Lowered Gaze

Pastor M died last week, and I have since been experiencing an internal struggle. I felt like what I wrote in the previous blog could have possibly hurt his surviving family. The blog is public so anyone can read, and the thought of hurting someone with my actions causes me distress. I know how it feels to be hurt, and I don’t want to be the source of pain for anyone. Would I want to be remembered by my mistakes when I die? Of course not. So why am I writing about the mistakes of Pastor M? To many people of which he counseled, and even to his own family, he was a compassionate Christian leader and counselor. When we left the cult, I did not wish ill on them. I did not feel that it was my responsibility to seek revenge or “take them down”. Which is one reason that I am changing the names in this blog. I don’t want my blog to be interpreted as saying “these are evil people and they deserve the worst.” However, like any art form, I cannot control the interpretation of the reader.

I saw Ted this week. I have not seen him in nine years. I saw him the night before Thanksgiving. I went to Costco with Mom and my Oldest Son. We were done shopping for food; Oldest Son wanted to look at the toys and holiday decorations. I was walking in front of the two of them when I suddenly felt something comparable to a wave washing over me; something was approaching and the feeling wasn’t good. Time slowed to a crawl as I looked up to see Ted walking toward me. At first, my brain did not register him. I thought it was his younger brother, then his older brother, and then I realized it was him. He was pushing a cart and talking to his teenage son. I lowered my eyes to my cart as he passed by. I gripped it with super human strength as my instinct was to jump on him and scratch his eyes out. He stopped talking as he passed me and I felt he was looking at me with recognition, but I refused to meet his gaze. As soon as he passed, I turned to watch him as I didn’t want him talking to Mom or looking at Oldest Son. He does not deserve to lay eyes upon my children. I felt petrified, scared, terrified, as if he still had control over me. He turned the aisle and I told Mom what happened because she hadn’t seen him. I wanted to leave. I couldn’t be there anymore. All my emotional work undone in a glance. I felt guilt, shame. My emotions immediately fell back to old habits: I was doing everything wrong, I deserved any type of abuse that he had given, that I was the horrible sinner and the pastors and elders at the cult had only been trying to help me. Shame, I just wanted to hide. We walked toward the books and waited there a while. Mom and Oldest Son looked at books while I stood there feeling like I was having a heart attack. My side ached, I couldn’t get a deep breath, my abdomen hurt. I somehow feigned interest while Oldest Son showed me a book he wanted to buy, and calmly explained the reasoning of why we couldn’t buy that today. All the while my eyes searched the crowd, I wouldn’t get close to Ted again. I saw him get in line. We were successfully able to avoid him and leave.  I just wanted to go home, my safe place.

The next day was Thanksgiving, and we went to my parent’s house. I have not felt that their house has been a safe haven in the past, at times even a source of anxiety because of things unsaid. While walking to their house, I felt prepared for some anxiety because of seeing Ted the day before. Upon entering, Dad says to me “so you saw him huh?” This may not seem like a big deal, but for me it was the world. This means that Dad is ready to acknowledge that I had suffered abuse. Dad acknowledged that me seeing that abuser could cause me distress. He’s reaching out. The acknowledgement of my possible hurt caused me to relax. I felt okay to talk because Dad was ready to listen. I did not explain in a lot of words, but he hugged me and told me he loved me. This is what I have been missing; my Daddy’s love and acceptance. I did not feel anxiety on Thanksgiving; our family had a great day.

I have gone through many emotions this week since the passing of Pastor M and seeing Ted. Most of them are not good, and aimed toward myself.  I realized that in the past ten years, I have removed people in my life that were a source of fear, trauma, guilt, or shame. I have surrounded myself with friends and family willing to express their love, affection, and acceptance. I have felt happy, and I have enjoyed writing the blog. I have doubts now. I want to believe that I am a normal person that has nasty thoughts,  will laugh at inappropriate things, but does not wish ill on others. I enjoy helping people and animals. I love to nurture and feel rewarded. My doubts come in the form of questions: What if those people I cut out were right and only trying to help me become a better person? What if I am not a “good” person like I long to be? What if I make people feel horrible and I don’t even know it? Am I an abuser like them? Why do I reach out to some people with love and they won’t acknowledge me? What if I’m doing it all wrong? Am I setting a good example for my children, or a terrible one and I will ruin their lives too?  These questions serve no purpose for me, they are a weight and distraction from my life.

I got my tattoo colored today. This means that I spent time talking to a long-time friend (the tattoo artist). I will not stop or give up on myself. Just like a wave, I will watch the doubts recede. My job is to practice awareness, kindness, patience, and compassion. This means toward myself as well.

~E

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Riding the Wake

I experience visions. I will see a scenario in my head; it does not come from inside me, it won’t make sense with what I am doing, it will just appear before my eyes. Sometime later, usually that same day, the scenario will happen. I do not feel comfortable saying that it is a psychic vision, because I do not search for it. This week I was driving to meet some friends. I had a vision of a woman that was in a public place surrounded by people she didn’t know very well. This woman receives a text that a loved one has passed away. I wonder if the woman in this scenario is me, maybe I will be in class and see a text message that a family member has died. This makes me sad, but also prepared. Upon arrival at my friends house, I meet two women. They are interested in adopting one of my friend’s dogs so they are spending time with the dog. I am there for a few hours with my friend and these women when one of the women gets a text message that her mother in law has passed away. The mother in law had been battling cancer, but they thought she had more time. They are crying and hugging, and I start crying. This is very sad, but also it is my premonition come true. I tell my friend this, but usually people just look at me like I am crazy when I confess these things. It is okay, I think it is a little crazy too.

I went along with my week as normal, yet I have been very distracted. I have been helping a friend, on top of my regular home duties and college assignments. I have felt weighed down, but I thought it was just because it is the end of the quarter. I have lacked the ability to focus on anything for any period of time this week, and I didn’t know why. I have also felt exhausted, as if anticipating, and I couldn’t get the scenario of the vision out of my head. This morning I got a text from Mom; it was a group text, “Pastor M has died.” Numb. Awareness of being numb. How do I feel about this? I don’t know. I’m not sad, but not happy. Not mad, just disappointed somehow. Relieved? A little. Near the end he was still counseling people and still getting money from charities so he could have “one last vacation” before death. I have written previously of being visited by people after they have died. This is not scary to me, it is a way of life and I just know now that sometimes I will see people; mostly in my dreams but sometimes in that dream state between sleeping and awake. No one has ever bothered me; they have all just wanted to tell me that they are okay, and that they don’t remember dying, or pain. I am grateful for this. I had the thought that Pastor M might visit me in a dream. I told him that he is not welcome to visit me, and I know he won’t.

I got in the shower and let my mind think openly about Pastor M. I wanted to be free to not only think of the bad memories, but do I have any good memories? When a person dies, you are “supposed” to remember the good times… The time that I was riding in the backseat while he was driving. There were four other people in the car, and we were all singing along to music. Mid-song he turned the music down and said to the front seat passenger “Don’t you hate it when people think they are good at singing and they are not?” Then looked at me in the rear view mirror… ‘Move on, Erica, that’s not a good one.’… I remember the many times during the summer in which all the house painters would leave work early to meet Pastor M at the lake and he would tow us around in inner tubes. Some people liked to be wild and bounce over the wake, always falling in the water. I have a fear of water, so I told him that I didn’t want a crazy ride. He would say “I won’t” but then as soon as I got in, it would be a crazy ride. But I realize something now: those crazy rides taught me to hold on. I would watch his hands while they steered, and I could anticipate the next turn. I am not a big person so I would bounce over the wake, but I learned to balance my weight in ways so I wouldn’t fall off. The first time he did this I was sitting in the tube. He went over the wake, then back over. My toes went over my head and they touched the water. I said “NO!” and I pulled myself back down. Everyone in the boat had a shocked look on their face and Pastor M said my turn was through… I learned to watch, I learned to balance, I learned to ride the wake. I conquered a fear and found a new strength.

I grieve for a lost relationship with Dad. I do not want to live my whole life not being able to talk to Dad about the cult. I have a public blog where many people read my stories. So many cry and offer hugs and love. But not my Dad, the one I long to be close to the most. In learning of Pastor M’s death this morning, I saw my opportunity to talk to Dad. Dad had asked me to go hiking with him today. I originally said ‘no’ because I had other things to do. Just before bed last night I said to myself ‘When your Dad has time to spend with you, you spend it with him! This is what you want!’ I texted him and said I would go hiking. He said instead of hiking he wanted to make me breakfast. As we were sitting with our full plates of food I asked him if he would want to talk about the cult, if it would be okay. Mom has no problem talking about it, but Dad is always quiet. He told me some feelings that I have never heard him express: regret, sadness, grief, longing to be close to his children during that time so he could protect them. I did not attack, I did  not chime in, I only listened. When he finished talking I told him that I would like to talk more. I want him to know things about me that other people know. I just want him to know. I want him to know what happened when he wasn’t around. He said that would be okay…We talked about the times when we played in the “church” band together. Pastor M was the singer, Brother and Ted played guitars, Dad played drums, and I played keyboard. Dad and I were always at the back of the stage together. We didn’t get to talk, but we got to be close. Music was our activity together. I felt safe during these times. I would look at Dad and he would smile, I would smile back… This is enough for the day, we have opened the door.

Once again I find myself riding the wake, finding the balance, keeping my eyes forward, anticipating the next move. Only this time, I am not afraid of falling.

I love you Dad.

~Efeather

Squeezed

11/8/2016

Numb, listening, unbelieving, shock.

Can’t breathe, pain, dizzy, feeling squeezed.

This has been my week. I knew I was triggered by this person, but I didn’t think that his presence in position would affect me this way. I knew there was the possibility of him to become President, but I pushed the thought away. It’s my fault for not dealing with this sooner, now I am in the whirlpool of anxiety, fighting the tide. For many, they don’t understand my anxiety and PTSD. They think that I am upset because “my party” lost. I claim no party as my own. I am triggered by this man’s words and mannerisms. The way he conducts himself reminds me so much of Pastor W. Pastor W was also praised as a good businessman and as someone who would “motivate”. Pastor W also felt that he could do what he wished to other people and they would “let” him because he was in a position of power. Pastor W also taught these morals to his 9 children. Pastor W’s second oldest son Ted raped me, and not just once, it went on for two years. Ted molested me for five years before that, and when I reached out for help, no one saved me. When the rape started I was completely alone. I fought it the first few times, but I was weaker than he. It was scary and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was the one at fault and that I had made a horrible mistake somehow, but I didn’t know what the right thing was to do. I walked out of the church one night trying to avoid Ted, when I did I heard screaming coming from a car. It was not a car that belonged to anyone at the church. A young girl opened a moving car door and tried to get out, screaming. She was pulled back in as the car sped away. I thought “this is my life”. If I am in the church I am raped, and if I am out of the church, I am raped. I thought it was better that at least I knew the person who was raping me. Eight years later I made the decision to leave that place and never return. I decided that I was never going to let anyone treat me that way again, and that no one like that would ever have power over me again.

This week, a familiar figure has taken power of my country, and I am distraught. Not because he is or is not the best person for the job. Because of the way he has talked about people. Because of the things he has said and what he has done. He is the same as the cult leaders, and I am terrified.

~E

 

“Punk”

I was so relieved after Dad kicked Mike and his wife off the property. Mike had been caught peeping in my window while I changed my clothes. I felt like Dad would defend me from now on, maybe. I started to feel a little empowered and brave.

The church never called it “Halloween” but they always had a “Harvest Festival” for the community. During the festival there would be games and candy. The Harvest Festival would usually take place a few days before Halloween, so we would go trick or treating also; as long as we weren’t in trouble. I had been avoiding Mike, but we were crossing paths in the hall during the festival. He was dressed as a “punk” and I do not remember how I was dressed. I was annoyed by him because I felt like he probably truly wished that he could dress like a punk, but that he would get in trouble if he did, so he waited until Halloween. I was also still very upset about him looking in my window, and I felt righteous in my anger. I wanted him to know this, so I said something awful and ignorant. I said sarcastically as I passed “What are you, a … punk?” He turned quickly and before I knew it he was holding me up against the wall by my neck, with my toes unable to touch the ground. He was much taller and stronger than I, which I hadn’t realized until this point. While looking me in the eye he said, “don’t you ever call me that again.” Then he let me go and walked away.

I ran to the bathroom and stifled hyperventilating. When I finally went back upstairs I didn’t tell Dad or anyone about this experience. As I grew into the teenage years, the physical control became more prevalent. I was not as scared by their words, now physical force was being implemented. Their force did hold me back physically and mentally. I was afraid to run, because if they could catch me or get me back…I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew it would be painful.

I now feel strong enough to defend myself in many ways. I am my own advocate. This experience taught me a valuable lesson in compassion and self-awareness. At the time  I did not know why I was lashing out at Mike. I had so many emotions, and felt out of control. No one was listening to me about Ted, he was doing things I didn’t want, and Mike was a “safe” one to lash out towards because he had already gotten in trouble for what he did to me. He also wasn’t a pastor’s son. In the following years I would find a friend in Mike, and he would become a defender of mine. We are not friends today, but I don’t feel this experience has caused irreparable damage within me. It is hard to forget how it felt to be held dangling against a wall by my neck, but the memory reminds me to never put myself in that situation again.

~E