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Jan 11, 2010

Be Prepared for Honesty

*Warning: May be triggering for some!*

When I was writing my previous post about the Exclusive Brethren, I found this article. It discusses a number of issues to do with fundamentalism. It is focused on the Exclusive Brethren, but it is interesting from a general perspective as well, and many of the observations translate over well.

It compares religious abuse with sexual abuse: something which naturally, I found very interesting.

She thinks that there are many similarities between religious abuse and sexual abuse, because both are an abuse of trust, denying the child the right to feel free and open and able to relate to the world in a normal way. Both elicit fear and guilt. Religious abuse also prevents a child from reaching its full potential.

Hmmm: it is, most definitely, an interesting point, particularly as a survivor of both. I know I have, and still do struggle to 'relate to the world in a normal way', particularly when I finally went to school in grade 7 and for a number of years afterwards. I tried preaching to my classmates, instead of relating to them: all because I was so certain of the rightness of my position and the fact that I was the one that was 'saved'. Of course, it doesn't help that I was being abused at the same time. But regardless, kids can be cruel about things they don't understand, so parts of my public school experience weren't happy.

I was, and continue to be, surprisingly secretive about the actual details of my day to day life with friends, family and outsiders. I have an innate ability to cover up any problems in my life: I present extremely well, to the point where people have accused me of lying when I finally do come clean with the facts. My self made guilt trips are legendary. Many times I either over react, or under react in social situations, because I have never fully learnt how to deal with them. I have been diagnosed with complex PTSD and Panic Disorder, as well as OCD, all linked back to my childhood sexual abuse.

One of the main reasons (beyond my issues with biblical inaccuracy etc) I don't attend church is because of my childhood experiences with it, and the fact that all the churches in my childhood, chose to support the abuser (my father) over the victims. I am well aware that it is not case with all churches, but for me, the experience was traumatic, and I would rather avoid triggering it again. I can deal with attending church for other people (ie weddings, christenings, sunday school for Miss D), but I most likely won't ever again attend for myself.

Do I find the effects/impact of the religious/sexual abuse similar? For me, I think both are too closely interlinked. I was taught since I can remember that first time obedience to parents and god was more important than all else. This concept of course, worked well in my father's favour, and I believe that he relied on it to keep my and his other victim during this time quiet. And when I did finally report, my faith and dedication to the family unit was questioned: silence was definitely the preferred route. As I referenced in a recent blog:

Often times the power and control that is given to men in the movement is abused, and in turn the women and children bear the brunt. Elders, deacons and pastors often overlook warning signs, or let off with a light warning. More often than not, however, the warning signs are missed because they are well hidden by all involved. Family image and presentation is very important to many fundamentalists: children are trained from a young age to be quiet and still in church, and "first time obedience" is an essential, and a highly praised trait. Thus any issues within a family lie silent and buried, and woe betide anyone who speaks up and presents another, less stellar reality, or seeks to question the illusion.

I questioned the illusion, and I did pay for it: I lost my voice. It wasn't until I finally left home and my father's circle of influence (about three years after I reported, and yes, he was there for each and every day of those 3 years), that I was able to bloom and speak up, without fear of being accused of being a terrible person, of failing my faith and family.

Fundamentalism does terrible things to families.



Christine said...

Losing your voice is a terrible consequence.

It's very nice to find a blog that deals with Complex-PTSD. I have had trouble finding anything. I am in profound pain and lost a terrific psychologist who is an expert in Complex-PTSD. I live in a big city in Canada but the community that practices this is small, very small. I am with a therapist who told me yesterday she isn't interested in "lessening symptoms" and her main therapeutic interest in building character armor. I don't even know what she means. She is so different from my prior therapist who I had an tragically bad thing happen and therapy ended. So I have OCD, GAD, Panic, Complex-PTSD, and severe, severe depression and it's got worse in the almost 2 years I have seen her. I am attached. I admit it. It's so hard to leave. I wish we could work it out. What I really wish is that I could see my original psychologist but there's zero chance of that. It ended badly and I got yelled at, hung up on and that was it. I have never seen or heard from her again. I can't live much longer with the depression and debilitating panic. When I get told things like "just drop it, let it go" - my mind - because it never stops - yet my shrink tells me I can just let it go. No I can't and it drives me crazy. It's like a film, about 50 of them playing constantly with traumatic memories, enormous traumatic, severely so, memories. Then she says I am free. Free? I am so fricking confused. And she doesn't treat "symptoms"? Why not? I don't get it and I am more and more desperate.

Oh and I get hell for my screw up - she gives me nothing but. I feel like the the worst human being ever. She just cut off all phone contact and that is honestly too much for me.

Help. Any thoughts?


Princess Jo said...

Hi Christine,

Let me be clear first up: I have no training that gives me either the knowledge, or the right, to tell you how to solve things with your old therapist, nor comment on how your current therapist's treatment plan. You deserve someone whom can give you that, and I am not that person. Sorry :(

I can tell you however, that yes, I can understand a great deal of what you say: particularly in regards to the "letting it go" comment. I know what it is like to live with other people's complete confusion about the full impact that having a mental illness/auto immune disease has on your life. I understand what it is like to mistreated by health professionals. I am sorry that was your experience.

I understand all that and more.

I can offer you understanding, and whatever support you may find in this blog. Don't feel alone, and know that ultimately you will find a way to handle it all. For the moment is dark, but the sunrise is coming.


Quivering Daughters said...

It is so interesting that you post this today. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend who was sexually abused. She showed me an article ~


~ and going through the suggestions I was struck by the similarities between healing from sexual and healing from spiritual abuse. I considered writing an article on it; perhaps I will. But substitute "God" or "the Bible" for "sex" in the above article and it bears uncanny resemblance.

Chris said...

Thank you both for you kind thoughts. I am terrorized by the hospital and have never been in. Here in Canada there aren't nicer private hospitals and frankly the hospitals are more like prisons. I think it would actually take me over the edge to be near one. But I am in very very serious trouble with the mental strain and pain and the place I have reached. Containing is pretty much gone and it's an unbearable existence. I cannot go through another horrific loss. I have been through too much and too much has happened. None of us got here easily. I think what is so hard is I can't even contact my ex-psychologist. If I had the chance to at least say how I feel about what happened it might help. I feel embattled, completely worn down and worse, who do you say this to? I can't tell family, I have never been able to go to them with anything at all. They are not safe at all, very much the opposite and this is the kind of problem most people do not understand. I am grateful you both are so kind. It means an enormous amount to me. I honestly cannot stop my mind and I wish I could. I have OCD and every terror and loss and abuse is playing over and over. My therapist says it's not real, it's in the past but no actually it isn't in the past. The relentlessness of this every day and it is every day for a very long time now, many years, has taken a toll I have no words for. I think therapists get desensitized especially if they don't have enormous trauma training as my past psychologist did. It's night and day, the difference if what's known and understood. But that desensitization feels horrific. It's much worse than horrific. I have never been in so much fear worrying about another loss and being in flashbacks of extensive prior trauma. Telling me to put that in a box and put it on a shelf until I see my therapist next time makes me shake my head in tears and horror. Put it in a box? Oh I wish I could do that. I would have years ago happily and thankfully. The strength of this and the wear and tear on my mind is incalculable. It's just been going on too long. I have no hope at all, none. I haven't in about a year and a half. No matter what I do I cannot feel any. Life is so bad, alone and isolated and this is so misunderstood that I see how people don't make it. I feel like my words to my therapist are meaningless. She thinks there is no level of suffering that can't be contained. I don't believe that after a certain point. I live with such intense pressure and stress I am drowning in that too. What does it take to be understood, for someone to get it? I mean a therapist. They come up with these little things to say that are useless and I am wondering if a therapist working with Complex-PTSD has to have shared some of the experiences that people have experienced who have it? Do you guys think so? Being able to "relate" is critical and I wonder if that's the only way a therapist truly could get it. But I know it's a double whammy. Suffering this and the stigma of mental illness. My therapist doesn't believe in mental illness. She thinks it's a myth. You can probably guess hearing that doesn't help. I'm losing my mind.

Thanks for listening/reading. It means an awful lot to me.



Princess Jo said...

Dear Christine.

I am truly sorry about your experiences with therapists/mental illness/life story.

As I have said I am not a trained therapist and therefore I cannot tell you what to do in regards to your therapists etc.

Do you have mental health phone lines? Maybe you should try contacting them.

Don't give up! I know it is clich├ęd, but honestly, when you're at your lowest the only way left is up.

Once again, I can more than understand. I live with those thoughts every day.

You are the still the only one that can help yourself. Yes, you might need some more help, in which case you should be yelling for it. Don't shut up till you get it.

I am certain you can do whatever you set out to do. After all, you have made it till now: haven't you?

You Can Do This!!!



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