According to Webster's Dictionary, the word 'redeem' means "to free from the consequences of sin." Although, it was not my sin, I still desperately need to be freed of the consequences.

"Redeemed women of God have tender merciful hearts, backbones of steel, and hands that are prepared for the fight." - Staci Elderidge

"Even though my heart has been broken at times, I want to retain a tender merciful heart- the kind of heart that is vulnerable, open to all emotions, and engaged in honest, intimate relationships. If my heart is hardened, no matter the cause, I cannot live to my fullest potential.

By setting and holding emotional, physical and spiritual boundaries and standing up with courageous determination to what I know to be right, I continue to forge my backbone of steel.

As women, I believe we want to fight against evil, and we have power greater than we've ever imagined to aid us in that fight."
- Rhyll Croshaw

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Unintended Consequence

The phone rings.  I freeze and my legs go wobbly as I listen to the voice on the other end.  I sit down.  Through sobs or sometimes rushed, clipped words, you trust me with your stories and I pause to hear you.

Sometimes it's an email or a text, but the response is the same.  My heart breaks every time.

Most of the time, it's from a stranger.  A faceless name that shares with me their inner most secrets and hurts.  And I listen and hold their words.

But sometimes, it's from someone I know all too well.  I've kissed their baby's cheeks or sat their child in time out.  Sometimes I babysat them when we were kids.  Sometimes they babysat me.

With every story, my world crumbles just a little more.  The reality of the consequence of choice slaps me in the face once again.  But, once in a while, I hear a story, that rocks me to the foundation. It breaks my heart all over again.  It is a story from the people I am the closest to in the world.  The hardest ones are the few who made me feel so safe and loved.  My world isn't filled with very many safe people who came before me, so those are the stories that I feel crack my foundation and I'm left once again repairing the damage that someone else caused.

Early on after D-day, a dear friend told me to watch out, being open about my story would draw others to me and I would be asked to carry their stories as well.  I heard her and recognized that possibility as an unintended but necessary consequence of my own healing path.

My D-day was just over 5 years ago and I'm still hearing your stories.  I take them all and hold them sacred in my heart.  Each one has a place and a reason.  Sometimes I shed a tear, every time I feel your pain and once in a while, I have to climb back in bed and lay in the silence of the dark.  It's the price I have to pay for shouldering the sacred responsibility of helping to carry your pain.

I'm in no way asking you to stop.  I'm acknowledging that I hear you.  What has happened to you is not your fault and holding your story is a sacred responsibility and one that I will always make room for.  Even if I find myself wrapping up in my childhood blanket and crawling back in bed.

Friday, October 27, 2017

My Body is Mine

As I write this, there is a storm raging outside my window that matches the storm raging inside of my soul....

I was raised to believe that a man has a physical need to have a sexual release on a regular basis.  To be honest, I'm not a man, so I can't answer whether or not this is true.  But, it was taught accompanied with the idea that a man has a stronger sex drive than a woman.  Once again, I can't confirm or deny, because I'm a woman.  (but it does cause me to wonder how the latter could ever be tested or confirmed because the majority of us are just one or the other...).  However, these were taught to me as Truth.  It was undeniably a thing.

Add to this a religion who places the needs and value of a man above that of a woman.  Maybe not in word or lesson (but sometimes so) but definitely in practice and inference.  Or at least that's my perspective when I sing the hymns, read the scriptures and sit through conferences that are filled with men with women only participating as the men invite them, or request, that they do so.

This religion also teaches that porn and masturbation are bad.  Evil.  Sinful.  An abuse of self and others.

When I add all of these together, what I get from all of the lessons, out right and implied, is that men have "needs" and it is our "job" as women to fulfill those needs.  My needs, rights, desires and opinions are second to his.  I was taught this, out right and implied, by those who should have protected me.  The ones I trusted above all else so I believed it as truth.

Which is probably why, I am so ashamed to admit, and may even delete this at some point, that I allowed my body to be used in ways that were painful, uncomfortable, scary or felt wrong to me.

No one had ever told me that I had a right to determine what I would or would not allow to happen to my body at all times.  EVEN IN MARRIAGE.

I know that now and Paul apologized again today for not having learned that lesson earlier himself.

It is just one more way I've uncovered that I feel abandoned.  Abandoned by those who should have taught me my worth and rights.  Instead, I learned the opposite.  I learned that I valued me more than others did.  I wasn't worth as much as I thought I was.

I should have never had to figure out for myself that my body belonged to me.  That it was never meant as a "gift" for my husband.  It's my gift.  For me.  Owned by me.  My heart is broken for the girl and the grown woman, who didn't know that until after damage had been done.

I would rather a woman have a long term, sexual relationship with a man she wasn't married to that loved her, respected her and believed her body was her own than a woman spend a lifetime with a husband who believed that it was her duty to provide his "relief".  Maybe that's my trauma talking and I'll change my mind tomorrow, but that's where I land today.


My oldest son is about to go out on his first date.  It's exciting.  It's a dance so there is dinner and pictures and flowers involved.  So many plans and considerations.  I looked at him last night and said,

"Son, I need you to hear this very carefully.  This date is just the beginning.  It means that before long, you will be holding hands and kissing, it better not be this time, but some time it will happen, and I need you to remember that her body, belongs to her.  All of it.  She should never have to choose between spending time with you or losing ownership of her body.  Ever.  And some girls, they don't know their own worth and so they don't respect themselves like they should so...

"I know mom, I need to respect it for her."

Yes son, yes.  That's it.  And don't you ever forget that.  

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Trapped

I was raised in a home where my dad would exclaim "I'm a polygamist" as if it was something to be proud of, like a medal you'd wear on your lapel.  It was openly acknowledged that he was sealed to two women and all of us, my dad, his two wives and the 5 kids produced between the two of them would be all together in the next life.  

Sounds heavenly, right?

Except it wasn't really.

We've heard all of the theories about one Heavenly Father and multiple mothers.  We've read about polygamy of old.  All of the proclamations and publicly pronounced joy and then all of the sadness and abuse that was written of only in private journals.  

Polygamy is a trigger for me.  I've been fixated with it for as long as I could remember, constantly trying to accept it and make sense of it.  But, despite my efforts it has never made me feel loved and secure.  It doesn't help that I attend a church run by men with an almost absent Heavenly Mother.  There is no mention of her in the creation (can you imagine sending your kids away for a while and not being part of it at all?  The thought makes me sick).  We don't sing of her or prayer to her.  We don't turn to her for love and guidance even though we preach about the necessity of a mother AND a father.  We have our beautiful job- to create, grow and nurture children into happy, healthy adults.  (Did I mention the "create and grow part?  The puke and stay in bed and suffer from anxiety for 9 months part?  My pregnancies were brutal...)

Which all leaves me imagining "heaven" as a place where I am barefoot and pregnant (which is not a plus for me), exchangeable and interchangeable by others while I live an eternity silent and removed from the children that I suffered for, created and cherish more than life itself.

It sounds like my worst version of hell.

This all leaves me feeling trapped.  I am terrified of dying.  Terrified of leaving my children to live the life that I did without me here to love them and protect them from those who don't or won't.  Terrified of the one(s) who will take my place, with my family and husband- the woman/women, who I don't get to choose, that I will end up sharing and spending my eternity with.  And terrified of the idea of eternity as well.  I don't want to "like it when I get there".   I think it sounds horrible and abusive and I don't want any it.  

So, in my heart of hearts, this life is as good as it gets.  With all of the genocide and abuse, the mistreatments and prejudice.  With all of the tragedies, the natural disasters and horrific experiences. I read about them every day and yet, with it all- for me- at least my little bubble has become safe and secure.  My life with my husband and my little family is magical.  I would be ok to stay right where I am forever because where I came from makes me desperately afraid of what's on the other side.  

I had a friend say this weekend that I needed my mom to let me know from the other side that she's happy.

No- I need my mom to let me know that she knows ME and that I'LL be happy there.  Not that I am in any kind of hurry, but only so that I don't have to live this life so afraid of the next one.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Word

If I sit in my quiet moments and dig deep, if I peel back all of the painful, tender layers and expose the raw, sensitive center, all of my trauma could be identified by one word.  The one word that all my fears, anxieties and pain lead back to.  One simple word that could be packaged and wrapped and tied with a pretty bow.

Although it really isn't all that pretty.

It describes it all:

*it's how I felt when my mom died.
*it's how I felt when my dad remarried soon after.
*it's how I felt all of the times that I said, "that's mean" and was answered with, "be the bigger person".
*or the times I finally found the language to say, "it's abusive" and was told, "that which does not kill you makes you stronger."
*and for the lifetime that I've spent desperately seeking for the approval of that one special person that I've never been able to find.
*it's how I felt when Paul disclosed his years of lying.
*each time.
*and how I felt when the bishop told me I was recovering too fast and I was going to break up our marriage. (because apparently recovering does that, not habitually lying...)
*and how I felt when my dad told me I was over-reacting and I needed to move past it.
*it's how I felt when our marriage therapist told me I needed to be Paul's accountability partner.
*and how I felt when he told me I needed to not be so sensitive when I told him that didn't seem healthy for me.
*it's how I felt when my dad stopped visiting or talking to me for years.
*and how I felt because of the people who had deliberately asked him not to.
*it's how I felt when I violently reacted to anxiety meds and I was too sick to get out of bed and care for my kids, yet too afraid to ask for help because I knew the answer would be "sorry, I can't".

And it how I felt all of the other times that life left me alone and unseen and unheard.  I can take each experience and write on it the word

ABANDONED

in neat capital letters and there you will find the root of my panic and anxiety.  When you dig down deep, there is the fear that I never have and never will be

ENOUGH

to keep anyone for ever.  They leave.  They lie.  They don't see.

On the surface I'm self confident, maybe a little haughty even, if I'm honest.  But at my root; deep down at my core, I feel that my worth has never been seen by others as much as I see it in myself.

So, maybe I'm the one that's wrong.

And that is why ABANDONED is my word.

Monday, October 16, 2017

When There is Nothing to Fear

The first time I took one of my kids in for stitches, it was this tiny cut (maybe an inch) above my 17 month old's eye and I was a basket case as I drove him to the ER.  Seriously, Paul had to talk to me the whole way so I would stay calm driving.  By the 4th or 5th time, when the wounds were much deeper and more serious (and much bloodier), I cradled the head wound with a clean diaper (which I highly recommend, very soft and absorbent) or I stuck a butterfly on the gash and calmly drove the kid to the doctor or urgent care.  Once, I'd dressed and cleaned it so nicely that the triage nurse said, "are you sure he needs stitches?"  "This is my 3rd boy and I've had a half dozen or so ER visits, he needs stitches, I saw bone."  She looked at the butterfly bandage (also one of my favs) and said, "I'll take your word for it."  When the doctor finally saw him and took off the butterfly, there were gasps around the room while I sat there calmly.  "I told you so."



A man stood up in sacrament meeting on Sunday and bore his testimony.  I'd never seen him, or the children sitting with him, before.  He introduced himself and said he was new in the ward.

He bore a humble and vulnerable testimony.  He talked about faith and patience, without actually using those words.  He talked about his fears and frustrations.  He spoke of the difficulty of his life lately and how God's answer to him was, "just wait.  You'll see." Over and over as he questioned and doubted, "just wait.  you'll see."

And then he spoke of a story he'd heard before, about a zoo in some far off land that someone had visited.  In this zoo, you could walk right into the lion's cage and pet them like they were kitty cats.  Pet them right on the head.  Without bars between you.  The visitor was astonished and asked the keepers how this could be.  How could they keep the lions from attacking and eating the visitors?  The keepers said, "see those yappy dogs over there in the corner?  Those dogs were placed in the lions' cages when they were much larger than the lions.  They would bark and chase those baby lions around their cages until the lions became very afraid of those dogs.  When the lions start to get bothered or irritated by the visitors, the dogs begin to bark and chase the lions and the lions cower back.  Because they grew up in fear, they do not realize that they are much larger and much more dangerous than the dogs."

And then my new ward member said something that struck me to the core.  He said, "How often do we live in fear of things that we no longer have to be afraid of?"

That is my trauma.  The things that have hurt me that I no longer have to be afraid of.  I have survived suffocating betrayal and more intense abandonments (yes plural) than a heart can endure.  It broke me emotionally and I'm now doing the work to put the pieces back together.  But, it didn't destroy me.  And I learned some amazing lessons.  I learned that I am NOT alone.

No matter the intensity or closeness of the abandonment, I am still surrounded by love.  

Every hole that is made in my life, is filled by someone.  In some way.  

And even though I could still be betrayed-  I could again be abandoned-  It will never again be like it was before.  The first times.  Because just like those trips to the ER for stitches, I learned things that change my perspective and allow me to see the whole picture more clearly.  Each trip to the ER became easier than the one before because each time showed me that yes, it would hurt, but we were in good hands and in no time at all, it would all be ok.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Pink Shag Carpet

In my dreams it is usually brown with yellow shutters even though it was long ago painted green and white.  A garage has been added on where the ramp used to be.  The front porch is still there; it runs the length of the house.  I used to play house on that front porch.  My mother used to hold me and sing me lullabies on the front porch swing.

You are my sunshine.  My only sunshine.  You make me happy, when skies are gray....

The forest behind it has been cut down and now there are neighbors where there used to be trees. There are backyards where the bike paths used to run.

I've lived in 9 houses, 4 apartments and 1 trailer in my life but no matter how much time drifts by, this is still the house in my dreams.  It is my safe place.  It's owned today by a widowed preacher's wife.  A nice woman, who I was privileged to meet last summer.  She'd saved something of mine that was left behind there for over 30 years.

Who does that?

She gave it to me at the time in my life that I needed it most.  It was truly a miracle.

In many ways, the house is a miracle to me.  It signifies the time in my life that I was the most safe and secure.  My mom was sick and died while we lived in that house, but I was always watched over and loved.  It is the place in my dreams where I go to rest and recover...

But this dream was different than all of the others.  I was there, in that house, with my Dad and Paul.  We walked slowly down the long, dark hall.  I could see the the little brown bathroom on the left and my brothers' room on the right.

I could feel the familiar brown, shag carpet beneath my feet as I walked along.  I could see into the doorway of my parents' room at the end of the hall.  As my dad entered his old room he was talking and telling stories, reminiscing about our life in that house.  My room was just kiddie corner to parents'.  As I neared the end of the hall, I could see the endearing white paneling and pink shag carpet.  It was like someone had dumped pepto bismal all over the floor and I loved it.  It was bright and fluffy and iconically girly.

I stopped short at my old doorway as a wave of emotion hit me fast and hard.  I wasn't prepared for the rush of emotion as I neared my room.  It was my safe place.  Things happened while I was in that home; sad and scary things, but I was the most safe I've ever been in my life, in that room.

I couldn't even make it in the door.  The sounds that came from me were something I've never heard myself make before.  It was the gut wrenching sound of pain.  I collapsed to the floor, sobbing too hard to stand.  I could feel the brown hall carpet beneath my cheek and feel my tears making it wet.  And that sound, that painful, horrific sound, was still coming.  Fast and rushed; I couldn't even breathe.  I was gasping for breath and reaching my hand towards the pink carpet, but I didn't have the strength to get in there.  I couldn't catch my breath enough to even move.

Paul was over me, startled and scared.  His eyes pouring into me, his arms reaching for me; wishing he knew what he could do to help.  "Just put me in there!", I seemed to scream on the inside, but he didn't know.  He just stood there helpless while my insides screamed and my outsides wailed.  My dad was still talking, carrying on, oblivious to the trauma behind him.  It took him some time to see my torment and as he turned to look at me, his face held shock and confusion...
 

I woke up gasping for air.  My cheeks were wet.  It took me a moment to realize I could breathe just fine.  I was in the present once again.  In the darkness I could see that I was in my room, in my bed, with my husband sleeping peacefully beside me.


There was no pink shag carpet.


That room with the white paneled walls and pink shag carpet was my life before trauma.  Before betrayal and abandonment and pain.  It is the safest place in the world to me.  And I long to be in there again.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The First One

The first one happened at Disney World.  The happiest place on earth.  It was the third day of vacation.  We were tired; we run ourselves ragged on vacation, afraid to miss anything.
I awoke with a start at 3 am feeling like I was going to toss my cookies.  I ran to the bathroom in our hotel room.  Over and over I wretched, but nothing came up so I finally climbed back in bed exhausted.  For hours I repeated this cycle.  Finally my husband got up and took all of the kids to the park while I lay in bed.

I was on vacation.  And I was missing it.

Was I pregnant?  I got a test from the store downstairs and took it.  Negative.

Did I have the flu?  Maybe.

I called my insurance nurse line.  Was it a heart attack?  I doubt it.  There is a family heart issue and my heart has been checked and monitored better than most.

What was this?

By noon, I was feeling better.  I met my family in the park at 1:00.  I was weak, shaky and queasy, but I managed fine.

I guess it was the flu.

Except the whole thing started again the next morning at 3 am.  I sent my family to the parks and met them by 11:00.  I was on the roller coaster by 3:00 pm.

I drug myself out of bed and packed my family the next morning.  Phase two of vacation was starting and we had a cruise to catch.  I thought I was going to die standing in line that morning.

What was wrong with me?  The flu doesn't only hit in the mornings.  I'd never experienced anything like this.
Surely I'd be dead by now if it was a heart attack.  But still... I almost didn't get on the boat.  (I called my doctor and he said, "No way are you having a heart attack.  Get on the boat and drink some water.  Maybe you are dehydrated.")

Every morning was better than the one before.  But I was sick in the morning for weeks.

And no one could tell me why.

Episode after episode.  Doctor after doctor.  Specialist after specialist.  Until one day, I was describing how I felt during the episodes.  Felt emotionally.  And suddenly Paul said, "oh!  You are having panic attacks!"

What? Me?  

But, I don't even generally have anxiety.  How could that be.

But it is.  I life my days relatively anxiety free.  But my nights- that's when my trauma haunts me.