Nothing But the Blood

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That was not the first time I was treated to my very own, personal deliverance session.  A long time ago (I believe it was after I graduated from high school, but am not sure – it may have been during)  there was another meeting, not so unlike the one I described a few days ago.  This one took place in the home of my youth leader.  I was going through a lot at the time, as most adolescents are, and was struggling with both depression and anorexia.  There was a belief in our local Christian community that anorexia was caused by demonic oppression, and that I was at the very least, oppressed, if not possessed.  Not sure about all of this, not being privy to the adult conversations;  I only remember getting into the youth leaders’ van one day, and seeing a small paperback book on the seat, I picked it up and said “What’s this?”  My youth leader took it quickly and said “Nothing”, but not before I saw the title:  Pigs in the Parlor.  He wouldn’t let me see it, but I remembered it.  There were a lot of odd things said about me at the time;  some was said directly to me, which made my social anxiety worse, and my sense of shame and embarrassment increased.  So did my depression.  I had only recently shed the back brace I wore for several years, and my biological father had also disappeared.  Reasons enough for any adolescent to have identity issues.

Anyway, I really did have a difficult time.  All I remember about this particular meeting was that my parents drove me to the youth leaders’ house one night.  I remember that many people were in the room, including my pastor and his wife from our other church.  (We went to two different churches from 1978 until 1985, for reasons I won’t go into  right now.)  I sat in a chair in the middle of the living room, which seemed dark to me for some reason.  The all-important wastebasket appeared in front of me, as it did many years later, with the same explanation:  some people throw up when the demons come out.  And so I sat, frozen, while they all prayed and sang in the background.  “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus” is the only song I can remember from that night, only because they sang it over and over for a very long time.  I now hate that song, and feel so guilty about it.  But when we sing it, as we did tonight in church, it puts me right back into that living room, into one of the darkest periods of my life.  I don’t think anyone noticed I wasn’t doing very well with all of this;  I sat and stared at the floor, as I usually do when scared or nervous. The appropriate medical term would be shock.  I can’t remember all of what happened that night, partly because it went on for a very long time, and partly because I was exhausted.  I have always thought that if there had been at least one clear-thinking adult in the room, they would have taken me out and left. The overwhelming emotion associated with all of this was fear.  No, terror.  This is a horrible, horrible memory;  the damage this did to me  is indescribable.  What it did to my ability to relate to any kind of spiritual authority with even so much as a grain of trust is irreversible. Suffice it to say, I trust God, and God alone.

I honestly think that my youth leaders, and pastors, and everyone meant well; I just think they were misguided in their thinking.  I’m not alone in my experience, either.  Many young girls who struggled with eating disorders were thought to be under the influence of demonic oppression, and were subjected to similar experiences.  There were some highly esteemed leaders, both in and out of the church, who had some strong ideas about the etiology of anorexia;  there still are.  I have some strong opinions myself, but can only speak with a fair amount of certainty to what it was all about for me.  Certain mental health ‘experts’ believe that eating disorders and childhood sexual abuse are intrinsically linked;  I say not so.  Not always.  Causation and correlation are too different things.  The Sidran organization had a brochure out several years ago in which they stated that they treat anorexia as an expression of unresolved grief;  this is the closest I’ve found to what fits me and my own experience.

I don’t fault the church.  They were reading the books and ‘research’ that were available at the time. The elders’ wife, who made the same erroneous mistake some twenty years later, was also reading books written by people who seemed to have a great deal of credibility.  I think she also meant well, in her heart.  But when you sort things out, and take an honest look at the facts, I had good reason to be sad, scared, anxious, and depressed.  Most of us do, at various times, and not everything is caused by demonic activity.  The elders’ wife was reading a book written by a man I actually agree with much of the time.  He has written some really good stuff.  However, it became a problem  when she had me start repeating prayers after her, and ‘renouncing’ and ‘binding’ things that were listed in the back of the book, some of which actually were a part of my life before I became a Christian, but not after.  I did it, because I tend to be outwardly compliant to a fault, but realized I actually didn’t (and don’t) agree with all of this in my heart.  To my thinking, the day I became a Christian, all of that was under the blood of Christ in that moment, and my spirit was completely renewed.  Satan no longer has any claim, or power over me at all.  I believe that when we put our trust in the death and resurrection of Christ, our regenerated hearts are no longer under the influence of Satan, or his demons, and that Christ alone has not only removed any trace of generational sin from me, but that there is no curse that can control or oppress me, at all, ever.  Do I still sin?  Yes.  Do I need deliverance, as a Christian?  No.  Is my mind completely renewed?  Of course not;  that comes through reading the Word, and growing and maturing spiritually over time.  Barring an untimely death, I’m only halfway through this thing.  But the book bothered me.  So, I stopped ‘doing the work’ and eventually frustrated the hell out of the elders’ wife.  I’m not interested in sitting, week after week, doing work I don’t actually need to do.

Sometimes, but not often, I speak up and say so.

I think a little common sense and a lot of faith goes a long way.

Comparing ACA and AACC ethics codes: Addressing counselor values impact

Stacey:

Interesting notes on the differences between the ACA and AACC codes of ethics. Which do you follow?

Originally posted on Musings of a Christian Psychologist:

Over the next few post I plan to review similarities and differences between the ACA and AACC codes (see this post for the first in this mini-series). Today I want to look at how the two codes talk about counselors as they manage their own value systems with their clientele.

The ACA code raises the issue of values like this:

  • Section A Introduction

Counselors actively attempt to understand the diverse cultural backgrounds of the clients they serve. Counselors also explore their own cultural identities and how these affect their values and beliefs about the counseling process.

  • A.4.b. Personal Values

Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature.

In addition, the ACA clearly states that when there are significant values…

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A Collage of Many Colors

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CIMG0396In order to tell the whole story, I have to go back to how I met my counselor in the first place.  On July 8, 2000, I was invited to an event by a friend, who was, at the time, attending the church I go to now. This all came about because of something that had happened at my old church.  When my marriage fell apart, I started meeting with one of the elder’s wives.  This was not for counseling, but for spiritual guidance and accountability.  I made it clear in the beginning that this was all I was looking for.  I did not want to become somebody’s ‘project’ and said so.  My doctor had suggested that I talk to her, because I refused to go to a counselor, and I finally agreed.  I found out much later that this woman was in training to be a counselor for the church, but I didn’t know this at the time, and she never mentioned it.

It turned into a nightmare.

Somehow, she got the idea that the extreme grief I was experiencing as a result of what I was going through with my husband was really because I had been abused as a child;  specifically, ritual abuse.  (If you’re not familiar with this, bear with me, as this could all sound a bit odd.  If you are familiar with it, well, I’m sorry.)  It all culminated with a meeting in the Pastor’s office one day, when he was out of town.  I had thought it odd when she said that she wanted to meet there, instead of in her office, as we usually did.  When I got there, my best friend was already in the room.  I found out later that she was also being mentored by this woman as a counselor-in-training (I hadn’t known this, either) and, lo and behold, I was the person they were practicing on.  I have no idea what transpired between them, or how or why my friend came to be in the room that day, and had no idea what was about to happen.  As we sat down at the table, the elders’ wife said, with a nervous laugh, “If he (meaning the pastor) only knew what we were doing in here today, he would never allow it.”  That should have been my cue to leave the room.

I don’t know what made this woman think that grief from a broken and abusive marriage warranted a ‘deliverance’ session, but apparently she believed it did.  It was a humiliating and painful hour;  I sat frozen through most of it.  I could not look my friend in the eye, and the friendship ended soon after.  I had never, to my knowledge, told her anything that would have led her to participate in such an event, and could only imagine the talking that had happened between the two of them behind my back.  At one point, before they started praying and ‘casting out demons’, the elders’ wife put a wastebasket next to me, as she had heard that “people sometimes throw up when the demons come out.”  Really.

To my knowledge, the pastor never did find out what happened in his absence, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell anybody.  I did, finally, tell the elders’ wife that I had heard that she was in training to be a counselor for the church, under the leadership of the person teaching our biblical counseling class.  I only found this out when I signed up for the class myself;  the unwitting secretary had told me, and suddenly, everything made sense.  So, when I asked her “Do the other church leaders think that you are my counselor?” she became very angry, and said she would no longer meet with me, or help me in any way.  And so, we were done.  Immediately.  And she stopped speaking to me completely, even in church.  But, she kept something of mine, and hid it in her husband’s office without telling me, or asking if I minded that she put it there.  (Since my husband golfed with her husband, I would have minded very much.)

At one point in meeting with this woman (before the casting-out party) she had asked me to make a collage;  it was a project from a book that she had ordered for the bookstore.  I thought it was somewhat juvenile when she suggested it, but went home, borrowed some of my daughters’ glue sticks from her home school supplies, and sat down with a pile of magazines and a pair of scissors.  I started cutting out pictures, and little snippets of headings, and parts of sentences.  I couldn’t find anything sturdy enough to use as a backing, so I took the cover off an old copy of the church directory, and glued the pieces around the logo of the church.  So much of my pain was about the church, and my experience there, that it seemed fitting, and made the finished collage make sense.  To the right of the center fold was everything about the church and my divorce, and my adult life, and the left was about my childhood and growing up.  (For the most part).  This wasn’t really planned, but is just how it worked out.  I worked on it for at least three days straight, and did very little else during this time.  The collage really created itself, as most artwork does.  I can remember it clearly, if I think hard enough, but it, too, is gone now.  I cry about that, a lot.

After I finished the collage, I took it to her, and we did talk about it a little, but it seemed to be a bit too much for her, so we put it away.  Actually, she put it away, and that was how it ended up in her husbands’ office.  When I finally asked for it back, she told me where it was, and went down the hall to get it.  But it was ruined;  without even so much as asking me first, she had put it through the laminating machine in the office.  She said she was worried that all the little pieces of paper would come unglued, and she had hoped it would come out of the machine okay.  Then she said that she was going to use it to show to other people she was meeting with.  There was nothing about ritual abuse, only a lot of hurt and confusion, all poured out on paper.  Some of it was spiritual, and some was about abuse, but none of it was intended to be about the things that were in the books she was ordering.  (About ritual abuse, which I had never heard of until I met her, and started reading these books.)  I have no idea how many people in the church she showed it to, without my knowledge or consent.  Only God knows.  To say I was embarrassed is an understatement.  So, this is how it came to be that my friend, out of sheer desperation, said she wanted me to meet this counselor, who went to her church, and was going to be speaking at a women’s event in July.

I don’t believe that all therapy needs to be an intensive archeological dig, but mine did, only because of what I brought with me.  I brought my collage, and wanted my counselor to help me make sense out of it.  I desperately needed help.  I was a confused, depressed mess.  Although, come to think of it, that is how most people end up in a therapists’ office, so I guess there’s nothing all that strange about that.  What is strange is how it all ended.  But we’re not making a collage of that.  Or anything else, for that matter.

 

 

Mea Culpa

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IMG_1192699722961558The pastor has a study posted on his Facebook page;  I and many others from the church are following along, and posting our thoughts and reflections on the verses we are studying.  A recent question had to do with the man who was made to carry the cross of Christ;  the question was:  “Is there a time in your life when you were “compelled” to bear a burden you did not choose?  How did God use these moments to bring His redemption to your life or others?”  For some reason, this verse had stood out to me when I was doing my reading for the day (in Luke) and I had never paid attention to it before.  So I thought it somewhat odd that it was the focus of the question.

Here was my answer:  “Yes, everything I am going through now.  I have absolutely no idea how God is going to use or redeem any of this, because every day that goes by is another day farther away from what I believe to be the plan and purpose of God.  I did not choose this, and am not being given a choice in this situation.  The other person also has a free will, and a hardened heart.  Although it looks as though the enemy has triumphed in this situation, I do still have hope that it will all work out in the end, but because so much time has transpired, it just won’t be the healing it could have been.  And I am sad about it, every day.”

And so the pastor wrote (of course) that we have to surrender those things and people who are not in our circle of control, and let them go in our vision of our own future;  that God alone is responsible to judge, change, and restore others, and that God has a plan for us that is good, and that our happiness is not dependent on those over whom we have no control.  (Or at least, it shouldn’t be.)  And I agree with this. It”s a good answer, but those who know me know that we don’t “do happy” over here;  we do real.  I do believe in happiness, just not as a goal.  I believe it’s an outcome; a result, or happy consequence, of a series of wise choices.  I guess as an emotion it comes as a result of good things, or maybe an unexpected surprise, but to pursue it for the sake of itself doesn’t seem wise.  It’s too fleeting and elusive for me.

Anyway, then I wrote: “… I’m not looking to be happy, nor do I necessarily want this person to be anywhere in my future, but I hired them- actually paid them well over $20,000 in good faith- for a reason, and time is running out.  Not a good time for them to quit their job and walk away.  Just looking for healing, answers, and closure at this point, all of which are dependent on this person, so it is not something that anyone else can do.  Surrender, yes, I realize I have to, somehow.  But I don’t know that redemption and restoration are possible, as it may be too late for that.  But it is quite a burden, and I did not choose it.  And I’m tired of carrying it, and living with the consequences of their anger.  Extremely tired.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have written that, come to think of it, but I always take great comfort in the fact that nobody knows me, and nobody knows who or what I’m talking about, including the pastor.  Knowing that, his answer makes sense.  But in looking at my answer, I have to ask myself: Exactly which person am I referring to?  Counselor?  Husband? Or both?  This road looks familiar.

A long, long time ago, when my husband left for the final time, my counselor had gone to a party (reception) with my husband, his sister, and my daughters.  Actually, they didn’t all go together, but my counselor was invited, and for some reason, she went, with her husband.  When my kids came home, all excited, and told me that my counselor had just partied with the very people who had caused me to end up in counseling in the first place;  the two people who had caused so much pain and heartache for me, and for my daughters, I snapped.  In all the time of the divorce, I had held it together, for the most part (except for finding out about The Elf)  but for some reason, this incident put me over the edge.  No, not for some reason, it was specifically because both my counselor and the pastor had just recently reassured me that my counseling was going to be a safe place, and that my husband and his family would have no part in it without my permission and knowledge first.  That it would be my place of healing apart from them, and that the counselor was to be specifically my counselor, and they would not be allowed to go there.  Shortly after my counselor and the pastor said that, I went to my appointment one day, and as I looked down to sign my name on the clipboard on the receptionists’ desk, I noticed my sister-in-laws’ name right above my finger.  (This, by the way, is why you now get a label with your name on it, to stick on your clothing when you have an appointment at the church.  They thought I was reading the clipboard on purpose, to see who the other clients were.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to care, especially having been assured I had nothing to worry about.)  The sense of betrayal I felt when I saw her name above mine was immediate, and overwhelming.  Once again, they had invaded and taken over my personal space;  my place of autonomy and safety.  That same day, no less.  And I felt like I had been lied to, or betrayed by both my counselor and the pastor.  Maybe not lied to, but placated, or condescended to.  Humored.   Like a little girl, who will never find out what the grown-ups are saying anyway, so just tell her anything she wants to hear so she will be satisfied, and go away. Like I said, I don’t do happy.

So, after the girls ran in all excited from the wedding reception, and told me how much fun it all was, and how they had all- therapist, husband, my children, and the sister-in-law from hell- danced, and partied together in the same room, I fell apart.  I called my counselor and left an extremely upset and hysterical message on her answering machine.  All I pictured was one big, happy family, having fun together.  Except me.  And apparently, my own counselor had joined the ranks of the enemy.  She hadn’t picked up the phone, so I couldn’t talk to her.  I think it would have gone better if she had.  I do not at all remember everything I said.  Four years of tears and anger poured out of me.  I admit it, it was wrong, and I was sorry.  She finally accepted my apology, but she never did figure out what it was all about, and why I was so upset, and I couldn’t seem to explain it to her.  (I hadn’t yet learned the term ‘conflict of interest’.)  I didn’t ever do it again, though.

It was only a few years ago that it occurred to me that it wasn’t her I was yelling at that day, and it only occurred to me because my husband (now ex) had called, and I found myself saying all the same things to him that I had said to her on the phone the day of the wedding reception.  So she got all of it- the anger, the hurt, the pain, and the overwhelming grief that should have been directed at my husband and his sister.  Certainly not at my counselor.  She didn’t have enough information at the time to even know why I would be so upset about my sister-in-laws’ being in her office.  She didn’t know the part that my husband’s sister had played in all of this.  It just didn’t make sense to me that my counselor could, should, or would, help us both, regardless of why my sister-in-law was there.  (It had nothing to do with me, but I already knew that.  That wasn’t the point.)  It felt dishonest.  My counselor seemed to think it was all about control, and didn’t understand at all why I felt so betrayed. But because my sister-in-law was now also one of her clients, we suddenly couldn’t even talk about it;  now my counselor was protecting her, rather than me.  It was, emotionally, a replay of my experience with my previous church and my husband’s affair all over again, but now in the counseling office, with my own counselor.  So much for safety.

I’m not looking for happiness, just healing.  At this point, though, I don’t know that healing is even an option.  All I know is that I hired this person to get answers, not to be left with more questions.  And I want what I paid for.  Will I get it?  Probably not.

I actually posted this two days ago, but for some reason, my posts go straight to publish when I hit “edit”.  I feel badly, because I had a rather harsh working title on it (it was a sarcastic reference to the “Bluebird of Happiness”).  But I do feel terrible about it, so I unpublished it completely yesterday and changed it.  I am trying so hard not to be bitter about all of this, while at the same time, trying to write as honestly as possible.  It was never all meant to go on a blog in the first place;  I have asked and asked if I could please come to my appointment so we can just sit down and talk, but it never happens.  So, it all needs to go somewhere outside of my head, and for now, this is the only alternative I have.  But I do feel very badly about the post publishing before it was edited.  I am sorry if it offended anyone.

Scattered Pearls

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IMG_299554994445707My husband always bought me Chanel No. 5;  he started doing this when we were dating, and continued for about ten years into our marriage.  To this day, I can’t walk by and see it on a department store counter without feeling a certain kind of pain.  And then, one year, I opened a bottle of Elizabeth Arden’s 5th Avenue on Christmas morning.  I wondered why the sudden change… until I discovered that he had bought two identical bottles of perfume that year.  Shortly after that, I found several other receipts, for gifts I didn’t receive or open.  Smart man, yes?

No.

There is so much shame and embarrassment that comes with divorce.  It would be nice if there was a safe, quiet place where we could go and heal.  Divorce also comes with a lot of upheaval;  we lost our home, and every place we’ve rented since has been sold by the landlord almost as soon as we unpacked and got everything set up the way we want it.  Suddenly, it was all gone.  There is a saying that “God is a God of second chances.”  With God, we get a clean slate, so to speak.  Not so with people.  Sometimes they’re just gone.  Sometimes we lose our place of hope and safety.  Or we lose our voice, instead of finding it.

In the very beginning of counseling, I had an extremely difficult time trusting that my counselor was honestly not going to just quit and disappear.  After everything I had just been through with my husband, I just did not believe that she wouldn’t do the same thing, and I wasn’t about to go through anything like that again.  I was already extremely sick, and tired, and it just seemed like to much effort to go digging into the past.  Nor did I want to dig it all up, and then risk being left alone with all of it.  I told her that I was afraid I would ‘come apart’, and all of the pieces would scatter, and I would never in a million years be able to get it all back together.  When I said that, she did the most wonderful thing;  she left the room, and then came back with a small package of Skittles.  She opened the bag, and let the candy fall all over the floor between us.  Then she got out of her chair, and knelt down, and started picking them up, one at a time.  She looked up at me and said:  “And if that happens, we will pick up every one of those pieces, together.”  When she had them all, she sat back down.  She had heard me.

Some time after that, she gave me a small, beautiful bracelet made of pearls.  She said that she was giving it to me so that I would know that I could trust her, and that she would never just quit and give up on me, and walk away.  She said that she understood that I had a hard time believing her, and that I would learn over time that she could be trusted.  I loved my bracelet, and I finally believed her.  I did wear it, and it did help.  Had I known what would happen in the end, I would have handed it right back and left the room, but at the time, I really did believe her.  I think she did, too.  Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way she promised, and now all of those little pieces of my life are scattered everywhere, like little beads from a broken bracelet.  Most of this is all my own fault.  I wish I could go back, because there is so much I would do differently.  For the last couple of years, I have been trying to pick up all of those pieces by myself, without a counselor.  It isn’t going very well, mostly because  I didn’t take them all with me, the way you normally would when you finish counseling, in some kind of integrated whole.

After the horrible day in her office, the day she was so very angry because of my email, I waited and waited for her to call and say that what she did was wrong;  that she had made a mistake, and we would talk it out at my next appointment.  Instead, she called, and said that she would meet me at Panera Bread when she got out of work one night.  Why we met at Panera Bread, I will never know.  None of it made any sense, and still doesn’t.  I don’t know what the purpose of any of this is, and it’s all still such a confusing mess.  It hasn’t served any purpose, Godly  or otherwise, other than to make me wish I had never asked for help in the first place.  When we got there they were closing soon, so we didn’t have much time.  She explained somewhat hurriedly over coffee that she had read something in her devotional that morning, and that she took it to mean that God had given her an ‘out’ so to speak.  (That is not how she worded it, but is in essence what she was saying.)  She had brought a copy of it with her;  I read it, but didn’t see what it had to do with what had happened in my session.  I still don’t.  I felt like I was watching our conversation from the ceiling, or another part of the room;  the whole thing was surreal.  When she was done saying what she had to say, she promised that nothing would change, she “would still be there” (I haven’t yet figured out where) and that we would be friends, and have coffee, but we just wouldn’t “do therapy.”  And just like that, she was free.

She kept a part of her promise, for a while, and even sent an email on my birthday.  We were actually going to go for coffee (she said) but before that happened, she read a couple of the posts I had written about how hurt I was.  I regret it, but don’t know what to do about it.  There’s nothing anyone can do.  Needless to say, everything has changed, and all I want is to go back and finish my therapy.  It’s not about her, it’s about me.  I want a second chance.  Now we are not even friends.  She just disappeared.

I was heartbroken when we left Panera Bread, and a short time later, I sent the bracelet back to her.  She told me later that as she took it out of the envelope, it broke, and the pearls scattered.  She said that she took it as a sign that the counseling just “couldn’t stay together any more.”  As though it were proof that God had let her off the hook.  I took it to mean that she had broken her promise, and that I was right in the first place;  it was a sign that she really couldn’t be trusted after all.

Do you know what it was a sign of?

That if you wear a bracelet every single day, for years, but never get it re-strung, the elastic will eventually break, and the beads will go all over the place.

That’s all it means.  Nothing prophetic, overly spiritual, or profound.  It’s not a sign from God that it’s okay to break a promise, it’s just a sign that you shouldn’t send fragile items through the mail.  It’s a sign that you can’t trust a piece of jewelry to keep a human being from acting like a human being.  They get angry, they blow up, and they hurt the people they say they love.  And then they leave.

That’s all.

I miss my bracelet, and I want it back.  And if I had honestly thought for a moment that she would keep it, I wouldn’t have sent it to her.  I only meant to remind her, in a not quite so harsh and hurtful way, that she had made a promise.  If I hadn’t sent that email, none of this would have happened, and things wouldn’t be as they are today.  It really was a pretty bracelet.

I will never see that again, either.

Wittenberg Revisited

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profile_236971163_75sq_1350264225There is another aspect of this story that, while embarrassing to me, is partly what was behind some of my hurt and anger.  Before the day of the “Jezebel” session, earlier in the year, we had talked one afternoon about the possibility of my sharing the office with her on a part-time basis at some point in the future.  (My counselor, not Jezebel.)  I knew that I would be graduating soon, and would then be working on my Master’s degree, which would take me about a year or so, because I had worked hard to maintain my advanced standing.  (Which only means that you’ve maintained a certain grade point average in your classes.  I did, until November, later that year.)  She said that she would talk to her landlord about it.  This would have worked well for me, because I wanted to only work part-time while finishing school, and I could have worked around my classes much more easily than I could have if I worked for someone else.  It would work perfectly for her, she said, because she wanted to work fewer days per week, and then eventually retire.  I thought it would also help with some of my anxiety, to be able to meet with people in a safe place that I was already familiar with.  Because I’m also a writer, I have an obsession with desks, and I have grown to love hers.  It is the absolute perfect writing desk, and I would have been unbelievably happy working in such beautiful surroundings, and just being free to be me. A very happy me.  Not only that, but I would have considered it both a privilege and an honor, as I look to her not only as my counselor, but also as a mentor.  As an example.  It meant a lot that she took me seriously, even knowing all that she did about me.  (We don’t take our best selves to therapy.)

I left the appointment so very, very happy that day, but didn’t want to bring it up again, just in case she had for some reason changed her mind.  I didn’t want to be disappointed.  At the end of one of my sessions a few weeks later (I think) we were leaving her office one night, and I finally got up the courage to ask if she had really meant what she said about sharing her office with me.  I didn’t want to risk the embarrassment of being told no, or of being rejected, after getting my hopes up.  As she reached to turn off the light in the waiting room, she looked at me directly and said “Well I don’t know;  are you going to be a therapist?”  I said “Yes, I am”, and she said “Then yes, I meant it.”  And so we left.  Again, so very happy.  For someone who likes to know two years ahead of time what is going to happen tomorrow;  who craves structure and security, I felt like I finally didn’t have to worry.  At least one problem in my life was solved, or so I thought.

Some weeks later, I brought it up again during a session, and instantly saw by the look on her face that she had changed her mind.  She said she was sorry, but she had “been advised not to do that.”  She did not say by whom, or why. Only that she had decided to give the office to someone else.  My office;  my safe space.  Desk and all.  I had long since become quite attached to that particular piece of furniture, and to everything else in the room that had grown so familiar over time.  With all of our moving, and constant upheaval since losing our home, her office was an anchor in a never-ending nightmare.  A literal oasis in the middle of every week; in the middle of a very traumatic and disrupted life.  I was crushed.  Both ashamed and heart-broken.  And so embarrassed, for being such a fool as to think anyone would have ever taken me seriously, or thought that I was capable of doing anything like that.  And, to be honest, I wanted so badly to be like her.  To be adult, and professional, and capable, and not so damned insecure.  I tried so hard to earn her respect and approval, but never could quite pull it off.  This may not be important to anyone else, but it is to me, even now.  Please don’t write and tell me why it shouldn’t be;  it won’t matter at all, nor would it make any difference.  It just is.

But I think this is partly what was underlying my insistence to set things right about the other matter, because I felt that people were talking about me, and didn’t know who, or why, or what was being said.  But mostly I felt that she had changed her mind, for some reason, because of some inadequacy in me, and that she didn’t really take me seriously as anything more than a client.  That she would never see me as anything but unhealthy and incompetent, and I knew this was partly my own fault.  I had said, and shared too much.  Trusted too much.  And now hated myself for it.  When we hate ourselves, or reject ourselves, we act funny.  We do act odd, and people do talk about us, and not usually with a great deal of grace or mercy.  We ruin our relationships, both personal and professional, and I had done both.  Hence, the “Jezebel” session.

Interactions like these are important, no matter how frustrating to both client and therapist. Therapy provides the perfect place to pull these things apart, and face them, no matter how difficult, because this is where the meat of all real therapy is.  How the client interacts in relationship with you is probably much the same as they do with others, and this is what they actually need help with- not the situation, or crisis that brings them into the room in the first place.  Unfortunately, this is also where therapists all too often throw up their hands and make a referral, in the desperate hope that a different counselor can clean up the mess they made in their own office.  Have you ever tried to clean up a mess made in one room while sitting in a different one?  Doesn’t work very well, and it’s not for someone else to do.  For a client who has a hard time speaking up and dealing with people, the relationship with the therapist provides the perfect opportunity to practice how to hang in there and talk about hard things, including anger, without running away, quitting, or altogether avoiding uncomfortable situations.  This is what results in true life-change, not just behavioral modification.  My normal pattern is to shut down, run away, and avoid the person who hurt me like the plague.  Instead of her using this situation as a way to help me learn a different way to do life, it ended up being a re-enactment of what I had already spent a lifetime doing.  I went to therapy to un-learn this, although I didn’t know it at the time.

We can’t, as therapists, run from and avoid transference and counter-transference;  we have to learn how to use it, because, as I said before, this is where the real work of therapy is.  (These are just important sounding clinical terms, courtesy of Freud:  transference represents the clients’ ‘stuff’, and counter-transference represents the counselors’ ‘stuff’.  It’s what we both bring to the table, and is a normal part of all true therapy.) Our perceptions of other people are filtered through the grid of our own past experiences, and we transfer both our opinions and our feelings when we interact with each other.  We make assumptions based on fears that are not necessarily unfounded.  To chalk everything up to client resistance is neither fair, nor true.  Counselors are not God;  the best ones realize this, and work with full awareness of their own humanity.  This is what creates the safe space required for life-changing  therapy.  Anything less cheats both, and limits God.

What counseling is about for the client, and what it’s about for the counselor are two completely different things.  If you’re going to help anybody, you need to understand that from the beginning.  Clients don’t care about your degrees, your awards, or your theoretical orientation.  They don’t care if you are Freudian, Rogerian, Bowenian, or a Martian.  They care that you care.  That you are a kind, honest, and wise person.  That you see the person paying you as having worth and value apart from their signed checks.  I, personally, do care however about your theological orientation, because as a Christian, I am not going to go for help to someone who is not well-grounded in scripture and serves the same God;  someone who understands both spiritual warfare and spiritual authority.  Unless, of course, all I’m looking for is practical help, such as how to balance my checkbook.  I’ve had to take a long, hard look (as we all do, at some point) at who I choose as to look up to and learn from.  Do we choose our mentors, or do they choose us?  I have a feeling it’s a bit of both;  helping others makes us feel good about ourselves, and makes us feel competent.  If we have any insecurity at all as counselors, it’s soothed and satiated by sitting  with a clipboard or a keyboard in front of someone who is looking to us for help.  And we keep those clients who make us feel that way, and get rid of the ones who don’t.

I have a pattern of looking up to certain people who have turned out to be false, dishonest, or harmful.  I don’t know why.  I don’t count my counselor as part of this group.  I learned a lot from her;  more than I ever did from school, and got what I call a back-door education.  I learned not only by being a student, but by being a client at the same time.  Of the two, I would have to say that I got more for my money from my counseling than I did from the university.  What was being taught to me in class was being experienced in weekly sessions;  you can’t put a value on that kind of education.  And you could tell many of the teachers hadn’t had it themselves, by the way they taught.  An exorbitant amount of  text-book theory, but very little common sense.  Not a whole lot of “how to help the person sitting in front of you.”  And an education that benefits you, but not your clients, is just not worth the time, or the money.  Remember;  most clients could care less about what is hanging on the wall of your office, no matter how pretty the frame is.

The person of the therapist is the therapy.  This part is essential.  If nothing else, remember that.  A degree simply means you’ve done your homework, checked all your boxes, and jumped through all the hoops required by the university.  It doesn’t mean you’re actually competent, nor are you necessarily even called, to be what the piece of paper and plaque on the door says that you are.  It doesn’t say what kind of person you are.  Do you cheat on your taxes?  Cheat on your wife?  If so, pick another line of work, please.  We don’t need, or want, to emulate people who are as unhealthy as we are.  Sometimes more so.

All that being said,  my heart changed after that appointment.  I can say that I was both defensive and difficult, (more so than usual) over trivial things that shouldn’t have mattered.  I lost both trust and respect for her, but never told her why.  And, I got severely depressed.  Even more so than I already was.  I still don’t think that any of this should have happened;  I still believe that ending my counseling was wrong, and I believe that it should be made right.  I think it honors God and defeats the enemy when we clean up our messes and stay the course.  I still think that what she originally said about sharing the office was right, and was the plan of God all along;  it would have been the natural outcome of all that had gone before.  I don’t think it belongs to someone else.  It’s just too late now to fix it, all because I sent that email way back in October.  I wish with all my heart I hadn’t sent it, and will possibly pay for that mistake for the rest of my life, but there is absolutely nothing I can do about it now.

She called that night, also, and apologized sincerely for having ever made the promise in the first place.  She said that she had never meant to mislead me in any way.  (She hadn’t;  I heard her clearly and correctly.  I don’t get happy easily, and certainly not without good reason.) She said that she was truly sorry for any misunderstanding.  And I believe she was.  But, it did change everything for me.  Nothing made any sense;  I had believed all along that it was what I was in school for, and what God was preparing me for.  Now I didn’t have a clue or a plan.  And my degrees didn’t make any sense any more.  Nothing did.  Or does.

Doubt like that makes the perfect open door for the enemy.  And I fell headlong through that doorway, and have been falling for the last three years.  The first two were a hazy blur of medication that did little but numb my brain, and the last has been a clear-headed journey through hell.  I’m sorry all this happened, and sorry for my part in it.  There is still so much more, because ten years is a long time.  But it’s late, or early, rather, and I’ve written myself into oblivion, and am going to bed.  The sun should be up soon.

Good early morning, people.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;  I will counsel you and watch over you.”    Psalm 32:8

Savage Wolves and Jezebels

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Leighton, Frederic - Jezabel and Ahab - c.1863

Leighton, Frederic – Jezabel and Ahab – c.1863 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to explain what happened as I remember it, because I want this to be an accurate and truthful account of everything as much as is humanly possible.  If I misrepresent anything, or leave any part out, that has not been my intent, and I’m sorry.  I am not sure if this all started in 2009, or 2010, but will never forget, nor will I ever get over, how it all ended.

There were two women who used to go to my old church, the Chapel, back while I was going through my divorce.  They had both started attending my current church long after I did, although at different times.  They were also both clients of my pastoral counselor (I believe) and at the same time were also meeting with another leader on staff.  (The Blond Elder.)  I’m not sure why.  One of the woman was also a client at my place of employment, which was a local domestic violence agency.  She and I shared the same legal advocate.

One day, one of the women (who was the wife of my ex-husbands’ best friend at the time) called me at home, and said she had the other woman with her, and wanted her to talk to me because of a situation she was dealing with in her marriage.  Both women knew where I worked, and why and how my own marriage ended, so they thought I could help.  The other woman then got on the phone and proceeded to tell me what had occurred with her husband.  She also said that she was seeing my counselor, and had been told by her something to the effect of “If she just took her medicine, her husband wouldn’t do those things.”  This is the gist of what she said to me, although I honestly can’t remember her exact words.  I did not want to get involved AT ALL, because it sounded like a mess, and I didn’t want to be put in the middle, and risk my job or my counseling. So, I told her that whether she took a medication or not, what her husband did was wrong, and she needed to call the crisis line where I worked.  That is all that I said to her.  I didn’t malign my counselor;  in fact, I defended her, and said that I was sure that wasn’t what she meant (if she said it at all) and made it clear that I wouldn’t be put in a position of being in the middle.  I don’t know what the woman thought she heard, or where things went wrong, or who she said what to after we hung up, but somehow I guess it was conveyed as though I had told her not to take her medicine, and not to listen to my counselor, but to go to Vera House instead.

It’s not what I said at all.  I don’t believe she was lying;  I honestly think she was just too upset and too high-strung at the time to hear anybody clearly.  I certainly would never have told anyone not to take their medication.  However, I hung up and didn’t think any more of it until I got a call at work from one of the women, who told me that there was a meeting scheduled at the church “for 4:00 on Monday.”  She said that the two of them, myself, and my counselor, along with at least one of the elders and another staff member were going to be there, and that we were all in trouble.  (Me and the other two clients.)  Well, I worked, at the time, every week until 4:00 on Mondays, so it wouldn’t have been possible for me to be there even if someone from the church had called to see when I was available.  I hung up with the woman who called, and immediately called the church myself and found out that yes, this meeting was already scheduled, but neither my counselor nor anyone else had called to tell me about it.  Everyone else knew about it except me;  I’m not sure why.  Nor had anyone called to even see if any of this was true, or asked me what I actually did say.  It would have resolved the whole thing, and none of this would ever have happened.  One phone call.

So, I said to the woman who answered the phone that I had to work until 5:00 on Monday, and that I couldn’t possibly come to this meeting.  I also said it sounded like it would be a conflict of interests, and that I would have to ask our senior legal advocate at Vera House what to do, as she was also my advocate.  I was worried this would cause problems at work, and the whole situation had ‘conflict of interest’ and ‘confidentiality’ problems written all over it.  I didn’t want to lose my job, although I did shortly after, as a result of all of this.

You know that game where kids sit in a circle, and whisper a sentence into the ear of the person next to them, who then turns and whispers it to the next person, and so on around the circle until what the sentence repeated at the end is nowhere near what was originally said?  That’s what happened next.  As far as I can tell, what ended up being said to my counselor was “Stacey refuses to come to the meeting without a lawyer.”  I don’t know how this happened, or who turned it into that;  I only know what has been told to me, first by the blond elder, and later confirmed by my counselor. (All of which I wrote about in a previous post;  this is how all of that happened, and why the elder was telling people to stay away from me.  So she said, anyway.)

I wrote a letter to the elder, while still at work, and as soon as I left I drove to the church and asked to speak with her.  I went upstairs, and she read the letter while I sat there.  She agreed with some of it, but then said that there was no confidentiality when it came to my personal counseling and the church, and that they had “an open book policy”.  I said that my counselor was my privately paid service provider, and as such, any concerns involving me should be handled by her supervisor, herself and me, except in cases of informed consent, which I couldn’t give, because I hadn’t been informed.  I also made a copy for my counselor, and an extra one for the pastor, in case anyone ever asked exactly what I said.  I wanted to speak for myself.

She disagreed.

What hurt was that my counselor had never called in the first place to talk to me about any of this.  I don’t know why.  I only know it hurt.

I carried this hurt with me to my counseling, along with the letter for my counselor, because it was important to me to clear this up.  I knew it would affect  the counseling process, and didn’t want it to. I believed that anything we talked about openly could be dealt with, and resolved.  Healed.  I still believe this.

But, she refused to read the letter, and suddenly said she didn’t want to be involved, and that it wasn’t about her.  The problem was that she was the one who called the original meeting, so it did involve her, even though it wasn’t about her.

This became a problem, mostly because I wouldn’t let it go. This is how it happened that one day several months later (yes, I did drag this out that long) she asked “why she should believe me over other people who are more credible.”  And that stung.  I should have dropped it long before, but for reasons God and I alone understand, I didn’t.  And she was understandably frustrated, and angry.  At the end of that appointment (this was in early summer of 2010)  she turned to me at the door and said something to the effect of “You need to go home and look up the spirit of Jezebel, because you have that spirit all over you.”

I had no idea what she was talking about, but was embarrassed and sick over the whole thing.  It hurt like hell, and I made more and more mistakes at work, huge mistakes, and cried all the time, while sitting at the front desk.  My lack of focus and poor performance eventually cost me my job in the first week of July.  I wasn’t sleeping at all, or eating, and was exhausted all the time.  I’m not angry with Vera House for firing me, I’m angry at how they did it, but that’s another story for another time.  My counseling continued, and I tried to not bring any of this up any more, but I guess it was still there under the surface.  I still wanted the whole misunderstanding “fixed”.  It just bothered me that it had all happened in the first place, and no one had ever done anything to set things straight.

“He who conceals a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separateth [very] friends.”  Proverbs 17:9

I blame myself for not letting this matter go;  it was only important to me, but looking back, it should have made no difference to my therapy.  I had things said about me back in high school that were not true, and I think a lot of this triggered old stuff that I have never even yet talked to my counselor about.  For no real reason, other than the fact that we were dealing with the whole immediate divorce crisis.  And I made a complete and total mess of that;  brought it with me, in fact, from my old church, and it is so much my own fault for wasting so much time over things that either didn’t happen, or weren’t all that important.  I may have been confused, but I was also just extremely stupid.

Fast forward to the week of Halloween in October of 2010:  I had fallen asleep on the couch one night;  I was home alone, and it was late.  I slept with the television on, and when I woke up, there was a program on that I don’t normally watch.  It was Criminal Minds, which is an extremely graphic fictional program about solving murders.  I do like forensic shows, but not this one.  I was too tired to get up and find the remote, so the program went on, and I continued to lay there, and half watched it, and half slept.  It caught my attention finally, because it turned out that the murderer in this particular episode was killing all of the women in his town whom he believed to be ‘Jezebels’.  He targeted women who were cheating on their husbands, and then trapped and killed them by tying them up, and letting them be eaten by dogs somewhere out in the woods.  Throughout the show, they went back and forth to the scriptures about Jezebel in the Bible, and how she was eaten by dogs for her sins, and the end of the show was the most horrific, bloody, terrifying scene of the murder of the last victim.

I should never have watched this.

Extremely distraught, all I could think was “Oh my God, this is what she thinks of me?  That I should be eaten by dogs?”  And then I did what ultimately ended it all.  I went to the computer, still groggy and half-asleep, and sent her an email saying how upset I was at what had happened to my counseling;  how frustrated I was with all of it, and ready to give up.  Not because of her; because of me.  I don’t remember exactly what I wrote;  I don’t believe I wrote anything bad about her, just how I felt about the whole situation.  The whole mess.  Never heard anything back.  By the next morning, I had a sinking realization that I probably shouldn’t have done that, and that she would most likely be upset, but was totally unprepared for what happened when I walked into my next appointment.

The moment she came into the waiting room to get me, I knew it was bad.  We sat down in her office, and I think she asked if I had anything to say.  I didn’t know what to say.  I remember feeling very cold.  She said she was sure that I was aware that this would be my last appointment, and that she was done;  she would no longer be my counselor.  This is very difficult to write about, and I’m not really sure of everything that was said.  I knew she was extremely, extremely angry;  it was one of the most humiliating and traumatizing things I have ever been through.  I was numb with fear and unbelief.  I could not believe what I had done.  She said she would “refer me to another counselor” and do whatever she had to do to facilitate that, but that she herself would no longer work with me.  I don’t know that anyone has ever been that angry, or said such harsh things to me.  I don’t know how I made it out of the office, or through the rest of the day.  It was surreal.  That day will forever be part of me, and I can’t ever get away from the memory of it- from the feeling of the memory.  Not even for five minutes.  I wasn’t allowed to explain at all, nor did we talk about the email, which is what I had expected.  I did not expect ten years of therapy to end, suddenly, without warning, right in the middle of the work we were doing.  So this is what I mean when I say that “We ended over a very bad episode of Criminal Minds” because, in effect, we did.  Ten years of the hardest work I have ever done, thrown away, in less than an hour.  Over.

Finding the right therapist happens once in a lifetime;  it’s a one-shot deal, and this was mine. I waited my whole life for it, knowing God would eventually send someone to help me, and He did.  She and I both knew it when I first asked her to be my counselor;  she said God spoke to her in that moment and told her she was supposed to help me.  My pastor confirmed this.  It doesn’t happen twice, nor will it. This is the person God ordained to walk alongside me on this journey;  it is the person He sent to help me, from back when I was a little girl.  Our lives had intersected long before we had ever met, in the way that only God can weave two lives together, for a purpose that lies far ahead in the future.  There is no one else I would have trusted, and I considered her to be not only my counselor, but also a mentor, and a friend.  I both loved and respected her;  still do, in spite of all of this, especially considering how much of it all is my own fault.

I will not ever trust anyone to this degree again.  Not ever.

My counselor has a small sign, or plaque, in her office;  she bought it in an antique shop one day when she was out for a walk.  It says something like “God will not look you over for medals, or degrees, but for scars” or something to that effect.  Had I known I would never see it again, I would have made a point of memorizing it, because that sign was the thing that had told me from the very beginning that I was in the right place for me.  It is my favorite thing in the office, and I miss it.

I also wanted to say that she did, that same evening of that horrible day, call and apologize for saying the statement about Jezebel, and said she never intended to call me that, or imply anything by it.  I sincerely believe her.  I have said many things in my own anger that I hope people can forgive me for.  But we have never reconciled, or healed, or resolved anything else.  Things remain as they are, or rather, as they were left that day in her office.  The day (that first week of November) was the day before I was to start a new job.  I lost that job shortly after, and the next one, because of how this has affected me.  I am currently on disability, because I just can’t meet any employers expectations, nor do I care to.  My grades immediately fell, as I was in my last year at Syracuse University at the time, and I cannot now get into graduate school to finish my Master’s degree.  Everything has fallen apart.  I’m not doing anything until this is resolved.  Can’t do anything;  can barely function.  For me, every day is November 4th, 2010.  Time stopped that day, and all I am doing is going through the motions, because I have to. Only because I have to.  This has destroyed everything;  my life, my health, my home, and my ability to trust people.  My hope.

I will not ever go to another counselor;  like I said,  this happens once in a lifetime, and she is the person ordained by God for me.  Not because it’s about her, but because that is what God intended.  I know this to be true;  I had it, and I lost it, mostly by my own doing.  She helped in more ways than she will ever know, in spite of everything that happened to threaten the whole process along the way.  And a hell of a lot happened.  In saying that the ten years were wasted, all I meant was that it is a waste if this is how it ends.  I am at a complete loss out in the world on my own;  counseling helped me to get, and keep, a job;  to go to school;  to deal with trying to raise two girls on my own.  It gave me a safe and private place to deal with stress, and emotions, and fears, both real and unreal.  I will not do this outside of the privacy of that office, and all of my undone work is still in there.  Still needs to be done there.  Not forever;  in my silly, stupid fantasy life that all avoidants have, I thought that once we had worked through the trauma of my divorce, and what that all meant for me, that she would help me learn how to deal with people, especially men, which I am definitely not good at.  I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.  She’s a pastor;  I thought that she would help me learn how to date, or interact with people, so that I could eventually meet someone and get remarried, without making the same fear-based mistakes I made the first time around.  I knew I needed someone not only for accountability, but to help me work through the issues I will most assuredly have when it comes time for that. Then I figured I eventually wouldn’t need her anymore, and my therapy would come to gradual and healthy end, and I would know when I was ready to move on.  It’s how good therapy should end.

I was not ready for this.

Know this:  As much as God has a plan for your life, so does the enemy.  And he will use everything and everyone he can use to keep God’s purposes from coming to pass in your life;  when he cannot tempt you into outright sin, he will use distraction.  If that doesn’t work, he will cause dissension.  His ultimate goal is always destruction.  I walked blindly into this one, and didn’t see it for what it was.  This was my fault, and I have been left in a mess I can’t get out of, but I still trust God.  If He truly ordained this, as I believe He did, then no demon in Hell can destroy what God calls and ordains.

I have tried to write only what I know, and believe to be true.  I’m tired of writing around things, and not feeling free to be more direct because of what people will think. I don’t want to hurt, or misrepresent, anybody or anything.  There is so much more that could be written, but this is already long.  I am tired.

So good-night.

Recantation #1

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I used to have a habit of saying, any time the subject came up, that I don’t believe in healing.  I always said it half-jokingly, even during counseling sessions, but on the inside I was dead serious.  Until one day the Lord said to me, quite clearly, “Every time you say that, you grieve my Spirit.”  I was devastated.  I never, ever meant to grieve the Holy Spirit, and wasn’t aware that I had until that moment, and determined immediately to never say it again.  So I stopped saying “I don’t believe in healing” but changed it to “I cannot fathom what healing would be like.”  And did mean that, with all my heart.  Because I really can’t.

But I just re-read my previous post, and realized I have done it again.

I guess it’s kind of like the kid who was told to sit down, and did, but said loudly “Fine, I’ll sit, but I’m still standing up on the inside!”  And saying it on a blog is quite loud indeed.

So, while I don’t want to grieve God in any way, I will try to stop saying I don’t believe in healing.  I really cannot imagine healing from this, as it would take an act of God to turn this particular situation around, and what would be required in order to heal is not possible.  I guess I will have to wait and see.  I just can’t wait much longer;  time is running out.

I saw a book tonight that was called something like “Getting Past What you Will Never Get Over.”  That sounds about right;  I may get past this; at least I want to, but I will not ever get over it.  It is all just too much of a painful mess, and I wouldn’t even know where to start, since I can’t go back to the starting place, and that is what would be necessary in order to even begin to make things right.  So, while I don’t want to grieve God any more than I already have, I still can’t figure out how in the world this is supposed to heal.

The reason for the #1 is that I’m sure there will be a Recantation#2….and possibly a #3, and so on, somewhere on this God-forsaken road.

Sorry.  Didn’t mean that, either.  I do absolutely know that God has not forsaken or rejected me, even though I am acutely aware of my own fault in all of this.  I created this mess, and my counselor was just unfortunate enough to walk into it.  I just wish she hadn’t walked out of it so abruptly.

What God can do with it all remains to be seen.

Good-night.

Pain

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Those of us who live with deep grief walk a bit differently.  We stoop a little, limp a lot, and take our steps slowly. Grief is mind-bending;  it alters your steps, shifts your perceptions, and echoes loudly in the soul.  It doesn’t go away; it’s always present. First thing thought about in the morning, and the last thing thought about at night.  No, that’s not quite true- it happens before the thinking even starts, and continues when all thinking stops.  It’s the stuff bad dreams are made of.  It just is.  Controlling our thoughts is good, as far as it gets us, but it does begin to dawn on even the most naive at some point that we really haven’t gotten very far, and very little about the situation has actually changed.  Trying to explain to someone what we need or want doesn’t work so well, either.  It’s too hard to put into words what we need and why;  too difficult to even try to explain what it is we’re trying to say.  So the whole thing becomes even more of a mess.  The odds of being both heard and understood aren’t great.  Nobody’s listening.  It feels as though God Himself is not listening.

Sometimes other people really do hold all the power, at least in any given situation.  Anybody who has ever been the victim of a crime knows this.  Any woman who has ever been in a domestic violence situation knows that the other person is in control, at least of events located in time and space. The person holding the weapon is the one who gets to decide what happens next. It is far easier to be compliant, and usually a lot safer in the long run, if not in the moment.  Most of the time we don’t have a choice, nor are we asked. We realize too late that if we had any say in the matter at all, that time has long since come and gone, and we are completely at the mercy of the person in front of us. Horrible feeling.

We don’t have as much control over our own destinies as we would like to think, either.  To imagine that we have control is simply not always true, especially where other people are concerned.  As my daughter said earlier, people have free will. Free to use it for good or evil, hurt or healing, but have it we do, because God saw fit to give it to us.  We have to live with the consequences of other people’s choices, like it or not, even if it scars us for life, and leaves us disabled. We know this is not Heaven, but the shock hits us hard every time, nonetheless.  What does shock feel like?  Same thing pain does.  Tonight it was cold. Absolutely freezing cold.

Hope is not control, although we hang onto it like it is. We’re fooling ourselves if we think otherwise.  We have control only over our own actions and our own words, but that’s about it.  Most of the time we are powerless.  Yes, in all the small, daily choices, I have a certain degree of control;  how I spend my money, how I spend my time, what food I eat, or clothes I buy.  But for the big things- the life changing things- no.  Not so much.  And there is not a damn thing I can do about any of it.  I simply have no say.  And I do not see it as being any different from any other life-threatening, or emotionally damaging situation I have ever been through.  To be empowered, you have to be given a choice.  There has to be one.  And you can’t force someone to give it to you.

This is where Anorexia starts:  with the realization that since we have absolutely no control over whatever is going on in our outer world,  we sure can control the hell out of our inner world, so control it we do, one restrictive, self-imposed choice at a time. In deference to not having any control over the world around us, we just make an inner one, and barricade the door.  It has been said that we try to control our outer world because we cannot control our inner world, but for the anorexic and the avoidant, the reverse is true.         

Someone asked me this week to write my testimony;  the story of my healing from all that I went through with my divorce, but I realized tonight I don’t think I’m going to have one. Not from all of this.  Had I known everything that would happen after, especially the last few years, I can honestly say I would rather have stayed married. That part of the story is familiar territory;  it’s all I’ve ever known.  It’s okay.  I am never so unsure of my subject as when I am writing about myself, and wasn’t sure what to write anyway.  But emotional healing is not an option.  I am simply not being given a choice.  Again.  In therapy, this is called re-traumatization.  Works about the same as the original trauma, but now we add a moat.  No bridge.

This is all I do have tonight;  I memorized it a long time ago, not on purpose, but I read it once and it stuck, so here it is:

“Pain has an element of blank;                                                           

It cannot recollect

When it began, or if there was

A time when it was not.

It has no future but itself;

Its infinite realms contain

It’s past enlightened to perceive

New periods of pain.”

 - Emily Dickenson

Sorry, but I did warn you that it wasn’t always going to be happy over here, and tonight it just isn’t.  Don’t know if and when it ever will be, but not now. Certainly not tonight.  Can’t even find a scripture for this one, and there sure as hell aren’t any pretty pictures.

This Little Piggy…..Is Broken

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My youngest daughter has a toe that is out of joint, and has been for some time.  She won’t let anyone touch it, because she knows it will hurt to pop it back in, so she lives with the poor little toe bent sideways.  She will not go to the doctors for it, even though a doctor is what she needs.

This is how I was when I entered counseling.  I successfully avoided all my old, deep-rooted little girl hurts, and drove my counselor to the point of exasperation.  I am sure I am not fun to work with.  We have talked, most of the time, about anything and everything but my deepest fears and most painful memories.  I have talked about everything from work to the weather.  Some of it is important, and a few years ago another situation came up, and needed to be dealt with.  And she really has helped me with that, quite a bit.

But whatever you do, just don’t touch that.  Don’t look at it, talk about it, bring it up, or I’m leaving the room.

I have done this for about ten years.

In counseling, we call this resistance.  Some of us are better at it than others.

I have had several burn victims as clients;  they are covered with either raw blistering skin, or peeling flakes of dried out skin.  They shrink from being touched, even while desperately needing to be touched.  Everything hurts.  They are the clients I most identify with, because of their scars.

Healing takes a very long time.

I have wondered what to do with this blog;  there are some who think I shouldn’t be writing about my personal life and my experience in counseling at all.  That I should keep this very spiritual, and all about God.  And I have read many beautiful blogs, about decorating, and cooking, and ministry, and all of the things I was interested in before all this happened.  I want a blog like that:  all pretty pictures and happy, uplifting thoughts.  I have read blogging books, and books on how to build your platform, and drive people to your site.  All very inspiring, if your goal is to make money.  The thing about a blog is that once you start, if you do it well, the blog writes itself.  And you forget when you’re writing that other people are reading it;  that they can read your heart.

The only really bad feedback has come from my counselor herself.  She read it, and was upset thinking that I am ruining her reputation, and trying to make her sound like a bad counselor.  I’m not, and she isn’t.  I only want to try to make sense out of all this, and salvage what I can of the pieces, and try to re-create my life.  To put the puzzle back together, so to speak.  But, this has changed me.  I still love all those things:  gardens, and art; music and decorating,  but not now.  I read somewhere once that depression kills creativity, and this is true.  All of the things that make me me are on hold until this situation is resolved.  I am simply too sad.

So, the blog will have to be a bit of all of it, because I am all of it.  It won’t be really professional, or pretty, or even all that happy or uplifting to read.  All I really am is a professional human being.  That’s it;  nothing more.  And I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not.  I can’t pretend this situation with my counselor didn’t happen, not even to make her happy so she won’t be angry anymore.  I did try, for a while, but it was like wearing someone else’s armor, which is never a good idea.  It doesn’t fit, and it slows you down. The situation at church, with the elder who created this whole mess has never been resolved, and because of my frustration with it all, my counseling came to a completely unexpected and inexplicable end.  Suddenly.  And ten years of work, of my life, was thrown away by someone I never in a million years thought would do that.

Silly me.

So, as I tell clients, I am a reality counselor.  (Is it okay to say I have a counselor, and also that I am a counselor?  Well, I did.  And I am.)  And this is a reality blog.  God can handle reality;  He is, in fact, only able to freely work in our lives when we are real.  When we are honest, with Him, and with ourselves.

My daughter was home for the weekend, but on Monday she and her poor little out-of-joint toe headed back to school, leaving one very sad mama who isn’t dealing very well with an empty nest.  It’s awfully quiet here.

Good-night, people.

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