Today’s guest post comes from Leslie Nelson. A dog, five kids, and a husband keep Leslie very busy. To keep her sanity she also reads, plays chess, and blogs at http://lesliesillusions.
One Sunday, I decided to go to Relief Society. Yes, decided; it was a measured decision I made weekly whether or not to go. Being the ward librarian gave me a bit of leeway. I thought about it carefully each week, considered the lesson title and wondered if going would cause me more pain.
I know pain is not a word that most sisters would associate with Relief Society, at least I hope not, but so it is for me. I am working with a therapist to heal from years of childhood sexual abuse. I wish I could just forget it and move on, but the healing process doesn’t work that way. One cannot just let go the pain of abuse any more than one could just let go of cancer.
Quite often at church seemingly innocent things hurt me. For example, once in Relief Society I was given a quote to read. It was something about the importance of family, how it is something we all long for. My husband and children are wonderful, and yet I am still haunted by the pain of the past. I am only now allowing myself to grieve for the lack of love I felt as a child. I held that quote in my hands and looked at it as the urge to crumple it up grew within me. When the tears were too close, I handed it to the sister next to me and fled to the bathroom to cry.
I’ve spent many Sundays crying in the bathroom. That last Sunday in Relief Society turned out to be another. The Presidency lesson was on Christ and becoming more Christ-like. This is a lesson that I would have loved in the past. I agreed with Pres. Spencer W. Kimball who said, “No matter how much we speak of Him, it is never enough.” Now though, I cringed. I feel such shame because of what happened to me as a child. My mind tells me it is completely illogical, but my heart does not care. We are counseled not to watch R-rated movies, and yet I have X-rated memories. How can I not feel shame?
I sat there listening to the lesson and becoming more and more uncomfortable. There was a musical number, “If the Savior Stood Beside Me”. I could not fathom the Savior standing beside me because of the shame that I feel. I hoped that perhaps He understood and could bless me in some other way. The tears came as I wondered, if that were the case, would I feel so alone in His church?
I managed to wait until the end of the song, but then I fled. I went to the bathroom and sobbed. Desperately not wanting to be alone, I returned to Relief Society. Afterwards, I walked across the room and asked my friend in the Relief Society presidency to give me a hug. Then I went to find my family.
All those sisters listened to a lesson about being more Christ-like. Most of them know I am going through a hard time. Most of them saw me crying as I left (from the front row) and returned. Most of them saw me give a tearful hug to my friend. And yet, none offered a hug or asked “Are you ok?” No one called me during the week. No one emailed. No one visited.
The two years I have been in therapy have been the loneliest of my life. My ward members know I am struggling. Often members see my husband at his job and ask him how I am doing. But they never ask me. I suppose they all think someone else will do something. Someone else will say something.
I don’t go to Relief Society any more. I dread Sundays, but through it all, I find some comfort in the Savior’s experience in Gethsemane. While He suffered pain far greater than my own, His friends slept too.