Category: existential crisis

Repost: The long, dark night of my soul as I doubt God exists–because my spiritual mentor betrayed me

I wrote the following way back in 2011 as part of a story of narcissistic abuse.  It was on my old HTML website, though I don’t recall if the story was on- or offline at the time.  (I kept it hidden from the public for a long time as I worked on it.)  After I was put through long-term emotional abuse and mind-twisting by a narcissistic couple, I desperately needed to write it all down while I still remembered it, as a way to vent, make sense of it, and begin to heal.

The following was written a few months after my blog post Fighting the Darkness.  It’s a difficult time to revisit, but I have been assured that my blogging about this has value to others.  For example, most recently, from the blogger over at Jesus Without Baggage:

Nyssa, your post is heart-wrenching. I am so sorry for the pain you endured, but I know you are somewhat recovered from it. You said: “I was plunged into spiritual darkness and doubt.”  I really appreciate that you now do a great service to others in exposing and counseling regarding abuse from the narcissism you encountered….I hope more people check out your blog. —comment here

Comments like this help a lot on days when I wonder if I should just remove it all, if it’s just too embarrassing to admit that I’ve been manipulated by narcissists not just once, but several times in my life.  But then I’m reminded that others go through this as well and may need to read what I’ve written.

The following was written during the period of darkness, especially spiritual darkness caused by doubt.  Of course, atheists might say that’s just the way to enlightenment.  I still don’t know who’s right, since, despite all claims to the contrary, nobody really knows one way or the other.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night frightened that all that awaits me is oblivion.

But the experience that drove me into the darkness of 2011–that has, thank God, passed into the past.  It no longer burdens my thoughts, weighing down my heart with rage and grief.  I haven’t so much as seen these people on the street in a few years, even though they still live in my town.  Well, I see them in my blog stats.  I don’t see them at church, even though their church merged with mine, so I figure they must have found somewhere else, or stopped going.

But no, I don’t want to see them now, any more than I did back then.

Anyway, enough of the preamble.  Now for the repost:


From April 2011, The long, dark night of my soul as I doubt God exists–because my spiritual mentor betrayed me:

I have no interest whatsoever in reconciling with Tracy and don’t really care anymore what she thinks of me, because I consider her an abuser and a bully and the most horrid person I’ve ever known, and I believe she’s a false Christian.

As for Richard, this person I had dearly loved like a brother, respected, trusted and looked up to, this person I saw as a man of God, this person whom I saw as my spiritual mentor and guide, this person I supported emotionally through all his troubles while he lived with us, the person I told all my secrets to, has betrayed me and let me be verbally/emotionally torn apart like a wild animal.

Because of his connection to my spiritual journey, it’s been a struggle not to abandon all the things in Orthodoxy (or Christianity) that I associated in any way with Richard.

Because our friendship and his living here had seemed to be a direct and obvious answer to prayer, my faith in God has been damaged so much that I often doubt God even exists.

Because why would God answer my prayer with a curse, with an angel of light that turned out to be the devil?  The devil couldn’t have heard my prayer, because it was said to God by my mind, not by my mouth.

Two options rise up, both too frightening and repugnant to accept: that either

1) God did answer my prayer with a curse, or

2) God does not exist and it was all chance.

I keep hoping that one day a third option will make itself clear, but for now, I understand how even Mother Theresa could have gone through the dark night of the soul.

I knew the devil would try to get me out of Orthodoxy if I converted, as fellow converts speak of such things online, and he’d already been throwing various things at me, especially during Lenten periods.

But I had no idea he would do something like this that could sear me to my soul with a flaming sword, rip me away from the one whom I honored as the person who led me to the truth, damage me so much.

I had no idea that the person I honored as a man of God, had such crumbling feet of clay, would lead me to the truth and then be the means for shattering my faith.

I can only hope the following is true, taken from an earlier, more extensive version of the above Wikipedia link for “dark night of the soul“:

Rather than resulting in permanent devastation, the dark night is regarded by mystics and others as a blessing in disguise, whereby the individual is stripped (in the dark night of the senses) of the spiritual ecstasy associated with acts of virtue.

Although the individual may for a time seem to outwardly decline in his or her practices of virtue, in reality he becomes more virtuous, as she is being virtuous less for the spiritual rewards (ecstasies in the cases of the first night) obtained and more out of a true love for God.

It is this purgatory, a purgation of the soul, that brings purity and union with God.

From A Saint’s Dark Night by James Martin:

Even the most sophisticated believers sometimes believe that the saints enjoyed a stress-free spiritual life–suffering little personal doubt. For many saints this is accurate:

St. Francis de Sales, the 17th-century author of “An Introduction to the Devout Life,” said that he never went more than 15 minutes without being aware of God’s presence. Yet the opposite experience is so common it even has a name.

St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, labeled it the “dark night,” the time when a person feels completely abandoned by God, and which can lead even ardent believers to doubt God’s existence.

During her final illness, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the 19th-century French Carmelite nun who is now widely revered as “The Little Flower,” faced a similar trial, which seemed to center on doubts about whether anything awaited her after death.

“If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into,” she said to the sisters in her convent.

But Mother Teresa’s “dark night” was of a different magnitude, lasting for decades. It is almost unparalleled in the lives of the saints.

 

Repost: Existential Crisis and Despair: Loss of God and Friendship

I posted this in 2012.  Full post here.  Some excerpts:

No, there are friendships which are like that and have nothing to do with sex, friendships which, when lost to death or breakup, are at least as soul-searing as any romantic loss.  And you have to go through a whole grieving process which could take years, depending on how meaningful it was to you, and how sudden the loss.

My own loss of such a friendship–and discovering that my friend’s character was not at all what I thought it was, that it could all have been an act by a narcissist, or ruined by a successful smear campaign–to be again devastated a year later when I discovered the horrible violence he is capable of–

It made me want to shake my fist at God.  It made me doubt God’s very existence.  I wanted to scream at God: “I prayed for a friend.  And THIS is what you brought me?  What are you playing at?  Do you even exist?”

I was plunged into spiritual darkness and doubt.  Not only did my own religion bring back constant reminders of my pain because the friend’s connection to it permeated every single thing about it from the mysteries to the theology–but my friend was gone.

But now I fear death instead, driving me to start getting all of my experiences, dreams, stories, pictures, all down on paper and shared with the world before that unknown day does finally come.  Then I will still “exist” even if the atheists are proved correct.

It can’t all be for nothing!  My consciousness–what will happen to “me”?  Will I suddenly feel it slip away and then–nothing?  Where will “I” go?  Just blackness as if I had never been?  Who will remember my dreams now?

During the third season of “Being Human”–the UK version, not the copycat American one–the roommates and best friends of Mitchell, the vampire, discover (in Wolf-Shaped Bullet, season 3) that he was the one who murdered a score of people on the subway.  This was such a heinous, disturbing crime that when Nina found out the truth (before anyone else), she threw up in horror.

When I saw that scene on August 20, 2011 (in The Longest Day, season 3), I knew how she felt, having found out about the child abuse charges against Richard on 7/1/11.

I identified with her again as she did what she must–gave the police an anonymous tip, which I had had to do to CPS in March 2011.  There are times when you just can’t let friendship keep you from doing what is right.

Read more here.

 

 

Just read something about being “truly Orthodox”….

A former Orthodox-convert-blogger, who was quite popular (and controversial) in Net Orthodoxy in his day, then became Catholic, is now becoming Orthodox again–and I discovered he lives near me.  And will be coming to my church.  😀

I’ve been checking out what traces are left on the Web of his old blog, to see what the controversy was in the old days.  I missed it somehow.  Either I encountered his blog many years ago and forgot about it, or he wasn’t mentioned on the Orthodox forum I spent time on, or it was during the time I dropped out from Internet Orthodoxy (after the Richard/Tracy crap soured me on Orthodoxy for a time).

I only found his newly-revived blog recently by accident, through another Orthodox blog’s post which included a link to one of his posts.  And discovered he lives very close.

Anyway, I found this comment by 123 on one of his old blog incarnations:

More practically, one hasn’t started becoming truly Orthodox until you’ve had your heart broken by the Church or someone in it, until you’ve found yourself at a a level pervasively well below what you strived for, and then you’ve stayed put for a few years.

That’s not something converts are prepared for, they aren’t prepared for the real heartbreak of conversion, of failure in the spiritual life (in oneself and others), they aren’t prepared for that ‘abandonment’ on the other side of the awe one experiences the first few years of Orthodoxy.

Yes, Orthodoxy is Pascha, joy, joy; but it’s also the Cross, it’s also pain, suffering, and all those things in the hymns and the lives of the saints we assume are far off, past, poetic hyperbole, or metaphorical.

No, Orthodoxy really the dumps, too. And then there’s also Pascha once a year. All that talk of struggle, the fact that clergy and monks are shown truly falling to their deaths from the top of the Divine Ladder, that’s really what the spiritual life is about.

It’s when you experience and know that that the converts starts shutting up, it’s then that people start assuming you’re foreign and were raised Orthodox (they assume you have an accent because you never speak, and you start looking world-weary like an Eastern European, or like someone going through the motions because it’s all you can muster, and you can’t stop doing even that because it’s simply what you are, even when you’re bad at it.)

And this gave me pause, because that’s where I’ve been for the past 4 and a half years.  Staying put in Orthodoxy even after discovering that my spiritual mentor and idol (Richard) had feet of clay, that he was an abusive narcissist and enabler of abuse.

He’s the one who broke my heart, and he (at least in name) was Orthodox.

And here I am, often going through the motions, wondering how much of it is true, yet still here.  Too stubborn to leave, even though it is common for converts to do so.  According to 123, that makes me “truly Orthodox.”

And I get to see someone who also has had my doubts and frustrations, leave and then return.

 

Jeff Dunn’s “Playing God with Tornadoes,” and trying to hold to faith when filled with doubt

I have written in Existential Crisis and Despair: Loss of God and Friendship and Trying to explain the wreck of my faith to a worried husband, how my faith has been sorely tested, unlike ever before, in the aftermath of the loss of my “best friend”-turned-Judas.

In Jeff Dunn’s Playing God with Tornadoes, I read:

In the BBC production of Shadowlands—the story of C.S. Lewis and his wife—Lewis (known as “Jack” to his friends) is coming out of the church where his wife’s funeral had just finished. The parish priest is walking with him and says,

“Faith, Jack. It is faith that sustains us in times like these.”

“No, Harry,” says Lewis. “This is all one big mess, and that is all there is to it.”

For the people in Moore, Monday’s tornado doesn’t come with a gift-wrapped explanation. It is one big mess, and that’s all there is to it.

That is about the only way to describe things that otherwise make no sense. We seek to understand things that are incomprehensible when we really need to trust our God. For people like Piper and Robertson to try and reduce God to an explanation that will fit in a sound bite or a tweet is idiocy.

My friend Vic is no theologian. But he knows the God of life and death, and knows that Jesus, the creator of all things including tornadoes, holds all in his hands. Vic didn’t go to find an explanation; he went to find someone who needed help.

This was written about the Moore tornado and other tremendous tragedies.  You can also apply it to emotionally devastating events in your life.

I haven’t read Job since college, when I read it after breakups as well as for class.  But the lesson is the same as in the above quote: Being betrayed by my spiritual mentor, discovering his violence (also here and here) and the criminal charges against him for choking his child, is one big mess.

I just don’t understand it, how this could happen as the response to my prayer for a friend.  But I’m told to trust God anyway…..

 

Trying to Explain the Wreck of My Faith to a Worried Husband

There is one very frustrating thing which made me glad, in the “old days,” to have Richard to talk to: Richard understood spiritual searching and questioning, while my husband seems to see every question or exploration I make into theological issues, as the sign of the End of My Faith.

For example, the questions I had about such things as Hell, who goes there, is it eternal, all led me to Orthodoxy–but along the way, he seemed to think my questions would lead me to atheism.

I held certain theological positions based on my Nazarene upbringing, which got him asking how any Christian could believe that way.

Those positions, by the way, also led me to Orthodoxy, because the search I started to show him I was not a heretic, led me to discover that many of the things my dad had taught me, were very similar to Orthodox beliefs.  (This is all related to the Harrowing of Hell and the meaning of Old Testament sacrifices, could Old Testament pagans be saved, that sort of thing.)

Ever since at least as far back as 2005, I’ve had occasional doubts that the supernatural and God even exist.  We have all sorts of evidence, yes, but where is the proof that cannot be explained away as hallucination, brain malfunction, lack of sleep/food, or other natural causes?

Then I found “The River of Fire” by Alexandre Kalomiros, and that doubt vanished for quite some time, as I finally found the pearl of great price, the evidence that God was not a stern judge, and that Hell was not filled to the brim with good people who happened to be Buddhists or Muslims instead of Christians.

No, I can’t call a sweet, pious, loving Muslim woman, truly evil and depraved just because she happens to believe in Mohammed instead of Christ.

In Orthodoxy, I found prayers being answered as I prayed during Divine Liturgies and asked for the prayers of the Theotokos and saints alongside my own.

The doubts did resurface at times; I remember asking Richard about these questions during this time.

But friends I’d made over the years had drifted away, as they tend to when you change churches, or change jobs.

In one situation, I kept inviting to parties a friend with whom my other friends had problems.  My main group of college friends and I were still close via e-mail, but we were scattered around the state, too far to see each other often.

My husband and I would try to make new friends, but it just wouldn’t work out.  He no longer did stuff in the SCA, because he kept having arguments with people, and our son was a toddler, making it more difficult to do much in the SCA.

As for another group of friends, he had a falling-out with one, the husband stopped coming to the gaming group as well, and the other couple had work schedules which did not work with ours.

So I was desperately lonely.  I was starting to get to know people at my new church, but I’m shy and introverted, so it is always a struggle, and I was alone because my husband did not want to be Orthodox.

During Divine Liturgy one day, I prayed for a friend.  It was in my head, not something that Satan could detect, because he can’t read minds the way God can.  So it seemed a safe prayer that only God could answer.

A few months later, God seemed to provide this friend, as Richard moved his whole family to my city.

Richard and I had been friends for a couple of years, meeting on an Internet forum and also talking on the phone, so that I trusted him, believed in him, thought we had connected on a spiritual level.

He was my spiritual mentor, the one who led me to Orthodoxy and helped me every step of the way with my questions, who explained various parts of the faith to me.  He was the one to whom I spilled all the private details when my dad left my mom for a short time.  I didn’t even tell my college friends what I told him.

And now he was moving to my city.  A friend again at last!  An answer to prayer!  And for quite some time, it seemed that God had predestined us to be friends, that we were meant to help each other, bless each other.

…Which is why my faith has been so sorely devastated since Richard turned his back on me and betrayed me just two and a half years later.

More and more evidence keeps coming out that Richard was not at all what he claimed to be.  That he hasn’t reformed from his young and wild “evil” days as much as he claimed.

That he was keeping things from me,  deceiving me.

That he would convince me his liberties were all platonic, but I would be treated otherwise for believing and trusting him.

That he was a violent person, not just past violence which he claimed to be defeating with the tools of Orthodoxy, but was still violent and dangerous.

That he complained that his wife abused him and the children, when he himself turned out to be an abuser, beating one child mercilessly when she was little, then choking her to unconsciousness when she was 9.

That he was using me for my generosity.

He threatened my husband.  He turned on me.  He threatened me and has been stalking me online for months, when he knew very well I wanted him to go away and leave me in peace.

His cruelty has been unbelievable.  I never would have expected this from him.

How could God answer my prayer with a curse?  If, indeed, there is a God?  I suppose a deep question which I barely dare to admit even to myself is, not just how could Richard betray me, but How could God betray me?

This wasn’t the only thing that brought it back up, however.  On June 9, 2009, I watched the movie The Seventh Seal; it explored the same feelings I had about death, that we can’t really be sure what will happen, that we are afraid of the void, of going into emptiness.

I e-mailed Richard about this, since I could safely talk to him about these fears.  I know from this e-mail that those feelings had been stirring again in me already in 2009.

But the true test of faith did not come until Richard’s betrayal more than a year later.  Then everything just fell apart.  Then I no longer knew what to believe.  The first time I wrote about this was Fighting the Darkness.

My husband and I have discussed this before.  I try to put his mind at ease, try to explain that in Orthodoxy and Catholicism, this is called the Long Dark Night of the Soul.  I try to explain that saints have gone through this, that Mother Theresa suffered from it for 50 years, that it’s actually considered a mark of mature faith to go through this and yet keep at the faith rather than just chucking it all and becoming an atheist.

But he keeps bringing it up again and again.  He just doesn’t understand the constant questioning of an intellectual, that not only can I not help the constant questioning and analyzing my brain does of everything, but that I don’t want to.

If I were to lose all these constant questions and thoughts and the drive to research, I would lose what makes me creative, what makes me comfortable with my own company, what leads me to write and draw and lose myself listening to music.  I would feel lonely without my thoughts.

But he thinks I over-think.  He thinks I should be like him and just ask a question for a few minutes, resolve it and not think about it anymore.

But I don’t want to be like that.  It seems that if I became that way, I would lose my drive for life.  What would keep me going if not those endless questions and searches which keep me looking for answers?  Just day-to-day drudgery of housework, exercise and getting my son to school?

Yesterday, my husband became very concerned yet again, wondering how I could be so comfortable with questions and doubts in my head that never go away completely.  But this is what I live with.

Without those questions, I still would be a fundamentalist Nazarene who believes that dancing, alcohol, and going to movies is sinful, who believes that Catholics are not Christians and doomed to Hell, and various other beliefs which I have long since examined, found wanting, and replaced with Orthodoxy.

It’s kind of funny that he talks as if I have any sort of control over this.  I don’t.  God made me with a brain that always questions and thinks and reads and contemplates.  Even in elementary school, teachers noted it.

And these thoughts have been with me since at least 2005, have been with mankind forever.  I also see them in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, a work which my fellow Orthodox converts online love to talk about.

He wonders how I can just accept this if it leads to losing my faith?  But I can’t be scolded or argued into reassurance or an ending of questions.  That would just be denial.

It’s not my choice–It just is!  I can no more stop the questions than you can stop the tide from coming in.

And no, it has not led to loss of faith or atheism.  It has, rather, led to a period of spiritual blackness, where I hold onto the Church, hoping to one day be led back into the light of certainty, hoping that there really is an afterlife and I won’t just blip out of existence after death.

I don’t want to end.  I want to see what comes next.  I want to go to Heaven and find that Richard wants to make peace with me there.  I want to see if mankind ever goes past the moon.

I want to know the truth about religion, rather than just dying and knowing nothing, not even that religion is false–because if religion is false and there is nothing beyond the grave, none of us will ever know the truth, because when we find it, we’ll be dead.

And the simple fact of the matter is: If in any way Hubby can explain to me how God can answer my desperate prayer for friendship with a curse, giving me a couple of narcissistic sociopaths who destroyed my faith in humanity and God, and still exist, still be a loving God–then sure, I can stop doubting….

Existential Crisis and Despair: Loss of God and Friendship (dedicated to Richard)

…here i will stand to face your wrath…
while all the others are praying
calm down my heart… don’t beat so fast…
don’t be afraid just once in a lifetime

no rain can wash away my tears
no wind can soothe my pain
you made me doubt, you made me fear
but now i’m not the same

you took my wife, my unborn son…
torn into the deep of the ocean
i don’t pretend that i love you
’cause there is nothing left to lose

This song by Wolfsheim, “Once in a Lifetime,” is for anyone who has suffered loss and feels like shaking one’s fist at God.  I identify with it acutely because–replace “wife and unborn son” with “friendship which meant more to me than any other platonic/non-family friendship,” “friendship which I thought would last forever.”

I’ve always had trouble making friends because of an extreme shyness and quietness; I’ve always been the introverted kind, preferring a few close friends to a whole bunch of acquaintances.  Lose one, and that loss of the one is felt extremely, is mourned.

It’s hard to find a replacement, though you also think, Wouldn’t it be desecrating that former friendship to think that it could ever be “replaced” like a worn-out television?

Modern society doesn’t seem to quite “get it” so much, that friendship can be so close and dear to you that it’s devastating to lose it, that the grief is deep and long-lasting.

I can’t help but wonder if Jesus still feels the pain of Judas’ betrayal, 2000 years later.  The Bible makes no mention of it, but David must have suffered when Jonathan was killed.

It does say that the bond between them went beyond the love of a woman; some have tried to make this somehow homosexual, but that’s just trying to make sex somehow have to be linked with love for it to be that deep and meaningful to you.

Anyone can have meaningless sex with a prostitute; love is not about satisfying your happy parts; that’s not necessary for love.  Modern society does not give platonic friendship the respect it deserves.

Pop music is full of songs about lost romances, but not so much about lost friends (though “Judas” by Imperative Reaction does fit).  So when you want to find comfort in song lyrics, love songs are pretty much all you’ve got.  Fortunately, I have the kind of imagination that can identify and associate familiar feelings no matter what the media, so I find them in all sorts of places and storylines….

Even when you try to Google for webpages and groups to help you deal with lost friends, or dealing with grief, most of what you get is about divorces and death.  People see Frodo and Sam in the movies and think they must be gay lovers to have that close of a bond.

No, there are friendships which are like that and have nothing to do with sex, friendships which, when lost to death or breakup, are at least as soul-searing as any romantic loss.  And you have to go through a whole grieving process which could take years, depending on how meaningful it was to you, and how sudden the loss.

My own loss of such a friendship–and discovering that my friend’s character was not at all what I thought it was, that it could all have been an act by a narcissist, or ruined by a successful smear campaign–to be again devastated a year later when I discovered the horrible violence he is capable of–

It made me want to shake my fist at God.  It made me doubt God’s very existence.  I wanted to scream at God: “I prayed for a friend.  And THIS is what you brought me?  What are you playing at?  Do you even exist?”

It has been so shattering that I still can’t quite shake the feeling that it’s all a lie, that there is no God, that when I die I will vanish into nonexistence, that there is nobody up there listening, or trying to help me, that I’m praying to people who are dead and gone and can’t do anything for me.

I do still love God, but do I love God or an illusion of God?  Are You real at all?  Mere humans are not supposed to strike bargains and ultimatums with God, but I want You to prove Yourself real….But I can’t base my faith on that.

But on what can I base it?  Is there anything reliable or is it like all the ghost hunter shows I watch, could be real or could be an illusion made up for the audience, or somebody’s schizophrenic hallucination made into a revelation from a deity.  How do I know any of this is true?

For many months (back in 2010 and early 2011) I wanted to die, for it all to end, though I would not dream of doing anything intentionally.  (I’ve been there a few times in the last 20 years or so.)

I was plunged into spiritual darkness and doubt.  Not only did my own religion bring back constant reminders of my pain because the friend’s connection to it permeated every single thing about it from the mysteries to the theology–but my friend was gone.

But now I fear death instead, driving me to start getting all of my experiences, dreams, stories, pictures, all down on paper and shared with the world before that unknown day does finally come.  Then I will still “exist” even if the atheists are proved correct.

It can’t all be for nothing!  My consciousness–what will happen to “me”?  Will I suddenly feel it slip away and then–nothing?  Where will “I” go?  Just blackness as if I had never been?  Who will remember my dreams now?

Every time I hear of a sudden death, the same wondering begins….They were alive, then killed in a car crash, or their last moments were horrid, or they were very young….Was that all they knew at the end and then nothing?  Or maybe caught in adultery and shot to death–was it one moment bliss, the next nothingness?

Other media on this theme:
Ingmar Bergman’s movie “The Seventh Seal“–I’d swear my words are coming out of the knight’s mouth

Dust in the Wind” by Kansas–hearing it a lot lately at the gym

Hamlet” by Shakespeare

Then comes “Find You’re Here/Find You’re Gone,” also by Wolfsheim.  Just transfer the feelings from romance to friendship, and there it is, that feeling that it’s all slipping away from you.  That so much crap has been done that you can no longer make it work, that you’re not sure how much you want it to, anymore.  When the infatuation of first friendship is gone and you know the true person and they’re not what you thought they were….

While love would mean that you still love that person, warts and all, there are some warts which cannot be borne, those of bullying/abuse, violence and narcissism.  I found this video and began watching it one night while we were on vacation with friends in the Dells back in June, and I sat in the room watching videos while the guys played some Magic-type game.

At the time, I had only just discovered my ex “friend” had been reading my blog, and instead of coming to me for forgiveness (as I had hoped, and had dearly hoped for for two years), he decided to twist the knife in even further and then stomp on it.  His true character became vivid, real to me.  I identified with the look in the singer’s eyes, the disgust, couldn’t help thinking,

If I would lose you now
I’d simply say: “It’s destiny!”

When I wake up I find you’re gone
There should be grief but I feel none
Trying to leave the night behind
I hardly get my thoughts in line
But there is one thing I could say
It seems I’m glad… I find you’re gone

And yet, there’s still,

You know it’s wrong… you know the way…
But do you really want to stay?
A sudden thought… a thing to mind…
It would be only wasting time…
No matter how hard you will try…
It’s just a feeling passing by

The process of grief begins anew…..The mourning process all over again…..

During the third season of “Being Human”–the UK version, not the copycat American one–the roommates and best friends of Mitchell, the vampire, discover (in Wolf-Shaped Bullet, season 3) that he was the one who murdered a score of people on the subway.  This was such a heinous, disturbing crime that when Nina found out the truth (before anyone else), she threw up in horror.

When I saw that scene on August 20, 2011 (in The Longest Day, season 3), I knew how she felt, having found out about the child abuse charges against Richard on 7/1/11.

I identified with her again as she did what she must–gave the police an anonymous tip, which I had had to do to CPS in March 2011.  There are times when you just can’t let friendship keep you from doing what is right.

Then when the other friends found out, including the ghost Annie who was in love with Mitchell, they felt forced to turn away from him.  Annie had been murdered by an abusive fiance, so she refused to help Mitchell, saying,

“Maybe you were happy to see those people bury their mums and their dads and their children. With no sense of–no justice. Maybe you thought that we were worth it. What the hell made you think I would?”

Then George, Mitchell’s best friend, said to him, “And you killed all those people. You don’t say my name now. You don’t even look at me now. You are not my friend. You better go. Your boss is waiting.”  He screamed at him, “You are dead to me!”

I discovered “Being Human” during the first several months of dealing with the loss of my best friend.  It was both comforting and painful to see a show about friendship, people bonded very closely together.  Then art began to imitate life as Mitchell’s actions led to this disruption.

But in the end, Mitchell redeemed himself with a sacrificial death by George’s hand, which Mitchell begged for, so that he would stop killing and not be the tool of their nemesis.

Oh if only Richard will redeem himself as well, in a way that’s not nearly so drastic of course, but in a spiritual manner of repentance and forgiveness.

From chronologies I’ve found online, I saw Wolf-Shaped Bullet around 9/10/11, which was also around the time I discovered through the newspaper, the details of Richard’s charges.  Richard had choked his daughter to unconsciousness, she told the police, he admitted it.  So those words kept echoing in my mind: “You are dead to me!”

For these songs, movies, plays and shows to be so powerful, the writers must have been in the same place in some way at some point.  I admire how well they polished these jewels.  Maybe one day, I’ll be able to turn this all into some work of art that’s just as meaningful, and evokes the same feelings in others…..

An existential crisis may result from:

  • The sense of being alone and isolated in the world;
  • A new-found grasp or appreciation of one’s mortality;
  • Believing that one’s life has no purpose or external meaning;
  • Awareness of one’s freedom and the consequences of accepting or rejecting that freedom;
  • An extremely pleasurable or hurtful experience that leaves one seeking meaning;

An existential crisis is often provoked by a significant event in the person’s life — marriage, separation, major loss, the death of a loved one, a life-threatening experience, a new love partner, psychoactive drug use, adult children leaving home, reaching a personally-significant age (turning 20, turning 30, turning 40, etc.), etc. Usually, it provokes the sufferer’s introspection about personal mortality, thus revealing the psychological repression of said awareness. —Existential Crisis

 

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.

Fear of it all happening again with new friends–but relief as well

This movie, Narrow Bridge, has its faults, but it’s an engaging story.  (Turns out the production values are because it was done by a film student with few resources.)

Not only do we get to see a sweet love story and be immersed into the Orthodox Jewish practices of the protagonist, but he has a terrible secret as well:

As a child, his rebbe, someone he looked up to and loved like a father, his spiritual mentor, the one who taught him to love his religion, molested him.

It has caused him to question his faith, despite sticking to it.  Now he needs to face up to what happened, do a mitzvah–good deed–by doing something about it.

Apparently the Jewish community has had to deal with the same problems as the American Catholic Church.

This movie depicts the struggles of someone who, like me, has to deal with some sort of betrayal or abuse by the very person who led him to truly believe in and love his faith.  [Written April 7, 2011.]

I’m trying to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.  The trouble is I’m afraid to really open up to anyone except for old friends and family.

Just as I did back when I had a few traumatic romantic breakups in college, I start thinking, “Will this wonderful new friendship one day end in a nasty breakup and I’ll look back at these great new memories with sorrow?”  I wonder if I can truly trust anyone unless they’ve proven themselves over many years already.

This is because not only did Tracy bully me, but Richard–the one I trusted and told my secrets to–allowed the bullying, then eventually began snarking at me, embarrassing me publicly on his Facebook page, and yelling at me as well.

I want to feel safe enough to hug friends, but instead feel closed-off and physically reserved.

On the one hand I’m afraid I’m doing too little to establish friendships; on the other, I’m afraid of doing too much and smothering people.  On the one hand I want to have friends; on the other, I want to hide in my house from the cold, cruel world, full of unreasonable, jealous spouses and abusive people.

I still cringe when I hear Tracy’s name, or jump when I see their vehicle driving past me as I walk along the sidewalk.

I’m far more leery of speaking to a mutual friend, such as Chris; I’m afraid that what I say will get back to them, that Chris will tell me things that will hurl me back into my depressed, nearly suicidal state right after the breakup.

(2011 update: Of course, as of early 2011 that’s moot anyway, as he’s vanished from my Facebook friends list and hasn’t responded to my friend request.  I only have contact with him through Facebook, since he moved out of state.)

Old friends are finally starting to come out of the woodwork, thanks to Facebook reconnecting us.  I often chat with old friends and family on Facebook, as well, sometimes till the wee hours of the morning.

It’s comforting to the soul to read what people I’ve known throughout my life, say about me on Facebook or via e-mail: should be more people like me, a sweetheart, a nice person who deserves to have friends who are kind to me, etc.  No one is making them say these things, so I believe they are sincere.

It’s comforting to hear from one of my oldest and dearest male friends (Mike) that his wife is not jealous, doesn’t care to read his chats to his friends even if they’re female, doesn’t go through his cell phone, doesn’t care to friend his friends on Facebook just because they’re his friends, etc.

I know I have faults, and my missteps haunt me for years.  I constantly go back over things that happened even in college to examine and analyze them for my own faults.  But that doesn’t make me a bad person.

No, deliberately hurting people and being evil, not caring how you affect others, that makes a bad person.

This Memorial Day [2011], it was a great relief to have over to our house old friends, who did NOT snark at me for stupid stuff, who did NOT make fun of me, who did NOT make me feel like a jerk because of my quietness, but who instead gave me good, long hugs and understood that it’s just my way.  (Note the contrast to Memorial Day the previous year!)

It’s also good to go on Facebook and feel free to post political statements which are much different from Richard’s or Tracy’s.  To not hear from Richard how he hates Democrats, doesn’t see them as real Christians, etc.  To agree with the views of the opposing party without fearing that Richard will put me in the ranks of his political enemies.

It’s good to not hear him rail against things that do not actually happen: He thought the government would force his kids to get swine flu vaccine, and he said he would refuse even if his own daughter got sick from swine flu and died.

It never happened, and the swine flu vaccine is not in any way the danger the conspiracy theorists told him it would be.  My family took the vaccine and did just fine.

He said the credit card companies would raise their interest rates in the following year (2010) to 90%; it never happened.

Chris, a Constitutionalist, talked about a coming economic collapse that would be so bad that we would all be scratching out our livings from the land, and acted like I was being naïve for not believing this; it never happened.

It’s good to not hear Richard railing against NBC or CNN and how they must be boycotted.

To not hear him proclaim that his children will refuse to say that socialist pledge of allegiance if the schools try to force them into it.

To not see Facebook posts from him that seem to praise anarchistic militia groups, or treat unions and soldiers and policemen like they’re all universally evil (my brothers were soldiers), or claim that the flag is actually a military flag so the country is secretly keeping us under martial law by making us think it’s the correct flag….

When he sent me a link explaining this, I debunked it in in two minutes via Googling and told him so.  This was maybe a couple of months before the Incident, and about the time I noticed he wasn’t calling anymore except when he wanted something, had turned distant and sarcastic, even when we hung out in person.

I began to partially blame his wacko politics for him distancing himself from me and turning into a jerk, since it seemed like the way he began treating me and others, was behavior that was quite common in his political circles.

He didn’t use to post this tripe on his Facebook, but now he did, and treated me like crap for the things I posted in response, said people were complaining to him about what I was posting!  His posts used to be about more normal things, but he turned his personal Facebook account into a political platform, and even promoted anarchy!

I didn’t watch The Daily Show or Colbert Report much before, but in the past year I’ve been watching them faithfully, as a relief, a balm to the soul, a release from the angst of spending about six months to a year of dealing with Richard’s wackier and wackier political ravings.

Occasionally I post clips on Facebook from those shows; imagine the backlash from Richard if he were still on my friends list!

Imagine how he might have responded to my posts while our state was going through serious political infighting several months ago (thanks to the evil new governor, Walker)!  I’m almost certain we were on diametrically opposed sides during that time.  [This was written around the middle of 2011.]

It’s good to not hear his extremist views anymore, wondering how someone of such high intelligence can fall for conspiracy theories, how a religious person can tout such heartless and extreme changes in government and society that would cause chaos and suffering for years if they were actually put in place–and which would harm his own family….

It’s a relief to talk with the very same dear, old male friend (Mike) whom Richard called an “idiot” (for, incidentally, having the same views I did on the president and how well he’s doing his job), and hear sensible things from him about life, dealing with people, and politics.

Richard, on the other hand, was getting so clueless lately, seeing apologies as capitulation, acting as if he or his wife should be allowed to bluster all they wanted and their friends should just deal with it and take it….

In the beginning Richard had seemed so sweet and gentle, but now he was turning into a jerk.  While my other friend, the one he called an “idiot,” had always been sweet and gentle, and never changed from that over all the years I’ve known him.  Sure he has his moments of temper, but he realizes that apologies are necessary.  And he doesn’t let politics or a devotion to capitalism overrun his heart, his compassion.

It’s good to not have to interact with Tracy anymore.  Losing her from my life has not broken my heart.  

It’s good to not sit and watch/listen as Tracy verbally abuses Richard, picks on the eldest child, calls her stupid, ridicules the children, gets upset at the children for acting like children, smacks the little one upside the head, screeches at the kids, or goes off in fury on two of the children.

I noticed that when the little one was still a baby, she was a happy child, treated well by her parents.  But when she got a bit older, maybe around 3, she began getting the same abuses as the older ones, and even began acting out.  She and the oldest both were acting out in ways that I don’t want to post here.

While Richard couldn’t figure out why, I held my tongue, because I knew exactly why: because of the way Tracy was treating them.

Now there’s another baby, who also is being treated well, but I just know that in another year or so, she’ll start getting it as well–unless, of course, the actions I took to change things, are having a positive effect.  [This was written before July 1, 2011, when I learned about Richard’s criminal charges.]

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