My heart won’t stop hurting. I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that Kate Kelly and John Dehlin have been summoned to church court for their activities related to the Ordain Women movement and the Mormon LGBT movement. I’m not upset because I’m an ardent supporter of either movement. I’m upset because I firmly believe that every Saint deserves to have a voice in our community. I’m upset because I am so grateful to people like Kate and John who are willing to say “dangerous” things out loud, when so many of us want to, but are too afraid to. I’m upset because of the atmosphere of fear that enters into our faith community when this sort of thing happens. What can I safely say? What causes dear to my heart will be “approved” by my respected church leaders? Do I trust my own spirit to hear and interpret the voice of the Holy Spirit, or do I leave that solely to my leaders, who I am sure listen to the same Spirit? What do I do when those spiritual interpretations collide? This sort of conundrum causes all sorts of self doubt. Some walk. Sometimes I wonder if the best of us walk, and if my choice to stay is foolish or faithful. I’ll say it right here at the start, though: despite all its man-made quirks and flaws, I love the Church and am convinced it holds the power of full salvation. So I stay. But right now, it just hurts. Continue reading
When my husband Chris and I were dating he sent me a love note with this observation of my character. He wrote, “You are always striving for excellence and never quite attaining it.”
Happily, I knew already knew that Chris was a very literal person and what he probably meant was something more along the lines of “You do ambitious things with enthusiasm and still want to improve beyond that.”
But Chris’s first version was right, too. I know I am incapable of doing things quite as well as I hope to do them. All of us who are disciples of Jesus, if we are honest, are in the same predicament. We make covenants – and we’re still not as “excellent” at keeping them as we’d like to be. Continue reading
No tragedy is more horrifying than violence perpetrated by humans against fellow humans. That any thinking, feeling person could actively wish to maim or kill another is unimaginable–soul-sickening, even. Could there be any greater tragedy than a life purposely cut short?
This past week alone, over 100 people died during attacks at the Iraq provincial election, several children were beaten into a coma at a Russian orphanage, and two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead by the Israeli military. And on Monday, three people were killed (and over 170 were injured) in the Boston Marathon bombing. Continue reading
A blogger I follow recently wrote for the first time about the abuse she experienced growing up. For 30 years she’s managed to shove it beneath the surface of her life without ever talking about it or addressing it. And she has done an amazing job of it. Despite those damaging experiences, she is a happily married mother, a successful medical doctor, and a witty and gifted writer. But the past finally caught up with her and through a series of unexpected events involving helping an exchange student, she recently found herself no longer able to avoid venturing into the murky, uncharted waters of her past.
Venturing in is terrifying. It’s painful. And it’s scary to let oneself be vulnerable, but it is absolutely requisite for healing. I know, because I’ve been there myself.
I rarely comment on blog posts, but I felt like I should respond to her courageous post with some of my thoughts. Little did I know how much they’d resonate with her. That she’d print them out and highlight parts and carry them around with her. That when she wakes up in the night in a panic, she’d reread those words to calm herself down. She shared how much she appreciated the support and insights as she embarks on this path.
She is not LDS, in fact I believe she’s an atheist, so my comments don’t get into the role the atonement plays in overcoming hard things, but I know there are countless people who’ve had similar struggles, who may be in need of a boost right now. So it is with that premise that I share the comment I wrote to her that day. And I apologize for its length, but I felt impressed that this is a discussion that may benefit some readers of this blog, too.
You’ve been in my RSS feed for years and years, and I almost never comment. But these two posts merit it. I just didn’t have sufficient time when I read your first one.
I’m probably just a little bit ahead of you, on the same road. I felt paranoid for years that if people knew about my past, that it would mean all the horribleness I had inside me would be actually true. That I was really just an impostor in my own life, faking being awesome (and doing a poor job of it mostly).
I’d spent considerable energy growing up trying to be accepted, to figure out how to be popular, become someone else–anyone else–just as long as it wasn’t “that girl”, the one that had experienced those things. I was in huge denial about my reality. Experiencing these things resulted in me being one of those easy-targets at school and elsewhere, including my church. I didn’t know why my peers were so mean. They just were. One therapist explained that kids are like sharks…they smell blood in the water and sense an easy target; going in for the kill is almost instinctual. Maybe that’s it, but either way, between home, school and church I was neglected, abused, bullied, beat up, ridiculed and shunned as a kid. Early on I came to believe I was as ugly and worthless as “they” claimed.
But I survived, and once I left home I met a really wonderful guy and while he seemed to be aware of a lot of my loose ends, he truly loved me anyway (we’ve been together for 25 years now). For the first time I had a relationship that was “safe”, and thus I was able to stop expending energy trying to maintain my facade, and use it to start healing.
Over time, I have learned that not all therapists are created equal. It took seeing about ten of them over the past 25 years to realize that. I didn’t know how helpful a therapist could be til I found one that actually was, and that has made ALL the difference. I’m growing and healing so much faster now. There is an end in sight to all of this. In the past I talked for the 50 minutes, paid my $100 and left. There wasn’t a whole lot of insight or progress and I assumed I’d probably need help forever. Find a therapist who does more than listen and ask how does that make you feel? A good girlfriend will do that for you for free
Writing, especially in your case where you’ve been doing so anonymously all these years, should be really helpful not only to you, but to a number of your myriad readers. And that feels REALLY great, to know that some good will come out of this by way of helping other people get through their own pain. You’ve already experienced a taste of that with the exchange student. You are brave and strong and good and amazing and funny and talented and have an excellent support network, so I’m confident you will be able to go through this journey and emerge stronger and even more amazing, with wisdom and perspective to help others you encounter. It won’t make the bad stuff good, but it creates beauty from ashes.
Life isn’t fair. Sometimes it’s sad. Not just for people who’ve been abused, but for every one of us. Learning to take the sad moment and grieve the pain, but not let it become a cesspool you hang out in, is one of the keys. What we dwell on, we dwell in. So give yourself the moment, cry the tears, allow the pain to vent, and carry on. It’s part of the grieving process…which is really what this is all about; acknowledging what happened, how it has made you feel and impacted your life, putting things in perspective, letting go and moving forward.
Sounds easy on paper. It’s actually a cyclical journey that takes time, with progress and setbacks all along the way. But meanwhile you are making the world a better place just by being in it and not perpetuating those things upon the next generation.
The thing that tipped me, that finally gave me the courage to address my own past, was Jeanette Wall’s best-selling memoir The Glass Castle. It kind of gave me a map. Before reading it, I thought that if my past were true, (ie: if I acknowledged it), it would mean I really was damaged goods, worthless, and no one would want to be friends with me. I didn’t want to be labeled victim. I didn’t want to hang out with victims or be classified as in that “group”. I didn’t want that to become my identity.
But when I read her story, I closed the book wishing we were real life friends. I didn’t view her as a victim, or surviver, or anything other than one dang amazingly cool person that I’d really enjoy knowing and being friends with. And then it occurred to me that maybe that’s how others would feel about me. That I wouldn’t have to be known as a “surviver of abuse”. So it changed my life, reading her story. I hope that I can share my own story someday, and if it helps even one other person heal the way Mrs. Wall’s book helped me, it’ll have been worth it.
Here are links to a few things I had never learned about that were complete surprises to me: Boundaries. Hadn’t really heard about them, nor were they in place in my life–that’s been a huge one. Co-dependence…which is when I allow someone else’s behavior to dictate my own…was also huge. The Drama Triangle–learning about it enabled me to stop playing the game. And finally, Detachment, and forming healthy attachments. These ideas are all connected, and there is an abundance of information about all of them a google-search away. The goal is to be a healthy, kind, loving person. There were some skills and information I needed to acquire to get there, and these are a few of the main ones.
Thanks for sharing your story, and for being beautiful and good and strong even though you had a crap hand dealt to you as a kid. That isn’t who you are and doesn’t have to define you. And this will be one of those things that, someday, is a mere blip in your life…just like high school was actually just one piece in the puzzle of your life. It probably seemed so HUGE! and SIGNIFICANT! when you were in it, but looking back, it’s now something you sum up in a sentence or two. It’s not who you are. All of these are just experiences that impacted you in various ways, but they don’t define you in the long run.
Thanks for the inspiration you’ve given me all these years, and hang in there. The light will come!
This is a big topic, and we can continue the discussion in future posts if there is interest. Do you have any thoughts or insights you’d like to share? Are there any ideas you’d like to delve into more? Have you or someone you know struggled with similar things?
Allison Mitton received a BA in English language from Brigham Young University and an MA in publishing and writing from Emerson College in Boston. While in Boston, she developed a great love for poetry, printmaking, Salman Rushdie, and all things nautical. Though recently relocated to Seattle, Allison still harbors a not-so-secret desire to move to Rhode Island and set up a printmaking shop in a barn overlooking the sea. If so inclined, you can blog stalk her at amittonmonologue.blogspot.com.
Last Christmas, my mother gave each of her children a copy of Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. She told us it was a book that meant a great deal to her, and that it contains a powerful message of hope and love and forgiveness. It was one of many books I received for Christmas that year, and when I returned home to Boston I added it to my ever-growing collection. Then I promptly forgot about it.
Soon after my return, I began to feel some anger toward one of my good friends. We had been close friends for a while, but a series of very minor events aggravated me. Though he never did anything intentionally hurtful, I felt like he sometimes took advantage of our friendship, and I resented him for it. Continue reading