CTBHHM: Having a Nervous Breakdown? Selfish Woman!

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 156—159

“I’m About to Have a Nervous Breakdown.” That is how Debi titles this bit, which closes out her section teaching young women “to be sober.” This should be interesting, right? Well . . . as you might expect, she basically spends the whole time telling women that nervous breakdowns are their own damn fault for being so selfish and that they need to purpose to stop having them. Yay. As she often does, Debi starts with a letter, prefacing it with this:

This letter shows how not getting our way often causes us to have a nervous, troubled spirit instead of the quiet (sober) spirit God expects us to have.

Because apparently nervous breakdowns are the results of “not getting our way.” You know, selfish spoiled women that we are. It couldn’t be the number of children Debi advocates women have, or that she expects them to be permanently selfless in every sense of the term (including lacking an actual self!), or the financial struggles or the difficulty keeping up with homeschool work for eight children under twelve. Oh no! It’s all about “not getting our way”! It strikes me that this is the same simplistic and silencing approach the Pearls take towards children. You’re upset? You’re having a tantrum? Stop being such a spoiled little brat! How the toxicity of this thinking isn’t clear to Debi is astounding.

Anyway, here’s the letter:

I heard you article read publicly called “Carnal husbands, Cranky wives, and Cantakerous Kids,” while at a seminar in Knoxville. It was the first time I realized my anxiety controlled my husband and was a reflection of my lack of confidence in him. As we left the seminar and were fighting traffic, my husband spoke up that we needed to stop for gas. Miles passed and still the traffic was bumper to bumper. Suddenly we were free and in the mountains with no place to buy gas. I was in an extreme state of turmoil. I had worked myself up to a state that I wanted to scream to him to go back into the city and get gas. I could see the gas gauge; it was totally empty. I kept quietly raging to God that “this was the exact reason why I had to take control, since he is the most irresponsible man and does not make wise decisions. I felt that I should tell him what to do.” I was so nervous, I was almost sick, but for the first time I kept my mouth shut and looked interestedly at the hills. Ten miles up into the mountains, we finally came to an exit that had a gas station, and my husband turned to me, smiled and said, “What’s happened to you? You’re not a nervous wreck like you usually are. I’m so glad you’ve learned to relax. Isn’t life more fun when you’re not so full of fear? I’m proud of you.” I had to stop and think. Even if we had run out of gas, would it have been a tragedy? I could see that I had turned many things into monsters. I had the opposite of a meek and quiet spirit that we are supposed to have. I have learned not to let my fears and irritations over uncertain circumstances control me, and, much worse, my husband. I am learning to lean on my husband.

Sara

I can actually sympathize with this letter a lot. I’m much like Sara when Sean and I go on road trips. Usually I’m tense and upset because we’re running behind, and I hadn’t planned to get off as late as we did. Sean tells me it’s okay, and to try to relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment. And he’s generally right. However, there are a couple of things completely missing here. For one thing, this isn’t a gendered thing. In some couples, it’s the husband who gets all stressed out while the wife is the one saying “it’s okay, take a deep breath and relax, it’ll be okay.” In fact, our close friends Joe and Natalie are just like that—Joe stresses out over everything and Natalie is always telling him to relax and just enjoy life. Inserting things like authority and submission into this makes no sense at all.

But also, Sara’s completely missing that there’s a middle ground. She thinks her options are keeping her mouth shut and not voicing her concerns on the one hand or telling her husband what to do and controlling and dictating to him on the other. To some extent, this silence/control dichotomy is a product of the very gendered nature of a patriarchal marriage. What Sara is missing is that she can say “We’re so low on gas and we don’t know when we’ll find a gas station if we keep heading out of town, do you think maybe we should go back into town and get gas?” or even simply “The fact that we’re about to run out of gas is stressing me out.” It’s possible to communicate and to discuss an issue without one person controlling the other person or telling them what to do. But Sara doesn’t seem to be aware of that.

Of course, a reading of the article Sara cites explains why this may be. In it Debi tells women to never never never disagree with or criticize their husbands in front of their children and to never never never say anything that might sound patronizing, ever. Given that Sara and her husband believe they’re supposed to have a patriarchal marriage, even Sara offering advice might be seen as her patronizing her husband or criticizing his actions, something the article says she’s not supposed to do. Basically, the Pearls’ marriage advice completely short-circuits actual communication or discussion and makes it impossible.

Finally, the correct response to anxiety and stress is not always to just relax. Sometimes the correct response is to do something. What if a woman’s husband doesn’t have a job, and they’re running out of money, and he’s not lifting a finger to job search? Is the correct response for the woman to just let things be rather than being anxious or worried, to just relax and take life as it comes? Or is the correct response for her to encourage her husband to get a job, do some looking for him, or even take a job herself if he is unable or unwilling to find work? Anxiety is the body’s way of saying something is wrong. Sometimes that short circuits and the best response is to try to relax, but often times there’s a real problem that needs fixing and the anxiety stems from that. In those cases, something needs fixing, and ignoring that isn’t going to change it.

Anyway, back to Debi:

Many women lack biblical soberness, as seen in the way they treat their houses as shrines to be protected, rather than as spaces in which to enjoy their families. They get emotionally upset if the carpet gets messed up or if the kids accidentally spill milk on the couch. They become emotional wrecks over their physical surroundings.

I’m sorry, what?! Does Debi have short term memory loss, or does she just think we do?

Debi only recently got through shaming Jill for not “planning ahead” enough to have supper on the table and the house clean when her husband got home. In that section, she had this to say:

I have had many sick babies, and I know sometimes it was not easy, but you can get the house in order and meals cooked and keep everything running smoothly all the same. As mothers, we will often be stressed over a sick child, but that is no reason to neglect our other duties. A sober wife makes herself the match of every circumstance.

And then she wrote an entire section on planning ahead when cooking. In that section she said this:

Sometimes, maintaining a good relationship with your husband simply requires the performing of simple tasks, like having a good meal ready on time and a clean house, even when it is not easy or convenient to do so.

And then she wrote a section telling women to go back to the 1950s. She included this tip on preparing for your husband to return home at the end of the day:

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too.

So first she tells women that it is their duty to keep their houses clean and orderly for their husbands, and that there is no excuse for failing at this . . . and then she says it’s wrong for women to become upset when their houses become disorderly messes? It’s okay for a husband to expect a wife to keep her house clean and orderly, but it’s not okay for a wife to expect she should be able to keep her house clean and orderly? I mean, seriously?

As a quick aside, I do want to address Debi’s actual point. It’s true that as a parent you can’t expect your house to always be in tip-top perfect shape. I’ve been working extra hard in recent weeks to keep our apartment in some semblance of order, and have been making sure everything is straightened and put away before bedtime. Even with that, it’s more than a little discouraging to feel like I just cleaned the kitchen, and then I turn around and it has suddenly descended into chaos again. I recently acknowledged to myself that our house simply won’t be quite as as clean as I would like it until the kids are grown and gone.

However, I do think it’s reasonable to strive for certain levels of cleanliness. Too much mess stresses me out and makes it hard for me to function, and I think that’s true for a lot of people, men or women—and that’s not bad or unreasonable. Sally is already conscious of cleaning up when she makes a mess. It’s not draconian or backed up with a stick, it’s about teaching children respect for both their home and for their parents’ needs. I respect my children and their desires, and I ask that they also respect me and my desires. At age 4, Sally can understand and should respect my desire for her not to color all over the walls. However, I also understand and respect her desire to draw on large canvases, so I direct her to our giant whiteboard. 

Anyway, back to Debi lecturing selfish women for caring too much about the state of their homes.

If you have that problem, let me ask you, how would you feel if your husband provided nothing more than an open barn in which to deliver your first baby? That was the case with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Do you think God could have used Mary to be the mother of Jesus if she allowed herself to become an emotional wreck when her environment was not calm or orderly? Think of the teenage girl, Mary, clinging to the back of a bouncing donkey, contractions pulling at her exhausted body, while her desperate husband searched for a place for her to deliver her child.

You’re not happy with your lot in life? Guess what?! It could suck a lot more! Who do you think you are to expect a clean and orderly home?! Mary didn’t have one when she gave birth to Jesus, so why should you?! Who do you think you are?! I mean, isn’t that basically what Debi is saying? That it’s not legitimate for a woman to want a calm and orderly environment? That wanting that is selfish and unreasonable? And yet, in a previous section she had this to say: “As wives, our life’s work should be to perfect how we may please our husbands.” Because men get to have a servant waiting on them hand and foot, and that’s totally not selfish! Grrr.

Many have speculated as to what virtues Mary had that prompted God to choose her to be the mother of our Lord. I can tell you what she was like.

Because Debi can read minds and characters across time and space. Totally.

She had eternity in her heart. She was self-possessed, thoughtful, and was always learning to make wise judgements. When a young woman learns to be sober, she will not live for immediate gratification. She will appreciate those things that will last for eternity.

I agree that it’s easy to get caught up in day to day annoyances and forget to take a deep breath and enjoy life. I even agree that it helps to keep in mind what really matters and what doesn’t, and what will matter ten years from now and what won’t. It helps to put things in perspective. But, there’s a problem here that actually stems from Debi’s theology. I grew up believing, like Debi, that it’s eternity that matters, and that shitty situations in the day to day were unimportant. This is why too many evangelicals see sending people Bibles as more important than sending them water and other supplies. It’s eternity that matters. So what if they’re living in an unsanitary shack, if they know Jesus they’ll go to heaven and that’s what matters, right? That sort of perspective gets in the way of bettering one’s life in the here and now.

And here we reach the end of this section. The basic summary is that having a nervous breakdown is the result of being selfish and wanting things your way instead of being able to relax and just take life as it comes. She completely and totally misses that her teachings that women have to perform perfectly for their husbands, whether it’s through perfect obedience or through always smiling or through keeping the house and children spotless and the proper food on the table, might actually contribute to or help create nervous breakdowns in women who follow her teachings. Her solution—to just relax and take life as it comes—only works if a husband is okay with having supper late, and Debi has already made it clear that that is not acceptable. In the end, Debi tells women that nervous breakdowns are their own fault for being so self-centered without, apparently, realizing that a nervous breakdown can actually result from giving and giving and giving until you lose both yourself and your sanity.

Debi finishes out the chapter a poem her daughter wrote. I’m not going to add commentary. I’ll leave that for you lot. :D

Mountain Ma and Pa

By Rebekah Pearl (age 16), April 1991

O, so much ter do,
So much ter be done.
The work’s never through,
An’ da work ain’t much fun.
No thanks fer yer labor,
No pay fer da job,
Jest, “What’s fer supper?”
“How ’bout corn-on-da-cob?”
Ya mop an’ ya sweep,
Ya dust an’ ya shine.
Then turn around,
An’ what do ya find?
His shoes on da floor,
His coat on da chair,
His rear in da couch,
An’ his feet in da air!
So ya kick off yer shoes,
An’ ya throw down yer broom.
An’ ya wink at yer ole man,
So he’ll make ya some room!

This is why my Ma and Pa are happily married!

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • NeaDods

    I had a whole long comment written with bullet points, but the main argument is really this: was Andrea Yeats really *selfish*? Was that her problem, Debi, REALLY? Did you laugh at her when her man finally, belatedly, got the divorce she had needed so desperately, like you laughed at the murder of the first child beaten to death on your advice?

    There’s someone monstrously selfish, here, yes. But it’s not a hypothetical woman who has the good sense to know that being stranded in the dark wilderness is not the world’s best idea. It’s a married couple without a speck of empathy for the world or (by Michael’s own admission) each other.

    • Trollface McGee

      Sometims I wonder if there some fundie version of the dictionary where words mean the opposite of what they mean in our dictionaries. Where being actually selfish is a virtue, but being “selfish” selfish (i.e. not making stupid decisions that will screw up your life) is a sin.

      • NeaDods

        As far as I can tell, making any decision is a sin. After all, you may then not be obeying the authority that wants to rule over you. (And this is for men too – what if they don’t listen to Michael?)

  • Mel

    Please tell me that poem was written in the genre of ….. something. As a teacher, the spelling errors are either brilliant – if written in a dialect – or terrifying if they don’t really know how to spell.

    • Sally

      I think it’s dialect. Debi wouldn’t have printed it in the book that way otherwise.

      • Conuly

        I’m not entirely certain it’s a real dialect, though. It looks deliberately cutiefied and “folksy” rather than realistic to me.

      • Sally

        I agree. I think that’s the point of the poem written by the 16 year old. I think she’s doing it tongue in cheek (in terms of the dialect). She’s writing a poem about country folks in an exaggerated “countrified” style. I do think it’s clever, even if I don’t agree with the message.

      • Sally

        Oops, I don’t mean that the folksy dialect is the main point. I think the main point is the content. I should have said the folksy style is a sub-text. The point of using the folksy style imo is to say, “We’re just country folk who do things the simple, better way.”

      • Jackie

        But isn’t the message that she sees her dad as pretty lazy and not appreciative? Hey, Mom, drop the broom and sit down with him! And I think she’s saying that is what her mom does, which fits this last but about a clean house not being important. And it implies that Debi doesn’t follow her other advice, which explains the disconnect from Michael’s book.

      • Sally

        I think it says, clean the house like a good wife, and if he messes it up, that’s his prerogative. Now, given Debi’s book, we might guess that the poem would say, “Put away the coat and shoes and wipe up any dirt he tracked in in the process not for your own satisfaction of a clean house, but because you’re keeping it clean for him- even the parts he just messed up. But that’s not what the poem says. It says do the work, but if your husband makes a mess, chill out, relax with him a little, even kick off your own shoes.
        In other words, do your duty, but follow his lead in all things. If his lead is to flop on the couch, don’t become an old bitty and fuss over his coat and
        shoes, join him.
        Of course this DOES go against what Michael says in his book when he says Debi is in charge of the house and tells him where to put his shoes and where he can put his feet. The poem must reflect something Debi’s daughter saw, yet it doesn’t match what Michael says. So maybe Michael is the one lying!

      • Gillianren

        That “dialect” makes me want to thump her repeatedly with my copy of Huck Finn.

  • KarenJo12

    Gahhhh! How much do I hate “someone, somewhere, had it worse than you do so shut up!” From “eat the [bad tasting and unpleasant] food because children are starving in whichever Third World country filled with benighted Not White People we pity this week” through “women shouldn’t complain about sexual harassment by construction workers in Dallas because the Taliban exists,” this attitude only serves to keep the power in the hands of the powerful. Sure, Cro-Mangon cave wives had to sew mammoth hide in the Ice Age without indoor plumbing. I’m certain they would have traded every mammoth tusk in Europe for a heater and a flush toilet. Good things exist in the world and we should create an economic system that provides as many of those things to as many people as possible. Noticing that things aren’t fair and wanting to change that fact was one of Jesus’s better traits.

    • Gillianren

      Even for smaller things, it’s infuriating. I was hanging out with a friend yesterday. She’s taking English 101, and she hates writing. She was venting at me about it when her husband got home. He was really rude to her, because he’s in college to be an engineer, and he can’t possibly take her struggles with English 101 seriously, especially since he’d gotten an A in it when he took it.

      As it happens, so did I, because writing comes easily to me. Always has. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t listen and be sympathetic to my friend. I then made arrangements to go over there after she’s had time to do a first draft of the first writing assignment and help her polish it, because it’s important to me that she pass the class. This is a lot more helpful than belittling her problem.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Oh yeah, that sucks. As it happens, I get really frustrated when people look at me like a dummy for admitting I struggled in Calculus in high school and found it hard, or that I never got vectors in physics or math classes. It’s like, if it was easy for them, it’s easy for everyone, right?

        And then I helped edit their essays for English class, and they whined and moaned about how much reading there was and it was so hard to read 50 pages before class. And that is very hard for many people, but I felt no pity because they were such jerks about the math thing (at the time, I was reading 50-100 pages per class and taking six classes, because I am good at both reading and writing, so I was especially unsympathetic). But you know what? As I needled them as only friends can, I also edited their stuff and helped them get better.

      • Gillianren

        Hell, I didn’t take calculus in high school, because I knew I would fail it. I’d taken enough math to graduate, and that was all I was going to do. It’s still all I’ve done–I took more math in community college, but again, just enough to graduate. The same friend and I were talking yesterday about “agree to disagree,” and when it’s right and when it’s wrong, and one of the places it’s right is whether math is fun or not. She enjoys it. I don’t. There’s nothing wrong with that. I help her get through English, and if I ever had to take math again, she would help me get through it. It’s like we respect each other or something!

      • Alix

        I never took calculus. College brought me geometry out of a translation of Euclid and working through Ptolemy’s astronomical proofs, and I have a book on mathematics from simple arithmetic on up through calculus that I keep meaning to work through, but no, the most advanced I got was algebra and some trig.

        …Math, it is really not my thing. :P

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        The thing is, I know I’m not bad at math. I’m not great at it, but I’m pretty good at it. I was just dealing with electrical engineers and physics majors and computer scientists at the time.

      • Alix

        I’m good at geometry. I’m good at math when it comes to cooking. All the math in the physics and astronomy classes I took went fine. I apparently just really need a concrete visualization for math before I get it.

      • Gillianren

        I’m really good at arithmetic. I was talking to my mom back when I was in college algebra, and I mentioned that math had always been my worst subject. She said, “But you’ve always been good at it!” Yes. But I’ve always been better at English and history and so forth. I can figure a tip by calculating 10% and then halving it and adding together than some of my friends can by the Washington State method of “double the sales tax.” But when I got to choose my own science classes in college, I chose classes with as little math as possible.

    • ako

      The “Shut up! Stop whining! Someone else in the world has it worse!” thing always makes me wonder how much energy the people going “Shut up!” actually spend trying to find out what the worst problem currently in existence is, and trying to solve that problem. I suspect the answer is often “None at all”, which means they’re simply speaking against solving things, which means they’re making everything worse.

      • Scott_In_OH

        they’re simply speaking against solving things

        Absolutely right.

      • tulips

        Seconded

      • Randomosity

        But…. but…. but. Problem solving is SO SELFISH! How dare you try to advance civilization!

      • Alix

        Who needs this wheel thing anyway? You’ve got two good legs. My friend Og over there, he’s only got one, and it’s uphill both ways to his cave. And always snowing. In a swamp. You’ve got it so much better, what do you need an improvement for?

      • Randomosity

        And remember, that sentience thing is sinful as hell. Don’t know good vs evil for yourself. Obey unthinkingly because thinking for yourself is an unforgivable act of eeeeeevil.

    • smrnda

      Progress depends on people being dissatisfied with how things are, NOT people being ‘content no matter what.’ That’s true with society, technology, everything and anything.

  • ZeldasCrown

    Debi creates this non-achievable, ill-defined metric for wives, and then tells them they’re not allowed to feel frustrated, or upset, or defeated when they inevitably fall short when she’s explicitly stated previously that the consequences for falling short are to be a divorced lesbian in a dumpy duplex. I’m mean, come on. You’ve (you being Debi here) threatened them if they fail, and then berate them when they are worried that’s actually going to come to pass. It seems a little like yet another out if Debi’s advice doesn’t work: “You couldn’t stop yourself from being anxious, so you didn’t really follow my advice, and thus don’t count as one of the failures. Still 100% success rate!”

    • grindstone

      I wish I could upvote more than once. What she has created is a returning customer base. Just like Osteen’s followers…..I’m not super successful yet, I must be doing something wrong; better buy another book!

    • smrnda

      This is why I think this type of Christianity is the worst form of legalism – it’s not just actions that are bad, you’re limited to feeling 2 or 3 emotions only.

  • grindstone

    Debi just tires me, so I’ll leave a poem of you, Libby Anne, compliments of the late great Phillis Diller:
    Cleaning the house while the kids are still growing
    is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.

    • Rosie

      Truthfully, cleaning any space that anyone actually lives in (or works in) is kind of like that, kids or not.

      • Angela

        Good point. Cleaning is an ongoing job no matter what but I think the difference is that kids (at least small ones) actively sabotage your efforts vs the normal day to day build up.

      • Scott_In_OH

        kids…actively sabotage your efforts

        This drives me nuts, sometimes to an unhealthy degree. Yet I’m a man.

    • Conuly

      It was very depressing the year I finally realized that shoveling as it snows is the only way to avoid a tramped down level of snow and ice at the bottom. Sigh.

    • TLC

      I just sent my only child (son) off to college in August. Best benefit: my house now stays clean for DAYS at a time!

      • Baby_Raptor

        It’s probably a lot more quiet, too!

      • TLC

        Actually, he wasn’t too bad. He was working 2 jobs so he was not home much. When he was, he had his nose in his Twitter feed. We are going to a wedding tonight, and he will have to shut off his phone for 30 minutes. I think he will survive being disconnected from his “life force”. ;-)

  • Sally

    Anxiety is a complicated thing. To some degree, Debi’s advice is good in that you have to change your thinking to conquer anxiety. That’s what cognitive behavioral therapy is all about. Realizing that it’s not the end of the world if the thing you’re worried about actually happens is a significant part of the process. And I think people have dealt with anxiety since there have been people without the benefit of CBT, so the ones who have conquered it have had to do so on their own or with advice from others they trusted. But it’s the tone of what Debi writes that I think is so toxic. Her tone does blame the woman and turns the solution into a one size fits all. She is right that not “rehearsing” her fears by verbalizing them to her husband is the right thing to do. But it’s not because rehearsing her worries is controlling and bossy, it’s because it’s harming *her.* It’s feeding the “monster” so to speak. This woman was able to change her thinking by not verbalizing it. But that’s not going to be enough for everyone!! A lot of people rehearse in their heads and that’s still feeding the monster. A lot of people need specific strategies to replace the anxious thoughts with. They need to rehearse other thoughts instead.
    So Debi is dabbling in something she knows almost nothing about. And for the person who happens to be an anxious woman who happens to benefit from this example of not verbalizing fears and also thinking through how the worse case scenario really isn’t so disastrous, that’s great. But for all the men and for any woman for whom this bit of advice is not enough, she is doing harm by not acknowledging that if anxiety persists, you need to get professional help. And in the meantime, she’s couching it in language that makes it sound like the woman is some kind of jerk, which for some anxious women could make their anxiety worse.

    • Jackie

      CBT is not about not verbalizing realistic fears. A woman on a mountain road in a car about to run out of gas has a very realistic fear. And it is heathly to express it. Her husband might say he’d heard there was a gas station just a few miles up the mountain or he’d discovered the other day he could go 60 miles on empty and they’d only gone 20. By sitting there in silence, she just ends up being so alone. There’s no indication this is a woman with a chronic anxiety problem based on unrealistic fears. What you’re talking about is completely different from what Debi uses as an example. She is attempting to stop any questioning at all of a spouse over those petty little fears like safety and a healthy place for the kids to live and having food on the table.

      • Sally

        I agree that the way any of us would have experienced this or told the story, talking about CBT would be really silly. I’m basing my reaction on this from her letter which is certainly not how I would describe my feelings when realizing my husband was driving into the mountains on empy:

        “I was in an extreme state of turmoil. I had worked myself up to a state that I wanted to scream to him to go back into the city and get gas.”
        That and the fact that she uses the term “anxiety.”
        That said, I may be reading too much into it, or maybe I’m not. I can’t tell from what little we’re given.
        I think we all agree that she didn’t need to totally shut up, and she didn’t need to scream about going back into the city (which is an irrational way to handle the situation). She needed to bring it up rationally and discuss it as a collaborator. Whether she has those skills or whether she needs help to learn them, we’ll never know.

      • Christine

        I was actually going to make a similar comment to what Sally did, largely because that sort of thing would apply to me. (Especially the “either bite your tongue or tell him what to do” dichotomy.) However, even if it is what the alleged letter-writer actually experienced, it is extremely messed up to use it as an example, because it’s such an outlier.

      • wanderer

        I found the letter disturbing because once again there is someone who listened to debi’s advice and then now AMAZINGLY has it all perfectly figured out!
        Look, first of all I would disagree that she has conquered her anxiety. She still was totally freaking out. She just didn’t say anything out loud. And that is not what “at peace” is truly about. Secondly, Debi makes it sound like after one single incident, this woman kept her mouth shut instead of verbalizing her fear and now voila! She’s all better and has learned how to be a good wife.

      • Christine

        Yes, totally true. (Although sometimes just keeping your mouth shut when you’re worried is a good first step.)

      • Sally

        Yes, if we’re speaking clinically, not seeking reassurance is a real and good strategy. (But I agree with the discussion we’ve been having that it’s debatable as to whether this woman is dealing with real anxiety or a jerky husband…. or both.)

      • Christine

        I don’t think that’s a valid debate, because it presupposes that she actually exists. If the whole thing is on false pretenses, it’s invalid.

      • Sally

        LOL, yes, if she’s made up, then it’s all pretend. Of course, one can make up examples and learn form them. But one should admit they’re made up! And the examples have to be based in reality and real things that one has knowledge of. Debi does seem to be quite creative, which is not to say she’s quite informed.

      • NeaDods

        I’m going to jump in here to say that “not seeking reassurance” does not sound like a good strategy to me. Not nagging for it constantly, but how much anxiety could this woman (assuming she exists) have short-circuited simply by voicing her concern?

      • Sally

        I was not talking about the woman in the story at this point. I was responding to Cristine’s comment and speaking generically about people who do have clinical anxiety who repeatedly seek reassurance.

      • Jackie

        Good point about it being a bad example, which seems to be Debi’s habit – like she has to find the most extreme example to show us that what we’re dealing with is nothing. After all, THAT wife could have been stuck on a mountain for hours but she kept her mouth shut and God rewarded her with a gas station.

  • herewegokids

    So….the reason Mike and Debi are still married even though he is a selfish lazy lout, is that Debi utilizes sexual manipulation to placate him. Got it.

    • NeaDods

      She admitted as much with the trash story.

  • M.S.

    The first time my husband condescendingly turns to me and says “I’m proud of you” (maybe with a head pat too….) is the first time he takes a chino chop to the sack.

  • tulips

    I’d like to see the conversation play out from the point of having this woman verbalize her anxiety appropriately rather than vacillate between making disrespectful judgments and emotional/cognitive withdrawal.
    So let’s pretend she says “Hey spouse, I feel anxiety about the gas level and I want to put more gas in the car before we leave the city.”
    The response to this would be very telling. Does her husband ~care~ that she’s uncomfortable? What are his expectations?
    If his reaction is to take offense that she has a different margin for comfort than he does, mock, bully, or simply disregard and drive off into the hills with an unwilling passenger marriage counseling is needed pronto. Immediately. Five minutes ago even to avoid entrenching abusive/grooming patterns of helplessness in the marriage. Debi’s advice in a best case scenario encourages inconsiderate, immature, and emotionally withdrawn behavior. The worst case scenario…well…it’s pretty bad.

    • Sally

      I agree with your point about bringing it up to him in an in between manner. If she were doing this every time the gas gage read 1/2 empty, that would be irrational under most driving conditions. And you make a good point about his reaction being significant. Again, if she did this with 1/2 a tank, then seeking reassurance, and his providing it, would be counterproductive (reinforce anxiety), but who wouldn’t speak up and at least say something under the conditions she describes (rhetorical question)?

      • tulips

        I don’t agree that there has to be an objectively dangerous situation for the woman in this scenario to have her wishes taken seriously. Let’s say I do have struggles with anxiety. Let’s say that I suffer anxiety about sharks appearing in the bath tub. Does there need to be a shark in the bathtub before I have the right to take showers instead? I’m going to distinguish between what effect an anxiety disorder might legitimately have on relationships and my right to not be forced unwilling out of my comfort zone at any time on a whim or because someone finds my preferences inconvenient.

      • Sally

        Well, I’m responding to this whole post (Libby Anne’s) based on the idea that this woman may have clinical anxiety. If that is the case, she actually would need to deal with her fear of sharks in the bathtub. Indulging the fear leads to more anxiety, very possibly in other areas.

        This is one of those things that a lot of people deal with and manage to function in life just fine (like with a fear of heights or spiders or other things). But there’s a tipping point some people reach.

        What I’m trying to get at is that if this woman has real clinical anxiety and is doing things like becoming irrational about running out of gas *when there’s more than enough between here and the next gas station (my 1/2 tank example)* and she’s ranting and raving at her husband about it, then that is not functional and she needs help.

        I think I’m focusing on the point at which a person needs to get help, not just be told by someone like Debi to stop being selfish. I think you’re focusing on the husband’s behavior and how she may be perfectly mentally healthy and he’s doing things that would

        make anyone upset.

        But at the point where an adult is afraid to take a bath because of a fear of sharks in their tub, that person needs mental health treatment.

        ” I’m going to distinguish between what effect an anxiety disorder might legitimately have on relationships and my right to not be forced unwilling out of my comfort zone at any time on a whim or because someone finds my preferences inconvenient.”
        When talking about whims and simple preferences, agreed.

      • tulips

        Let me put it this way for clarity. If I think there are sharks in the bathtub I agree that professional treatment is in order. Would you consider my spouse stripping me naked and forcing me into the tub professional or appropriate treatment? That is the comparison at hand.

      • tulips

        Shoot, lost a response to the interwebs.
        A course of treatment for a clinical anxiety disorder is done with a competent professional and is mutually agreed upon for all participants. One spouse does not unilaterally decide that a person is having irrational anxiety and then casually disregard their response to the stimulus.
        So in this instance either the spouse is inappropriately attempting to treat a clinical disorder that is well beyond his pay grade so to speak or he is simply behaving in an egocentric manner by disregarding a legit concern.

      • Sally

        Agreed.

      • Sally

        No, of course not. But the person would need to face the fear and take a bath at some point. That would be called an “exposure.” And it wouldn’t be done in the terrible way stated above. It would start probably with pictures of sharks, and eventually putting feet in a tub with shallow water and so on. And no husband doing any of this. But her husband wasn’t giving her an “exposure” to help her with her anxiety and I don’t believe he was intentionally triggering her, either.
        I’ve done exactly the kind of thing he did. I’ve seen I was low on gas, gotten distracted, and then ended up in a long stretch with no gas stations. I’m assuming the husband isn’t practically gaslighting her. Based on how the story was told, I’m thinking he noticed the gas tank, got distracted by whatever, and then ended up having to get to the next station on fumes. He (if he’s like me) was relieved no one ranted and raved about it, and that he got to the station. Should she have been able to bring it up calmly and collaboratively? Yes. But based on what he says at the end, it sounds like she often gets much more upset than is called for. She seems to agree, as she describes herself wanting to scream at him. If someone had screamed at me in the situation I describe above, I think I would have been very upset, and justifiably so.

      • tulips

        I’ve done it too. I think we all have. The difference is that in this specific scenario there is another adult sitting next to him who is ~not~ distracted. Who is in fact rather annoyed at the gas level. Debi’s advice is for the annoyed spouse to stuff it because in this one instance the annoyed spouse happens to be a woman. The woman checks out rather than attempting to defend her comfort zone and everything works out fine because imaginary scenarios are cool like that.
        It is deliberately framed with binary options. Either cooperate with the man and learn how to cheerfully walk if you run out of gas or descend into childish outbursts or disrespectful judgments.
        The options where they both get to be autonomous adults is conspicuously absent.

      • Sally

        I agree with absolutely everything you said here. I actually agreed with you when I first posted in this exchange.
        The scenario I described (the overreacting when there is still plenty of gas) was intended as an example to contrast with the story in the letter. My point was to highlight that while we can imagine a scenario where worrying about gas is irrational, the letter-writer’s *concerns* were rational. And again, I agree that talking about it collaboratively and calmly would be the normal and healthy thing to do.

      • NeaDods

        But the person would need to face the fear and take a bath at some point.

        NO!!!

        I’m about to derail this entire conversation away from Debi, for which I apologize to Libby Anne, but this slammed one of my hot buttons. Exposure is *not* a given in any anxiety situation, no matter how ridiculous. The person with anxiety is only required to face their fear if AND ONLY IF the fear is negatively affecting their lives (and affecting the people around them is affecting their own lives.)

        If someone has an irrational fear of sharks in the bathtub and deals with it by taking showers for the rest of their life, how, precisely, does this actually hurt anyone, including the anxious person? It’s only an issue if the fear means never going near a bathroom with a bathtub, or not letting friends and family take baths. The shower itself could be the coping mechanism, and it’s a perfectly valid one. The real goal here is to be clean without anxiety; HOW one gets clean can be chosen from a variety of equally valid variables none of which is more or less valid than any of the others.

        To loop back to the topic at hand, Debi is trying to impose adherence to Her Rules as the one and only valid means to reach the overall goal (in this case, a happy marriage), utterly ignoring that this path can also be chosen from a variety of equally valid variables. Debi would argue that there are no variables, much less their validity. There’s only her way and the highway. The dark, mountainous, highway that the putative letter-writer could have been stranded on.

        Her dogmatism is only feeding my growing certainty that Debi and Michael are the poster children for precisely what is *wrong* with their childrearing method. Prevented from exploring their world, punished for any autonomy, held to instant obedience to whatever nonsensical rules are laid down by authority figures Or Else — well, who here is really shocked that they grew up to be people who rely on external unquestionable authority, who are incurious, insecure, and unemphatic, and who threaten anyone who steps “out of line.”

      • Sally

        “Her dogmatism is only feeding my growing certainty that Debi and Michael are the poster children for precisely what is *wrong* with their childrearing method. Prevented from exploring their world, punished for any autonomy, held to instant obedience to whatever nonsensical rules are laid down by authority figures Or Else — well, who here is really shocked that they grew up to be people who rely on external unquestionable authority, who are incurious, insecure, and unemphatic, and who threaten anyone who steps “out of line.”
        I’ve been thinking this too. I think *this* is how all their books fit together!!
        I’m going to stop posting and trying to explain my original few comments on anxiety. I do apologize that my words upset you so much. I was trying to use the bathtub example I was given and work with it to explain how my original comment in this exchange was intended to differentiate between someone who had a reasonable concern and someone who was running with anxious thoughts (my 1/2 gas tank example). As you’ve pointed out, going with that bathtub example was a poor way for me to clarify, because of course you’re right. If the person is functioning, they can ignore the bathtub issue. If they’re not functioning (refusing to bathe altogether), then my elaboration is an abbreviated description of how it would be done (as opposed to a husband stripping her naked and throwing her in, as was the option I was given which I was responding to).
        Again, not meaning to offend or suggest that all serious phobias have to be tackled the way I described.
        Peace out.

      • NeaDods

        It’s okay, I’m sorry I yelled. As I’ve made rather obvious, coping with anxiety is part of my reality, and I’ve had to deal with a lot of well-meaning unwanted advice on why coping is “wrong.” (My mother loves me. Unfortunately, this means she wants me to Be Fixed Not Be Broken, and that… is stressfull.)

        I apologize for flying off. It’s a sore spot, which you had no way of knowing.

      • Sally

        We’re good. :)

      • Rilian Sharp

        I’m glad you brought that up about how a person isn’t obligated to get over their fears. I had been pondering how to explain why I thought that was wrong. eg why did my mom care that I wanted to sleep with the light on? I would be so afraid of bugs crawling on me that I couldn’t fall asleep in the dark. but we have lights, so what’s the problem.

      • Rilian Sharp

        Also clear shower curtain so I don’t have to get over the fear of someone sneaking up and drowning me. He used to threaten me with that.

      • smrnda

        I don’t see why people should get pushed to ‘get over’ fears, unless they’re completely debilitating. If someone wants to sleep with the lights on, who cares? I’d rather let people do what makes them feel good than be nitpicking about every fear or action someone thinks is irrational or obsessive.

        At least one person I knew was horribly afraid of snakes as an adult, to the extent that he couldn’t watch snakes on TV. Being considerate means making sure that I don’t shove snakes in front of the guy and hey, there’s no *reason* for him to get over it, since handling snakes isn’t a requirement.

    • Randomosity

      How much do you want to bet that if they’d run out of gas it would be her fault for not mentioning that the fuel gauge was dangerously close to empty?

      • Gillianren

        Despite the fact that he brought it up in the first place, too.

  • Trollface McGee

    Her books sure do make patriarchal heterosexual marriage appealing… It makes me think

    http://cdn.meme.li/i/ooyia.jpg

    But then that might be giving her too much credit.

    • ako

      I know that I’d vastly prefer the lesbian duplex. (Although I’m actually a lesbian, so I might be biased.)

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I’m straight, and I’d take a lesbian duplex in a heartbeat over that sort of patriarchal heterosexual marriage.

      • Hilary

        When we get that lesbian duplex up, I promise to include a guest bedroom for straight women to visit when they need a break. And you’re always welcome for Saturday potluck and game night.

      • TLC

        Since I’m a divorced single mom, can I live in the other side of the duplex? Can I still come over for potluck and game night? I’m a great cook, and I’ll barbecue for you! And then, while the grill is still hot, we’ll burn the Pearls’ books!

      • Hilary

        Absolutely! Penny likes game night, but I prefere a good stitch n bitch, happy hooker edition. (I’m talking crochet). I suggest we charcoal the Pearl books and recycle the carbon in the paper Bach into the soil. After all, shit makes the best fertilizer.

      • Hilary

        I meant back into the soil. Autocorrect, that was a good one! How would one go Bach into the soil – load up in iPod with Bach and turn it on face down into the garden?

      • TLC

        Ooooohhh stitch and bitch … I would have to get out my embroidery. Or maybe you could succeed where my Grandma could not and teach me to crochet, thus becoming a happy hooker too! Or we could do what my co-editor and I did in college: pitcher bitcher. We’d go to the bar and get a pitcher of beer and bitch about all the things that were keeping us from making deadline.

      • Hilary

        I don’t drink, but it would be fun to go out with you. I just had a truly brilliant brain fart – how about Libby creates a open chat thread, and call it The Duplex in honor of all of us who would rather be there in the the hell of the Pearls world? When it gets to say 500 comments we can change address, ex Duplex I, Duplex II, or Duplex MN, Duplex TX, ect.

        Libby, Feminerd, what do you think?

      • Jolie

        I can make beads jewelery!!! And I’m all for pitcher bitcher!

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Sounds fun :). I will so be there.

      • Rilian Sharp

        I don’t even care, a totally pragmatic marriage with someone you’re not attracted to or w/e would be better than this shit.

  • AAAtheist

    “… Debi tells women that nervous breakdowns are their own fault for being so self-centered without, apparently, realizing that a nervous breakdown can actually result from giving and giving and giving until you lose both yourself and your sanity. {my emphasis} …”

    Thank you, Libby, for stating this. Just look at one of the responses to the “Carnal Husbands, Cranky Wives, and Cantankerous Kids” article mentioned in Sara’s letter to Debi. See how your observation applies to Nancy (the commenter below).

    “… I too, am very guilty of my husband feeling like he is a fool. We have already raised all 7 of our children, so a lot of damage is already done. My husband wanted to move all the time, so after 7 children and 45 moves in 40 years it’s got me down. My husband has always been a clown, and other than having a job always wanted to just have fun with the kids. I had to homeschool, can all of our food, do all the finances, pack and unpack boxes all the time and I just got tired and bitter. I am 62 and I want the rest of our days together to be happy and pleasant. Is there hope for me? I feel like it’s a useless battle. I know the Lord is there, but I just seem to feel like I can’t do it. Do you know of any good Bible studies on Biblical womanhood. I truly would love to go through one. Thank you for listening. …”

    Had Nancy been able to take care of herself, have her wants, desires, and needs respected and acknowledged on par with those of her husband’s, had her talents encouraged, seen herself as an equal in her marriage and known it was proper and right for her to speak up when there were problems, she might …

    • have become a manager in a grocery store/warehouse,

    • have enrolled her children in public school, thereby getting time to herself,

    • have had fewer than seven children or had none at all,

    • have moved when it made sense to do so and only when it was practical,

    • have asked her husband to share parenting, housework, and cooking duties and, if he refused, stopped doing all of those things until he contributed or left him,

    • have found a partner she respects and is compatible with instead of one she views as a clown …

    … and the list could go on and on but I’ll stop there. That Nancy, at 62, believes (or, more correctly, has been coerced into believing) more Bible study is the answer saddens me to the point of tears. The fact her fundamentalist culture encourages this extraordinarily capable woman to diminish her own talents and to seek fulfillment outside of herself enrages me beyond words.

    And Nancy’s situation is no isolated incident. Check out Susie’s response (also from the comments section of the aforementioned article). Susie knows she’s gotten a raw deal but is given no feedback on how to improve/escape her situation.

    “… I have tried this approach for years, but my husband doesn’t respond with love. He takes advantage and walks all over me. He is easily upset and angered, violent, abusive to the children, etc. I don’t want my daughters to think it is okay for a man to treat them this way. It would be my worst nightmare for my girls to marry someone like their father. …”

    Beyond infuriating.

    • Sally

      Yes, there is a huge disconnect between the description of their lives together and solution she is seeking. “My husband acts like a clown and I do all the work; can you fix me?”

  • ako

    Ten miles up into the mountains, we finally came to an exit that had a
    gas station, and my husband turned to me, smiled and said, “What’s
    happened to you? You’re not a nervous wreck like you usually are. I’m so
    glad you’ve learned to relax. Isn’t life more fun when you’re not so
    full of fear? I’m proud of you.”

    If you take what he said at face value, this is really sad, and if you don’t, it’s really nasty.

    If he’s being sincere, then what he wants isn’t just a quiet wife, but a wife who can relax, have fun, and not be full of fear. He wants her happy, and stewing silently with anxiety didn’t actually seem to make her happier. She didn’t have the “Would it really be so bad?” moment until after he’s already said that, and spent the car ride struggling silently with sickening levels of nausea, while he’d probably have been happy to offer support, reassurances, and some assistance in defusing the panic.

    If he’s not being sincere (or he’s a fictional character invented by Debi), this is a nasty form of manipulation, leaving someone to suffer quietly and then declaring “No, you’re so much happier when I don’t have to listen to you express your unhappiness!”

    She completely and totally misses that her teachings that women have to
    perform perfectly for their husbands, whether it’s through perfect
    obedience or through always smiling or through keeping the house and
    children spotless and the proper food on the table, might actually
    contribute to or help create nervous breakdowns in women who follow her
    teachings.

    One thing I’ve picked up from paying attention to actual humans is that setting impossibly high expectations, blaming yourself for everything including other people’s bad behavior, and giving yourself no leniency is not good for mental health. People don’t thrive emotionally when they feel they must be perfect and control everything without actually having the power to do either of those things.

    • dawnofthenerds

      “One thing I’ve picked up from paying attention to actual humans is that setting impossibly high expectations, blaming yourself for everything including other people’s bad behavior, and giving yourself no leniency is not good for mental health. People don’t thrive emotionally when they feel they must be perfect and control everything without actually having the power to do either of those things.”

      Well, that just hit uncomfortably close to home. It really helps hearing it expressed that way.

    • Things1to3

      Seconding dawnofthenerds! Thank you for neatly summarizing why I’m much happier away from religion in general!

    • smrnda

      I thought ‘what a gaslighting asshole.’

    • herewegokids

      Oh but DEBI DOES. Can’t you see how she’s thriving?? And all her kids?? With those huge smiles?

  • Gillianren

    And Gods forbid that the thing making you anxious (or sad) is something biochemical. That’s not a real problem. There’s some jerk going around a neighbourhood in Portland, Oregon (I believe), putting letters on the doors of people on disability shaming them, saying that they don’t deserve to vote while taking government money, and telling them that the neighbourhood should get to vote on if they’re “really” disabled. And I know that, if they have an “invisible” disability, this person doesn’t think that counts. Because jerks like that never do.

    I’m sure Debi’s response is that I should just pray, and Jesus will heal me. Only He never did, and the worst of my mania came while I still wanted to be a nun. Then again, that’s Catholics, and they’re the wrong kind of Christian. If Debi even thinks they count as Christian at all. Debi probably doesn’t even believe in mental illness. Moments like this make me wish for that perspective gun from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie.

    • ako

      I hate that “You can judge how real a disability is by looking” crap. I’ve got a minor, but highly visible physical disability, and I’m often used as the rhetorical stick to beat people with mental health issues, chronic illnesses, etc., because everything thinks disabilities they can see must be so much worse than ones they can’t. And I’d really rather not have people I care about (or anyone else) suffer because they need kinds of help that I don’t and some wildly inaccurate attempt at guestimating disability severity leads to people deciding it must be so much worse to be me.

      • Gillianren

        At Norwescon, a sci-fi con up in Seatac, Washington, every spring, there’s an annual panel discussion called “Invisible Disabilities.” The only time the people in the room haven’t been completely supportive of someone (and even then, no one said anything at the time) was when, pretty much immediately following a woman’s telling us that the paramedics that had come to the con yesterday were because she’d had a seizure, another woman started going on about how serious her “womanpause” issues were and how no one took them seriously. And we need to look at “womanpause” as a real disability, and no one does–everyone tells you it’s completely normal and just a stage and blah blah blah. She went on about this for a couple of minutes and finished it with, “Well, I call it ‘womanpause.’”

        The etymologist in me wanted to yell at her about how “menopause” doesn’t refer to men but the Moon. The disabled person in me wanted to thump her with my walking stick.

      • Ibis3

        Yeah, that “womanpause” thing would have had me crawling up the walls, but about the disability thing she had a point. My sister has been suffering severe anxiety attacks for two years as a result of menopause and can’t take any meds for it due to side effects. She hasn’t been able to work and since she was self-employed, the lack of income is feeding into the anxiety. I suggested she apply for disability, but she hasn’t (perhaps *because* the anxiety is debilitating–she thinks since her disability is invisible, she wouldn’t be able to prove it or she doesn’t deserve it or she is intimidated by the notion of making an application or all of the above).

      • Gillianren

        And in her case, it is debilitating and it should be treated as a disability. This woman was saying it should be treated as a disability across the board.

        ETA–I’m on disability for bipolar disorder, if you think telling her that would help. In fact, they took my bipolar more seriously than my physical conditions, because I have more documentation.

      • TLC

        I hear you. I used to have asthma, and I had to get a handicap parking permit so I could park closer to my office when I worked on a university campus. Severe cold or heat were big asthma triggers for me; some days, just walking outside was enough to start an attack. But people don’t know that — they just see someone who doesn’t LOOK disabled, and they wonder why you’re using a handicap parking space. At that time, I would have gladly traded my parking permit for the ability to breathe without 7 prescriptions.

    • Lyric

      There’s some jerk going around a neighbourhood in Portland, Oregon (I
      believe), putting letters on the doors of people on disability shaming
      them, saying that they don’t deserve to vote while taking government
      money, and telling them that the neighbourhood should get to vote on if
      they’re “really” disabled.

      Oh, lovely, a person I have never met whom I still hate with the intensity of a supernova.

      • Gillianren

        And not even under their real name–the letters go out under the name “Artemis of the Wildwood,” or something random like that. So a jerk and a coward. And Artemis, so far as I know, had no real stance on disability or democracy.

      • Rilian Sharp

        Oh yeah wasn’t that mentioned on Colbert report?

      • Baby_Raptor

        Yup, I saw this on there.

      • Gillianren

        It was, but I’d already heard about it by then. It’s relatively local news for me.

    • Rilian Sharp

      They don’t deserve to vote while taking govt money? Why, because they can’t be rational about something that affects them personally? Well that would disqualify everyone from voting or being a member of the government. Whoever says that is also personally invested in what happens to the tax money so by his own reasoning he can’t be trusted to be part of the decision-making process.

      • smrnda

        The other issue is that I’ve been on disability – I was PAYING FUCKING TAXES FOR IT for YEARS and then when I couldn’t work, I got the benefits. I also still paid regressive taxes like sales tax while I was on disability, so even on disability I was *still* paying taxes.

      • Gillianren

        Yup. I probably pay a higher percentage of my income in taxes than Mitt Romney.

    • A

      My Catholic priest openly talks about being professionally treated for depression. Not all Catholics think that way. Please do not generalize.

      • Gillianren

        I . . . wasn’t? I was saying that Debi probably doesn’t think Catholics are real Christians, so the praying I did as a child didn’t help, because I was doing it wrong. My Catholic mother is the person who got me into therapy.

    • Conuly

      Don’t worry about it. Assuming they don’t get hit by a car and die, sooner or later karma is gonna bite them in the butt, hard.

    • smrnda

      This guy sounds like such a total *asshole.* How about people who show no concern for people with disabilities and reject FACTS about disabilities in favor that ‘magic can cure real physical illnesses if they involve the brain’ don’t get to vote?

  • Kelly

    FYI, this relevant article was just posted on The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/20/the-sinister-side-of-home-schooling.html.

  • LadyCricket

    Well, if there’s something I can say about anxiety and nervous breakdowns… or about mental health in general… I like to say “the human brain doesn’t come with a switchboard”

    There isn’t a switch you can flip to stop being depressed.
    There isn’t a switch you can flip to stop being bipolar.
    There isn’t a switch you can flip to stop being attracted to men or women.
    There isn’t a switch you can flip to START being attracted to men or women.

    You can’t just decide to be calm, or happy, or indifferent about things that make you anxious, or sad, or angry. You can control or rein in your emotions, and that’s a valuable skill. But you can’t ‘turn them off’, and even if you could, you shouldn’t.

    This is something I had to think about because I’m on a depression medication. I feel fine now, but back then I hated myself, and had no motivation, and was terrified of going out. Thankfully my mom was understanding (she takes the same kind of meds for the same kind of problem) and she got my ass to a doctor. And if there’s one thing depression has taught me… blaming yourself for not ‘getting over it’ by yourself only makes it worse.

  • Renee

    Seriously sick shit. I really can’t come up with more eloquent phrasing, her writing is just so horrible and demeaning.

  • TLC

    Having a nervous breakdown? Why yes, I am VERY close to one today! How did you know?

    If you read the NGJ article and the letter, you’ll see a common theme: repression. The woman in the article was not allowed to negotiate with her husband, speak her mind, express her feelings, or do anything else that would happen in a normal adult relationship. So she’s repressing her anger, and it’s coming out in her expressions, her attitude, her looks — and her kids get it, but her husband still doesn’t. So she thinks she has to “repent” and “change”.

    I sure as hell wouldn’t want to run out of gas in the mountains! I don’t blame Sara for a moment. But no, she’s learned to “repress,” and her husband still doesn’t get it. No communication at all. Sigh. . . . . .

    These women don’t have nervous breakdowns because their homes are in disarray. They’re having breakdowns because their LIVES are in disarray! And if they’re forced to live like this, they’re entitled to every single breakdown they have.

    • Jackie

      Their lives are a lie and they know it. Beating your kids so they smile all the time and swallowing the daily irritations that come with sharing a life with someone instead of resolving problems is living a lie. Poor women.

    • Hilary

      I am holding off a nervous breakdown by the skin of my teeth. Penny and I are getting legally married this Sunday which is great, but everybody wants to celebrate with us. We’ve got over fifty people coming – It Had Better Not Rain. I’m cleaning in places I didn’t know existed. Just a little stressed out, but I keep reminding myself that these are friends and family who love us and are moving to support us, nobody is comming to judge us for better home and gardens.

      • Liz

        Congrats on your wedding :-) Hope everything turns out just right!

      • Hilary

        I hope so too.

      • Lizzie

        YAYAY!!! Mazel Tov! Everyone will remember how beautiful it was and full of love, not that the mantle had some dust on it! :)

      • Hilary

        True enough – especially since I’ve spent more time vacuuming cobwebs off the ceiling then ever, I no longer expect Mirkwood spiders coming down from the corners of the walls and ceiling.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Hilary, you need a hug. And some chocolate. *gives hugs and chocolate*

      • Hilary

        Thanks, that chocolate came in handy.

      • TLC

        Congratulations to both of you! I am going to a wedding tonight,so you will be on my mind. Sending love your way, and prayers that all goes well. I will also do my “no rain” dance for you as well! :-D

      • Hilary

        I’ll. post how it went on the chatter thread afterwards.

      • That Other Jean

        Congratulations! May you have many years and much joy together.

  • Beutelratti

    My ex-housemate took all the dishes and pots when she moved out, without telling me and while I wasn’t home. When I complained to her and told her that she could’ve at least notified me so that I could’ve gotten some replacements, she told me that “other people don’t have any dishes at all.” That was nothing but a cheap attempt to get around having to admit guilt and apologise. It is a really immature way to deal with any conflict. That Debi (the moral authority on all things women) has to use the “Other people have it worse than you”-card, speaks volumes. You do not use that card if you are actually right about something.

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    So Debi knows for sure that Mary was not losing her cool when she gave birth to Jesus. That is one powerful mind reader across time and space.

    As someone who suffers from actual anxiety, I can tell you that Debi doesn’t understand the root of anxiety at all. Debi (and, okay, lots of other Christians too) tend to see anxiety as an evil force that God wants you to ignore or overcome. Actually, the anxiety response is something God gave us as part of our survival mechanisms. It’s like the engine light on your car; it comes on to tell you something is wrong that you need to fix. It’s not just an annoyance, a hindrance, or a malfunction; it’s something that allows you to be alert to things you should take care of.

    Now, can anxiety malfunction, resulting in a “check engine light” that’s always on, or comes on for inadequate reasons? Of course! But more often than not, there ARE some legit root issues that must be dealt with, even in the case of true anxiety disorders.

    Ignoring them would be as foolish as ignoring the engine light on your car. Basically what Debi has done is told God that the alert system He invented is not good enough, and is to be rejected.

    • Cathy W

      Also, wasn’t the reason Mary was picked to have baby Jesus that she was superior to all other women? Isn’t she an impossible standard to hold yourself to? A good example for Christian women to try to emulate, yes, but shouldn’t we consider it absolutely normal to not measure up to Mary’s yardstick?

  • Baby_Raptor

    I wonder what she would say about my PTSD. I had a really bad attack about two weeks ago that required a trip to the local mental health clinic…My roommate had to miss work to take me. I bet she’d be all over that. (Especially since it was caused by something in Skyrim–an EVIL VIDEO GAME!)

  • Jolie

    For your amusement:

    How Debi should be trolled:

    Dear Debi,

    My spouse, Pat, is constantly acting like a freakin’ three year old; throwing horrible tantrums every time the baby is crying, shit is happening and the house is…well, a bit in disarray. Whatever Pat is doing seems to be oh-so-much-more important than what I’m doing, and this frustrates me to no end; Pat always wants to take all the decisions in our life and expects me to just follow through; also Pat NEVER takes out the freakin’ trash!!
    What do you think I should do?
    Yours,
    Mel.

    • http://aztecqueen2000.blogspot.com/ AztecQueen2000

      You could also have a letter from “Chris” and “Leslie”. Oh, the fun to be had with ambiguous names!


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