about this dream, but can we just talk about the what if for a minute?”

“I….maybe. We can try. But I don’t…I mean….it’s hard.”

“I know. The second you want to stop talking about this, you say the word and we will be done. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Mostly we talk about everything that is already in my what If post. Bea offers to call CPS for me, to not mention my name, but to report it. She would need his name and his address, but she can call for me. That just feels like too much telling. Like it’s this line I can’t go back from, once she has his name. It’s just….maybe a part of still wants to hide him. I don’t know why, but I can’t give up his full name. I just can’t. Another option is that I can call CPS and report anonymously. I just don’t know. We go around and around. Finally I tell her how my life, and my world are split. There is the perfect me, the old me, from my old life. Then there is me. Just me. From this life. And on this side of the state, I’m just me. But on the other side of the state, I’m still her— Ms. Perfect, the girl I used to be. I need that separation.

“It’s a boundary. A very real, physical boundary, but also, a felt boundary, a boundary that is emotional. You need that boundary to feel safe.”

I nod my head, even though she can’t see me. “I don’t need, or want justice. I don’t need to see him in court, sentenced to jail. I just want to keep my old life over there, and to be here, to be me. I want to live my life, and feel my feelings, and to be real. I want to come to therapy and process my stuff and learn and grow and be okay. That’s all. That is enough justice for me; that I still managed to learn to be me, to live, and I’m okay. I might be messy, but I’m okay.”

“It sounds like you already know what you need.” Her voice has a question in it.

“Except the what if.” I whisper.

“You aren’t responsible for anyone but yourself. You are only responsible for keeping yourself safe and healthy so you can live your life.” She says gently.

“Am I a terrible person for not telling?” I’m crying now, feeling guilty and awful because of the what if.

“No. No. Not in any way.” Her voice is stern. She wants me to hear her and to really listen.

We go around like this for a while longer, until I say I can’t keep talking about this. Bea says okay, and then adds, “It’s 25 after, I don’t know what time you need to leave by….”

We’ve gone over again. When I apologize, Bea says it was her choice and that she thought this needed talking about.

“If you have time, can we chat about the dream?” She asks.

“Okay.” It’s a whisper, because this, too, is a hard topic.

“You didn’t write much, and that’s okay, but can I ask if it’s a flashback dream, or a dream-dream?”

“Both. It’s weird. It’s…memories, but it all….it goes from one to the next, like it’s all the same time, the same age, but it’s not. I mean, these things happened, but not the same age.”

“Okay. Do these things, the memories, are they linked somehow?”

I shake my head. “They are awful. Just really awful. And I feel it. I just….I don’t know anything. But it’s there, every night, this dream is there.”

“Okay.” Bea takes a breath. “It’s coming up for a reason. I think we need to do some work on this. I think SP is a good place to start with dreams, process things from the ground up, take away some of its’ power. If you want to do some SP work.”

“I’m scared.” I tell her. This is becoming a pattern. She brings up SP, I feel scared, and we talk about It. I suppose the pattern has changed, because I used to dissociate and freak out, and refuse to even think about it. Now I get quiet, work to stay present, admit I am really scared, talk about it and then I warily agree to try it.

The pattern holds. We talk about what SP does and does not mean, and how Bea is not going to stop me from talking. Then I warily agree to try.

“Monday, then. We will work with this dream.” Bea says.

“Okay….” I say slowly. “I’ll try to write it down.”

“If you can, that’s great. If not, that is okay, too.” I peek out from under the blanket, and Bea moves her gaze from my direction, knowing that would be too much for me. She smiles at me before she does, though.

“Okay. I’ll try. I’m just scared,” I say again.

“I know. And that’s okay,” she assures me.

What if….?

This is more of a thinking aloud post, but I would like your thoughts. I need to talk this out, and while this was the major subject of therapy today– which I will post about later– I can’t be completely honest with Bea about it all.

My question today: what if? What if he has hurt someone else because I never told? What if he is hurting someone right now because I never told? What if he hurts someone tomorrow or next week or next month or next year, because I didn’t tell today?

But I can not tell. I don’t feel this need to punish him, to get “justice.” I just….what if he is hurting someone else?

Can I report anonymously to CPS? Would that make a difference? Bea suggested that I could call the police anonymously. Or that she could call CPS and keep my name out of it. None of that sounds like a terrible idea. It might be do-able.

Except…..and it is this except that I can not tell Bea. I just….I don’t know, but she won’t like this. So, except it’s a small town and people there will know him. If CPS is from each town or whatever, chances are they will know him and they won’t believe it. If I call the police in town, well….he is the police. He is the director of public safety. No one is going to believe me, much less investigate it. And whoever I talk to will probably tell him, and then he will know I told and no good can come of that.

So what am I supposed to do about this what if?

Shame and Regret

Regret. Shame. These two little words can have such an impact on us. They can determine how we feel about ourselves, and they can even change the entire course of our lives. These two words have popped up frequently in my life lately. Im fact, I’d say they seem to be a theme in my therapy recently.

Last week, I wrote in my journal about this part of me that feels alone is safer. It’s most definitely the teen, and she wants to be left alone. In fact, she wants for Bea to leave me alone and stop trying to sift through all the rubble to find all the pain underneath. The teen just wants to be done, to be normal, to be okay. And she does not want to let any of these feelings out. It’s her job to control all the other parts, to protect me from their confusion and pain and anger. While there was a lot of just free writing, jumping from topic to topic last week, I felt better than I had in a long while. I felt present again. And when I went to therapy, I handed over my journal, and Bea read through it.

******************************************************************* Wednesday February 7, 2018

“I wonder if the little girl will feel alone until the teen stops believing that alone is safer?” Bea reads my question aloud. “That’s a good question. An important question. Do you have an answer?”

I shake my head. “Not really. No. I just….the teen, she has to keep everyone safe. For her, alone is safe. No one can hurt me if I’m alone.”

“Ahhhh, yes. She works so hard to keep all the parts safe. To keep you safe. I wonder if being back here feels threatening to her after a long break where things started to feel more stable?”

“Maybe. I…the adult me….I don’t think….I mean, I was okay for those weeks. I mean, there were triggers, but mostly, I just stayed on the surface and avoided feeling. Sort of numb. Not exactly, but sort of. I think, well, you know, there were times things would come up and I would think that I should sit down and write but then I would find something else to do. I would clean up, or I would watch a movie, read a book, take care of school stuff. I just stayed….. I floated on the surface, you know. And I think that’s okay, but it’s not good for me to do, not healthy long term. It’s too easy for that to suck me back into just being kinda of numb and not here all the time.”

“It’s a healthier way of coping than ways you have used in the past, but no, I don’t think it’s good long term. Maybe if you were able to sit down and let whatever come up, write about it, and then find a way back to the surface, that would feel better to you.” Bea suggests.

“Something more like that, yeah.” Her idea feels right, like that could be healthy and okay. “It’s funny that I’m saying this, but I don’t really like the sort of numb feeling.”

“It keeps you safe, but if everything bad is being numbed away, then more than likely everything feels blunted…..”

She’s not really done speaking, but I interrupt her. “Blunted! That’s exactly it. My whole life has been feeling blunted lately.”

“That can make it hard to feel joy, to feel connected to others, even to feel alive, can’t it?” Bea says. It’s not really a question, more of a statement to let me know she gets what I’m trying to say. I nod my head, and then she asks, “Does the teen feel a little threatened to have me poking around and digging under the surface after being able to keep everything blunted and safe?”

I think for moment, and then nod. “Yes. She likes things how they are.”

“I can understand that. And I think she is doing a very important job, one that helps to keep you okay enough to function in your daily life. We don’t want her to quit her job, and we don’t want to get rid of her. Do you think she would let us check in on the little girl? It’s been a while since we have checked in on her, and I bet she is feeling pretty lonely. I haven’t forgotten about her.”

“Not lonely. Not really. Confused.” I whisper the words and then bury my face in my knees.

“Confused, huh? What is confusing?”

“Nothing matches anymore.”

“Can you tell me what doesn’t match?” Bea is just so calm. She sounds curious, but not pushy, and I love that she is willing to just follow me down whatever rabbit hole I’m ready to jump down.

“Things. None of it. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t match.” I sound whiny. The little girl is not happy that things don’t match.

Bea asks again what it is that doesn’t match, and I continue to be unable to answer her. Eventually she reassures the little girl that it’s okay if things don’t match right now, that we will figure it out together. She says that she can understand it feels confusing and maybe the little girl feels sad or angry, and whatever she is feeling is okay and that she’s not alone. For a minute I feel like crying, and then it’s gone, and everything is blunted again.

******************************************************************* Sunday, February 11, 2018

We go to church again, and I’m starting to feel more comfortable here. I can smile and say hello to people who smile at me, and I even manage to make small talk with a few.

But then (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?) the service starts, and it’s all about regrets. It’s a different teaching pastor than a few weeks ago when I wrote about the Larry Nassar trials. He directs us to a bible passage, and that’s all fine and well. The whole thing is about Peter, and Peter denying Jesus three times. The pastor sets this whole scene, including a charcoal fire. Then he directs us to a second passage in the Bible, and says that in this passage is the first time Peter sees Jesus since denying the relationship. And wouldn’t you know it, Jesus is cooking something, and there is a charcoal fire? This is a trigger, for Peter, the pastor says, it triggers all the regret and shame he felt when he realized what he had done. Now, the Pastor goes on to talk about how Jesus forgave Peter, and how he gave Peter a chance to confirm their relationship, and then went on to give Peter a purpose in his life. That was all fine. Food for thought, but okay.

Now, though, the pastor continues to talk. He says that we all have regrets, and that there are three types of regret; regret of our actions, regret of our inaction, and regret that is not ours to own, but that we take on anyway. He says the last one often leads to feelings of shame, and that is so damaging to us. He says that when we regret things that have been done to us, or that have happened to us, and we hold onto shame and blame and guilt that is not ours to own, it hurts us. He says that each time we are triggered, just as Peter was triggered, and those feelings come up again and again, it is damaging to us. He talks about how shame about something that happened to us makes us begin to question our worth, our value. We begin to ask things like “what is wrong with me?” and to believe things like “I’m bad” or “I don’t deserve good things”. He talks about how these feelings can separate us from God, and how we don’t have to deal with those feelings alone, that their are people at church, including any of the pastors, that they would be happy to talk, or help find a therapist or to pray for anyone who is struggling. And then, he says that two weeks ago, we talked about the Nassar trials, and how many of the girls he had hurt felt that regret and shame for something they didn’t do, for something someone did to them. At least one in five women have been hurt in the same way, he says. Some of you are sitting out there, listening to me talk and you are thinking that you are different, that what happened to you really is your fault. But it’s not. He introduces a woman then, and says that she would like to share her story. And then she begins to speak. Her story is my story, it’s the story of so many of my blog friends. It’s not exactly the same story as mine, or as yours, of course, but it’s the story of a girl who was hurt by a man, a girl who took on all the blame and shame and regret for actions that never belonged to her. Of course, her story is also a story of finding Jesus and becoming a Christian.

I felt sick. I wanted to run out of the room. I wanted to scream and cry. It felt like a mean trick, to have such things openly discussed in public. Of course, now, with the adult in charge, I think this is maybe a good thing. They aren’t hiding from the ugly stuff, the hard stuff. This isn’t a church that pretends perfection. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it all. I think I’m still processing what church and God mean to me. Maybe that’s why I’m there. I have questions, things I may one day need to have conversations about, and I’m going to need to have a place to ask them, to be able to tell my story and figure how where I stand with God, what I believe. This might be a safe place to do just that.

It’s all real

I need to make a trigger warning for talking about church, and about sexual abuse. Nothing very specific is written, but it’s just this sort of messy, mixed up thoughts in my head and raw feelings that I wrote about. So, you know. Be safe. ❤️

Forgiveness. Anger. Revenge. Hate. Love. Grief. Guilt. Innocence. These are things that have been on my mind lately. I don’t know how much airtime the Larry Nassar trials have gotten where everyone else lives, but here they are big news. Huge news. I live in Michigan, and so I have been surrounded by news of the trials and sentencing.

I had managed to avoid it, for the most part, until Sunday. You see, I’ve recently been back to church. Church is hard for me, it’s triggering in a way I can not fully explain. It’s a place I want to be, because it is familiar, and yet, it doesn’t always feel like a safe place.

But, I like this church. I like the people, I like the sermons, I like the community of it. I like that my kid can go to Sunday school, because they actually are aware of kids with special needs, and they work very hard to accommodate them and make the kids feel safe and welcome, like they belong. And this church, it’s not just a church. It’s a community center, where all people are welcome. They have comfy seating, and an indoor play area. They are open daily. I love it there, my kid loves it there, and even hubby has been going to Sunday service with me and paying attention.

So, on Sunday, we went to church. And the message was all about spiritual health. It was about how we form a relationship with God, and what it means to believe in Jesus and to live your life knowing you are forgiven by grace. That was all fine and well. Not an easy message for me to listen to, because where I stand with God, and Jesus, it’s well, complicated. But that was okay. The thing that hit home for me, that has stuck in my mind ever since, has been this video clip that was played.

Have you watched any of the testimony of the women and girls that Larry hurt? I hadn’t. I had stayed away from it on purpose. I knew that it would hit too close to home for me. But on Sunday, I watched Rachel Dellhollander confront her abuser. The teaching pastor had picked out a clip where she is speaking of God’s forgiveness, of Jesus’s grace. He said it was one of the best examples he had ever seen of what God’s grace looks like.

You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others and the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially, no matter what it costs me.

In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.

The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well. —Rachel Dellhollander

Rachel was eloquent, and brave to speak out the way she did. Her words hit me right in my heart. It was like those words, sliced me in half. I sat there, listening to her speak, crying. *How? How is she forgiving him?* I thought. *She should be pissed, she should hate him, she should want him to suffer and burn in hell. She should hate him with every fiber of her being. I would.*

It hit me then. I’m so angry. I’m full of anger. I’m angry with Kenny, yes, but I’m angry with so many more people. I’m angry with my parents, his parents, other adults who should have seen but didn’t. I’m mad at myself. I’m mad at God. So, so mad.

Oh, there is fear and nightmares, and anxiety, and this feeling of needing to hide, and there is grief and confusion, so much uncertainty, but there is anger there too.

I grew up in church. The perfect little church girl. And every Sunday, he was at church, too. And he was loved by the members of our church. He was so kind, and so helpful. He was such a great example of a Christian. That wasn’t true, though. He wasn’t good, or kind or loving. Even when he pretended to be nice and caring, he wasn’t good. He was evil. A monster. He was not nice. That’s maybe the worst part of this. I couldn’t let him be bad, so I became the bad one. I let myself believe he was nice, I let myself believe I was special. I let myself believe I mattered, and that he was my friend. In truth, he was a monster, and a part of me knew it. The part of me that hid in my closet, alone and scared, knowing something bad was going to happen; that part always knew the truth.

Even though I can see that clearly now, it doesn’t make things better. It makes the fear and the terror and the disgust and the out of control feelings real. It makes the little girl, hiding in the closet with her teddy bear, praying to God to help her, real. It makes everything all too real, and I don’t know what to do with that.