Dousing a Fire

by AJ cross posted from her blog I am Phoenix

Back when things
just rolled right
off me.

Why do I often feel so sensitive, defensive and maligned against? Some days, it’s like my body is a magnet that draws to itself and magnifies each hurt, each bit of slander, each little judgement I sense may be directed towards me. What some people can easily shrug off is like a crushing weight to me.

I used to be able to shrug off implied insults or hurts more easily when I was young. They seemed to roll off me like water off a duck’s back. I just didn’t get insulted. Direct insults didn’t hurt me, even when they were directed right at me. It’s like I knew I was a winner, and not much could bring me down.

I can sense in my deepest self that I will get back to that point where it’s tough to get insulted. When my autopilot automatically assumes the best intention from someone else, and I don’t take things personally.

The last few months, it seems like the last of the patriarchal male abusers in my family have been rearing up their heads and threatening me. It’s like I am reliving my childhood, but now instead of my father wreaking havoc, it’s now my brother in law and others who are conspiring together against me.

I’ve been pinching myself lately, to see if the scenarios playing around me are real. I mean, seriously? I left my toxic family in my mid 20′s and set off for a city many hours away. I spent the rest of my twenties and half my thirties far away from them. And I was so happy and oblivious, finally leading life surrounded by healthy, normal people. It was such a relief to be away from it all.

Age 31 or so, on my own, healthy and loving life. With a good friend.

 

And now, because of the illness, I had to move back to my hometown to be close to my family, and I’m in the inner circle again, being bullied, poked and prodded by the men. Being shamed, judged, controlled, trapped.

Several of the family members closest to me have been disillusioned with me because I won’t participate in negative, judgemental conversations, and I won’t embrace the toxic religion. They are angry because I don’t believe that man is innately sinful, and that I don’t believe in a judgemental God who dooms people to hell, and only allows certain in to heaven.

Somehow, word got out in my family that my sister Thalia and I are Buddhists. My brother in law Clark recently informed his wife Louisa that Thalia and I aren’t allowed to babysit their two kids Sabrina and Patrick because they think that we will poison their minds with Buddhism. Seriously? He is an abuser who hits his wife and kids, and he thinks a Buddhist is a danger to his children? I don’t even know fully what a Buddhist believes, but I imagine a child is quite safe around someone of this persuasion. My sister Louisa is powerless to say no to Clark, because she is afraid of him. As a wife, she is to be submissive to his spiritual guidance. To open her mind and rationalize that her own two sisters are harmless would be tantamount to insubordination, a sin that she doesn’t have the courage to commit. My mom and other sisters are powerless as well, because we are not men. A man is the spiritual head of the house, and what he says is final. Because Clark has the label “Christian” firmly planted on his forehead, whatever he authorizes is solid and unquestionable, period. No female has the right to question him, and if they are foolish enough to, the other women in my family will shush you down in embarrassment and shame, and the men will bully or threaten you.

Enjoying life, no judgements, complete freedom to be me.

 

So Thalia and I are  on the outs as far as contact with the kids goes. And yet it was Thalia who opened her door to Louisa and her kids when Clark physically abused them two summers ago, when my parents refused to give Louisa or her kids refuge at their homestead. My parents approved of Clark’s actions, since he was a Godly patriarch. They said that divorce wasn’t an option because Clark hadn’t cheated on Louisa, so she shouldn’t give up on him. So when Louisa had nowhere to go, Thalia told Louisa that she and the kids she was more than welcome at her place. That was the same summer I had gotten so sick and had to leave NYC, with nowhere to go. My parents wouldn’t take me in, so that July Thalia took in Louisa, her kids, and me. It was crowded in her place. It was the summer of the three sisters, all of us living in one house with Louisa’s kids. We were sharing beds and couches. But Thalia made it work. She was the good Samaritan who gave from her heart when my Christian parents turned a cold ear to us.

It is no wonder that Clark is being vicious to Thalia and I. In his religion, it’s OK to bully or shun others who fall short of the faith. Apparently, neither she nor I are Christian enough, so he has the right to with-hold our niece and nephew from us. Also, Thalia encouraged Louisa to get away from Clark when he was abusing her. So he has it in for her. His Christian faith tells him it’s OK to fight fire with fire. To go in there with a blazing sword, cutting right and left without compassion. I thought that Jesus’ message was to face an enemy with love. And yet, in my family’s cultish beliefs, they act like even Jesus was too soft, and if he was a man he would have burnt the backsides of anyone who crossed him. My family is so pious and they say they believe the Bible, but they twist the kindest, most loving passages of the Bible and make them sound cruel.

My family delights in judging me. I’m being told that I’m sick because I haven’t forgiven my father. The truth is that I love my father for who he Really is. I love my father because underneath, he is loving, compassionate, kind, soft spoken, and nurturing. True, I haven’t seen him display these qualities to me, my family or others. But that’s how I choose to view him- for my own sanity and because underneath, that’s his real identity. My father doesn’t know who he Really is. He left his real self behind decades before I was born, and my siblings and I have only experienced him as cruel, angry, violent, abrasive, loud, hypocritcal, controlling, and abusive. His religion tells him this is OK, and this is who he is content being. Because of this, he will keep hurting me if I spend time around him. So I choose not to go over to the house a lot. I choose not to make a close bond with him because he will hurt me again. The last time I spoke to him, he told me that he didn’t like me and wasn’t able to get close to me when I was a child or as I am now. He said that I reminded him of himself, more than my siblings do, and it repelled him, since he hates himself. That’s why he hated me and not my siblings as much. Now why would I want to speak with this man further when doing so results in a spill of toxins such as this. It is his norm to say hurtful things like this with no regard to another’s feelings. His empathy switch is broken. To continue to pursue connections with him will simply result in me hearing more of this line of thinking. If I was a masochist, I should pursue a relationship with him. But because I love myself and I love my father for who he Really is, I will not allow him to hurt me anymore because I’m removing myself from the situation.

And yet, my words go over their heads. I’m told if I really forgave my dad, that I would want a close relationship with him, and that I would be going over to the house more often like most of my other brothers and sisters.

A few months ago when my mom was visiting me, I let down my guard and told my mom that I was abused by my dad. I had kept in a secret, and she hadn’t known about it. No one did. When I told her, I shared that it had been a major factor in causing me trauma and leading to the current illness. I was crying and blubbering, because it was a big deal to open up and share this. My mom’s response was that she was embarrassed for me. She gave me this weird look, as if she didn’t believe me, and said, “Where was I?” As if to say that she would have known if I was being abused. And yet she was abused and to this day refuses to admit it. Her religion says this kind of treatment is God blessed.

Thalia was talking with my mom the other day on the phone, and my mom told Thalia that I was having issues and really needed to forgive my father. She also said that I needed to start going to church with my husband Karl, and that I wasn’t trying hard enough to be a good Christian wife. She pitied Karl for having to go alone. Ugggh. My mom still doesn’t see that the illness keeps me feeling so sick, it’s impossible most days to get up off the couch. I love my mom so much. I see her pure and good essence. I also see the black inky cloud of toxins blinding her eyes. She doesn’t know any better. I wished that I hadn’t let my guard down and let myself be vulnerable in front of her when I shared about the abuse. She turned around and used it against me. She didn’t know any better. That’s what her religion requires of her, judgement. If she’s not judging, then she is slacking as a Christian. My mom wants me to just back down, be silent, and not cause waves. Her first job is protecting my father. She told me confidentially that she wouldn’t share what I told her with my father. She said it would “shatter” him. A Godly woman’s loyalty is first and foremost towards her husband, even if the husband is harming her children. It is her job to protect him and shame anyone that dares to question him.

Louisa is just as dominated by Clark. Louisa came over to visit Thalia and I the other Saturday. We were talking about religion. I was going on about my favorite topic. I was sharing how I was so confused how the more a man studied religion, the more cruel and abusive he got. I brought up our dad, Clark and Karl as examples. I was sharing how the more Karl hung out with Clark, the angrier and more violent Karl has become. Louisa said that no, Clark had changed. I said, “Yeah he changed because you put your foot down and left him. He got scared. It was you, Louisa, who made the change, not him.” Then I was sharing how I wanted no more to do with that religion, because all I saw was hatred and cruelty. Then Louisa bursts into tears and says that she wishes we would just come back to the faith. She told us that she was afraid that Thalia and I would go to hell, and she didn’t want to loose us. Seriously! Ahh, now I am on the receiving line. I used to watch Christians try to witness to non-Christians all the time. Awkward, unloving process. And here our own sister starts to try to witness to us, and it just doesn’t fly, and she keeps crying.

Later, we came to realize that it wasn’t the immortal souls of Thalia and I that Louisa was crying about. She had confided in my mom that Clark was getting more abusive towards her, and that he was getting too comfortable, thinking she wouldn’t do anything more to try to leave. She’s been having health problems, but he can’t keep a job or the health insurance that goes along with it because he gets violent and gets fired from the scores of short term jobs he’s had. She said that Clark was enraged at his current job and hated it, and that he was planning on damaging the equipment there so that he could get fired and collect unemployment. After that, he’s planning on selling their home and going to a college in NY so that he can further his ministry and witness to the Jews. No wonder Louisa had burst into tears. I would be crying too.

And this is the kind of man who is mentoring Karl in the faith. This is who is teaching my husband. I’m being bullied now by Clark. It feels so childish to be subjugated to this kind of treatment again. I  left this behind twelve years ago, and I am reliving it again because I’m temporarily in a powerless position. The men in my family know that both Thalia and I aren’t able to get away from them and the religion because our health makes us dependent on them, on the family.

Full of life and healthy. On a bus tour in the DC area.

 

This is so not my reality. I have not manifested this. I do not resonate with this. Well, OK, let me be honest. The old me did manifest all this in the first year and a half that I moved home. The me I used to be would have resonated with what’s happening around me. But my new self, my healthy self doesn’t jive with the old patriarchal ways anymore. And that is why there is dissonance in my home, in my life. If I reverted to doormat status and let them push me around and dominate me with the toxic religious beliefs, there would be harmony around here. But I’ve changed since then, and I won’t let them degrade my spirit. I have to remind myself that my current situation was created by the uninformed me of a few years ago. I’m creating new and healthy situations for myself as I go along because my mind is healthy and loving.

I realize that the males in my family are unawakened and don’t know who they really are. I know they’re doing what they’re doing out of fear. This religion is the first thing each of them has discovered that keeps them afloat, and if they feel it is being threatened, they will lash out. It’s like trying to take a security blanket or life preserver away from a scared, hurt child, he will lash out. Maybe throw a tantrum. As he gets older, he will bully or shun you if you threaten him and his beliefs again. It’s a self preservation tactic. He is just afraid.

So I understand each of them on some level. But it is degrading to my soul to be in this situation in a waiting pattern. I feel incredible sadness, as well as a heavy weight in my mind and in my shoulders each time the toxins leak out during a phone call or face to face conversation on the homestead. I feel so hated, so worthless, so wrinkled up in the soul. Until I remind myself who I really am, then I’m ok.  But I have to keep re-energizing myself again and again, and it is an energy drain. I’m able to do it, but my energy could be better utilized. I realize I wouldn’t have to keep re-healing through self love if I didn’t live smack dab in the center of this nest of bees I call my family.

Taken when I was 26, a year after I was
out on my own for the first time. So happy.

My strength is knowing that I can walk away from this. I was so much happier when I lived far from my family, and was oblivious to them. I left before, and I can do it again. The first time I left, I didn’t know what I was leaving, and I didn’t know who I was. This time I know who I really am. Karl and I can move to another state. Meanwhile I’ll try not to take it personally. I will try to see and love them for who they really are while I am biding my time here. I won’t confide in the other female pawns in my life, as they will only tell the patriarchs and make it worse for me. I will try to make more friends online, and associate with people who are loving and healthy minded. I will believe in myself and accept that I truly am getting healthier, and that I’m manifesting healthy situations for myself as I go along.

Comments open below

Read everything by AJ!

AJ was raised in a spiritually abusive cult based on the teachings of ATI’s Bill Gothard. She has five siblings. After enough time AJ developed Chronic Fatigue, Adrenal Burnout and PTSD from the stress of her childhood. Her parents refused to help her in her ongoing health battle. She is married to a man that has recently emerged from spiritually abusive religion and together they are healing and moving towards daily joy! She blogs at I Am Phoenix

 

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Suzanne Calulu
  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    AJ, please get out of there. Please. Please.

    I was physically and emotionally abused by my father as a child, my mom kicked him out when I was 15 (long story), and I moved away from home for good, two months after I was eighteen.

    Throughout my 20s and early 30s, I was okay -even happy- but the older I got, the more I found myself struggling with depression. When I caught myself thinking about suicide every single day (not actually doing it, just keeping it in mind as an option), I finally broke down and got help in the form of counseling and antidepressants. One of the questions I asked my counselor was about why I had been okay before but wasn’t now.

    She told me that kids who grow up in secure, loving families form a base of good self-esteem, something that acts as armor as they move out into the world, and that kids who grow up in abusive situations often lack that armor. As we go along through life, the emotional bumps and bruises that everyone has to deal with do more damage to us, because we’re missing emotional armor. It’s possible to build that armor later in life, but it takes a lot of work and love and luck.

    I’m so scared for you. Your situation sounds awful and toxic and damaging. Please get out if you can; being near them can’t be doing you any good or bringing you closer to health or healing. I wish there was something I could do. From what you’ve written, you know that you are lovable, you have worth, you have a lush and juicy soul, but they don’t/won’t/can’t recognize that.

    Sometimes you just have to cut your losses. When a family member acts in such a way as to deliberately destroy you, they lose the privilege of being your family. Your real family are the people who love you and nurture you and accept you for the good person you are.

  • http://www.mimsycally.blogspot.com/ AJ

    Sixes_are_Sevens, I am glad your mom kicked him out when you were 15, but I am sorry you had to go through that. No one deserves that.

    The emotional armor analogy your counselor shared with you is helpful to me in understanding what happened. The less emotional protection we have, the more beat up we become as we go along. It sounds like we both became depressed around the same age… you can only sweep trauma and unresolved issues under the carpet for so long before they inevitably manifest into something so loud you can’t ignore it anymore.

    It has been unspeakably helpful to me blogging and discovering the network here. Once I started speaking up, even if it’s ‘just’ online, I was able to see paths open up. Currently I am living 5-10 minutes from most of my family members, but in 2 weeks time I will be moving to a new home an hour and a half away from my family. My husband agrees with me that we aren’t going to visit the family anymore for holidays, and we both de-friended all my family members from the social media sites we’re on. I feel like I am walking on air. I’d like to live in another state, but for now this is good because it’s too far for anyone to do an occasional drive by.

    Thank you so much for your concern for me. Many hugs to you! <3 <3

  • Madame

    I’m glad you are moving away. Getting away from family that threatens you is important.

  • Sixes_are_Sevens

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re taking a step away from the situation, and hopefully someday soon you’ll be able to get even farther away. The geographic cure goes really well with being able to share our stories. I’m looking forward to hearing more of yours, especially the next, happier chapter. :)

  • http://www.mimsycally.blogspot.com/ AJ

    Thank you, Madame! Counting down the days as we speak!

  • http://www.mimsycally.blogspot.com/ AJ

    LOL, yes and I’m definitely ready for that next, happier chapter! :)


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