Category: depression

Music’s Painful Associations

As I wrote a year and a half ago in Fighting the Darkness, there are a whole slew of songs and albums I couldn’t listen to after the friendship breakup with Richard, because they were too painful, reminded me too much of him.

Pretty much my entire Goth collection was included.  I listened to steampunk and rock/metal mostly, to get away from it for a while.

I can tell it’s getting better, though, because several months ago, I began listening to my Goth station on Pandora.com again, began listening to my collection again.

It’s still far too painful to listen to certain bands/songs, though: “Headhunter,” certain New Order songs, Sisters of Mercy, Dead Can Dance, and the Siouxsie and Birthday Massacre CDs which arrived and got “stuck” in the CD player while Richard lived with us.

But as for the rest–Going without my Goth music is like being in a desert for nearly two years, even with the new wonders of steampunk and the old familiarity of rock/metal.

I was starving, I was parched; I couldn’t go without it anymore.  I listen to my Wolfsheim MP3s as if I had been deprived of them for years.

The power of music to bring back memories, and the way music is filled with various associations from your own life–where you were when you listened to it, the friend who introduced it to you, what you were doing–this is well known and documented.

Unfortunately, it also means that old favorites start reminding you of things you can’t stand to remember, at least for now.

The most amazing part is discovering that losing a best friend is far more painful, with far longer-lasting pain, than breaking up with someone you were dating.  Maybe it’s because–even if you thought that person was the “One”–you soon realize that dating relationships usually end eventually.

A best friend is supposed to be forever.  They’re supposed to have your back no matter what; even if you move away, you can still friend them on Facebook or send them e-mails.  They’re supposed to be there to mend your heart when it’s broken.

They’re not supposed to turn into Judas, betraying you, throwing you to the dogs, and letting you get punished for a crime you did not commit, when they know d**n well that you’re innocent.  (I feel kinship with Ben-Hur on this as well.)  They’re not supposed to be convicted of strangling one of their kids.

While with ex-boyfriends etc., you eventually realize that couples just aren’t always meant to stay together forever, and you get past it.  It’s not a betrayal to break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, and one day you may even be friends again.

But breaking up with a friend–that’s it.  You can’t “just be friends” because you already were friends and that ended.

I have to face the truth about Richard’s character, that it is not what I thought it was, that he is a terrible, horrible, abusive, malicious narcissist.

There’s no way to go back to this “friend” because of his lack of remorse for what he did to Jeff and me and (from what he wrote to me) for what he did to his kid…

…no hope anymore that he will change his ways…

…nothing but recollections so painful that I can’t listen to music that reminds me of him anymore.  Not even old favorites.

[Update 9/13/12: I always associated the song “Wings of a Butterfly” by HIM with Richard because it came out around the time we were becoming friends online/on the phone, and I downloaded and played it all the time then.  Right after it on my MP3 list was “Speed of Sound” by Coldplay, so the two became linked in my mind as well.  Today, “Speed of Sound” came on the radio, and I had to squeeze away the tears.]

As it turns out, music and religion both bring such powerful associations.  For many months, I could barely get through a church service without tears threatening to spill out of my eyes.  The word “mysteries” was just as painful as listening to one of the songs above….

Another blog post, Still, My Soul Be Still, also expresses the pain of songs associated with abusers.

Songs that express my feelings lately:

Godsmack–Whatever
And I don’t need your
Sh*t today
You’re pathetic
In your own way

I feel for you
Better fuckin’ go away
I will be here
Better fuckin’ go away

And I’m doing the best I ever did
I’m doing the best that I can
And I’m doing the best I ever did

Morrissey–Suedehead
Why do you come here
When you know it makes things hard for me?
When you know, oh
Why do you come?

It was because
Everything that I did
I wrote it down
On the wall
You had to sneak into my room
‘just’ to read my diary

Oh, it was just to see, just to see
(all the things you knew I’d written about you…)
And oh so many illustrations
Oh, but
I’m so very sickened
Oh, I am so sickened now

Mary J. Blige–No More Drama
NO MORE DRAMA
No more drama in my life
So tired, tired of this drama

Steve Taylor–Svengali
Oh, Svengali
Wide eyes mesmerize 
Ain’t he clever
Cry out oh Svengali

Whiteheart–Dr. Jekyll Mr. Christian
Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Christian,
It’s a mask you wear to hide,
You got a notion God’s a potion, and it works most every time,
Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Christian.

Experimented with your eyes just to get a bigger piece of pie,
I really think you do believe, yet you use religion to deceive,
So when it’s time for you-know-who you feel the change come over you.

Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Christian,
It’s a mask you wear to hide,
You got a notion God’s your potion, and it works most every time,
Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Christian,
What is faith?
What is a lie?
Don’t you know that, can’t you see that God is not your alibi?

Wolfsheim–Find You’re Gone
It seems I’m glad… I find you’re gone
I find you’re gone…
I find you’re gone…

Peter Heppner (of Wolfsheim)–I Hate You
You may think I will forget,
and that time will wash away all the things
you should regret.
But I will find a way:
do not think I can’t wait.
I hate you from the bottom of my heart.

I hate you.
I hate you from the bottom of my heart.
I hate you–
I’ll kick and I’ll break you,
and I won’t tear myself apart.
I hate you.
I hate you from the bottom of my heart,
of my heart.
You can’t make your words unsaid,

and no matter how much you ever try to make
me forget

Shinedown–Bully
It’s 8 AM, this hell I’m in
Seems I’ve crossed a line again
For being nothing more than who I am
So break my bones and throw your stones
We all know that life ain’t fair
But there’s more of us we’re everywhere
We don’t have to take this back against the wall
We don’t have to take this we can end it all
All you’ll ever be is a faded memory of a bully
Make another joke while they hang another rope so lonely
Push them to the dirt till the words don’t hurt can you hear me
No one’s gonna cry on the very day you die you’re a bully

Sick Puppies–You’re Going Down
If it’s a fight I’m ready to go
I wouldn’t put my money on the other guy
If you know what I know that I know

It’s been a long time coming
And the tables’ turned around
Cause one of us is goin’
One of us is goin’ down
I’m not running, it’s a little different now
Cause one of us is goin’
One of us is goin’ down

 

Fighting the Darkness: Stockholm Syndrome?

Part of my trouble dealing with this issue is wondering how my best friend could turn on me like Richard did.

Stockholm Syndrome can explain it.  From a blog by Jennifer Kesler about the Hillary Adams video:

If you’re wondering how a woman could get to the point of helping her husband beat their child, you need to understand this: when you’re living with someone who gets that violent anytime anyone stands up to him, you don’t stand up to him.

You either become very passive, or you become his collaborator in hopes of mitigating the damage. That’s what we’re seeing here – a mitigating collaborator.

The mother calmly agrees with every argument the judge makes, because arguing with him would only escalate his temper. She takes over the beating not because she enjoys it – that’s clear from her demeanor – but because she’s hoping it will lessen his anger and protect Hilary from his more painful lashes.

Several times she says “That’s en…” and stops herself because that constitutes standing up to him. As hard as it is to stomach, this is clearly a woman doing the best she can under circumstances that are as FUBAR as any war situation. —Hillary Adams: child abuse on film

There’s also the FOG (Fear, Obligation and Guilt) in which spouses of abusers are often kept.  Richard’s betrayal of me, even his intimidation of my husband for sticking up for me, could be seen as all part of trying to pacify his raging wife.

So I do hope that one day, he’ll come out of that FOG and realize just what he did, and come to us to make amends.  But there would still be the separate issues of threatening my husband several days earlier, which had nothing to do with Tracy, and nearly killing his daughter.

Hubby and I don’t know what we’ll do if he does come to us trying to make amends.  We decided we would just play it by ear.

There has been no church for a couple of weeks as my priest has been on vacation, so there have been no more surprises, no anxieties.  But this weekend, church starts up again, and as I do every time I go to church, I’ll be checking the parking lot for Richard and Tracy’s vehicle.

The initial shock, dismay and sadness stirred by seeing Richard again, has dissipated, and once again I feel anger at him for his abusive behaviors.  I want him far from me; I feel calmer.

I want to fight for the end of abuse of all kinds, of child abuse, of domestic violence; I read articles on people who did far less to their kids, but still ended up with jail time, or five years probation, and wonder, Why isn’t Richard in jail???!!!

I don’t want him to show up again like he did a couple of weeks ago and put me back in that dark place of depression and missing him.  I don’t want to miss him.

I want to remember him as a narcissist, Svengali and child abuser who duped me into believing all sorts of things that weren’t true, not as my BFF and spiritual mentor.

Seeing him brings it all back again and rips open the wound.  And if he had any sensitivity at all, he’d realize this.

The simple fact of the matter is, vaguely saying he blames himself for everything does not count as an apology for his violence or his betrayal, especially since right after he said this, he blamed me for Tracy’s verbal abuse, and lied to me, twice.

There are many who say that forgiveness is for when the offender asks for it.  When has he ever asked for it?  When has Tracy ever asked for it?  If they do not seek forgiveness from me, then I want them out of my life completely, leaving me in peace.

It is often easier for outsiders to see what’s going on because they’re not caught in the disorienting and invalidating mists of an emotional FOG.

To a mom, dad, sister, brother or best friend, it can be as clear as day, but when you have your mouth wrapped around the exhaust pipe of the Crazy Fogger 3000 night and day, it’s no wonder you can’t see the forest for the trees.

For anyone who’s ever walked or driven in atmospheric fogs, you know that being in a fog can play perceptual tricks on you. –Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, More Thoughts on FOG, Hoovers and No Contact When Ending a Relationship with a Narcissist, Borderline, Histrionic and/or Sociopath

The combination of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “cognitive dissonance” produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended.

In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed “all their eggs in one basket”. The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.

For reasons described above, the victim feels family and friends are a threat to the relationship and eventually to their personal health and existence.

The more family/friends protest the controlling and abusive nature of the relationship, the more the victim develops cognitive dissonance and becomes defensive.

At this point, family and friends become victims of the abusive and controlling individual. —From “Love and Stockholm Syndrome” by Dr. Joseph M. Carver, PhD

 

Fighting the Darkness: Healing can take a long time (Healing from abuse)

I thought I’d never see Richard at my church again, but there he was on Sunday.

A wound I thought was healing has been ripped open again, gaping and oozing.

It’s hard for me to even get myself up and going to church on Sunday mornings, for fear that they will be there.

They’ve surprised me a few times at church, or at my church’s Greek Fest, since the breach, even though I rarely ever saw them there before.  (They go elsewhere.)

It felt like they were doing it on purpose to terrorize me.  Every time I saw them, I’d barely make it through, feel like collapsing, have to fight to keep from trembling.  Only anger at all the abuse could give me strength to get through.

This time, Hubby Jeff and I saw their vehicle in the parking lot, so Jeff stayed to give me moral support.  (He has his own church and normally just drops me off at mine.)

(See here for reasons why I’d be scared of Richard: his huge size, his choking one of his kids, his past as a goomba, his almost physically assaulting a lady and saying he’d leave no trace that he was ever there, his threatening my husband with physical violence and saying he’s very easily triggered to it.

Also, he told me violent things about his past.  He said he’d been arrested more than a hundred times, but I have no idea for what, or if he was acquitted; it was before he lived in my state, which has a public-access website with details of court cases.

And his wife Tracy is also a very scary person, much larger than I am, violent physically and verbally.  Richard told me that once, in my house, she almost killed me over something, and I had no idea. 

I have no idea if he meant it literally or as hyperbole, but for months afterward, my mind kept going to that, imagining what it would have been like to feel her fists, wondering if Hubby or Richard would have pulled her off me in time, imagining Hubby calling the cops.  Just sitting and watching That 70s Show, one kid would hit another kid, and I’d flinch.

And yet I was expected to “befriend” her, be buddy-buddy with her, without so much as an “I’m sorry” from her, or else I was to “blame” for all the crap she threw at me.)

This time, it was just Richard and two of his kids, not the one who was choked.  It was all very quiet, no scenes or anything.  He didn’t even take communion.

During coffee hour, my son played with the two kids.  One is only about 5 and just happy-go-lucky whatever happens.  She’d pass by us and maybe smile or give a hug.  Just the sweetest, most adorable little girl.  The other one is 7, and upset at Jeff and me for not coming around anymore.

Before I left, I got waylaid by the two girls after Jeff and my son had already gone out.  I gave them hugs and smiles, but also got the older one’s scolding eyes.

She said things in a scolding tone like, “You guys don’t come around anymore,” “We miss you,” “It was fun to play at your house.”  Jeff also got her scolding eyes earlier.

My heart broke right there.  I couldn’t tell a 7-year-old child about the reasons.  I couldn’t tell a 7-year-old child about the abuse, how Tracy had verbally eviscerated me over a misunderstanding and had no remorse, how her father had done a terrible, evil deed to her sister, how he had once planned to do a terrible, evil deed to a lady who had upset him two years ago, and made me afraid of him, afraid of what horrible deeds he could do to me.

I couldn’t explain to her in a way that she could understand it had nothing to do with her.  All I could say was, “We miss you, too,” and try not to cry.  I’ve been miserable ever since, missing her and the other children.

I just kept hoping during coffee hour that Richard would come to Jeff and me and apologize for all the things he’d done to us, and was very disappointed when he didn’t.  I still keep hoping.

I hope that, because of the criminal conviction, he’s using his probation as a second chance to change things around.  I hope that one day things will be different, that his abusive home environment will become healthy and good, that he will come to us.

Websites on abusers keep saying, “Don’t hope for change.  Let go of the hope for change.  Accept that this is the way they are and will always be.  Don’t listen when the Church says they can change.”

But in my heart I just don’t believe that.  I was angry.  I tried to hold onto my anger to distance myself from Richard and all the pain.  But it’s all just vanished and sadness has returned.

When he came to our city four years ago, I had no idea things would turn out like this.  I gave them so much of myself, trying to help them, because Richard’s friendship was so important and special to me.  He never said anything about an abusive homelife, not until then.

One person on an Orthodox message board noted that I sound emotionally and spiritually traumatized.  This is certainly true.  If you are religious, please pray for me and this whole situation, which affects not just me but four innocent children.

And if you are Richard and somehow found my blog, please, PLEASE work on yourself and get rid of the violence.  For me, for Jeff, for yourself, for your children.  And then feel free to get in touch with us.  (It’s impossible to send any of these things directly to Richard because his wife is insanely jealous.)  But these are the things you must do and say:

1) Assure me that you are not going to go all goomba on me.

2) Apologize for the things that went on the final week of our friendship:

  • a) Threatening Jeff with verbal and physical violence for sticking up for me on 6/28/10.
  • b) Throwing me under the bus when Tracy went ballistic, rather than explaining to her the truth of what happened and what I meant by my e-mail.  Letting her go off on me.  Giving in to her so I was not even allowed to explain and exonerate myself.  You knew very well that I was referring to a sisterly/brotherly hug of gratitude, and that it had been your idea.
  • c) Getting into Hubby’s face and intimidating him for sticking up for me.

3) Apologize for, a month later, justifying Tracy’s verbal abuse of me, blaming me for it, then lying to me about why you hadn’t seen my e-mail and why you blocked us on Facebook.  Being so deceitful that I actually thought Tracy was going to finally apologize, when instead I was opened up to more verbal abuse and accusations from her.  Treating me like this was all my problem that I had to get over, rather than admitting that Tracy had been bullying me and getting you to do her dirty work.

4) Admit to your violent tendencies and demonstrate that you are working on them, that you will not threaten us again, will not choke your daughter again, will stop lecturing us on how to discipline children.  Take anger management courses, study the Philokalia and Ladder of Divine Ascent, take parenting classes.

As for Tracy–I don’t want to hear from or see you again.  Don’t come to my church.  Don’t call me on the phone no matter what you see my son doing.  Unless, of course, you’re ready to forgive me for being naturally shy and quiet, and acknowledge your own share in the problems, your own abusive behaviors.

Why do you come here
When you know it makes things hard for me ?
When you know, oh
Why do you come ?

 

 

After his conviction, Richard comes to my church

To my shock, Richard showed up at my church today.  I hadn’t seen him there since last Christmas, and thought that–ever since I reported him to Social Services and he got convicted of choking his kid–he would never show up at my church again, out of shame, knowing or suspecting that I know what he did.  (The Forum was shocked as well.)

But there he was, so who knows when he could show up again.  Every week maybe?  And my church is TINY.  It’s hard to stay at opposite ends of the church in a church that small.  Staying at opposite ends means staying a yard or two apart.  Because of this, even though Jeff normally drops me off and leaves (he’s Lutheran), he stayed nearby as moral support–or a kind of bodyguard.

But I did note a few things.  They may mean nothing, or they may mean something, I don’t know: Richard was very quiet during the service, even during the Creed.  I didn’t hear him and he was just two or three pews back with nobody in between.  He did not go to get the Eucharist.

Only two children were with him: The child he choked was not there.  The youngest also was not there, and neither was Tracy.

He was right behind me in the line to get blessed bread from the priest, but said nothing to me.  Of course, I was sending out clear body language to “stay away.”

Unlike the first or second time I saw them at my church after everything went down, this time I’m given strength by the knowledge that I should not cower in shame from someone who did such a horrible thing to a little kid.

During coffee hour, my son played with the two children who were there.  Child #1 is only about 5 and just happy-go-lucky whatever happens.  She’ll pass by us and maybe smile or give a hug.  Child #2 is older, and upset at Jeff and me for not coming around anymore.

Before I left, I got waylaid by the two girls after Jeff and my son had already gone out.  I gave them hugs and smiles, but also got Child #2’s scolding eyes.  She said things like, “You guys don’t come around anymore,” “We miss you,” “It was fun to play at your house.”

Jeff tells me he also got her scolding eyes.  But you can’t tell a little child, “Sorry, but we can’t come to your house anymore because your mother is nasty and your father choked your sister.”  So instead, I said, “We miss you, too.”

I hate to see children suffer from the sins of the parents.  I keep praying that the probation officer and Social Services are working to change things for those girls so they can break the cycle.

Jeff does not want to be friends with these people again.

[The case also showed up in the local newspaper’s printed listing of court cases, in November, showing his name, the ruling, and the amount of the fine.]

I posted on Facebook a dedication to Richard: “Suedehead” by Morrissey:

Why do you come here?  And why do you hang around?  Why do you come here When you know it makes things hard for me?  When you know, oh…Why do you come?

I also wrote:

Today I was put in the extremely uncomfortable and heartbreaking position of talking to a child who didn’t understand why I don’t come around anymore, and seeing the scold in her eyes.

“It was fun playing at your house,” she said.  “We miss you,” she said.

But you can’t tell a child that her parents’ disgraceful behavior is the reason.  “We miss you, too,” was all I could say.

I don’t get it–Why does he come to my church if he’s not going to try to make things right with us?  It’s supposed to be my refuge, my peaceful place.  But he keeps showing up there like a bad penny.

He has his own church.  What he did to me, has put me into my own Long Dark Night of the Soul; when he choked his daughter, I was horrified; and when I see him again, it’s a setback, when I’ve come so far along.

Every Sunday service, I’m afraid to go because he might be there.  Why doesn’t he leave me alone?

Dude, I don’t hate you, but I am extremely disappointed in you.  I expected much better of you…….

Then I posted a link to my blog post, Healing Takes a Long Time.  Some excerpts:

I had thought I’d never see Richard at my church again, but there he was on Sunday.  A wound I thought was healing has been ripped open again, gaping and oozing.

It’s hard for me to even get myself up and going to church on Sunday mornings, for fear that they will be there.  They’ve surprised me a few times at church, or at my church’s Greek Fest, since the breach, even though I rarely ever saw them there before.  (They go elsewhere.)

It felt like they were doing it on purpose to terrorize me.  Every time I saw them, I’d barely make it through, feel like collapsing, have to fight to keep from trembling.  Only anger at all the abuse could give me strength to get through.

This time, Hubby and I saw their vehicle in the parking lot, so Hubby stayed to give me moral support.  (He has his own church and normally just drops me off at mine.)

This time, it was just Richard and two of his kids, not the one who was choked.  It was all very quiet, no scenes or anything.  He didn’t even take communion.

During coffee hour, my son played with the two kids.  One is only about 5 and just happy-go-lucky whatever happens.  She’d pass by us and maybe smile or give a hug. Just the sweetest, most adorable little girl.

The other one is 7, and upset at Hubby and me for not coming around anymore.

Before I left, I got waylaid by the two girls after Hubby and my son had already gone out.  I gave them hugs and smiles, but also got the older one’s scolding eyes.

She said things in a scolding tone like, “You guys don’t come around anymore,” “We miss you,” “It was fun to play at your house.”  Hubby also got her scolding eyes earlier.

My heart broke right there.  I couldn’t tell a 7-year-old child about the reasons.

I couldn’t tell a 7-year-old child about the abuse, how Tracy had verbally eviscerated me over a misunderstanding and had no remorse, how her father had done a terrible, evil deed to her sister, how he had once planned to do a terrible, evil deed to a lady who had upset him two years ago, and made me afraid of him, afraid of what horrible deeds he could do to me.

I couldn’t explain to her in a way that she could understand it had nothing to do with her.

All I could say was, “We miss you, too,” and try not to cry.  I’ve been miserable ever since, missing her and the other children.

I just kept hoping during coffee hour that Richard would come to Hubby and me and apologize for all the things he’d done to us, and was very disappointed when he didn’t.  I still keep hoping.

[5/4/14: Instead, he just spent the whole time ignoring us, making no move to make peace with us, instead telling one of my fellow parishioners about his conversion to Orthodoxy. 

His conversion–hmph–What a joke!  Was that an Orthodox way to treat us, Richard?  You’re no Christian!]

I hope that, because of the criminal conviction, he’s using his probation as a second chance to change things around.  I hope that one day things will be different, that his abusive home environment will become healthy and good, that he will come to us.

Websites on abusers keep saying, “Don’t hope for change.  Let go of the hope for change.  Accept that this is the way they are and will always be.  Don’t listen when the Church says they can change.”  But in my heart I just don’t believe that.

I was angry.  I tried to hold onto my anger to distance myself from Richard and all the pain.  But it’s all just vanished and sadness has returned.

When he came to our city four years ago, I had no idea things would turn out like this.  I gave them so much of myself, trying to help them, because Richard’s friendship was so important and special to me.  He had never said anything about an abusive homelife, not until then.

One person on an Orthodox message board noted that I sound emotionally and spiritually traumatized.  This is certainly true.

If you are religious, please pray for me and this whole situation, which affects not just me but four innocent children.

[Below was added in spring 2014.]

Tracy accused me of breaking off relations with her because I needed to “grow up” and accept the “consequences” of my “behavior.” 

No, we broke off relations with her because she’s a screaming harpy, a child abuser, a husband beater, and an abusive friend who bullies shy, quiet, gentle people. 

We had already considered breaking off relations with her several times before that, even considered reporting her to CPS before the breakup. 

Her behavior on July 1, 2010 was the last straw. 

And now we have proof, in black and white, and in the state’s court records, that Richard is also a child abuser, making his loss no longer the tragedy I thought it was.

But I still suffered from residual pain and grief over his loss.

On October 31, 2011, the newspaper published this letter I sent to the editor:

I commend Jaymee Barton (“Surviving Violence,” Oct. 24) for speaking out on domestic abuse and [two local newspapers] for publishing stories about this issue over the past year.

An earlier article, “Injuries to Child Raise Questions” (Aug. 26), discussed sentencing for child abusers.  Recently, a local man who choked his young daughter was charged with two felonies.  But through plea bargaining, his sentence became probation, no jail time.

How can this happen with such a despicable act?  Is that child being protected?  Domestic abuse is far too common – husbands abusing wives emotionally, verbally and/or physically, wives abusing husbands in the same way, husbands and wives abusing each other, parents abusing children.

And keep in mind that “domestic abuse” [in Wisconsin] applies to anyone living together, including roommates.  People laugh at women abusing men, but it happens quite a bit, even physically.  Even going to counseling can be a way for the abuser to control the abused by manipulating the counselor.

I also commend Social Services and the police in trying to stop abuse.  Anyone who witnesses or suspects abuse should report it to the police or Social Services to help them do their job protecting those who can’t protect themselves.  And I hope the abused, even children, will have the courage to tell someone who can help.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

 

The Light is Shining Through–Finding Faith Again After the Fall of a Spiritual Mentor: Fighting the Darkness

Many months have passed since my “Fighting the Darkness” post.  I believe I wrote it right after discovering that a friend of mine, who was also friends with Richard, had dropped me on Facebook, so I became paranoid and depressed, wondering why he dropped me, and what Richard had told him.

Things have come to light which I had no way of knowing when I wrote it.

In short, the ex-friend I spoke of, whom I’ll call “Richard,” whom I thought of as my best and dearest friend from 2006 to 2010, of whom I thought the world, has been charged with choking his own 9-year-old step-daughter until she passed out on September 21, 2010.

She told the police on September 22, 2010.

He admitted to the police that he did it because she was “not listening and cleaning up,” that he had “asphyxiated” her, and that he apologized to her when she woke up on a couch.

They summoned him to court and charged him on March 1, 2011.

The choking incident happened many months before my post, but for some reason he wasn’t officially charged until a few weeks after my post.

This devastated me as I began to realize the true character of this person I once put on a pedestal as an awesome man of God, the one who showed me the way to Orthodoxy, the one who answered my questions about Orthodoxy and helped me over the hurdles, the one I went to with questions and confessions about morality and spiritual struggles.

He was charged with intentional child abuse causing injury with high probability of great harm, and second degree recklessly endangering safety, both serious felonies that could have led to significant jail time.

But on October 3, 2011, he plea bargained it down to the child abuse charge being dismissed, but read into the record, and the reckless endangerment charge being amended to a class A misdemeanor of battery, with a year’s probation.  Though if he screws up on probation, he could get 10 days in jail.

This showed me two things which I could no longer deny, even though on occasion I’d remember the old times and think maybe he wasn’t so bad, just a dupe of Stockholm Syndrome:

1) Richard’s own violent tendencies were not tamped down as I thought, but still there and capable of coming out, even to his own little 9-year-old girl.

2) He lied to me about the nature of the abuse in his household.  I soon learned from mutual friend Todd that Richard had also beaten this same girl mercilessly when she was little.

Richard gave me the impression that his wife “Tracy” was the chief aggressor, that his own abusive episodes with the children happened a long time before and he had stopped them, that now he had to protect his children from his wife’s bullying moods.

But these charges showed that he himself was still an aggressor, that he was not reformed after all, that not only did the children need protection from his wife, but they also needed it from him.

He’s very tall and huge, so a slip of a girl would probably see it as being attacked by an ogre or a mountain she can’t escape from.  Imagine the terror she must have felt!

He also told me once that Tracy didn’t like to get him angry because it scared her.  It had happened before.  He said he didn’t mean to scare her, but did anyway.  That’s the trouble when someone as big as he is, doesn’t realize how physically intimidating he is.

I also began to realize that I was truly in the clutches of a narcissist.  I had suspected it for a while, but thought he couldn’t really be that bad.  But there were so many elements of narcissism that sounded very familiar…..  (See here for details.)

Even though Richard was the one who brought me to Orthodoxy as an answer to my faith questions, and helped me all the way through, so that I looked to him as my mentor–Richard wasn’t the only reason I chose Orthodoxy.

That was also because of the influence of various Orthodox forums, such as The Ancient Way and OrthodoxChristianity.net (I was Nyssa).  It was from reading Orthodox books and websites and the River of Fire, and speaking to the priest at the local Greek Orthodox Church, then attending there for more than two years before converting.

My former mentor Richard told me that I knew far more about Orthodoxy than he did when he joined.

While my faith has indeed taken a beating for the reasons I stated previously in Fighting the Darkness, I didn’t choose Orthodoxy to please him, but because I came to believe it.

Pulling it back again has been hard, but it’s slowly and steadily returning.

Ironically, it was his child abuse charges which helped me believe in God again.

Before, I was baffled why, if there truly was a God, He would go to so much trouble to get this person into my life, have him help me find my way to Orthodoxy, then yank him back out again in such horrible circumstances, leaving me a shell of myself, beaten down and battered emotionally.

In my limited sight, it made no sense at all, so I could only pray that this former mentor would repent of his many wrongs to my husband and me, get his wife to see the light as well, and the friendship would be restored.

I wondered how he could go so long without making any move whatsoever to restore a friendship which had provided him with so much help and love and moral support while his family was going through hard times, a friendship which he said was so dear to him.

But when I discovered these charges, that he could likely go to jail for many years for choking his own daughter, I realized that God had been there all along:

First, He put this person into my life for a time to help me find my way spiritually, but eventually I would have to “kill the Buddha” when I realized how screwed-up my mentor actually was, when I thought he was pious and righteous.

I was there to help him as well with various things, and influence him, try to pull him back from the brink of abuse and domestic violence.  God wants him and his wife saved just as much as He wants me saved.

But ultimately the choice was his and his wife’s to choose abuse or salvation.  They chose abuse.

And God pulled me out just in time, as the choking incident occurred just a little more than two and a half months after the blowup of the friendship proved to my husband and me just how selfish, self-centered and violent these two people are even to friends.

Now, I have killed the Buddha and gone on without him, but with my own church congregation still there.  (No, Richard’s family normally does not go there, but to a different church, though they have visited on occasion even after the breakup.)

One day during Liturgy, while gazing at the icon of the Theotokos painted on the ceiling, I wondered again about reconciliation.  I got the insight that No, not now, because they have their own problems which need to be resolved before I can even think about reconciling with them.

I can only hope that one day, Richard will repent and make amends.  He needs to make them not just to me, but to my husband, and to his own children.

As for Tracy, she also needs to make amends, to Richard, to her children and to me, but it seems unlikely that she ever will, thanks to what seems to be a  personality disorder (borderline, which her mother has, and/or narcissism).

I’ve now basically written her off as a lost cause, and taken everything she ever said about me and relegated it to the refuse pile as being cruel and ridiculous, not based in any sort of reality.  Whenever my mind starts going there again, wondering if any of her words were true, I yank it back out again.

I think back over my college days and realize that, again and again, I was the dupe of narcissists.  In those days, it was the search for romance that led me into their clutches; now, it was the search for friendship.

I read somewhere that narcissists are like a drug: You crave them, get high, feel drained afterwards, then when the drug is taken away from you, you have to go through detox.  And that detox can be very long and painful.

I also realize that this is the second time I’ve been through this.

The first time was during my first Orthodox Lent, February 2007.  My first spiritual mentor, from childhood and through college, was my dad.  Then in 2007, my mom called me and began telling me some shocking things.

I won’t go into it, but a crisis nearly split the family, and things had been hidden from me (though not from my brothers) for my entire life.

I remember thinking then that if I didn’t have Orthodoxy (and, ironically, Richard, who was my spiritual mentor starting in 2006 and helped me through this crisis along with my priest), that my faith would have shattered.  I was Nazarene for most of my life because of my dad.

On my favorite Orthodox forum is a common belief that when you convert to Orthodoxy, the Devil begins attacking you, trying to pull you out of it.  Posters there talk about their own experiences with such things, such as car accidents and spiritual tests.

Maybe I am exactly where I belong, then, because if there is no God, or if there’s nothing of value in Orthodoxy, then why would the Devil so aggressively attack my faith?

It’s never gone through anything like this battering before.  Before, any emotional or other crises only made my faith stronger.  But now the core of that very faith is being attacked.

But now there is one thing I know: That I must stop mourning the loss of Richard’s friendship.  That it wasn’t worth my grief.  For a long time it seemed to be worth the work it took to keep it going, but that was an illusion.

I thought Richard was pious and righteous, but that, too, was an illusion.  The time I grieved over the loss of his friendship, I was in denial over his own violence.  I kept seeing the good in him, where others would have written him off long before.

But then I heard about the charges against him, and verified through his mug shot and address posted on the local newspaper’s website that it was, indeed, him.  Through the newspaper website I also discovered what he had done.

Then I began to stop grieving over him, stop wishing he would repent and return to my husband and me.

I have been vindicated; my concerns over abuse have been confirmed.  It has been proven to me and to the world that we were right to end the friendship, that the opinions of Richard and Tracy about me are not worth taking to heart, that my accusers were themselves the criminals.

It has been proven that Tracy has no business lecturing me about my behavior, because her own has been so egregiously bad and evil.  I must consider the source every time my mind starts to ponder her words yet again, and reject them utterly as ridiculous.

Especially since the various things that she grabbed ahold of as being such foul behavior, are actually perfectly normal and acceptable behavior among my groups of friends.

I hoped that Richard would have a lot of time to think in jail, but now he won’t be going to jail.  However, even if Richard does some day come to us, wanting to restore a friendship, he will have to not only be extremely contrite, but he will also have to prove that he has learned from his mistakes and has turned away from his violent, abusive ways.

He manipulated me into believing he already did this, but then proved that he had not, by doing something so horrible that his own daughter turned him in to the police to protect herself.

She was a very brave girl, and her actions have almost certainly drawn the attention of CPS (who knows about all these other things) as well as the police, so hopefully they will lead to positive changes.

[Update 8/11/13:]

Two years after I wrote this post, I still struggle with faith, but a few things came to mind today when I was supposed to be listening to Father’s sermon:

I don’t want to go into detail, but my husband and I have had some money disagreements in the past.  I’m the “accountant” of the household, and he gave me authority to make financial decisions for reasons I also don’t want to go into.   But there were disagreements about those decisions.  Those disagreements were brought to a resolution.

Yesterday, he made some comments that made me think he was scolding me all over again, bringing up again what I thought had been settled.  I let it pass without much comment, but poured out my frustrations to God last night, not knowing what to make of this.

Then today, out of the blue, my husband realized I took him seriously, and explained he was only teasing.  I explained that the past disagreements caused me to take him seriously.

In short, it was a misunderstanding on my part, and now it was all resolved.  This was a huge relief.

During the sermon, I realized that God had directly and swiftly answered my prayer.  Then more things came to mind, times when God seemed to have abandoned me, but was right there all along:

1) My first breakup of a love relationship (not just a short puppy-love) was from Peter.  He had used his own narcissistic webs to make me think we were meant for each other, so much so that we formed a mental Link with each other.

When he broke things off, he turned so cruel and changed so much from the person I fell in love with, that I actually wondered if demons had taken control of him.  (I was very much influenced by Pat Robertson and Charismatic thinking about the spirit world, which is dramatized in This Present Darkness.)

I fell into a deep, dark depression that lasted for months.  But as time proved, he and I would have been a terrible match: I wanted a clean-cut husband; he abandoned his clean-cut ways, and turned to drinking, smoking and weed.  My beliefs demanded that I marry a fellow Christian; he also abandoned Christianity, and turned to Paganism.

2) My second major breakup was Phil, with whom I had exchanged marriage vows.  Because we had gone so far, and because I had never been the outgoing kind of person who can easily find dates, I fell into another funk, believing that Phil and I were supposed to be together, that divorce would violate Christ’s command that the married stay married.

But he was emotionally, verbally and sexually abusive, manipulating my mind and heart.  He could have destroyed me if I had legally married him.

Our beliefs demanded that we not have sex before marriage, so we exchanged vows.  If we had not done this, if we had either stayed virgins (technically, though not really) or eloped to make our vows legal, his dark side may never have manifested until we got legally married, maybe even had a child together.

Often, abusers don’t show their true colors until after marriage.  So I do not regret the path I chose with Phil, because it led to his true colors showing before I became legally bound to him.  His wife was not so fortunate: He knocked her up, so they “had” to get married.  Now they have been divorced for several years.

Now, I believe that Richard and Tracy were put into my life so I could play an important role: the one to confront them with their abuses, and to report them to Social Services.

It was important, but also extremely difficult.  It took a year of reflection and research before I even reported them, only to find that their daughter had already reported Richard for choking her.

But my report means that Social Services has another perspective on their abuses, a separate voice confirming whatever they came up with as they investigated the choking incident.  I don’t know if I told them anything they didn’t already know, but I am another witness.

However, my role has put me into a challenging and emotionally taxing position.  I have been threatened by Richard and Tracy, and stalked for more than a year.  I have had to face the fact that the one I once revered as a beloved and righteous spiritual mentor, has turned against me for speaking out and telling the truth.

I don’t know why it had to be me.  (Why me?  Why not somebody else?)  Maybe they behaved themselves around their other friends.  Maybe I was the only one, outside of Richard’s family, to whom he told Tracy’s abuses.

Todd stayed with them but didn’t see Tracy’s abuses, so maybe they behaved themselves around him, or maybe the children were too young to start receiving her abuses.  (I noted that the babies would be babied, but children 3+ would start being abused verbally and physically.)

I don’t think Richard told Todd the things he told me about Tracy, even though they were close at the time.  I don’t know why he did not tell Todd these things.

Maybe their other friends had similar parenting views and didn’t see a whack on the head as abuse.  Maybe their friends who broke off relations with them (we were not the first), either did not witness the abuse, or chose not to report it.

All I know is that I was the one who had to do it.  Well, I and the child who was choked.  That is why this person was put in my life when I prayed for a friend.

If it were easy to do the right thing, anyone could have done it.  I guess God decided I was the one capable of doing it.

My husband and I believe Richard and Tracy realized this as well.  We believe this is why they began abusing me again in the spring of 2010, after they had been nice to me for a while.

That this is why they lied, screamed, and abused me in various ways over a misunderstanding, then refused to apologize or admit wrongdoing or my innocence.

That it’s because they knew I was capable of reporting them, and wanted me out, where I could no longer witness their abuses.

There is no way to conclusively prove that God exists.  But if He does, then I see his work here, his hand, leading and guiding me even in the darkness.  And the light is shining through.

[Update 8/12/13:]

This blog post freaked me out just now, because it sounded so much like what Richard put me through, that I wondered if it was about him–a man who befriends fragile women, makes them trust him, then begins to devalue and discard them.

I came across it while reading through a blog by a suicidal BPD woman, who does want treatment for her BPD but is finding it hard to come by:

We have to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood

If someone with BPD admits to having this disorder and tries to get it treated, I am more inclined to compassion.  It’s the person who destroys others but tells them it’s their fault, like I witnessed in Tracy, that I can’t abide.