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Some years ago, a group of women in the Episcopal Church attempted to publish an alternative to the Book of Common Prayer and asked women to contribute original prayers for this book.  Various categories were listed for the prayers, one of which was the category of abuse/domestic violence.  So I wrote and submitted the following prayer.  My prayer was rejected.  Why?  Because it was, according to the editorial committee, “too direct.”  In other words, it wasn’t “nice enough.”   

Well, I hate to tell those people on the editorial committee this, but sexual abuse, abuse of any sort, and domestic violence are simply NOT nice!!  They wanted me to submit a prayer in the category of abuse/domestic violence that was NICE??  That tiptoed around the subject matter??  I don’t think so!!   

Below is my prayer . . .

 Tender Mercy

(Icon, Virgin of Vladimir)          

A Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Abuse and Domestic Violence 

 

Lord, may our lips give you praise, and may our prayers rise to you like incense. 

For all the innocent little children who are at this moment being victimized—
May God’s hands hold your souls, shield them from evil, and keep them pure;

May God’s beauty and strength flow into your bodies and take away your pain and your shame;
May God’s peace form as a blanket around your minds and shield you from the horror, chaos, and confusion that accompany exploitation and violation of innocence.
*Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 

For all the people who as innocent children were victimized and who now
struggle to reclaim their souls, their bodies, and their minds—
May God’s firm hands stop you from harming yourselves or others;
May God’s eyes give you vision to see your true and innocent  selves;
May God’s ears enable you to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit;
May God’s feet move you gently and steadily on His Path. 
*Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 

For all those who are presently being violated and exploited and who are living in fear for their lives and the lives of their children—
May God’s gift of clear vision help you see through the fog of denial and deceit;
May God’s gift of courage enable you to stop the process of evil before it consumes you and those whom you love;
May God’s gift of discernment allow you to recognize the forces of good;
May God’s gift of tears help you mourn that which is worthy of being mourned;
May God’s gift of love enable you to know that you are beloved, unblemished, and cherished children of God, forgiven and blessed inheritors of His kingdom.
 

*Oh, God, you who sacrificed your beloved Son Jesus for us that we might have hope, please hear our prayers  for victims and survivors of sexual abuse, sexual assault,  and domestic violence. We ask that you help these people find bright new lives that are free from the tarnish of abuse.  We ask, also, that in times of weakness and trial, you send your angels to comfort them and give them strength.  We ask this in Your name, in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus, in the name of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Theotokos, with her Son, the ever loving Mother of the motherless.
Amen.

 

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Image After my father’s memorial service in August of 1962, somebody, a friend of my father, I believe, let slip that my father had been an alcoholic.  “What a pity that such a brilliant man was an alcoholic.  He was simply too sensitive for this world of ours.”  Those were the words.  I was too upset to remember who the person was, and that information doesn’t really matter, but I remembered the words and have thought about them over the past five decades. 

Now that I have more knowledge of alcoholism, mental illness, using alcohol to self-medicate, and the accompanying behavioral quirks of both alcoholism and my father’s mental illness, I can look with more understanding and compassion on the members of my nuclear family—and on myself.  Compassion and understanding, however, do not erase the damages, the C-PTSD symptoms, resulting from living with a parent who has an untreated mental illness and who self-medicates with alcohol.  Dealing with those damages is a job only I can do.

I. Parental Alcoholism:  One strand of the tapestry 

I have heard others talk about being raised by alcoholics.  I have listened to friends talk about the knock-down, drag-out fights, the violence, the yelling and screaming, the abuse, and all the craziness present in many homes where parents are alcoholics.  My childhood home, however, was not like this.  My childhood home was quiet, too quiet.  My parents were, evidently, “quiet, functional alcoholics.”  They quietly did their drinking, went to work, came home, and went through the motions of parenting. Each of us came and went individually and unattached to one another.  Our house was a hotel—except that the people living there were blood relations and not strangers.  But the normal interpersonal family attachments were simply not there!  My parents were wed to their bottles of Jim Beam but not to each other.  My brother and I were their responsibilities but not their children.  They took care of responsibilities, but they loved and were attached to their cigarettes and their booze.  If they felt attached to my brother and me, we didn’t know it. 

Despite his outstanding performance as a teacher and his other accomplishments, my father was a shy person who avoided interaction with other people, including his family, when he was not required to be “on stage” in the classroom.  He spent a lot of time holed up in the bedroom grading papers when I was very young; later, when we lived in houses with basements, he holed up in the basement where he built his ham radio stations.  In a recent telephone conversation with my brother, my brother revealed to me that our father had bottles of alcohol stashed in the basement where he spent so much time, a piece of information I did not have—one more piece I can use as I work to complete the puzzle of my own past and trace the roots of my C-PTSD. 

As I was about to graduate from high school, I realized that my father’s “sick headaches” that kept him home from work more and more often appeared to be related to the number of drinks he had.  And then one hot summer day when I was in high school, my father, who had been working at Mt. St. Helens as a park ranger and was usually gone all week, came home in the middle of the week.  He revealed to my mother that he had caught himself standing behind a co-worker, axe raised, ready to bring the blade down on the co-worker’s head.  He told her that he was going to Portland to find a psychiatrist and get help.  And that is exactly what he did.

II. Effects of Parental Mental Illness: Another Strand of the C-PTSD Tapestry
 
When I was a child, my father seldom talked directly to me unless I had done something to make him angry.  Then he yelled at me. Until I was about ten years old, I thought that mothers talked to their children and fathers did not.  Only when I was I was about ten or eleven and I began to babysit in our neighborhood and observed fathers speaking lovingly and directly to their children did I realize that my perception of fathers was skewed: Many fathers actually enjoyed direct conversations with their children!  What a revelation!  My father required my brother and me to read at the dinner table, a requirement meant to prevent any conversation!   

At the time, I didn’t understand why my father never spoke directly to me or carried on what might be a normal conversation with me, and my speculation on this matter led me to make some very erroneous and damaging assumptions concerning my worth as a human being.  These assumptions contributed to my deep sense of shame and feeling of being invisible and totally worthless as a human being. 

What I did not know when I was a child was that my father suffered from a mental illness that impaired his ability to make and sustain close relationships with other human beings, including his own children.  His diagnosis was “Borderline with schizoid tendencies,” a diagnosis that described his behavior accurately, especially in the area of relationships.* I learned this when I was in my early forties, and now that I know more about his illness, I understand and have forgiven his behavior toward me.  Forgiving him has not, however, taken away the marks his behavior left upon me.  Erasing those marks is part of my present work in therapy. *(See the Mayo Clinic website on the Internet for a list of symptoms of borderline and schizoid personality disorders.)

After my father died in August of 1962, I grieved not for the loss of what had been but for the loss of what might have been.  Now, however, in the year 2011, when I think of my father, I remember his courage in recognizing his demons, in seeking help, and in using that help to change his life.  I am inspired by his example at a time when I am working hard in therapy to heal the wounds of my own past.  

III. Shame: A Third Strand In the Tapestry of Complex PTSD 

If you read my essay on shame (See “Of Shame and Snowballs” at https://relievingptsdsymptoms.wordpress.com) and its contribution to C-PTSD, you know that shame is often a component of C-PTSD, and shame usually originates in childhood.  Although my father was probably oblivious to the effect of his behavior on me, his failure to interact with me was a contributing factor to my shame.  I lived in the same house as this male adult who was reported to be my father, but because this person seldom interacted with me or addressed me directly, I doubted my own existence.  Was I really there?  If I existed, why didn’t this man talk to me and interact with me as other fathers talked to and interacted with their children?  Was I so inferior and so flawed that he regarded me as not being worth his time?   

The only way I could explain my father’s attitude toward me was to conclude that there was something wrong with me, something that made me unworthy of being his daughter, but try as I might, I couldn’t figure out what that something was.  Add together the shame I felt as a failed daughter to my father and the shame I had long felt as a failed daughter to my mother, and the sum, the result, was a burden of shame heavy enough to sink a battleship.  Later, when I was a young adult and in college and tried to commit suicide, the shame did almost sink me.   

Now, in my early seventies, I am trying to undo the tightly woven tapestry of Complex PTSD, tease apart the strands that comprise the whole, and step through and beyond the tatters into a better place, a place where I can enjoy just being myself, the self I have never quite met before. I’m looking forward to that!
 
 

In my previous post published on May 16th, I described my response to a recent incident in which I was bullied by another tenant in the apartment complex where I live.  As I told you, I took her irrational rant personally and allowed her behavior to send me into a week-long downer.  No more! 

When I awoke this morning, I knew I had been processing this material during the night because my first thought this morning was–to echo Braveheart as he forged into the thick of battle–FREEDOM!  Yes, I realized when I opened my eyes this morning that I am no longer chained to the post that says “victim” on it.  What a relief! 

And then, this morning, into my e-mail box popped a comment from somebody named Thomas.  Evidently, he did not enjoy my previous post and did not appreciate my other posts because he let me know that I am wasting my money on therapy, I’m certifiably insane, and I need to go away.

Did I let his message send me into a downer?  No!  As I told him in my reply, if he doesn’t like my posts, he doesn’t need to waste his time reading them.  And he certainly doesn’t need to spend any time writing to me!  I’m not “going away” as he suggested, and I hope he doesn’t let the door slam too hard on his behind as he leaves. 

The fact is that I am truly beginning to reap the rewards of all my hard work.  I am succeeding in healing my Complex PTSD–little by little.  The healing is taking place precisely because I am IN therapy where I have the support of an experienced therapist who is trained to witness my process and can help me over the rough spots.  

Evidently, Thomas does not think therapists and therapy are necessary.  A lot of people feel this way. Why see a therapist?  People can solve their own problems.  If a person has to go to a therapist, then that person must be stupid or something, too stupid to solve her own problem.  People have said those things to me.  How do I respond?  I don’t say anything, usually, for I have learned that people who have this attitude simply do not understand whereof they speak. And they do not want to understand. Anything I could say would fall on deaf ears.  Why waste my time?  I need my time and energy for my own work and for the writing I do to encourage others. 

My message is this:  With the help of a skilled therapist, I am healing from trauma damage incurred over the first forty-two years of my life.  The whole effect of this damage is called Complex PTSD.  Thus, I am finding relief from Complex PTSD.  IF I CAN DO IT, SO CAN YOU!   With the help of a skilled therapist, you can get the life back that was stolen from you by the people who victimized you!  THE BEST REVENGE IS A LIFE WELL LIVED.  Therapy can help you learn to live well.

 
 

Who Knows What Growth Can Come from Even the Most Depleted Soil?

Complex PTSD is just that–COMPLEX!  Trying to sort out the mess in my psyche has kept me busy all my life, and in doing the sorting, I have neglected to develop some coping skills that a lot of people probably take for granted. Now, however, at the age of 73, I am beginning to grapple with issues that I might have taken care of long ago if I had not been struggling so hard to just survive. Perhaps you can relate to the following incident, my reaction, and what I learned from the experience.  My heartfelt wish is that by sharing my experience with you, my readers, I can help ease your journey. Peace and Blessings. . .   Jean

Learning to respond appropriately to triggering incidents has been one of my most challenging projects, and I know that the more skill I gain in this area, the more peaceful my inner life will be.  Achieving a more peaceful inner life is one of my goals as I work in therapy and as I go through my daily life. As it is now, when I’m involved in an interpersonal transaction that hits me the wrong way, I may take a week to bounce back to my pre-incident state of mind.  A week is a long time!  I’m old, elderly, and I don’t have so much life left that I can afford to lose a week as I recover from an unfortunate run-in with another person.  So–what to do?  

First, let me describe the most recent incident that laid me low for about a week.  The week before last, I missed a meeting, but I arranged to get the low-down from another person later.  When I arrived home from my dental appointment, the reason I had missed the meeting, I happened to see a person who had attended the meeting and casually asked her what had happened.  She gave me the information as we stood in the hall in front of our apartment doors. I entered my apartment, sent the facilitators an e-mail telling them how I felt, and went about recovering from my dental appointment.

The next morning, as I was brushing my teeth, somebody banged on my door. I opened the door, and the person entered my apartment unbidden. I could tell that she was on a mission of some sort, but I had no clue as to what that mission was.  Then she began her rant!  She had heard me ask my neighbor about the meeting, and she let me know that I was a fool for taking gossip seriously.  I was completely caught off guard by the force of her energy, and I did not respond–but I did react!  I let her know that I had checked the information when I sent the facilitators an e-mail message, and the information I received was accurate.  She repeated her rant about not believing gossip, and I let her know I was not that stupid. She shrugged her shoulders and stomped out of my apartment.

For the next week I was in a real downer.  I had taken what she said personally.  In condemning me for believing what she considered gossip, she had, in my mind, told me I was stupid.  Being told I was stupid took me back to my first eighteen years of life as the “stupid” one in my family of origin and then to the twenty years of my marriage where I was, again, the “stupid” one.  Since I’ve been single, 1981, I’ve fought hard to prove to myself that I’m not stupid. I earned all A grades in four years of graduate school, in fact, to prove to myself that I’m not stupid.  But, really, I’ve never succeeded in obliterating my label.  No matter how hard I work or what I accomplish, I’ll probably never be entirely convinced that I’m not stupid.  

So for the week following that incident, I was not only stupid, but I was also a loser, incompetent, ugly, and every other negative adjective I could think of.  By the end of a week, the unfortunate mess had begun to fade, and I had started to climb uphill. But it took a whole week!  And that meant for a whole week I was miserable for no rational reason at all!  I had let that incident trigger my feelings of inadequacy and incompetence and steal virtually everything positive from that one week of my life!

In other words, I had allowed that other person to lay her own trip on me, and her trip was her trip and NOT my trip!  The problem was that I had not taken the source of the rant into consideration, probably because she came at me like a Mack truck with her negative energy and just plowed into me.  I had not expected her irrational accusations, and I reacted rather than respond.

Fortunately, these incidents do not happen often.  I have learned to avoid situations and people who might take me down into the pits.  Given time, when I encounter problematic people, I can tell myself to “consider the source.”  But in this case, I was not given time to do this. Had I been given time, I would have remembered that the person who bore down on me was an alcoholic.  I was raised by alcoholics, and I was married to an alcoholic.  One thing I learned about alcoholics, at least the ones who raised me and the one I married, is that what they do and say can be problematic and not reflective of rational thought or of compassion for their fellow human beings. Brains that are driven by addictive substances frequently drive off the deep end–that’s what I have witnessed, anyway.

Thus, if I had had time to “consider the source,” I would not have taken her words personally. In fact, I would not have put any value at all on what she said or how she said it.  I would have steered her out of my apartment and then shut and locked my door–after telling her to mind her own damned business. That parting shot would not, I realize, have registered with her, but I would have felt good saying it.

A few days after the incident, I received an e-mail message from this person that said: Sometimes it’s not about you.  I realize now that she was ever so correct in saying that!  What happened that morning was certainly NOT about me!  It was all about HER!  But at the time she was deep in her rant, I didn’t grasp that.  As a result, I let her behavior take its toll on me.  A few days later, I received another e-mail from her asking if I knew of a place where she could buy salmon from Native Americans.  I laughed when I saw that message because it was such a non-sequitur, and I did not respond. It’s possible that she did not even remember her visit and her rant.  Who knows?

The incident I described was unfortunate, but now I believe that the woman involved actually gave me a gift:  Her behavior and my reaction to it have taught me that I need to quickly identify and consider the source of negativity that comes to me, even when it catches me off guard.  The instant I detect the negative content in another person’s rant at me or in the other person’s behavior, then I will say to myself, “Consider the source . . . ,” turn off my receptors, and quietly walk away. That’s my plan.  I’ll let you know how well it works.

Posted by Jean Fairgrieve at 12:04 PM 0 comments

 

For those of you interested specifically in Complex PTSD, here is the link to my new Google blog: http://healingabusecausedcomplexptsd.blogspot.com/.  I’ll still post to this Word Press blog, and some articles may be duplicated on both blogs, but I’ll try to keep the more general articles on this blog and the articles specific to Complex PTSD on the Google blog. 

In  addition, for some basic information, some informative links, to read about the symptoms of PTSD, and to read a little about my own background, please see my website:  www.jfairgrieve.com.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the best.  Jean