I have not talked about religion much on this blog, or on my Mia Thriver blog that I had before this new Jeanine A Thriver blog. But the blog before that I talked about religion often. So here it is, I am going to talk about religion.
I am LDS, if you have poked around on this blog at all that will not come as a surprise to you. Somehow saying that feels like a confession. I have done a lot of social media and blogging in my time. I have often found my self in different communities of like minded people focusing on what ever was my focus topic in my life.
I have often found a lot of commonality with Christians, how they think, how they believe. But unfortunately I have found the truth that I am LDS has changed the way a lot of people see me or interact with me. Sometimes I have just been upfront about it, and sometimes I have just talked about religion in general terms in-order to avoid feeling ostracized for my beliefs. Talking about religion in general terms has the benefit that I can feel commonality and connection with like minds on similar topics. The downfall of only being general about my religion is there is the inevitable reveal, yes, I am LDS, and then the downfall from it. Often the reveal of the fact changes the way people talk with me or interact with me. Often I find they become avoidant of talking about commonality, it becomes a division, you over there, us over here. A lot of times I understand this division. In truth while there are a lot of commonalities, there are a lot of differences. But sadly I find I miss discussing the commonalities, the places that make us all similar, human beings striving towards a greater good, faith in Christ… etc…
Well that was a large introduction to the topic. So now we come to the reveal. Yes I am LDS. Here is where we get to my conflict. I love my religion. I love the Book of Mormon. I love my religions doctrines. But I am having a very difficult crisis of faith right now… I see now that I have to explain the most significant source of my crisis of faith.
My pedophile father was a hypocrite pretending to be a good and perfect LDS man. My pedophile father twisted the doctrines of the LDS church and used the twisted doctrines against me to keep me under his control, or in other words, spiritual abuse. I have PTSD, of course. I am constantly triggered by spiritual subjects, especially when those subjects are related to the extensive (and I do mean extensive) spiritual abuse I received at the hands of my pedophile father.
Well, talking about this is seeming to help, because I am now feeling the sleepiness that comes to me after my anxiety has passed.
Why am I feeling anxiety right now. Because I am suppose to be teaching in Primary tomorrow about a topic that triggers me. I tried to tell myself that it would be all right, that the trigger would be mild, that I could work through it… Then tonight I find I can not sleep as anxiety takes me over and increases. So I tried to think of a new solution, I decided to try to teach the next lesson instead, in hopes it would not trigger me. I have looked over my lesson manual and lessons 4-13 are all going to trigger me. So that is nine weeks of lessons that will trigger me. I can not simply skip ahead, and I am about to face this every week for nine weeks. I know I could sit through, and possibly even enjoy these lessons being taught by someone else… But trying to consider myself teaching these lessons shuts me down. I am not quite sure what to do about it all.
When I was little and I came to primary I felt peace, and I felt comfort. There was something different, and beautiful, and sweet about primary. I loved to come and sit in the primary room and sing the beautiful songs about Jesus, God and their love for little children. Primary was a safe place, a comfortable place for me.
This is not my first crisis of religion caused by my trauma. I had another one a while ago, I am not good at estimating time-frames, but it was before I reported my father to his Stake President. When I was betrayed and stabbed in the back by my sister who I believed to be my best friend. When my dads Stake President believed my families lies. When I met with that stake president where I relived the trauma of being in the church house of my youth. When my very difficult witness against my father fell on dead ears. When my fathers steak president talked down to me and belittled me. When my fathers steak president repeated my fathers spiritually abusive words to me, almost verbatim, as if they were truth… in short… it was before I was re-traumatized by the meeting with my fathers stake president, about six months ago.
Back then, ok I will estimate, maybe it was a year and a half ago, maybe two years ago, maybe more…. It was before my ward was split and recombined with neighboring wards. Back then every thing about church was a challenge. Praying meant I would be overtaken by anxiety so large I could not think straight. Going to Sacrament meeting meant I was anxious and triggered by the sacrament and the spiritual abuse I experienced associated with that. Sitting in Sunday school, there was a 1 in 4 chance, or maybe even higher, that I would be triggered by the lesson and leave crying. I faced constant drama and difficulties with religion. And yet I persisted.
I persisted partially because I loved my religion and believed it. I also persisted because of how wonderful, beautiful, giving and thoughtful the people were. Honestly, there were so many angels on earth that showed me Gods love and kindness in the many thoughtful things they did for me. Also, I persisted because it became clear to me God wanted me to. Each time I had a crisis of faith, each time I was tempted to run screaming from my religion, God would wrap me in his arms of love through small acts of kindness by the members around me. They did not know, they had no way of knowing. One moment I was enraged at God, the next moment I was shown love and kindness by a neighbor and my rage at God melted away. God did not want me to run from my religion, I know, because he kept sending his angles on earth to administer to me.
Which brings me to another point. There are so many wonderful, genuine and great people in the LDS church. There are so many wonderful doctrines, these are the reasons I love my religion. But it is not all perfection and roses. Religion is the perfect place for leaches to attach themselves and pretend to be perfect in-order to gain influence over naive people. I know… My dad is a leach… I have many first hand experiences of watching him use his “perfect church going” image to manipulate people.
My last crisis of faith was extremely difficult and slow healing. Eventually I found to my delight I could pray without even thinking about anxiety. Eventually I found I could sit through Sacrament and only be mildly triggered. Eventually I was assigned to teach in primary…. Really that is when it got easier. It was easier for me to sit in Primary then it was for me to sit in Sunday school. I like to think that it is partially because Primary was a place of peace and comfort for me as a child. I love the primary songs, so sweet and so innocent. I love the primary lessons, so simple. Sunday school lessons at an adult level made me have to face the twisted spiritual abuses my dad inflicted on me. Primary approached the gospel topics simply, and childlike, in a way that did not bring on anxiety, confusion, and many other negative emotions. With my new calling in primary church attendance got a lot easier.
Eventually my ward was reorganized. I went back to Sunday school, and church attendance was harder then when I was in primary, but it was easier then the last time I was in primary. Thankfully it did not take long for me to be called back into primary.
Somewhere in here I reported my father the the State of Utah and my case was investigated by the Attorney Generals office. I had a strong case, and it would have had a good chance if it went to trial…. But it never went to trial because of the statute of limitations. This was a blow, but I was able to work through it and build back up my strength. My church attendance suffered during this time, I missed church from time to time because I felt triggered. But I had a mental block against admitting I was missing church because of my PTSD. I just had random attendance, and had a difficult time explaining why, and the teachers who helped teach the class with me did their best to be patient with my unpredictability.
My strength and triggers at church waxed and waned, depending on the level of stressors in my life. As my strength waxed and waned so did my church attendance.
Over time I felt stronger. I even got to where I felt strong spiritually. I got there were I was brave enough to confront my father through the church by reporting his extensive abuses to his Stake President. I felt strong enough I even had faith that reporting my father would go well, and be well received. But then I reported my father to the church, was betrayed and back-stabbed by family, and all my worst fears about how it could go were realized. My father had gained influence over his Stake President and used his cunning and twisted lies to sway his stake president away from being able to recognize the truth I told him. I was re-traumatized.
My church attendance became much more erratic as I tried to act that all was normal in my life while inside secretly I was falling apart. I was so afraid that my fathers Stake Presidents future predictions were true. I was so afraid that my fathers words and future predictions were true. I was so stunned by the betrayal of my sister whom I greatly trusted. I closed off and stopped trusting anyone, even my husband, even my Therapist. I shut down and closed up. Inside I decided I did not want to live my life anymore, but I also decided I did not want to hurt my family. I just went through life pretending as best I could that everything was ok. I missed church often, but I could not bring myself to admit why I missed. So my co teachers did their best to be patient with my very unreliable and unpredictable church attendance.
Now we have a new primary president, it is a new year, I am teaching a new class, with a new co-teacher. I greatly wish that my stressors and triggers were less. But I am only now starting to open up an tell my husband and therapist the truth of how I have been feeling for the last six months. I am only now starting to admit that I am having another spiritual crisis, this time a much greater spiritual crisis then I had last time. I admitted to my primary president and my co-teacher that I have PTSD, that church triggers me, that I have a hard time attending regularly. It is curious that I could not tell people before, that I felt so shut down, that I could not admit it. It was such a relief to tell the truth about why my attendance is sporadic. Both my Primary president and my co-teacher were thoughtful and considerate in how they responded. I felt understood, and best of all, even accepted, even with my goofy-strange-crazy trial of PTSD triggers from spiritual abuse.
I wanted so bad to tell them about my PTSD and then have a run of good weeks, as I have been able to have from time to time. So they could see that this is not a constant thing, that I can be normal sometimes. But maybe I am fooling myself here… It really is a constant thing, a constant trigger and concern…. But I am just really good at pretending all is normal, and hiding my symptoms.
I wish I was not so good at hiding my symptoms. But it clearly was a matter of survival in my abusive home. I had to hid all emotional responses. It is curious that I can have such enormous emotional responses and still hide them so well that my therapist a trained specialist could not see them. He could not see when my symptoms when I was having anxiety so bad I was starting to black out. He could not see my emotional struggle these last six months against the constant nagging desire to run from life, to stop living… It is amazing to me that I was having that big of emotions and that I was hiding them from him so well he could not see…. I was not just hiding them from him…. I was hiding them from myself… I tried to deny, as often as I could, that I felt that way…. Thank goodness I want to live again. I am so glad to not be fighting that constant battle any more. But it is curious to me. I wonder why I did not tell anyone. Maybe they could have helped.
This is really becoming quite the brain dump of a post….
I know why I did not tell… Because hiding all emotions was essential to my survival growing up. I had to hide all emotions. Having big emotions was cause for being unreasonable, invalid, crazy….. Three mental abuses used against me constantly… Three of my biggest fears… Three of my worst triggers…
I was so afraid of being unreasonable, invalid, crazy I could not share with anyone around me that I no longer wanted to live, that I was only living in order to save my family from pain. I was so afraid of being unreasonable that I hid the fact that I was re-traumatized for about three months. But even as I told my husband and Therapist I was re-traumatized I did not tell them that I struggled constantly with thoughts of suicide. There I said the word… I have been talking around it haven’t I…. I never had suicide plans… I always held that tidal wave back by telling myself I could not put my family through that trauma and pain.
I had a crisis that threw me into a suicidal spell one time when I was alone in my van. There I struggled with destructive thoughts. But a strong male guardian angle sat next to me in the van. He patiently and skillfully turned my constant persistent thoughts away from their destructive paths. Three hours later, with the watchful care of my guardian angel, I made it back home. Much to my husbands relief. He had spent the whole three hours sitting on my front porch, fearing highway patrol would show up at any time reporting that harm had befallen me. He knew I was not in a good mental state when I ran off in the van.
I told my husband and therapist the risk I was under that night. But I never told either of them that I had long since decided I did not want to live, and was only living for my family. It never occurred to me that I could feel any different or better. It never occurred to me that they could help… I just accepted that this was my new standard of living, I did not hope or believe it could be anything different.
I still don’t know how I managed to hid such big emotions from two very devoted, caring and thoughtful people in my life. It is amazing to me that I accepted that as my normal, that I hid it, and avoided telling anyone.
I am talking in circles I know, and I am going to keep doing it.
So now I am in a spiritual crisis. I am struggling once again with church. But I do not want this struggle. I want to love my religion, love the good people in my religion, and feel peace when attending church. I do not want to feel triggered constantly. I am not sure what to do about nine weeks of primary lessons that trigger me and kick up my anxiety so much that I might be able to teach the lessons even if I tried….. I am not sure what to do….
I cant believe I dumped all of that out of my brain into this blog post. I have been avoiding talking about much of that. It feels better to get it out of me.