When You Have No Idea What Is Real

When You Have No Idea What Is Real

What is the best way to keep torture and abuse secret? Convince the victim that she won’t be trusted because she doesn’t perceive anything clearly anyway. Teach her from the very beginning that she sees things upside down and inside out, and scramble her brain so that she can’t ever trust her eyes or her ears or her skin or her heart. In addition to not trusting herself, teach her to trust no one but the abusers. Teach her that everyone else is bad, especially people who try to reach out to her. They are up to no good. They can’t be up to any good if they want to befriend her. She’s an untrustworthy piece of trash. Then she will be glued to you for the rest of her life, because you tell her what is up and what is down, and she can’t trust anyone else.

Wait. This sounds like a cult. Or my life.

Why can’t I trust my experience? Why can’t I believe what others tell me? Why can’t I believe all of the signs right in front of my face? When will I ever be able to really experience reality? How does one go about un-brainwashing herself? My therapist said today that of all of the horrible, unthinkable things done to me, the brainwashing was the most horrific. I can see how that could be true. It undermines and unearths every encounter and every experience that I face today. The doubt and distrust of my own experience are so intertwined into the core of who I am that I have no idea how I could ever really validate my life.

How can I acknowledge even what is empirically validated in my medical history: The things that have tests and doctors’ notes to prove that they actually occurred?   I may or may not have broken my hip during college, and the doctor claimed that the break was obvious on the x-ray, that there was bone dying, and that I had to go into surgery immediately. I was and still am somewhat confident that I managed to do a Jedi-mind trick on him, causing him to see a break that wasn’t there. After almost twenty years of having a consistent diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa, I remain convinced that I tricked doctors and therapists into believing that I had a condition that I really did not have. In the face of layers and layers of evidence of abuse, I cannot reconcile myself with the events that haunt my waking and sleeping moments.  I cannot believe that they are true.  I can’t believe anything about myself, not even the things that seem unequivocally unquestionable.

With this in mind, how can I even begin to consider my internal, subjective experience legitimate? How can I validate my emotions, beliefs, and interactions with God? How can I nurture my heart and mind through prayer and reflection if I can’t find my way up, down, left, or right on a legitimate map? I feel horribly, irrevocably stuck.

I do know that God claims to perform miracles, and I may or may not have experienced quite a few of those miracles in my life. Thus, I can ask Him to heal my mind that feels like it is caving in on its own existence.

Lord, don’t allow my brain to implode with this self-doubt, self-hate, and total distrust of everything and everyone. Please let me learn how to believe you first, and then help me to believe myself. Please show me the world in its truest colors and re-write my narrative through your lens of truth, grace, and love. I know that you created me. We can start there. I think also that you love me and can redeem me. So please, plow the soil my mind and my memories and plant your word and your truth. I believe that only a supernatural power such as yours can restore such a deeply broken sense of self. I am ready. Lets begin.

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Redemption

Redemption

I don’t know how to untangle the threads of my childhood. There are good elements and bad elements. Everyone has that. Obviously, there is good and bad in peoples’ lives, and they don’t just discard all of the good because they have had bad stuff. People pour positive and negative experiences into our lives constantly. No relationship is void of negative interactions. We are only human.

For some reason, however, I am having a terribly difficult time not throwing the baby out with the bathwater of my childhood. The bathwater being the terrible, torturous, satanic and sexual traumas that I so hazily remember. Maybe the difficulty lies in the fact that there is such a cloudy haze that has settled on the memories. They all seem to bleed into one another, so there is no distinct line between the good stuff and the bad stuff. The other thing that is so difficult to reconcile with is that the memories seem so incredibly contradictory. Okay. So satanic stuff, blood running down the walls, and groups of demons and darkness alongside of Bible stories and hymns? How does that happen? Is it even possible? Yes, anything is possible, but could I please meet someone who has experienced something similar? Does such a person even exist? Like parents who praise Jesus by day and Satan by night? Really? I find this scenario highly unlikely, in any case, including my own.

So here’s the deal: How do I come to a place of re-inventing or re-integrating my relationship with God into my current healthier, not traumatic life? How do I help my children learn about Jesus and scripture without dragging myself through the memories that seem to be hitchhiking on the backs of the Bible verses and Christian hymns? I don’t want to relive the trauma, but I wonder if that is what I have to do in order to move forward with my faith and my ability to facilitate my children in their faith.   And can I just accept that some level of Christian teaching and also Satanic ritual abuse co-existed in the same household?   This is a really tough pill to swallow. Like seriously, a pill the size of a dinosaur.

I don’t want to hate the Bible. I don’t want to question the validity of every passage and feel lightning bolts of anger shoot through my body when I read the Psalms. I don’t want to be swept into flashback when I stand in church and sing a beautiful hymn of the faith. I don’t want to feel the terror of thinking that I may be turning into my mother when I talk to my children about Jesus. Lots of mothers talk to their children about Jesus and don’t turn around and abuse them at night. Just because my mother did that does not mean that Christianity is a trap. I feel like these statements are so obvious that the act of writing them down is absurd. But they are far from intuitive for me. I want my children to know Jesus. I want them to experience the beauty of liturgy and celebrate the joy of knowing their Maker and Savior. They deserve to know Him and love Him for who He is and to be unencumbered by my wrestling-match with Him. That’s my deal.

I pulled out The Jesus Storybook Bible today and began to read it out loud to my children. That book is new to me, so it holds no baggage. It presents the Bible stories in words that do not carry haunting images or messages with them. My children are still too young to fully grasp the stories, but I would like to begin to absorb the simplicity of the truth that they carry and let my children witness the process. They will grow into it too. So we are starting there. Same message, but different words. Hopefully, the ghosts of my childhood will not hitchhike on the backs of these stories. Maybe I can read them with fresh eyes. Maybe I can approach God as an unadulterated and pure child, no longer jaded and cynical. And maybe it will also take wading (or swimming) through the muck of the abuse and working to untangle the knots of my past. Oh, God, lead me to the path of healing so that I can nurture and love my sweet babies in wholeness and abundance in You.

Family Estrangement

My fingers linger above the keyboard, waiting for direction. I hesitate, sigh, and hover in silence- that heavy, loaded silence that screams louder than words. People ask me how I’m doing, and my lips turn to lead. I want the words purged, but I don’t want to have to utter them. I want an easier way, any way, but this is the only way.
Estrangement. I am the estranged daughter. An orphan of my own choosing. It is a strong statement to say that being cut off from your parents is healthier than being in relationship with them. Admitting that the relationship is more damaging than it is helpful and stepping out of it. And all I can do is feel sorry for them. I have taken away their grandchildren. Placing over a thousand miles between us was not sufficient. The guilt is all-engulfing. I try not to think about it, not to enter into their thoughts. They are magnets, however, and my brain is drawn to them.
Before the total cut off, I was Pinocchio, a real boy, but still connected to the strings. It was time to cut the strings. There was no question. It didn’t feel like a choice. I had to do it, for safety and sanity. I’ve cut the strings, however, and they are still in my head. They are still tugging and pulling, and I am still responding, giving them what they want. Or are they now phantom-strings, like phantom limbs? I feel guilty even calling them strings, saying that my parents did something wrong. I owe them so much. They helped me so much. Well, financially.
I also feel like I should be grieving, but I am not. I have not shed a single tear. I feel no loss or sadness. Maybe I feel sadness out of empathy for them. I never felt affection for them. Only fear and a deep, desperate desire to please. My greatest goal in life was to please them, and in time, that goal became directly conflictual with my role as a wife and mother. I had to choose, and I chose my children and husband. The strong, healthy choice. But why am I not grieving? Why, in place of tears, do I heave the most massive sigh of relief that I have ever breathed? I would like to believe that it is because I made the wisest choice.
It was a choice birthed out of deeper pursuit of God and clearing out space for His voice, so I am trying to trust the process without guilt and shame. It is just a terribly painful, guilt-ridden process.

God is the Ruler Yet

As a child, I clung to music as my lifeline in the midst of unlivable situations.  My family had two lives.  One was Satanic.  The other was Christian.  I find this incredibly difficult to reconcile.  I assume that the church-going, Bible-thumping lifestyle was a mask for the dark nightlife for my parents. For me, however, Christ held me together.  Hymns and worship songs were my mind and soul glue for as far back as I can remember.  I was driving to therapy this morning, listening to a Pandora station, when an old hymn popped up. It was re-written with a more contemporary flare, but it whisked me straight back to age four or five.  I remember, as a child, weeping when I listened to this song on my children’s worship cassette tape.

The soul houses a language that goes oh so much deeper than mere human words can extend, and I believe that music reaches just a little bit deeper into our hearts.  There are ancient harmonies that, I believe, predate the creation of this planet, that our immortal souls ache for.   This is only a theory that I have, though I probably derived it in part from the great Madeline L’Engle.

Nevertheless, while listening to my Pandora station, “This is My Father’s World” began to play.  In my heart, a cacophony of grief, joy, comfort, agony, anger, and gratitude erupted.  How could all of this be sparked by one simple hymn? I tried desperately in that moment to figure out how as I child I could have experienced such heights of spiritual rapture and depths of demonic torment even within the same 24-hour period.  As I was wondering this, I heard the line, “This is my Father’s world, oh let me never forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”

The wrong was strong.  It was so strong.  It almost killed me.  It tried to steal my soul and rip apart my brain, but God is the Ruler yet.  Still.  Even in the face of crazy terrible evil.  Somehow, He is still good.  He still loves me.  He is still all-powerful.  One day, I will understand.  One day, I will see it clearly.  One day, light will destroy the dark.  One day, right will un-do wrong.  One day, death will be no more.  Somehow, in the midst of all of this, God is the Ruler yet.  I don’t get it, not it all.  But I know.  I know that He is the Ruler because the ancient harmonies are still being sung. I could hear them when evil people were trying to destroy me, and I can still hear them.

“This Is My Father’s World”

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears, all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres. 

This is my  Father’s world: I rest me in the thought of rock and trees, of skies and seas; His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, the morning bright, the Lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world.  He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass. He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world; Oh let me never forget, that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. 

This is my Father’s world;  Why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King, let the heavens ring! God reigns, let earth be glad!