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.