Category: toxic friendship

We Hook Up to the Internet–and Shawn Fixates on My Sex Life–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–January 1995, Part 4

Mike started eating one banana per day, usually at lunch.  I think it was a health thing.  It seemed to make him bouncier than usual.

****

My dad sent us an old modem to hook up to Pearl’s computer.  It was 2400 baud, already ancient by then, when 14.4K was top of the line.  He also sent his old, outdated copy of Procomm, without all the fun perks of the later versions.  It was fine for Pearl’s 8088 computer, which didn’t have Windows.

We just needed a phone cord and someone to help us hook the thing up.  It wasn’t a simple box like our first modems were, but confusing and intimidating: you actually put it in the computer.

Mike’s friend Brent came over one night to install the modem, after January 27 and before February 7.  I had a lot of fun chatting with Brent about AOL and modems and such as he set everything up.

I think there were no problems putting the modem in, but when Brent tried to use his introductory AOL disc, it refused to work.  Mike tried calling the tech support number, but was put on hold for an excruciatingly long time.

When he finally got to talk to someone, it didn’t help.  Somehow, Brent finally figured out the problem and got the disc to work.

We were now in business.  Dad gave me two S– BBS numbers from one of his computer magazines.  One may have been for Spatula City, a once-popular BBS run by Jennifer’s boyfriend Jason.  The other was for TCB.

Spatula City was more an old-style BBS, but this TCB amazed us.  It amazed Pearl and Sharon because they’d never been on BBS’s before, but it amazed me because I’d never seen such a fun BBS before.  Even PanOptic Net (Dr. Who-based BBS in South Bend) had never been like this.

It also charged a fee, unlike any other BBS I’d ever used more than once.  The old-style, free BBS’s like Spatula City and PanOptic Net were now on the decline, because BBS’s were starting to include expensive Internet access and multiple lines.

TCB hadn’t yet gotten up to twenty-some lines, but it was already close.  Every other BBS I ever used, could only allow one user on at one time.

The commands were easy to use, much easier than on PanOptic Net.  You could go into Teleconference and find colorful letters, fun action words, and tons of people.

Sharon and Pearl sat there “oohing” and “aahing” as I set up a demo account and explored the BBS.  (In those days, TCB let you do almost everything in the short-term demo account, before you decided whether or not to set up a paying account.  Later on, the demo class allowed for very little, and wasn’t fun at all.)

Jason also helped us out, telling us about other BBS’s and giving us his Spatula City handle, Antilles.  Spatula City wasn’t working right for a few days, so we didn’t get to see why it was so popular.

Jason also told us my ex Peter ran a board named Dementia.  He warned us that if we found a Red Dwarf on TCB, it was him.  (This is a fake handle.  I think Peter got his actual handle from Babylon 5.)

He said all this with an ominous tone, as if he thought Peter was scary.  I don’t know if he knew about my history with Peter, but he might have, because he was now dating my old pledge sister Jennifer and used to date Cindy and Catherine.

****

Pearl, Sharon and I got home one night fall semester, possibly from an InterVarsity activity, and Tara said, “Pearl, some guy named Shawn called.”

We were all like, Shawn?  Shawn???  There’s a blast from the past!

We sure weren’t expecting to hear from HIM!

He probably called Pearl again, and must have gotten my number from her.  He called me later, and we had a long conversation about how our lives had gone since he left.  He said he was on Prozac now.  He sounded a slightly deranged sort of happy.

He said, “I haven’t had a girlfriend in about two years, and no one seems interested in dating me.”

When I told Pearl about this later, we both said, “Girlfriend?”  The only girlfriend he could have had two years ago was me!  I thought he always told me I wasn’t his girlfriend?

Pearl said, “That’s fishy.  Maybe it shows there was something going on there.  Maybe now he thinks of you as an ex-girlfriend?”

I said, “If he didn’t think of me as a girlfriend before, then why did he call me one, now?”

“I always knew there was something there he wasn’t admitting to.”

A few years later, I read an article in Mademoiselle or Glamour magazine about this very phenomenon. The author had been in several situations where the guy would never say, while they were dating, that they were actually dating or seeing each other or hanging out or anything, or introduce her to friends as anything but a friend.  But years later he’d refer to her as an ex-girlfriend!  So it happens.

But back to the phone call.  While I sat at the desk in my room, I told him about the spiritual marriage.  It came up because, when he mentioned things we’d done, I said it could have been much worse but it wasn’t.

I told Shawn we were common-law married, so he wouldn’t think less of me for “giving it up without a wedding ring.”

(I heard that phrase on The Cosby Show once, the fantasy episode in which the men started getting pregnant and not the women.  Hey!  The men in the opening news segment got pregnant in Oconomowoc, WI, close to where I live now!  🙂  )

Shawn said, “So now there are only a few virgins left at Roanoke!” Meaning a few of my friends–and not me anymore.

Shawn was one person I could talk to about these things.  We had stirred up the fire between ourselves; now I had gone on to another guy with that fire still burning.

Shawn didn’t try to get back with me now that I was single again, but that was just as well, because I had moved on–and would soon meet the love of my life.

Shawn called me again the week of January 22, at one in the morning.  Sharon was asleep at the time, and not too happy about having to jump down off her bed to answer the phone.  I took the phone into the hall, and whispered,

“You shouldn’t call so late, Shawn!”

He said, “You always stayed up late before.”

“But I’m not rooming with Clarissa anymore.  I have roommates now who can hear me talk on the phone!”  (Reminder: Clarissa was mostly deaf and took out her hearing aid at night.)

I talked low on the phone, so my roommates wouldn’t get woken up.

At some point he started asking me, “What is sex like?”

When I told him, I could hear in his voice that it was turning him on.  It creeped me out, like I was his 1-900-phone-sex operator.

He kept asking me questions about it, so I said, “Why do you keep asking me these questions?”

Finally, the conversation finished.  Of course, that was nothing compared to those conversations we used to have till 3, 4, or 5 am!

He had called us in the first place because I sent him a Christmas card; I believe he called the switchboard to get our new phone numbers.  He called again the next night because I couldn’t talk to him at one in the morning.

I asked, “Why are you calling me all of a sudden?  I thought you said you didn’t want to have anything to do with me.”

He said, “After my brother died, I decided I’d better try to keep the friends I have.”

****

The Vampire never wrote me, though he said he’d try to write every week.  And I couldn’t write him unless he wrote me, because I didn’t have his address.  He shouldn’t have lost mine, since he wrote it in a notebook with all his BBS numbers, and he probably guarded that notebook well.  Oh, well, 20 years later I finally found him on Facebook.  🙂

****

We finally had another party in the apartment, possibly on January 21.  It was a big one, and fun.  We played games in two rooms, and had pizza and chips and pop.  (No, we never had wild, drunken revels.  Who needs those to have fun?)  Someone even brought Jenga.  We wanted the party to be big and take up several rooms, each with a different activity, just as Tanya’s Halloween party did.

I decided to sit out during Taboo.  Charles did the same because he didn’t like Taboo.  But I did because we played it every time we had a party at Roanoke, so I knew practically all the answers now.

I’d called one long-lost friend over Christmas Break.  Her mom answered and sounded shocked that an old friend from high school was calling.  I left a message; however, my friend never called back.  I don’t know why.

I wrote to her, my middle school friend Josh and another old high school friend; no letters came in reply.  When I found Josh online over Spring Break, he said he sent letters and cards to high school classmates, too, but none of them answered.

He said about my other friend, “I’m sure he’ll write ya,” but he didn’t–and neither did anybody else.  I wrote other letters to my male friend, but he didn’t answer those, either.

But funny how times change: I later found all of them on Facebook.  No longer do we have to depend on the old method of exchanging letters or phone calls to reconnect with old friends we haven’t seen in years, friends who may forget who you are or forget to call/write back, or never get your note.

It’s even better than the old Internet standby of e-mail, which can also be easily forgotten.  Facebook is much better because you can interact with your old friends with immediacy, even if you have not seen them in 20 years and live far apart.

****

Astrid began sending me letters because I mentioned that I wanted some.  I didn’t mean letters of the alphabet, but she began sending me one alphabet letter at a time through the on-campus mail, until all together they made up a quote from her new poster.  I’d have to find all the letters to tell you what the quote was.

Pearl and Sharon decided to stay another year and take on another major, because they didn’t want to leave Roanoke yet.  I, on the other hand, was sick of Roanoke, and didn’t want to do this.  And it would have meant more money to pay back in student loans.

****

On the 27th, I wrote to my friend Becky,

Sometimes these days I feel like several of my friends, who know about the common-law thing, are judging me.  The things they say–It’s as if they mean, “You’ve done a terrible thing–premarital you-know-what–and we thought you were more moral than us!  You’ve fallen, fallen!”

It makes me want to grab them and say, “Hey!  According to my research, it was a common-law marriage!  I didn’t sleep with him until we were c-l married, so it wasn’t premarital or anything!  Stop talking to me like I’m a fallen woman!”

–Since, after all, we began calling ourselves married, which is all you have to do. I’ve told them that, but they still talk this way.  I don’t believe I’ve broken God’s commandments because we were c-l married, but when they judge me, I feel like I have.  It really frustrates me.

I won’t write what Becky replied, because it’s private.  But she and Catherine were both far more understanding.

Index 
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:

 

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Running my abusers’ e-mail through the narc decoder

Back in May 2012, my abusers, Richard and Tracy, discovered this blog, then threatened and began to stalk me.  You can read their e-mail below.

Especially note that whichever of them wrote the e-mail (it “sounded” like Tracy’s “voice”), accused me of making things up and accusing Tracy falsely, downplayed Richard’s criminal conviction of choking his daughter, warned me not to go to the priest/church, and threatened to sue.

And yet–Through our own local version of a “police beat,” Crime Reports, published for all to see on the Fond du Lac city website, I have discovered that a domestic dispute occurred in May.

The report points to Richard and Tracy’s last-known address, at least according to Google Earth, which is used by the website to locate each crime event.  A follow-up occurred about a week later, so it appears that an investigation was begun into the incident, beyond the initial police report.

No charges have been filed as of yet, so I don’t know what happened, who was involved, or if charges ever will be filed.

But it–along with Richard’s conviction of choking his daughter–supports my statements that Richard and Tracy are abusive, and that I am not making up “false facts” out of a “not-all-there” brain.

And gives more strength to my mind to resist their attempts to gaslight me, and attempts to intimidate me into silence through constant surveillance of this blog.  This discovery has even more emboldened me to not be silent–and to laugh at their attempts to scare me.

It gets easier all the time, when reading old posts or remembering things that my abusers said or did, to laugh it off.

Yes, laugh it off.  I see how ridiculous it all is, and see right through it all.

Not only does it help pull me out of the pit and back where life is beautiful again, and I am no longer a “victim,” but it should help me identify such behavior in others, before I get pulled in again.

(Not that it is in any way a character failing to be a victim of someone abusing you.  Victim-blaming and -shaming is a huge problem these days.  The only one who should be ashamed of how the victim is affected by the abuse, is the abuser.)

Nowadays, when I remember what happened, it no longer affects me, just as it no longer affects me to remember what Phil, Peter or Shawn did back in college.  It’s become a story I revise for the masses to read, which may inspire a brief burst of anger, but then I forget about it again.

I see right through the things my various abusers did, and no longer let it worry and oppress me the way it used to for years.

Yes, it took me years to get past what those guys did, just as it has taken years to deal with what Richard and Tracy did.  But eventually I got through.  As Trent Reznor titled a song, The way out is through.

Because of this, and the discovery above which provides even more evidence that my abusers were full of bullsh**, I am now ready to turn my abusers’ threatening e-mail to me in May of 2012, into a piece of high comedy, by running it through my own brand-new narc decoder.

Blogger Tina Swithin has popularized the idea of a “narc decoder,” through which you run messages from your abuser.  This handy little “machine” translates those messages which fill you with fear, dread, anger, and the like, into what they really mean.

First, read the e-mail from Richard and Tracy:

Nyssa,

We read this in amusement. It gave us a good laugh to find
that almost 2 years later you are still fixated on something that we
forgot about a long time ago. As for your threats, promises whatever to
expose us you can take out a law book and read about defamation laws.
Richards’s court case may be public access and you are free to speculate
all you want without having all the information and facts. However the
rest of your writings about how horrible a person Tracy is and abusive
mentally deranged etc. have gone beyond statements of opinion. You have
represented in your writings false facts, not just opinions, about Tracy
that constitutes an actionable lawsuit. You are free to have your
opinion and feelings however the minute you go public to the members of
the church or community as you have threatened to do we will exercise
our rights to sue you for defamation against Tracy’s character.

You
talk about threats and bullies yet what are you doing? You are
threating to falsely accuse and expose lies about an innocent person if
they do not concede to your demands. We will not be threatened or
intimidated. We are free to go to church to worship our Lord God without
fear of retaliation from someone we see as not all there. You want
closure here it is. We are not sorry. We did nothing wrong. You will
never get what you want from us because we do not feel we owe you
anything. We will continue to be active in our church our community and
our town; if you cannot handle that then that us your problem not ours.
We will not move or change our faith to make you happy and comfortable.
As for the local parish being ‘your’ church. I think the archdiocese
would have a thing to say about that. The church is for everyone. We
have stayed away out of respect to give you time. We have gone to other
churches in town outside of our faith when gas prices or work schedules
prevented us from driving 40+ miles one way to church. However we miss
going to a church of our faith, participating in the mysteries having
that commune with our Lord, so we decided that when we can’t drive out
of town we will go to the local parish. We will not be pushed out of the
church by you, two years is enough time. So as fair warning for the
perceivable future our work schedules make long distance an issue as the
other parish is moving to summer hours and Divine Liturgy starts early.
So we will be attending locally A LOT this summer, we will even show up
on Saturday nights.

And now I run the e-mail from Richard and Tracy through the narc decoder…..

Snap, crackle, pop….

And here it is, all decoded:

Nyssa,

How dare you ever speak a word to anyone about how we bullied, abused and gaslit you for years?  How dare you ever speak a word about Tracy’s abuses of Richard, the children, and others?

Tracy tried her hardest to shut you up so that only you knew what was happening, so we could keep you under our control and even your husband wouldn’t know the truth.  We wanted even him to think you were crazy.  We wanted you to think you imagined it all.

How dare you break out of our control and think for yourself?  How dare you tell your husband and all your friends and family what we did?  How dare you have a mind and will much stronger than we gave you credit for?

You were so nice and easily intimidated that we thought for sure we could twist you every which way we wanted to, and continue to use you and get money/stuff/living space out of you.

It scared us when you showed signs of wanting to kick us out of your house years ago for bullying you and being generally abusive, so we had to re-assert our control and make you think you were in the wrong.  We had to make you think YOU were the one with the problem, so we could stay put till we were good and ready to leave.

Now, a few days ago, you actually stood up for yourself and told us to stay away from you.  But we don’t want to leave you alone.

We’ve always hated your church, and barely stepped foot in it even while we still pretended to be friends with you.  But we want to guilt you into thinking we’re pious Christians who long for the Mysteries, even though we have never lifted a finger to resolve this like Christians, have never behaved like Christians.

We have no interest in actually behaving like Christians, or in getting the Mysteries out of any sense of longing for Christ.  No, this is only so we can harass you and pretend to be pious, by making big shows of making the sign of the Cross, just like Pharisees!

We want to shove up against you, breathe down your neck and snarl in the Communion line.  We want to pretend to everyone at your church that we’re just innocent Christians, so that no one will believe you if you try to tell them what we really are.

We want free reign, so we can control you at church, too, by forcing you to keep quiet and telling everyone you’re a nutcase and not all there.

We know it’s a lie.

We still think you’re easily manipulated through threats.  The truth is that we are afraid of anyone else knowing what kind of people we really are.  We don’t want your priest to know, either, especially since you spoke of showing him Richard’s criminal records.  This is why we repeatedly threaten you and tell you to shut up.

We don’t want you to get help from the church.  We want you to be destroyed because you know what we really are.

We are well aware that you never made threats to retaliate against us.

But just as Tracy did with Todd, when she accused him falsely and smeared him all over the game forum years ago, we will try to make you think you made threats.  We will tell others that you made threats you never actually made, to get them on our side and turn them against you, make them think you’re crazy, just as we successfully got all those people thinking that Todd was crazy.

We have already done that, by telling some person Tracy goes to school with, Chia, that you did these things you never did, that you lied when you told the truth.  She never even met you before.  Then she changed her profile to a passive-aggressive diatribe against you, and “friended” you on Facebook.  But it was only so we can peruse your Facebook for posts about us.

Of course you never threatened to push us out of the church or Fond du Lac.  We just suffer from poor reading comprehension, combined with our fear of somebody exposing our real selves to the whole world.

We have worked very hard to suppress our real selves around other people in Fond du Lac, so that we can make inroads in politics and other circles, but your very knowledge of our true selves–and Richard’s conviction–threatens our feeling of security.

It is all a lie.  But you’re not supposed to recognize that.  You’re supposed to doubt yourself and come under our control.

The true threat is that because you know the truth about us, your very existence is a threat.  We are scared that because of you, that perfect image we want to present the community, will come crashing down as the facade that it is.

You have kept careful notes of our abuses, and that frightens us.  We want you to think even those records are fake.  Even though everything you wrote is the truth.  Even though Richard sent you an e-mail years back which proved your assertions.

This is why, years ago, we tried to make you think you were a stalker for keeping such notes, so you would stop doing that.  This is why we are now trying to gaslight you into thinking that Tracy has never abused anyone and that you’re just lying.

So we will ridicule you and make you think you’re the one with the problem (even though your reactions to being abused and seeing your abuser again are all perfectly normal), because we never matured past elementary school.

We will pretend to be amused by your blog, when in truth it scares us to death–or we never would’ve threatened you.  Especially your knowledge of Richard’s conviction.  We read that page of your blog constantly.

Though your pain, your desperate suffering, caused by us and our actions and words, so much so that only blogging could get it out, does amuse us, because we are sociopaths.

We like to cause pain and refuse to apologize for it, refuse to make it right, because we have no human feeling–except for our own selves.  We laugh at others for needing this strange thing called “closure.”  When we hurt someone else, when we cause them pain, it is hilarious to us.

Though we are so faulty with reading comprehension that we did not get that it’s not “closure” you need, but for us to recognize we have done wrong, and make it right, through apologies and changed behavior.  This would make a Christian restoration of friendship possible.

But that won’t happen, because we are superior to all others and never do anything wrong.  And because we were only pretending to be your friends to begin with.

We even laugh at the collapse of your faith, even though Richard claimed for years to want to be a priest.  Which shows our own faith is actually an act put on to fool you and others, to give us an air of respectability.

We want you to think that even your perception of Richard’s conviction is wrong, even though you have official, public information saying otherwise.  We want you to think Richard is innocent, even though he himself admitted to choking his daughter.  All to further gaslight you into our control.

We easily got over the breakup because you were blameless, so we had nothing to be angry about.  Well, other than the fact that you broke free of us before we could dump you first.

But you had been showing signs of breaking free from our control for years, which is why we let you go so easily.  We knew you would be trouble, that you already saw Tracy’s true nature and were beginning to see Richard’s as well.  We knew you may even report us to the police or Social Services–which you did eventually do.  That scared us.

We would never admit to being to blame for the suffering you’ve gone through.  It’s your fault, after all.  It’s never the abuser’s fault.  How dare you try to make us take responsibility for how we treat and hurt people, including our own children?  We are perfect, can’t you tell?  It’s never our fault when we abuse someone!  It’s always the fault of the person we abuse!

It infuriates us that you are sticking up for yourself and telling about what happened!  So we will make empty threats, hoping to shut you up, even though we know we could never have the legal basis to carry them through, and no lawyer would take us on because we have no case or money!  We talk about Constitutional Rights, but that’s for US, not for you!

How dare you insist that we never contact you?  Just by sending this e-mail we are violating your rights and request to be left alone!  Because we don’t care about anybody but ourselves.

–Richard and Tracy Doe

Ah, that was therapeutic.  This is a good way to turn the horrid e-mails/messages sent to you by your abuser, into a piece of see-through garbage that no longer bothers you.

Attempting to obtain closure with an abusive, narcissistic and/or borderline woman (i.e., Crazy) is almost always a maddening exercise in futility.

You’re not going to get closure with this kind of woman for several reasons. First, she doesn’t meet the three most important prerequisites for giving and receiving closure:

  1. A reasonable degree of sanity
  2. A foothold in reality
  3. Empathy

Being able to give an ex closure means you’re able to accept your share of responsibility for the demise of the relationship and when has your BPD and/or NPD ex ever taken responsibility for her behavior, especially when she was clearly in the wrong?

…I hate to break it to you, but if you’re waiting for this to happen or, heaven forbid, an apology from this woman; IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. If you try to get closure from your NPD and/or BPD ex by detailing the many ways she hurt and tortured you, she’s unlikely to acknowledge what she did. –Dr. Tara, Shrink4Men, There is No Closure with a Narcissistic or Borderline Woman

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And one more lie from Wormtongue falls crashing to the ground (gaslighting)

I posted this on Facebook the other day.  I post it here as an example of how abusers gaslight you–but that you must not believe it:

Just had a Writer’s Club meeting on journaling/diaries. Also mentioned was the treasure trove of a deceased mother’s letters: both to and from people, because she saved drafts of the letters she wrote.

We were encouraged to keep journals of our lives, to save letters.

It was healing and affirming for me: I have saved journals and letters to/from people ever since I was a kid.

It’s a record of my life, a place to vent and sort out, a place to remember.

My letters to people record things I have done and thought, while letters from friends are to be treasured, not tossed out like trash. The letters are all part of the journal.

I am an introvert who needs to reflect.

I have always admired Laura Ingalls Wilder, but knew that I could not write memoirs like hers without keeping records.

I also want to have this record in case my memories fade in old age.

One day, my ex-friend Richard found out about this. So publicly on his blog, and then the next day in person, he called me “creepy” for saving all my letters. Tracy even made fun of me for it!

Then there was Shawn from college, who scolded me for keeping a diary. He said that important memories should not be written down. He also psychologically abused me, so I think these people were just scared of what might be in my journals.

As I heard today (and already knew), my archives/journals are perfectly normal–especially for writers–and encouraged. The saving of memories is considered valuable, whether for yourself or for posterity.

I must drain the poison of psychological abuse, not allow myself to take any of it to heart and spoil this wonderful thing I have always loved to do.

My friends said things like, “I do the same thing,” it’s beautiful to save letters/journals, who cares what other people think about what you do with your own life.  The president of the club wrote, “Nicely said, Nyssa.”

And THAT is what real friends say to you.  They encourage you, don’t try to tear you down.  Even if they criticize you, you can tell they have your best interests at heart.  Many times, good friends have criticized me, but they are still my friends, and I realize why they said what they did, even if I disagree.

Maybe once in a while a good friend has indeed been too harsh, but this was a rare event in a normally loving friendship, so I can let it go–and it does not repeat itself.

In the cases of Richard and Tracy, and Shawn, the “friendship” was abusive, so the attacks were repeated, whether covert (little things said or gestures that shake your confidence) or overt (rages, angry criticism).

It also demonstrates to me just how entrenched I was in Richard’s narcissistic web.

Somehow he had me so anxious to have his good opinion that when he’d gaslight me like this–tell me some normal behavior (for writers/introverts/NVLDers/Americans/Christians) was “creepy” or “wrong” or “offensive”–it would devastate me.

I would resist and feel the need to defend myself, while some small part of me would think, “What if he’s right?”

But right here is a perfect example that no, he’s NOT right.  That he did NOT have my best interests at heart, that he and Tracy were trying to warp my mind.

I post here so that others can see a real-life example of gaslighting, recognize it in their own lives, and resist the lies of Wormtongue.  Don’t let those lies hamper your resolve to get away from the abuse, or work their poison in your mind long after the abuser is gone.

For an excellent fictional example of what abusers do to your mind, see Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, and how Wormtongue spun a deceitful web around a king, until the king was emotionally crippled and unable to fight.  This is what your own abuser is doing to you, so slowly you don’t notice it.

Even now I sometimes feel the effects of all the Wormtongues I’ve encountered through the years.  But over time, their webs are disintegrating and falling away, leaving my mind clear and able to recognize what they were doing.

I no longer feel the need to defend myself in my mind against Richard and Tracy calling me “creepy” for saving my letters.  There is no need, because what they said was absolutely ridiculous.  If I could haul them in front of the Writer’s Club, they would get thoroughly chastised for spewing such rubbish.

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Different kinds of abuse–same feelings: How Mark Driscoll reminds me of Tracy, Phil, and others

One reason why I read blogs and articles of all different kinds of abuse, is that I find the reactions of the abuse victims are the same everywhere.

Of course you’ll have differences here and there: Being molested by a parent is not the same as being psychologically manipulated by an ex-boyfriend, for example.

But everywhere you find the same common themes: loss of trust, hurt, pain, confusion, longing for the abuser to acknowledge the abuse and make up for it.

The other day, I read this account of narcissistic abuse and a smear campaign at Mars Hill Church:

My Story by Jonna Petry

Her husband was a pastor with the church for a time, until he was abandoned and smeared by Mark Driscoll.

In this and in other stories I’ve read about abuse at Mars Hill Church, I was struck all along by things that sounded very familiar, in my own experiences with narcissistic abuse, from exes (especially Phil) and from Richard and Tracy:

  • A person/place who at first seemed like God’s gift to you.
  • Pressure to conform.
  • Shunning someone you are told is bad.
  • Abuse and getting kicked out for questioning, disagreeing, speaking up about problems.
  • A person who throws tantrums and verbally abuses you for the slightest offenses, even when the offense is only in his own mind.
  • A smear campaign.
  • Others encouraged to shun you.
  • A kangaroo court in which you have no real chance to defend yourself.
  • Others put through the same abuse if they stick up for you.
  • A “conference” which is meant not to hear your side or your grievances, but to coerce you into agreeing that the abuse against you is justified.
  • A refusal of the abusers to admit they’ve done anything wrong.  As Driscoll and his henchman wrote to Jonna and her husband, “We still believe we have done nothing wrong.”
  • Begging others to help, but no one will.
  • Discovering this abuse is a pattern, that it neither began nor ended with you.

The hurt, pain and confusion as you long desperately for reconciliation:

In shock and heartbroken, Paul and I tried desperately that first half-year to bring about some level of reconciliation.

We so longed to be restored to our friends, to have our name and reputation exonerated, and to have peace in our relationships.

This had become our family that we loved and served and ministered to as our own dear children and as brothers and sisters. These were our dear friends.

How could they do this to us? Words do not adequately describe the shock, horror, betrayal, and rejection we felt. The weight of the loss was excruciating.

The PTSD and shaking of faith:

During this whole season since the firing and the months that followed, I was emotionally and spiritually devastated.

I was often tormented by fear. I had nightmares and imaginations of someone trying to physically harm Paul, me, and the children.

If Mark had had ecclesiastical power to burn Paul at the stake I believe he would have.

I literally slept in the fetal position for months. I stayed in bed a lot, bringing the children in bed with me to do their schoolwork.

I became severely depressed and could hardly bring myself to leave the house except when absolutely necessary. I cried nearly every day for well over a year thinking I must soon cry it out, right?

But, the sorrow was bottomless. My faith was gravely shaken. How could a loving God allow this?

Later it became clear that I had typical symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression and that these reactions were common in someone who has experienced spiritual abuse.

Spiritual abuse occurs when someone uses their power within a framework of spiritual belief or practice to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others. It is a breach of sacred trust.

Christians are commanded by Jesus to love one another. When that is projected, articulated, enjoyed and then treacherously betrayed, the wounded person is left with “a sense of having been raped, emotionally and spiritually” not by a stranger, but by someone who was deeply trusted. (See Recovering from Church Abuse by Len Hjalmarson)

At the beginning, Jonna wrote,

This past summer I saw the movie, “The Help,” and a seed of courage was planted in my soul. One of the last lines of the movie:

“God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do.  But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free.”

This story is an earnest attempt to speak the truth in love that freedom and new life may flourish.

At the end, she wrote things which encourage me to continue telling the story of Richard/Tracy–and express the same hope I hold, that one day my abusers will recognize their abuse and change:

In Acts, Chapter 20, the Apostle Paul pleaded with the Ephesian elders to pay attention and guard the flock.

This admonition, along with the mounting stories of abuse and misconduct coming out of Mars Hill Church, has added to our conviction.

We believe that to remain quiet now would be unloving and disobedient to God. As my husband stated earlier–if we fail to remember our history, we leave it for others to re-write. And, unfortunately, some of that has occurred.

And, in Mark’s own words from his book, Vintage Jesus:

“People are not perfect. As sinners we need to be gracious, patient, and merciful with one another just as God is with us or the church will spend all of its time doing nothing but having church discipline trials.

“It is worth stressing, however, that we cannot simply overlook an offense if doing so is motivated by our cowardice, fear of conflict, and/or lack of concern for someone and their sanctification.

“In the end, it is the glory of God, the reputation of Jesus, the well-being of the church, and the holiness of the individual that must outweigh any personal desires for a life of ease that avoids dealing with sin biblically.

“Sometimes God in his providential love for us allows us to be involved in dealing with another’s sin as part of our sanctification and growth. It is good for us and for the sinner, the church, and the reputation of the gospel if we respond willingly to the task God has set before us.”

What happened to us was very wrong. The way it was publicly described by Mark and the elders at the time was completely exaggerated and deceptive. The way the media and blogs have since reported on it has many holes and errors. Now it is open and plain to everyone.

If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included.  To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future.

We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse.

Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t dare say nor do anything that might anger him. This is tragic.

Perhaps at some point, with enough outcry and exposure, Mark will come to his senses, own his harmful behavior, and get the help he needs to change. I hope so. Our common Enemy can make terrible use of our weaknesses and blind spots.

Our Lord’s harshest words were for leaders who used their status, power, the Scriptures, and God’s people for their own self-aggrandizement. Surely this is not what Mark meant to do.

We are all in this together, no matter what kind of abuse we suffered, or from whom.

We did not deserve it, and need to learn and remember this.  We need to put the responsibility for the abuse, and our subsequent hurt and pain, where it belongs–on the abuser–and take none for ourselves.

And we need to NOT look at each other and think, “I got it worse than you, so why should I bother with your story and pain?”

We also need to learn from each other, take courage from each other to speak up and tell our stories, and heal each other.

 

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