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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Dear Bishop

Dear Bishop,

There is something that I am truly struggling with and I finally feel strong enough and safe enough in my world to address it.  I am completely open to talk with you about what I’m about to write.  I feel like it is so emotional for me that I would do better to write it all out first, without the emotions and intonations, in order to prevent myself from getting side tracked by the heaviness and tenderness and therefore allowing myself to be true to my heart and what I’d really like to say.  I want you to know that the only expectation I have is to be heard, really heard, so that I can release the painful emotions I have and heal and move forward.  I no longer want to feel hurt (and if I’m truly honest, bitter) any more and the only way I know how to release the emotions at this point is to openly acknowledge them.

I want to start by saying that I believe in a loving and merciful God.  I believe that He is more merciful, patient and forgiving than any of us could ever truly fathom.  I know He’s real and He’s here.  I know that He has provided us a church to learn about His ways and help us to become closer to Him.  I know that His church is lead by a loving and faithful prophet.  President Monson is God’s truly appointed prophet in our day.  I know that our Heavenly Father has provided bishops, stake presidents, relief society presidents and other local and general leadership to help His children learn of Him, feel His love and help them to return to Him one day.  I know that although the system is perfect it does not always work perfectly because it is made up of flawed humans who are all trying to feel of His love and remember who they are.  I know, in every recess of my heart, that you are the person that He has chosen to lead and love our ward family.  I see your mercy, love and compassion.  Last Sunday you looked at me and smiled at me and I felt that.  I felt the very real love that you feel for me.  Above every thing I say, I want you to know that this I know above all else- You are the man God chose to be my bishop at this time and you love me.


One day, I woke up and realized that I was married to a stranger.  The man that I had loved, laughed with, born children with, trusted and shared a bed with, was not the man that he had portrayed himself to be.  He was not the man I thought I was married to.  The realization of this caused me to question everything.   Every moment we shared, good or bad was questioned.  Every laugh, vacation, intimate moment and cherished time was questioned.  I questioned whether my children were really baptized or whether their blessings would be honored.  I questioned whether I was truly lovable or if it was my own flaws that created this mess.  I questioned who I was, what I believed and everything I once thought of as my truths.  So often in young women’s, the unspoken truth is that if we make all of the “right” choices, we will be “safe”.  We are taught to marry returned missionaries in the temple and keep ourselves morally clean because in return we will receive a husband who honors and respects us and values the same things we do.  We stay away from nonmember boys and instead ask faithful member boys questions about their feelings on family and their missions in order to secure a loving and safe future for ourselves.  And then just like that, one day, we find out that we never really were safe.  The “right” questions and making the “right” choices have done nothing to keep us safe.  We are no safer than any other woman who walks this earth.

Then, far too often, our husbands confess their sins and even worst, their secret life, to our bishops over and over and over and over and over again, and nothing happens.  The lack of consequences afforded to my husband after multiple confessions of secret lives, blatant lies and the scriptural definition of infidelity, further reinforced to me that I wasn’t actually the cherished daughter of God that I was taught that I was.  It showed me that virtue and morality were only important up until the point that I knelt across the altar and said “yes”. 

I felt like first I was betrayed by my husband and then I was betrayed my priesthood leaders.  Even my own father told me to “put this behind me and move on.” and that I was “over-reacting”.  No one, ever, not once, looked at me and told me that I was worth more than I had been treated.  I had to determine that all by myself.  The only thing I can think to compare it to for you is if one day, after years of faithful service you were shown, without a doubt that the priesthood was actually not God’s power on earth, but rather a placebo effect.  When you questioned the man who ordained you, he confessed that he knew all along but didn’t want you to feel stupid.  When you tried to talk about how hurt and betrayed you felt by this to everyone you trusted that would listen to you, they told you that they were sorry, but you needed to move past this.  You were making a bigger deal about it than it actually was.  Can you imagine the thoughts you would have and the processes you would have to go through?  Think of every blessing you have given.  Every time you have felt the confirmation from the Lord that His work was done.  Every person that was healed by your hands through His power.  Every person that was loved and comforted.  Every time you felt, without a doubt, God’s love for you. And imagine how you would feel every time you saw a blessing given and were told to calm down and be silent, that you were over-reacting.  That chaos that you would feel, this was my life. 

In his videos Helping Her Heal, therapist Doug Weiss describes what a wife goes through upon learning of her husband’s betrayal, as being shot in the face by her husband with a shotgun.  As she is screaming for help and gushing blood, her husband is asking her what is wrong with her and why she isn’t forgiving and trusting him, because he’s not shooting anymore.  But, just saying this demonstrates that he is still holding the gun.  His lack of accountability and his failure to accept the natural consequences of his actions tells us that he is still unsafe to us.  Far too often, what isn’t seen by those who are trying to help us, are the intense manipulations and emotional abuse that we have come to accept as normal in our lives.  Control, blameshifting and gaslighting are common and quite often every day occurrences in the life of the wife of a porn/sex addict.  My husband was able to mask his desperate attempts to hide his addiction and secure his methods of acting out as protection and care for me.   I was tricked into thinking control was love.  I understand now that I was emotionally and intimately abused by my husband before I knew about his addiction and I continued to be emotionally and intimately abused by him for some time after finding out about his addiction.  I can see this now and the reason I can see it is because I have a stark comparison as to how he treated me for the first 17 years of our marriage and how he treats me now.  I realize that I didn’t see what I didn’t know to look for. 

I tell you all of this because I think it is important for you to understand what we were going through when we came to visit with you.  I have come to find out that what I have described above is very, very normal in relationships with an addiction present.  Which is why, when you looked at me and told me that because I was going 70 miles an hour and my husband was going 30, if I didn’t slow down I would break up my marriage, I received very real trauma that I still feel and am recovering from today.  I believe that the difference in our speed could have absolutely broken up our marriage, that is true, but it would not have been my fault, I was listening to the spirit and doing exactly what I needed to in order to rebuild my faith, my self worth and heal from the trauma that I did nothing to deserve.  There is nothing in my recovery that I look back on today and regret.  I am proud of myself for listening to Him despite all of the voices around me.  I believe that if our marriage had failed, it would have been because my husband was dragging his feet, playing the victim and unwilling to do what needed to be done to heal and save our marriage.  I believe that only he could save what only he broke.  My job was to release the anger, rebuild my self worth, forgive and assess my safety.  His job was to rebuild his self worth, repair his broken brain, fully repent and build a safe and trustworthy environment for our marriage to heal. 

When you looked at me and placed the responsibility of saving our marriage on me, you released him from that obligation and added weight, strain and responsibility on top of my trauma, which enabled him to continue his abuse and misuse of me and caused me further trauma, not only from the advice that you gave to me but also by giving him permission to continue abusing and blaming me. 

The most damaging aspect of this addiction for me, and many other women I speak to, is that in order to hide their addiction and low self esteem, we as women are trained to question and doubt our ability to listen to the spirit.  We are taught that our husbands are our worthy priesthood holders and patriarchs in our home and so if they don’t agree with something we feel we are inspired to do, then we must be wrong.  Even as my husband was confessing to lying and viewing porn for years, his word and ability to listen to the spirit was accepted and taken over mine.  I know that I am far from perfect, but I was doing everything I could to be in a position to listen to God’s voice in my life.  Every time I felt it was time to have a baby, my inspiration was questioned.  What house to buy, where to move, whether to adopt, the list goes on and on, every time I felt inspired, the choices he was making in his life, that I was unaware of, caused him to question and doubt me which eventually caused me to doubt my ability to listen.  And since I had been taught, by my husband who was unknowingly lying to me and struggling, that I was unable to hear Him, when my priesthood leader doubted me as well, it sent me into a faith questioning tailspin that was dark, lonely and full of doubt and despair.  That is when I began to question my faith; the church, the priesthood, the plan of salvation and even the existence of God. 

I acknowledge this is likely hard and heavy.  I feel hard and heavy.  So, I think it is important that you know where I am today and why I think it is important to acknowledge all of this.  Today I believe.  I believe in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.  I believe in the immeasurable blessing of the Atonement.  It is real and it is amazing.  I believe that when we hold ourselves accountable and do the long lasting, hard work required, we can change and we can heal.  I know that I wasn’t safe before and I never truly will be but I am always loved, seen and heard by God.  I know that the choices made by other people are not my fault and not only do I not have a responsibility to heal them or save them, I can not, for my Savior has already done that for them.  I know that I am a beautiful daughter of God and my husband is one of His cherished sons, and I love him.  I know that He is not defined by his addiction any more than my worth is defined by the choices he made.  I am pleased and satisfied with where we are now and the direction we are heading together.  And I know that if we are willing and if we listen, our Heavenly Father will use us to take what we’ve learned and teach His other children how to feel loved and heal from whatever afflictions they suffer from.  And I want to re-state, that I know that you are chosen by God at this time to be my bishop and that you love me.  I know that you were doing the best you knew how with the understanding and information you had and that you in no way, at any time, meant to hurt me or traumatize me.  I know this.  And like I said before, my only expectation is to be heard.  I don’t want to feel alone and unheard any more.  I don’t want to be scared or feel like I’m seen as a crazy, vigilante wife for saying that I am hurting.  I realize that I could have misunderstood things that were said or that happened and I know that your intention was never harm but that doesn’t negate the very real pain I feel in my heart today. 

I am ready to work through these emotions, let them go and be available for anything and everything the Lord would ask of me to do.  I acknowledge that I can’t fully do that with my broken heart.

I imagine that there may be a lot to process here and some reflection and recollection that may need to happen.  I am in no hurry, I realize that healing and learning take time.  I would be happy to talk with you about this, explain it further or apologize if I am at fault or out of line.  I do have very tender feelings about this, but I am willing to sort them out.  Please let me know if you would like to or are willing to do this. 

Faithfully,

Me

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hidden Resentments

A few weeks ago, I was talking to Paul about some of the trauma I received due to this addiction.  Not trauma directly from him, but trauma from other people who placed the responsibility to fix it on me.  People who enabled him to continue to mistreat me.  People who saw him as the victim and me as the perpetrator because I was willing to say, "I'm hurting." and then do something about it.

Paul was listening and empathizing.  It is amazing the difference recovery can make in a person.  He was listening and being awesome and supportive, right up until I said,

"I don't regret one thing I did for my recovery."

And then I felt his muscles tense.  I could feel the room change before he said a word.  My tears dried in an instant.  Instinctively I pulled away from him, searching his face, his eyes, for any clue as to what just happened.

Apparently, Paul did have regrets.  He loves where we are and isn't uncomfortable with anything I am doing today (which truthfully isn't any less than I've done at any other time in my recovery), but he feels resentful of the bloody battle that it took to get here.  Ironically, from the battle that many of our "support" caused by their enabling behaviors and advice.

As a wife, much of my recovery was learning how to release the resentments and forgive the one person who has hurt me more than anyone else in my whole life.  Apparently, many husbands' recoveries don't necessarily teach them how to identify and release the resentments caused from the blame they placed on their wife while in their addiction.  In talking to other women, I realized that these "hidden resentments" that often aren't really identified until later in recovery, have done just as much damage and caused just as much trauma along the way as the addiction itself.  While they were learning how to not act out, we were learning how to let go of resentments, which left us feeling better about them while they were still resenting us.

This addiction is nauseating.  Like for real.


We realize that his resentments really have nothing to do with me or what I've done (which is apparent when he goes through my recovery piece by piece and realizes that he doesn't resent any piece and fully sees the healing nature of each one) and everything to do with the blame that he has placed on me (like he did at times during our entire marriage) for his own negative emotions.

I get this.  It makes sense.  But, it still feels like he punched me in the face and then got angry at me for having a black eye.  So, then he punched me in the arm.

Paul now has an appointment with a therapist to do EMDR.  He realizes that his resentments are actually childhood trauma misplaced or resentments he has for himself that he blames on me.

I'm curious to see what happens with the EMDR.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Power of Emotions

I've been reminiscing with some of my besties and swapping birth stories.  We have been talking about lovely things like stitches and afterbirth pains, epidurals and nursing.  We've shared stories of love and joy and pain and puking.  I've had to dig into the vaults of my mind to tell some of my stories.  As I've looked back and thought about it, I've realized that the pain I felt in my memories of childbirth (like that time my pitocin was turned up and my epidural wasn't working) isn't something that I can relive merely by remembering it.  The event is stored in my memory and I can recall it when I think about it, but I can not cause myself to physically feel the pain that I felt in the moment that I thought, "If you handed me a gun, I'd kill myself right now."  I can remember the physical pain but I can not cause myself to feel it again……

However, the emotional pain I felt due to my husband's betrayal?  Just typing the words causes my heart to flutter.



It is a busy couple of weeks for us.  Paul is traveling quite a bit with work, which is very unusual for him.  He was gone for a couple of days, then he was home for a few, during which time I had a meeting and he took our boys to the Father and Son's campout, and then he left again for a few more days.  He was here, then gone, then here and then gone, back and forth, over and over again.  At some point in the middle, I just got angry and pushed him away, emotionally.  It was weird.  I do get a little triggered when he travels, but never like this.  When I acknowledged the craziness I felt, he was empathetic and kind, emotionally present and yet I still had a hard time engaging.  I could acknowledge that how I was feeling seemed out of context to the current situation, yet I was still feeling it.   I finally realized that the emotional disconnect that I was feeling was due to the fact that Paul was coming in and out of our daily life and that was triggering the emotions from the yo-yo period of our life.  During our marriage and especially earlier on in recovery, Paul could bounce back and forth between emotionally present and emotionally disconnected like the flip of a switch.  So now, even though he has been consistently emotionally connected and present, the physical back and forth that I was experiencing from him now triggered the same feelings that I felt from the emotional disconnection/connection that I felt back then.

Fascinating.
It really was truly fascinating to me.

I can not cause myself to feel physical pain that is stored in the recesses of my mind, but I can't prevent myself to feel and relive the emotional pain that is stored. And our emotional memory can be triggered by anything that is a reminder of when we felt that emotional pain before: a similar situation, a familiar cycle, something we see, taste or smell, even a conversation, phrase or word.

I read a study once that said that women who were in physically abusive relationships were more traumatized by the emotional abuse than the physical abuse.  They could be beaten and battered but what was truly unbearable was the fear they suffered while waiting for the next beating.  Sometimes they would even antagonize their perpetrator, just to get the beating over with and get to the honeymoon phase again….


Our emotions are a powerful force.  They can be re-felt and relived over and over again.  They can be purposely relived or come uninvited and unwanted.  They can guide us and they can paralyze us.  They can help us reach our potential and they can cripple us.

They can save us and they can end us.  


We can't change what we feel.  We can only change what we do with what we are feeling.  So this is me, working on my yo-yo trigger….

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dignity, Love and Respect

My ten year old, we'll call him Dodger, had been complaining for months about the unjust circumstances in his lunch room at school.  Honestly, at first I just brushed it off as a skewed childhood perspective, but when it continued to come up, I began to really listen.  Apparently the kids are crammed on to the tables, pressed against each other while the overflow tables are mostly bare.  Being the solution driven child that he is, he presented me with all kinds of what he considered to be viable options and solutions that would allow the kids to move their elbows while they ate.

I encouraged him to take his solutions to the lunch room teachers.

He did.

They told him no.

So I encouraged him to go to his regular teacher (whom I love), he did and she listened.  But week after week he continued to come to me and tell me how awkward and uncomfortable lunch was.  So, I encouraged him to start a petition and present it to his teacher.  He did and his teacher encouraged him to write a persuasive paper and then she'd help all the kids turn it in to the principal.  Which they did.

In the meantime, Dodger realized that if he took his time leaving recess so that he could get at the end of the lunch line, then his table would be full and he could sit, mostly alone, at the overflow table.

A brilliant, peaceful solution, if you ask me.  And it worked, right up until the lunch teachers realized that is what he was doing.  The day he came home and told me that the lunch teachers told him that they were going to start saving him a seat at his regular table so he couldn't sit at the overflow table, I was shocked.  I thought it may be time for me to get involved.

Then when he came home the next day and told me that the lunch teacher had one of his seated and eating classmates pack up his lunch and move over to the overflow table so that Dodger could take his place at his class's table, I knew it was time to get involved.  After I emailed his classroom teacher and let her know what Dodger was saying, I packed up my three year and today we went to lunch.  At school.  I stood in the cafeteria doorway and just watched.  I didn't realize this beforehand, but the lunch teachers were also the parking lot monitors so they knew who I was from the carpool line and they knew which child was mine.  The look on their faces and their whispering together made it apparent that they knew why I was there.

So I smiled.  And watched.  I watched Dodger get his lunch and meekly ask them where he should sit.  I watched them look at his crowded table, then at me and then at the overflow table.  I watched him sit at the overflow table.  I bought my daughter some lunch and we sat down next to him.  Dodger looked over at me and realized I just saw the whole thing and whispered, "Mom, I promise, they usually don't do that."  I could see the panic and crazy feeling in his eyes.

"I know", I said, "I believe you.  They did that because they saw me and they knew I was your mom."

We ate lunch together and had a great time.  As I left, his classroom teacher saw me and told me that Dodger wasn't the only one who has been mistreated, she had a class full of kids in tears the day before and she was also getting involved.

I'm not really sure what tomorrow will bring, we'll deal with that tomorrow.  But, today, my son felt heard, validated and protected.  I allowed him to do all in his power to fix and remedy the situation and then after he did all that he could and it only escalated the situation, I helped him.  I treated him with the dignity and respect he deserved as a human being.

I let him know, and the lunch teachers know, just by showing up and being present, that he was worth more than he was being treated.


When I dropped him off at school this morning, I asked him, "how do you feel when they treat you like that?", he answered, "I feel like I'm the bad guy."

(gulp.  trigger.)

"And what is your goal?  What are you trying to do?"
"I'm just trying to have room to eat my lunch."




We all deserve to be treated with dignity, love and respect.  Isn't that what we are really asking?  For room to live in peace and safety?

Please see my worth and allow it to be enough.
Please love me the way I deserve to be loved.
Please respect that my body is my own.
Please treasure me the way I deserve to be treasured.
Please listen to me and respect my needs and wishes.
Please treat me with the dignity of a human being.


This is what I am asking for today.  I don't have a protector that will scoop in and intervene when I am being abused and mistreated but I'm learning that I don't need one.  I am not a child any more and I am only at a disadvantage when I allow myself to be.



You too deserve to be treated with dignity, love and respect.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Extreme

One of the things that I have realized during recovery, is the extent of sexual trauma I have received.  I actually believe that I had decently healthy sexual ideals when I got married and even though my husband was never blatantly or aggressively sexually abusive, I still have crazy sexual trauma.  

And I hate that fact.  

It's a curious thing to me, the delicacies of a sexual relationship.

I can not think of anything in this life that has more extremes than sex.

There is nothing that can feel as physically amazing and also be as physically painful.  

There is nothing that can be as emotionally bonding and yet also be emotionally traumatic.

There is nothing that is as encouraged and also as forbidden.

Nothing that is joked about so easily and yet as uncomfortable to talk about and kept as private.  


There may be things that are more traumatic, more enjoyed or more painful, but there is nothing that encompasses so many extremes as sex.


Why is that?

In Luke 1:35, when Mary asks the angel how she will conceive the Christ child when she knows not a man, the angel answers,  "...The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God".  

This doesn't sound like sex to me.  Not the sex from this world.  I presume from this that our Heavenly Father is able to procreate and bring about children without sex. Or at least the sex that we are familiar with.  I have a hard time imagining something with such extremes, at least the negative extremes being used in our Heavenly Father's world, in our next life.

So why?  Would would something so amazing and yet so damaging be the means necessary to create and continue life?  If sex as we know it is not needed or necessary in the next life, then why is it here?


I wonder if it is to teach us the mastery of self control.


Our Father is all knowing, all powerful.  There is nothing that He can't cause to happen or facilitate.  Yet, He has given Himself His own rules to follow.  He holds His gift of our free agency so precious, that He Himself won't interfere.  He could manipulate, connive or force, yet He doesn't.  He may create situations that allow us, even force us, to choose, but He won't take that ability to choose away from us. Here He has His children, His most treasured creations, and yet He sits and comforts and cheers and guides and hopes, that we will make the choices that will allow us to return to Him.  He knows He can make that happen, but He doesn't.  He won't.

That must take some serious self control.  That must have taken some serious lessons in self restraint.


Kind of like sex.   Sex and the extremes of it and how it is viewed and encouraged by the world, has the ability to teach us some serious self restraint.  

Maybe, just maybe this is why we were given this thing that can hurt us just as easily as it could heal us.


If you have received sexual trauma from your relationship, from the one place that should have been the safest to you in the world, I am so sorry.  

I feel that pain.  

I hear you.  I see you.  You deserved better.


This too can be healed from.  I feel my heart and body healing every day.  


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Separation of Church and Recovery

April 21, 2015

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Shay.  I was married in the temple to a returned missionary.  We have been married for 18 years and have 4 children.

On January 2nd, 2013, at 11:00 pm, after looking me in the eyes and lying about it a few days before, my amazing husband confessed to viewing pornography, on a habitual basis, again.  This is when he once again went to a bishop and was helped to recognize that his patterns of sobriety and acting out over the span of our marriage, as cycles and identified it as an addiction.  This is also when my real trauma began.  I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest, torn into a million pieces and stomped on the ground.  I hadn’t been living the life I thought I had and I questioned everything I once thought to be true.  As we began therapies, support groups and 12 step programs, I fell into a deep and lonely depression.  I became withdrawn from the people in my “real” life, afraid of everyone and everything and the pain they could inflict and at times I even had thoughts of hurting myself.  I longed for a physical manifestation for the pain I felt inside.  I knew I was surrounded by people who loved me but my husband was desperate to hide his sins from those around us and so every time I reached out for love and support, it caused major discord within our relationship.  But, I knew that I could not heal alone, so I kept trying to listen to His voice and do what I felt needed to be done to heal from the trauma that was no fault of my own.  Eventually I filmed commercials for Addo Recovery and I helped form the non-profit organization The Togetherness Project, which helps women who suffer from trauma due to sexual betrayal.  As time went by, my husband’s fear over people finding out has slowly softened.  As it softens, I am able to finally get the love and support I need and heal little by little.  Two and a half years later, I am pleased to say that we are still together today and doing well.  I am still working to peel back the layers of the onion and heal from the multi-dimensional trauma I have received due to this addiction and he is working to dig at the roots that caused his addiction to begin with.  We recognize that life is fragile and can change at any moment, but we are both working hard to heal individually and to heal our marriage.

During the course of our marriage, we have had the opportunity to work with many bishops as a result of this addiction.  I have worked with many good men, who I feel were unprepared to deal with the delicacies of this addiction.  I feel like many of my interactions with my bishops have created more traumas for me to heal from.  I fully acknowledge that they tried their best, but I have left most of the  interactions with my bishops and stake president feeling alone, not as important and as if I had fault in my husband’s addiction or a responsibility to help him heal at the expense of my own healing. One bishop told my husband they should meet on a regular basis so I could “feel better”, as if just the act of meeting was enough.  It was never discussed what he could do to help me heal but only assumed that the 10 minute meeting itself should be enough to heal me.  I felt very patronized. 

With the exception of one bishop, one time, that had my husband refrain from the sacrament for a couple of weeks, my husband was never reprimanded.  My husband would confess to habitually lying to his wife and breaking sacred covenants over the span of years, repeatedly on a cyclic basis, and was told, “thank you for coming in and telling me, go and sin no more”  There was never any kind of reprimand or restitution or even a conversation about the seriousness of the nature of the sin.  The last time he confessed to years of lying and acting out cycles he was even given the ok to baptize our son one month later.  He was told to “Read your scriptures, go to the temple with your wife” and you’ll be fine.  But, I wasn’t fine.  I was shattered.  I was traumatized.  My heart and self worth were decimated.  Never once was I told that I was worth more than I had been treated, by anyone.  I felt so unloved and so unworthy of love. When I tried to help the bishops see this damage, I left most of the meetings feeling like I was the problem.  Like there was something wrong with me.  As I participated in therapies, regained my identity as I attended conferences and filmed commercials, I even had one bishop tell me that I was moving too fast.  I left the meeting feeling like me healing too fast was the problem.  He told me that I was going 70 miles per hour and my husband was only going 30, and if I didn’t slow down, I would break up my marriage.  I was dying inside because of how I’d been treated.  How I’d been lied too, manipulated and used, in unspeakable ways, and what he told me was that if I healed “too fast” I would be the one responsible for the break up of my marriage.  The difference in our speeds very well could have broken up our marriage, but that wouldn’t have been my fault, it would have been due to the addiction.  He placed the responsibility of the consequences of my husband’s sins, on me.  Never was my husband held accountable for his actions.  Never was he told that he better jump on board and work to repair what he had shattered or our marriage might not make it.  Never was he told, ever, by anyone, that I was worth more than he had treated me.

I began to lose faith in the gospel and particularly in the priesthood.  I had been let down and betrayed by so many men who were supposed to love me and see my worth and value as a Daughter of God.  I had to go back to the beginning and redefine my faith.  I had to redefine gospel, doctrine, culture, priesthood, faith and worth.  I went through a dark and lonely time.  It was so lonely.  I am happy with the direction I am going but I feel I could have gotten there with love, compassion, support and validation as well. 

I have met with my bishop and stake president many times.  I have tried to share resources and support with them and have even offered to be there for other women.  I have left most of the meetings feeling like I was crazy, like I was stepping out of bounds, like I was over-reacting or I was doing it wrong.  I feel like I’m viewed as an unstable vigilante just for saying that I am hurting and for trying to share resources.  I even invited our regional authority to a weekend retreat I hosted for women who suffer from betrayal trauma, so that he could hear our stories and learn better ways to support us and I never even heard back from him.  He lives 5 minutes away from me.  I finally gave up.  I’ve decided that church is a place to go to worship God, but not necessarily the place to heal and share resources. I’ve been so hurt by how I feel I’ve been treated in the place that I once viewed as one of the safest places in the world.  My church.  I know that my Heavenly Father is aware of the pain of his precious daughters.  The most validating response I’ve ever received was the response I received from a member of the quorum of the twelve when I emailed him.  His reply kept me returning to church week after week while I felt so unloved and so unheard.  I know that our pain is felt and seen and I wish we could find some way to help our local leaders feel and understand that.

I believe in a merciful God.  There aren’t words to express my gratitude for His Son Jesus Christ and the miracles His sacrifice have allowed in my life.  I know He is real and He is here.  I know I am loved.  I know that church is a place for sinners to heal and walk together.  Right now, I have to separate the two, church and healing, in order to prevent more traumas, but I hope and long for the day that this changes.  I have faith that it will. 

Thank you for taking the time to listen to my story.  It is healing just to be heard.

With Love,

Shay 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Determining Worthiness

I had a hard time sleeping last night.  My dreams were plagued with danger and fears.  Anxiety ridden situations where I was frenzied to protect my family and children while everyone else just stood back and watched.  Quite often, my dreams are one of my first indications of the muffled screaming of my soul….


I feel like my heart is breaking all over again, yet Paul and I are doing well.  But, I think I'm finally feeling safe enough to do things like freak out, and I mean really freak out (which I never had the luxury of doing before- that's something that has only been afforded to me through a semblance of safety) and ask simple, petty and mundane requests (its amazing how his acceptance and compliance of this request reaches in to the hidden cracks of my heart and heals me little by little).

The things I'm struggling with now are not how I'm being treated but how I was treated.  Things like how he was offended by the whole thing , Paul's lack of accountability and consequences with our religious leadership and how I was/have been/am being? treated by my priesthood leadership.  My heart aches every time I hear of a bishop encouraging a wife to attend the temple with her husband, while he is in the office confessing to his latest acting out session.

WHY??  How in the world can this be ok?

When my husband confessed to the bishop in January of 2013, he was told to go to the temple and take the sacrament.  He was even given the ok to baptize our son a few weeks later.

A few weeks later.

Luckily, I had already pushed back the baptism a couple of months for family reasons.  I can't imagine the trauma I would have sustained while watching him baptize our son while I was still thinking of driving my car into a ditch….

When I went in and questioned the bishop on his reasons for what I saw as a lack of accountability and insufficient time for proper repentance, I was told that he felt my husband needed to take the sacrament and go to the temple to heal.  

President Hinckley said,
"To secure a temple recommend, the receiver must also have demonstrated his eligibility, and that eligibility is based on personal worthiness. Once granted, it is not in place forever, but must be reissued each year. Furthermore, it is subject to forfeiture if the holder does anything which would disqualify him for its privileges...
Each of our temples has on its face the statement, “Holiness to the Lord,” to which I should like to add the injunction “Keep His House Holy!”
I submit that every man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood has an obligation to see that the House of the Lord is kept sacred and free of any defilement. This obligation rests primarily and inescapably upon the shoulders of bishops and stake presidents. They become the judges of worthiness concerning those eligible to enter the temple. Additionally, each of us has an obligation—first, as to his own personal worthiness, and secondly as to the worthiness of those whom he may encourage or assist in going to the House of the Lord…
As you know, it is expected that everyone who applies for a temple recommend will be asked certain specific questions to determine his or her worthiness. It goes without saying that there must be total honesty on the part of those who are interrogated...
Some of these questions are specific in their nature. These concern such things as tithing and the Word of Wisdom...Honesty with others... is likewise a requirement…
The temple recommend which you carry, if honestly obtained, is certification of your moral worthiness. It is inconceivable to think that a man who is a philanderer and unfaithful to his wife would consider himself eligible for the temple. It goes without saying that none such should be given a recommend...
In closing, I repeat that this recommend which I have and which so many of you have is a precious and wonderful thing. It makes one eligible for an exclusive and remarkable privilege—the privilege of entering that House which says on its wall, “Holiness to the Lord—the House of the Lord.” Live worthy to serve in that House. Keep it holy. Do your part to keep from the Lord’s House any unclean or defiling influence or person."
It would seem from this talk that going to the temple to heal, appears to me to be a direct contradiction to President Hinckley's temple direction.
Sending a betrayed and traumatized wife to the temple with her husband is no different than asking a woman to attend the temple (her safe and sacred place) with the stranger who raped her, shot her or murdered her family.  Actually, it is different, it's worst, because the perpetrator in her case in not a stranger, it is the one person who was supposed to love and protect her above all else.  And if her husband is sitting in the office confessing his sin, then she is at that moment being raped, shot and watching her family be murdered.  It is asking her to forgive at one of the most intimate levels, the person who is still abusing her, while she is being abused.

If I gave my child a car, and he continually wrecked it and broke the law, but felt sorry about it, would I continue to buy him more cars?  No, I'd allow him sufficient time to learn a better way and prove he could be trusted with the car.

Likewise, if a man walked into a bishop's office, high on meth and confessed his drug habit, repeatedly, would he be allowed to go to the temple with his wife or bless his child?  I doubt it.  So then what if he also confessed to repeatedly injecting his wife while she slept?  Would she then be told to forgive him, go to the temple with him and continue to sleep with him without any proof whatsoever from him that she was now safe, other than his word?

I seriously doubt it.

I believe that when a man (or woman) walks into a bishop's (or stake president's) office and confesses a sin, any sin, and that president leader bases his rightful judgement or advice based on the remorse he sees sitting him front of him, rather than holding him accountable for the full process of repentance, he has enabled the sinner and discredited and disregarded the victims of the sin.  

Dobble Addy recently directed me to the steps necessary for true repentance from President Kimball:

"1. Sorrow for sin. To be sorry for our sin we must know something of its serious implications...  We are willing to make amends, pay penalties, to suffer even to excommunication if necessary.

2. Abandonment of sin. It is best when one discontinues his error because of his realization of the gravity of his sin and when he is willing to comply with the laws of God. The thief may abandon his evil in prison, but true repentance would have him forsake it before his arrest and return his booty without enforcement. The sex offender who voluntarily ceases his unholy practices is headed toward forgiveness.

Alma said, “Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble” (Alma 32:16).

The discontinuance must be a permanent one. True repentance does not permit repetition. The Lord revealed this to the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning repentance: “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43).

3. Confession of sin. The confession of sin is an important element in repentance. Many offenders have seemed to feel that a few prayers to the Lord were sufficient. They have thus justified themselves in hiding their sins.

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

4. Restitution for sin. When one is humble in sorrow, has unconditionally abandoned the evil, and confessed to those assigned by the Lord, he should next restore insofar as possible that which was damaged


5. Do the will of the Father."


President David O. McKay said,
“It is not uncommon for people to have remorse for mistakes made, for follies and sins committed, but to have no turning away from such frailties and evils. They may even feel penitent; but ‘penitence,’ we are told, ‘is transient, and may involve no change of character or conduct.’ Repentance, on the other hand, ‘is sorrow for sin with self-condemnation, and complete turning away from the sin.’ It is, therefore, more than mere remorse; ‘it comprehends a change of nature’” (Gospel Ideals [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953], p. 13).



I believe that any time a grave sin is committed, especially on a continual basis, one that is in direct violation of sacred temple covenants, an honest and thorough assessment of worthiness, from the individual and their priesthood leadership should be made.  It should be based on the steps of repentance above.  I believe that any time we act as God's proxy in performing His service to His children, either through the power of the priesthood or through our temple service and attendance, a worthiness standard should be met.  If it is not met, it should be revoked until it can be met, not necessarily as a punishment for the human sinner, but rather as a respect to the receiver of the service of God's privilege and power.  

It is not a punishment for a man or woman to have sacred privileges revoked, but rather a consequence of their own behaviors and actions in order to keep the receiver of God's power and privileges safe.  

The justice scale is a delicate one. It's unfortunate that when mercy is extended to one, an injustice may be served to another. 

In my heart of hearts I am struggling with the lack of consequences afforded to my husband.  I believe this enabled him to continue in his broken ways and thought patterns and I was furthered traumatized by this while we were seeking recovery.  I believe that my husband's lack of consequences and the fact that he continued to be "offended by the whole thing" are intricately tied together.  I believe that when my bishop failed to issue consequences related to my husband's behaviors and when a different bishop told me that if I continued to heal faster than my husband that I risked the breakdown of my marriage and that would be my responsibility, that my husband took this advice and judgment as a justification for his current behaviors and treatment towards me and I received further trauma, on top of the trauma sustained from the advice and treatment of my leaders.  

And this is what I'm digging at now.  Realizing that I still have trauma to heal from even though I currently feel safe, maybe because I do feel safe, that could have been prevented had the bishop looked Paul in the eye and said, 

"Do you feel worthy to baptize your son?
Do you feel worthy to enter the temple?
Do you feel worthy to take the sacrament?
Because I'm not so sure.  I think out of respect to the people who you love and serve, a period of proving and sobriety are appropriate."

And…

"It looks like your wife is moving faster than you.  This has the potential to break up your marriage.  You may want to think about whether there is anything you can do or change in your thought pattern or behavior to prevent this."

Maybe if there were natural consequences for lying and porn use, the abuser would take it more seriously.  It feels to me like the commonality and vastness of the sin is often more of a factor in determining worthiness than the nature of the sin.  I think the church should have a more universal standard to help our bishops deal with this, because at the end of the day, even through all of the trauma I've sustained, my heart aches for them.  This must be so hard for them as well. 

I'm so glad I'm not a bishop.  And I pray for them all every day.