existential crisis

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

 

 

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.

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

 

 

Fighting the Darkness (Depression After Abuse)

Times have gotten so dark lately…..

I used to be obsessed with studying my faith.

Now I don’t even have that anymore because the person who led me into the truth I’d been searching for, my spiritual mentor, the source of spiritual knowledge, wisdom and help–

turned around and betrayed me, and their spouse bullied and then verbally abused me (such horrid, horrid words) over misunderstandings–

and they both just kept excusing and justifying it, making me wonder what kind of people can excuse such things.

I haven’t had a moment of true happiness since it happened.

Due to my shyness and selective mutism, I have trouble making friends in real life, though online I have no trouble and I keep in touch with my old college group.

I remember praying in church one day, God please send me a friend right here in my own city and not far away, and this person came a few months later.

It seemed the Holy Spirit was leading us together, that we were meant to be friends, that our families were meant to be blessings to each other.

Then it all fell apart, they don’t seem to care if I’m alive anymore, my faith is in shatters, and I have these terrible headaches that just won’t–go–away!

How can God give me this friend in answer to prayer and use this friend to lead me into truth and then take the friend away again in such horrible circumstances?  How can this have happened?

Or is there no God to have done any of it?  Or does he just not care?  It’s hard to even get myself to pray or read my Bible.

I keep trying to make friends and extend invitations, but the phone doesn’t ring.  There is no story or novel burning within me to be written anymore, like there used to be.  There’s a whole slew of songs and albums I can’t listen to right now because of the memories they bring back about that person.

We struggle even to get basic health care because we don’t have a health plan through work or enough money to get something decent, our doctors have retired or changed practices, and new ones won’t take us without insurance.

I feel like it’s all falling out of my grasp until I have nothing left.

Ever since I came into Orthodoxy, the devil has been fighting harder than he ever has, to get me out of it.  So many things have happened.

My family (parents and siblings etc.) had a shakeup four or five years ago that almost ripped it apart.  My husband was doing well at work, promotion, salary increase, working with his best friend, then the economy hit, and he lost both the job and health insurance.

I hit turbulence inwardly as I began to fear death and wonder, can we really be sure there’s something after and we won’t just blip out of existence forever?  The thought of my hopes, dreams, memories, life, creativities all disappearing and me being nothing but a corpse, is too much to bear.

Then the trouble trying to find a decent, permanent position that pays enough for us to pay the bills and claw out of debt and provides a health plan.  My husband tries and does his best but he keeps being second pick.  How much more can one person take?–Oh, wait, maybe I’d better not ask that……

I know I’ve hit rock bottom when I constantly think, Maybe this headache is a brain tumor or aneurysm, or maybe I’ll get hit by a car taking my son home from school, and that will be that and my troubles will be over and my husband can use the insurance money to pay off the debts and get a housekeeper……

My bright spots are my husband and child and our serene household.

Please pray for me.

[Comment Added on : ]

(To those people if they read this: 6 months have passed, the break is now up, you’re allowed to call and make peace, but we hear nothing from you.

So that’s how much our friendship was really worth to you.  Is your ego worth more than peace?  Is your temper more important than apologies?  Were you just using us?)

[For an explanation of the backstory, see here.]

[I wrote this post after discovering that Richard’s friend Chris had unfriended me on Facebook without a word.  I had no clue why.

Three years later, he again–out of the blue–re-friended me, again without a word.  But at the time, he seemed to no longer want to be my friend, and I didn’t know why.

I feared that Richard and Tracy had been feeding him lies about me.  I was already in the midst of a deep depression, but this last straw sent me into a tailspin.

It was my first blog post on the subject, though I had been writing about it on my website for some time, in the “Abuse” section.  Sometimes I had the story online; sometimes I took it offline.

But this was the first time that I brought this subject onto my blog as well.  I didn’t write again for months, but it was the opening I needed to release the pain into my blog….

I posted a link on Facebook.  My friends read it, including one of Richard’s friends who had me on her blogroll, and maybe some other mutual friends.  They were all very supportive.]

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