Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Help Will Come

D & C 68: 6
Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus  Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.

Help Will Come

No matter how alone you feel
Or, in truth, you may well be
Or how you cry out in your soul
For one to trust continually.

No matter how you search and look
And still there is no-one
Have faith, be still, do not lose hope
For always, help will come.

The source, each different, yet the same
The Lord works through the ones who will
Each help made equal to each need
Shows us the Lord is faithful still.

He sends one soul to listen well
Another to suggest
And when there's no-one to give hope
By His help we'll be blessed.

So though heart, faith and hope are tired
And still you have no-one
Have faith, be still, do not give up
And hope, for help will come.

Coming from the family problems that so dominated my life, I do not and have not had the family support that I watch so many others regularly fall back on. All the same, there has always been the help needed when something was beyond my own capabilities. Sometimes I could talk to one friend or another, sometimes I happened across a random reference that helped me understand, sometimes a random stranger appeared more than willing to help, sometimes  my dreams would give me perspective, sometimes it was simply a blessing of peace. But I was never left alone by Heavenly Father. And I promise that so long as you want Him there, He will never leave you alone either. He does not always give the answer we want as quickly as we want, but He will always be there to give us the help we need.

Thoughts on Escaping an Abusive Environment, Part 2

I hope Part 1 helped you understand that even if you haven't personally experienced emotional, psychological abuse, that it is still a horrible reality with terrible results for others. I had not intended to do this in two parts but setting the stage is critical to begin such a discussion on such a topic and required enough space that a single post would be far less effective. Having primed the subject, now I turn to my notes and thoughts on what is needed to escape an abusive environment. These thoughts are taken from my escape, my mom's inability to escape, and observing and considering the happenings and implications of culture and others' experiences.

Before the idea of escape is even possible, there must be a vocabulary that allows understanding, awareness, social acknowledgment, and dialogue of the realities of the existence and nature of such abuses. This is, in part, why it's so critical to talk about it. Having been so trapped, I am always concerned and a bit agitated when all the conversation goes to physical and sexual abuse. I in no way mean to negate that need, but it puts me in mind of the family who addresses all their concern for one child's health problems to the detriment of the others'.

Until there is a general awareness that there is a problem, those so trapped will be as I was when daring to speak out about it as I wrote in part 1. And even then, I only spoke because I hurt - because my identity and psyche were being so damaged I didn't know how to survive it. So I asked for help from the hurt and the hurting was scorned. I didn't know what was wrong or why or that there was anything to be done about it.

If society can't conceive or won't admit that there is wrong, how will an embattled child know they have a right to better treatment? Especially when the abuser is telling them, convincing them, that they are less human, less worthy. Have you never heard of a victim told that the life the abuser has 'given' them is better than they could hope for anywhere else? Because it's already more than they're worth being given? The victim must know that respect for self and choice and ability are expected and honored and that despite the abuser's claims, the victim has that same right as the members of that family up the street that actually loves and respects each others' existence.

Sometimes victims get stuck in the same pride that others face. They want to believe that they couldn't have fallen for the lies and are stronger than those who get manipulated. Sometimes they think they can shield others in the family by pretending it isn't happening or by 'running interference'. Sometimes they need help to admit they need help, that they are trapped in a bad environment and allowing it to continue only allows for further damage to self and even others.

The victim must know help is available. Will family or neighbors believe and support or will they deny and condemn? My mother had no confidence that support was available for a bed-ridden woman (MS) and her children. She was also afraid that leaving would incline my dad to act out in violence and debated to her death whether it was safer to leave or to stay. Her death took that option off the table. Being sick, she also feared because she was unable to work and provide for her children without the financial support of a husband. Again, discussion and awareness in society would enable to victim's awareness of resources available.

Ultimately, the victim must be brave enough to act. Often it is recognizing the damage occurring to children/others should they stay that motivates final action. Distance often brings a sense of safety by creating a physical barrier that might incline the abuser to consider the inconvenience of pursuit a deterrent. It also means a new environment where new, healthier rules can be put into play without the same social repercussions.

Physical separation is only the first half. Mental and emotional separation is begun in the process of leaving but the healing takes time relative to the length of time and trauma in the abusive situation. Following are things that aid healing. Their lack can likewise hinder healing.

The survivor needs a safe environment and safe people where they can learn to simply be without having to always fear another attack for every little thing they do. They need time to absorb the comprehension that they have a right to correct mis-assumptions of another (an authority figure, even) without fearing recriminations (respect). This means they gain an awareness that silence is no longer needed for survival.

They need an understanding that sometimes the trauma will revisit in times of stress but it is as the aches of an old injury as a storm front comes in. It is also good for those they interact with to recognize this pattern. Like healing injuries, pain killers can incline some to think all is well but when the pain returns, more Tylenol may be needed. The same often occurs in the healing of traumas. Do not fear the pain. It will also be daunting to face the actions of rehabilitation (such as learning to trust again), but, like physical therapy, it is worth the soreness.

Ultimately, it takes time as proof that survival away and continuing safety and even flowering is possible, sustainable, and defensible. This can be aided by working contingency plans should the feared return of the abuser occur. They may never become necessary, but simply having options and plans available returns a sense of control to the survivor.

On a personal note, I have found that my emotional state can be measured by whether or not I can laugh. If One can laugh, one will survive. If there is no laughter, the stress is at a problem level.

Alma 55:20[e]...prisoners...give them power to gain possession of [themselves]...

Thoughts on Escaping an Abusive Environment, Part 1

A couple weeks ago I had a conversation on twitter with a local newspaper. They have been running a series on signs of domestic abuse and how to help youth beware. I responded that I wished the issues of emotional and psychological abuse were included because, while they may be mentioned, they are never talked about in terms such that the public actually grasps the equally damaging and dangerous reality. There are many similarities to physical forms of violence often not recognized because the differences are rarely accepted.

That probably sounds absurd. This is a common reaction when this subject is dared to be discussed.

I have recently discovered the ion TV channel and found I quite enjoy the Criminal Minds show. One of the episodes last week (too new to the show on reruns to be able to tell you which one by season and name) was about a woman who killed her husband. The prosecutor asked the behavior analyst people to come in and prove competency for facing full charges because she intended to argue against the 'battered woman' defense plea. As the show progresses, certain details come to light.

The woman is despised by her children who adore their father. 'If anyone has been victimized, it was him - he was always patient with her. She's just a lazy, hateful, dirty, stupid woman.' The problem is, when they examined the crime scene, the house was so beyond spotless that everything was (and had been) measured to perfection by a ruler. The son condemned her for never attending his games. She confessed that she was such a failure, she didn't want to embarrass him in public as well. The final piece of info that changed the prosecutor's mind? (Remember, it's a 45 minute show so highly simplified.) They asked her to tell of the events after the murder. Did she call 911 immediately? No. Why? She had to clean up. To hide the evidence? No. Her husband would have been furious with her if she'd had people over with such a mess about.

Don't get me wrong. I am in no way endorsing such a 'solution' for escaping an abusive environment. I am, however, hoping to show that while physical/sexual abuse is obviously horrible, abuse of the mind and spirit is equally hideous and even more insidious because it enslaves the victims into non-being right under everyone's noses. It makes the victims chain themselves because the abuser has so distorted the victim's understanding of reality that they accept the abuser's right to dictate all 'truth'.

Society lets them because the means used are, in moderation, considered acceptable interactions. 'Teasing' when no other form of communication or validation beyond belittling, condemning, criticizing, railing, etc... becomes no longer playful but a cover to hide behind so they can express exactly what was intended with an 'out' so the abuser can't be condemned for being so cruel. 'Can't you take a joke?!' I can't even remember all the times I tried telling people the latest sting/cut/wound and they'd blow it off because 'we say things like that, too - what's your problem?' It confused me and reinforced the idea that I was alone and had nowhere to go.

It was years before I perceived that the people who dismissed me did so because the context was vastly different. They couldn't conceive that a person in a 'family culture' could actually be in a situation where they ONLY heard condemnation. Where 'I love you' was an empty band-aid meant to convince everyone that nothing is actually wrong, be it self or other, private or public. That the same man who 'apparently' (I never witnessed it) boasted about his daughter in public never once told her to her face that she had accomplished anything worthy of affection or pride but instead demanded the world and condemned her for not including the solar system as well.

My dad knew he couldn't get away with physically hurting me. I would know that was wrong and there would be evidence to prove it. Instead, the man who insisted he was smarter than anyone we'd ever meet, used words and contrivances to manipulate and break down. That will sound an excessive claim to those who have not experienced it themselves. It is true non-the-less. He admitted it himself in one of his last middle-of-the-night four-hour-long lecture/threat sessions. "I learned long ago that I need to break you into tears and then I can make you do what I want." Shortly followed by his admission that my ability to later choose my own choices after time had passed frustrated him to no end. I know what I'm talking about.

I don't mean to detail my own experiences here. I've touched on them in various forms in various blogs past. I've spent over a decade trying to understand what happened at home. Over time, I came across information that my dad's abuse was not so circumspect against my mom. I've also seen what his actions have meant for more than one sister who has found herself in a subsequent abusive relationship (physically and sexually). I have been highly aware of other stories (case-studies, in my mind, are what all stories are) to watch and learn and better understand what happens and why. So when the journalist said another follow-up article on how to escape abuse might be considered, I began to take notes. Even if they don't run such an article, I will write of it anyway: this needs to be talked about.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Blind Men and the Elephant

The Blind Men and the Elephant
John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he:
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
As found at

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Timeline of Lessons (2012)

Re-posted from a closed blog.

(I came across this while looking through a folder. I have left it as is and thought it worth sharing even though I had considered this blog closed. I think it shows an insight into what it is to be raised in an abusive home and can only hope the reader will pause to consider their own situations for what good it might lead to. Non-physical abuse is very insidious - it doesn't leave blatant marks, but it marks just the same. Please guard your own actions from doing that to anyone, yourself included. And if you realize there are parallels in the life of someone you know, please be there to lift, help, support them through, and if possible away from, the nightmare. Just as I always wished someone would do for me.)
When I was youngest, you taught me that no matter how hard I tried to be good, I'd have to try harder than everyone else to even have a  prayer. 
You also taught me that for every thing I did wrong, the value of my soul would shrink and nothing could every make it better. 
You'd never think it, but listening to your hateful words about your brothers and parents taught me that your saying you 'loved' someone meant nothing. 
I learned that there was no point in telling anyone that you were mean because no one would believe me or care because you told me so. 
A little older and a big, yet innocent, mistake later and you taught me that even horrible criminals would think I deserved to die and they would want to kill me if they knew and would kill me if I were older. 
That Christmas you taught me that I was not worth as much as anyone else in the family. 
During these years  you taught me that everything had to be done exactly how you said to do it even if it was harder your way and didn't make sense and didn't even matter how the bathroom sink was  cleaned so long as it got cleaned… 
Then we moved and you were around a lot more. 
And I learned that you got mad at me for daring to sleep when you were mad at me for something else. 
I learned that anything that made you unhappy could be my fault. 
I learned that I could get in trouble for not knowing what you wanted me to do even if you never told me. 
I learned that I would be in worse trouble if someone helped me do something you had secretly planned as punishment. 
I learned that being darn good wasn't good enough - I had to be the best and I had to remember I was  nothing at the same time. 
I learned that if I ever had the audacity to speak like I had a claim on something you promised me, you would take it away so I would know better. 
So I learned not to want or expect anything because it would just be used against me. 
I learned to convince myself that I must be nothing - a slave - for if a slave, then nothing wrong could be done against me since, by definition, a slave has no rights to violate in the first place. 
I learned that you loved the animals more than you loved me, even though you could make them yelp and scream and cry like you couldn't get away with doing to us. 
I learned how to manage full time school, work, caring for a bed-ridden mother, three younger siblings, cleaning the house, shopping, cooking, driving any and all to appointments, and well as maintaining my own spiritual state through church activity, all at the age of twenty. 
I learned all this while I was also expected to somehow be a professional painter with no realistic help and that if I dared get overwhelmed that I would somehow sink even lower than rock bottom in standing. 
I was terrified to learn that all you had to do was tell me 'something' I had done for a low-down, heartless, selfish, cold, dark reason and I would not only believe you, but I would forget what I had really done and why I had done it. 
I learned that my health was of no concern to any of you.  
I learned that you would be furious if I dared talk to anyone about how overwhelmed and stressed I was because that reflected badly on you. 
Therefore I learned, once again, that I didn't matter. 
I learned that if I behaved any way other than you thought proper that I was shaming you, even if it was an emotional outburst related to recent trauma. 
You taught me that Jesus despised me and that turning to God in prayer was slothful on my part. 
You taught me that if something wasn't working then I must not have done my best. Never-mind the fact that no-one is capable of actually doing everything. 
So I guess I learned that if anything was not succeeding then it was my fault. 
In fact, I even learned that life almost got easier if I just accepted fault for everything and anything that anyone was upset about. Because then, if it was my fault, I could fix it and they wouldn't be mad at me anymore. And there would be a reason to my existence. 
I learned that mom had considered divorce up till I was five and often couldn't wait till you went out of town again so that the fragile stability she maintained in your absence could be restored. 
I learned that it was safer to not let anything show on my face since I was always getting in trouble for the thoughts you were telling me I was having. It's a good thing you didn't know as much as you thought you did… 
I learned that even if I managed to do 'better' at just about everything, it was only treading water and to do less than best left me in the red. 
I learned that you would stop at nothing to keep your control. 
I learned that you wanted me so isolated, I would get in trouble for confiding in my own sibling or a teacher/bishop. 
I learned after mom died that you only thought mom was considering divorce for the first year of your marriage and you disregarded the lifelong story where mom had known I was waiting to be born as her desperate attempts to preserve your marriage. 
I learned that I could get in trouble for being so selfish that I was not doing my siblings' chores. 
I learned that you trained the family so well that my siblings knew they could use me as a scapegoat to get out of trouble themselves. 
I learned that you knew you were being unreasonable and you just didn't care. 
I learned that you not only had no care for my physical well-being, you were doubly willing to endanger it to lessen my dignity so you could get a laugh. 
I finally learned that it would never matter how hard I tried, how much I gave, how well I kept all of your arbitrary, multiplying demands  - it would never be enough. 
So I left. 
Since then, I have also learned. 
I learned that you betrayed yourself far more than you may ever realize and would ever admit. 
I learned that you think love means satisfying your expectations and that you've brought your own stupid misery on yourself.  No wonder you never feel loved and I could never do enough because every time a demand gets met, the love expires and the next unmet expectation is the only one that matters. 
I learned that I was not the lazy one - you were. 
I learned that all the things that never occurred to me but that you blamed me for 'thinking' had to have come from your own head. 
I remembered you scoffing at a crying child and mocking her with the words, "What are you going to do, tell the Bishop I'm emotionally abusing you?" Years before I had any clue to what that even meant... 
I learned that you are the selfish and self-centered one. 
I learned that even though you expect everyone you come in contact with to think you're the smartest person they know, you're not nearly as smart as you think you are. 
I realized that you gave into having me because it was you who feared divorce but at some point you must have realized my birth didn't accomplish your intended purpose so the unwanted child became the despised child. 
I realized that for all you complained of how much money you had to spend on me, I saved you far more than you've ever considered and my debt has been more than paid in full. 
I have learned that even if I was born to you and even if our religion believes in forever families, I do not have to stay with you and that does not compromise my immortal standings one bit. You have more than lost your right to me. 
I have even learned some of what you did to mom. But I will leave that to stay between you and God. Fair warning - you can't hide the truth from Him.  
I tell you this because I have been learning all along since I left that you haven't been changing. You are only targeting others. 
I have always thought that you consider yourself too sophisticated to be physically abusive. And as early memory proves - you either think emotional abuse illegitimate or you figure no one is smart enough to recognize what you are doing. Indeed, many are quite naive. But many are not, and tearing apart a person's identity, spirit and mind does greater violence that a simple fist can ever do. 
Ultimately, I have learned that you are pathetic. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Post-Traumatic Allergies and Landmines

I've been pondering a blog post on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for almost a year. I am finally writing it.

When people hear PTSD mentioned, it is usually referencing war experiences, rape, terrorism, natural disasters, and significant violence episodes. Those are the angles talked on and researched and beginning to reach the public consciousness. I don't need to reinvent that wheel here.

What I do want to do here is clear up some misconceptions I have seen and parallel some examples I have recognized in various stories.

First off, some metaphors of how I could possibly have PTSD if I don't fall into the above scenarios.

Consider the phrase, "The straw the broke the camel's back."

There were times when I'd be upset, hurt, distressed over the latest incident, I'd often be rebuffed with, 'What's your problem? My family does stuff like that. It doesn't mean anything.' The event certainly didn't merit my over-reaction, from their point-of-view. It was a simple, measly straw. Nothing to get excited about. Unless you were the camel and the straws were only ever piled on and never relieved by also 'normal' things like love and appreciation and gratitude and help. When you are carrying thousands of straws, every straw adds to the barely bearable weight.

"Chinese" water-torture is also an apt parallel. A single drop of water falling on the forehead of a restrained individual doesn't sound like much, but the repetition, the inevitability, the sensitivity of the location landed, the inability to escape it are all elements of control, manipulation, and breaking a person down.

I didn't have to be beaten or raped. In fact, such actions would have propelled me to denounce the abuser because I would have known his actions were wrong. But mental abuse, emotional abuse, they leave no visible evidence. Only one experienced with the scars would recognize the cognitive/behavioral evidence in the non-psychotic victims. Could one have seen my spirit/soul, however, the image might just make one realize just how devastating such life-long abuse really is.

It is an automatic allergic reaction. Allergies are due to 'inappropriate' responses by the body to substances the body should be able to tolerate without adverse reaction. There are allergies of various levels and various causes - sometimes superficial responses, sometimes life (psyche) threatening anaphylactic responses.

It can come from the environment (situations, sounds, sights). It can come from ingested foods (philosophies and ideologies). It can come from safe locations (accidental triggers) or from malicious sources (people who refuse to accept your reality and seek to force/prove otherwise). It can come from sources that previously had never been a problem. Maybe it starts as hay-fever where sneezes short out your attention in a rush or it gets harder to see clearly because sight is obscured or perhaps it is a rash that won't stop itching and makes you jumpy. Or perhaps you are placed in the environment/situation that directly provides the dangerous trigger and it's all you can do to get to safety where you can breathe again.

There are certain things that can help allergies. Ways to try to deprogram the traps and neutralize the mines. Some think it's an easy, perfect remedy. Whether out of good-will or simple impatience, they have trouble comprehending that what took a life-time and specific circumstances to create requires the same to un-create.

Some people imagine that, so long as the events are no longer occurring, there is no cause for current problems because of past events. Just 'move on, already'. Wow. Such thinking betrays a solid lack of understanding of the concept of actions and consequences. It's like condemning a person with an old, 'healed' injury - war wound or sports injury - because the changing pressure systems of incoming weather makes the injury hurt again. It's like saying that because wars are in the past, that any landmines left over should automatically deactivate through wishful thinking.

I knew a guy who showed me a trick he liked to pull on family members and thought to rig the church computers in the same manner. It seems there is some location where basic computer commands can be re-written to effect entirely different results. Some use this to make convenient short-cuts. He used it to tell the computer that whenever someone tried to use the internet, the whole computer would shut down. Having spent many years in written-paper heavy college courses, my dismay was automatic, and apparently unexpected to him. I've lost papers because the computer froze on me when I'd forgotten to save. The thought of doing a quick fact-check online while working on a paper and having that mean I lost all that work because some punk kid thought it would be a funny prank was not funny at all. When I presented that little scenario, he quickly restored the original settings.

PTSD is similar. It is landmines and control traps. It is a form of brain-washing. Pavlov training the dog to stimulus. It is an allergic response. And when the PTSD is from years of repeated and varied abuse, you can't just deprogram for a single function.

I've seen that people often consider the dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to be reflections of depression because they suck the happiness out of people. With my background, I see them as reflections of PTSD because they trap people by making them live their nightmares. The worse the nightmare, the stronger their hold. Harry's worst memories were far more concentrated than the average teen that fears social rejection due to acne. Therefore the dementors affect on him was far stronger than those with more docile lives. I found it appropriately telling that while Harry didn't have a 'happy memory' strong enough to combat them, he found the strength in the hope of what could be ahead of him.

The Avengers has a few spots relative to PTSD. When Tony Stark is talking to Bruce Banner about when he first hulked out, he states his belief that the anger and the hulk protected him from death - that the hulk was something positive rather than a monster. Banner could only see it as the monster that takes over, the one preventing him and others from living safe, normal lives. He tries to control the anger (supposedly by keeping it at a steady steam) to control the 'other guy'. Yet, to my view, the hulk doesn't appear because he 'gets angrier' but because Banner's life is in danger. To me, it looks like a defense mechanism. Sure, the hulk gets angry, but anger is a motivating emotion - it allows one to take actions that they might not otherwise take. In this case - fighting for his life. Once Banner sees that, he is able to accept that it happens and learn how to live with it and even use it to help others.

The other Avengers dual-parallel comes in the form of Hawkeye and Romanov. She had been raised in the spy-world (extrapolated from movie dialogue as I've never been comic-book inclined) and taught from child-hood to live for herself and her missions. Morality had nothing to do with it. At least not until Hawkeye gave her a chance, against orders, to try to fix her moral compass. She saw that event as her one chance at redemption and felt a debt beyond imagining to the man who let her future have a different story.

Then Loki comes along spouting the ideal that people shouldn't have minds or wills of their own. It just makes things messy and them unhappy. And he just so happens to have a means to enable such brain-washing, mind-wiping. Hawkeye targeted, all of his previous functions are over-written by Loki's demands and desires. Until Romanov manages to return the favor with 'cognitive re-calibration'. But when Hawkeye is finally coming out of it, he tells her she can't understand where his head is - 'Do you have any idea,' he asks, 'what it's like to have your mind ripped out and replaced with something else?' Her response is simple and the best one that can be given, 'You know I do.'

The truth is, most haven't experienced the terror of someone who has so much control over you that you can't even remember events, motives, thoughts contrary to that someone's dictates. "So it is written, so it is done" being able to over-write who you are, why you are, and what you can and 'should' be.

I have met two people that I can think of who have any experience with this. The first was like a breath of air to my suffocating self. Like me, she had distanced herself from the abuser. She was making the best she could out of what had happened and engaging her future with determination, but she also had a deeper wisdom and understanding of the darknesses hiding within people due to her experiences. I'll tell you what, though - she was an amazing teacher, with an energy and enthusiasm that drew everyone's attention and made everyone feel pulled into a grand embrace of charity and affection.

The other made a cursory effort to 'deal' with what happened but preferred denial to recognizing the parts that led to her abusive relationship. While she might be able to relate and support a fellow rape-victim, she has yet to recognize the patterns inherent among all abuse victims and is self-absorbed enough to not notice such behaviors in the first place. Someday, perhaps she will recognize what we have in common. Someday, perhaps she will stop condemning me for refusing to deny the landmines I try to dance the clueless around for continued friendly relations.