Hope is My Middle Name
I was the unexpected and unwanted child of two drug-addicted alcoholics. When I was four years old, my mother abandoned us and I was left with my father. He was an angry man and responded to all my feelings with anger and rejection. In particular, he did not allow me to express my feelings about missing my mom.
He remarried twice, to women who offered me no affection whatsoever, physically or otherwise. My first stepmother often hit me with a wooden spoon. As punishment for poor marks in third grade, she locked me in my room for a year, preventing me from leaving it except to go to school. Needless to say, this did not help my grades! My second stepmother never failed to put on a sweet persona for anyone outside the family, but behind closed doors she singled me out for scapegoating and other special forms of abuse. She often lied to my father to get me in trouble with him and then stood behind him smirking at me while he screamed in my face. More than once this involved bursting into my room and violently waking me up after he got off work at midnight. Once, I came home from school to find my room trashed, my furniture overturned by my father in a fit of rage.
Because of the extremely negative environment I grew up in, I did not understand that I was a highly sensitive child with extrasensory abilities. This made things very much worse. The people in my family had many negative feelings that they themselves did not understand, yet I could feel those feelings in them. When they spoke to me there was usually some kind of deception in their approach, while their underlying feelings were so strong that I responded to those instead. Neither they nor I understood what I was responding to, and also, I was responding to a truth that they didn’t want to acknowledge openly. As a result it was easier for them to dismiss my behavior as “bad” or “crazy” and they frequently responded to me by punishing me in one way or another.
Around the age of 5 or 6, during a visit to my mother across the country, I witnessed her husband brutally beat her for an insignificant reason. Later I was sexually exploited by this same man, my stepfather. Much later, around age 9, when I tried to tell my first stepmother about this experience, the look of disgust on her face caused me to feel ashamed, and so I was unable to be honest about what happened when I was asked the basic facts. I did not feel emotionally supported by her or anyone else, and there was never any real closure to this episode.
I first felt the presence of spirit consciously on my 8th birthday. That evening, I was praying for relief from my pain, and for the end of suffering for our planet and all the life on it. I felt the spirit wrap itself around me like a big hug. When I told my extended family about this, they interpreted my experience in a religious way because they were religious and they had no other way of thinking about it. They told me that what I was feeling was God’s Holy Spirit and that I should go to church. Because of this, I sought relief in various religions during my life and there I found more emotional and spiritual abuse.
Visiting my mother at age 13, she introduced me to alcohol, and I discovered that I could use it to cover up my painful emotions. Afterwards I drank whenever I could, which was usually at teenage parties where it was made available to minors.
At age 14, almost immediately upon starting high school I became romantically involved with a boy two years older than me. We really were in love, as much as two people at that age can be. He proposed to marry me, but his father was dead set against our relationship, since he wanted him to marry another girl whose family owned a dairy operation and so had more money than mine. I later discovered that his father had paid money to that girl’s best friend to sabotage our relationship. As time went on, he began to cheat on me with multiple other girls, although I was in denial about this at the time.
Late in the schoolyear, against my better judgment I became pregnant by him, at age 15. I found out while visiting my mother during the summer break, and when I told him on the phone he sounded confused and frightened. With my mother’s guidance, and with my boyfriend’s consent, I made a decision out of fear to have an abortion. The experience of the abortion itself was traumatic, since in addition to the physical pain of it, I psychically heard screaming during the procedure, and I wondered whether it might have been the child. To this day I am not sure exactly what it was that I had heard, but the horror and trauma of it stuck with me, and the guilt as well. I wished that I had decided to give the child up for adoption instead.
I wasn’t able to let go of the guilt, and even though my boyfriend denied it, he wasn’t either. When we returned to school in the fall, he was distant and evasive and he acted somewhat angry towards me. I know that he still loved me, but he was torn inside because of his father’s influence. Since my home life was so abusive and miserable, and since he was the only positive thing in my life, I began to feel truly desperate, like giving up and killing myself. I told him so, and this made him mad, but at the same time he decided to stay with me for a while longer, probably out of a mix of love and guilt.
It was under these circumstances that we quickly got pregnant a second time. I know it may be difficult for the reader to understand how I could allow this to happen. In my 15-year-old mind, confused by religious guilt over the abortion, suffering feelings of unworthiness and desperate unhappiness, I did not think about what the future could bring. I only thought of what I could do in the moment to find relief from my emotional pain. I hoped that God would send the baby’s soul back to me so that I could have a second chance to make the right decision.
This time, my boyfriend outright refused to accept his role as father of the child. I visited his parents in the hope that they would have a change of heart, but they angrily kicked me off their property. The relationship was clearly over, and seeing him at school was painful. Soon rumors were all over school that I had been sleeping around and was pregnant, and that anyone could be the father.
I knew I needed to arrange for an adoption, but my family didn’t yet know about the pregnancy I didn’t feel safe telling them, so I reached out to my school where the school principal helped me to formulate a plan. With his help, we found and called a school for unwed young mothers. I knew we had started an application process, but because I was a minor and not legally in control of my destiny, they made me understand that I needed to tell my father what was going on. I did my best to hope that he would be supportive, but he lost control, screamed at me and threw my things around the room. There was no further discussion and he took no action but waited for them to call us about the application process.
It was around then that I made my first suicide attempt, by swallowing a whole bottle of aspirin. I called my best friend and she took me to the doctor who gave me charcoal to swallow. I ran away to her house but the principal explained to me that getting reported as a runaway could get me into the juvenile system which was a dangerous place to be, and that I needed to inform my father of my whereabouts. I called him to let him know but still refused to go home, until the police got in touch with me and insisted I go back, which I did reluctantly. There my father, stepmother and her three children proceeded to heap abuse upon me, making me feel powerless and trapped.
Some weeks later I was sitting in class when I saw my father’s truck pull up outside the school. I was pulled immediately out of class with no discussion. I had not been kept in the loop, so once we were in the car, I asked my father if he was taking me to the school for unwed mothers. Angry as usual, he informed me that he was taking me to rehab for thirty days first, as this was required by the school, since they found out I was a minor using alcohol semi-regularly to cover up my emotions. He dropped me off at the rehab facility, fifteen miles away from home. He gave me no chance to collect any belongings to bring with me, and for the first few days I had to make do with whatever clothes and schoolbooks I already had with me from school. I also had no chance to say goodbye to any of my friends or tell them anything about what was happening with me. The whole experience was painful and humiliating.
After completing rehab, I attended the school for young single mothers. (It has since been renamed after the principal at the time I was there. She was empathic and very loving, the kind of teacher you go back to visit long afterwards.) As I began to get bigger, I outgrew all my clothes, and all my pregnancy clothes came from K-mart or the Salvation Army. I tried to visit home during that time, but for the most part they didn’t want me at home. When I was finally allowed to come for a visit, they didn’t allow me to go outside while I was there. They continued to treat me without love, in a manner that was judgmental, condescending and rude, as if I was subhuman and deserved only condemnation.
The baby came late summer, and after going back and forth in my mind I finally confirmed my decision to give the child up for adoption. This was in the late 80s, when open adoptions started to become popular, and ours was one of the first. I researched and chose the parents with care. I was 16 years old.
After the adoption I had no inclination to stay with my dad and went instead to live with my mother back East. I had worked during the summer and continued to work while attending a new high school there. Altogether I had saved enough money to buy a car on my own.
Meanwhile my mother, now remarried for five years, was having a secret affair. One night, about two months after I arrived there, her husband announced that he would be staying in a hotel for one night due to work, but in reality this was a setup to catch her with her lover. She went right along with the plan and informed me that she was inviting the man over that night. I had a bad feeling, so I invited a friend to spend the night too, a young black man with whom I had struck up a friendship at work. That night my mother’s husband returned and caught her in bed with her lover. He was enraged and threatened them with a butcher knife. He found me with my friend, and even though we had done nothing wrong—and we had also been completely platonic—he threatened us too, shouting racist slurs and threatening to tell my grandmother about my friend. (Later he followed through on this, and as a result my grandmother didn’t speak to me for about two years, because my friend was black.) My friend and I fled to stay the rest of the night at his place. When I came back the next day, all my belongings were on the ground outside my bedroom window. My mother was also kicked out of her home, and so this brought my stay with her to an end.
I stayed with my friend until I finished high school the next year. I was suffering from post-traumatic stress and felt powerless, and I only knew to run from my feelings. This made my life there confused and without purpose, and I wasn’t happy. I called my father to ask him for help, but neither he nor my stepmother wanted me home with them, and I didn’t really want to go there either. A friend of mine from high school had moved to the Pacific Northwest and welcomed me there, and so my father sent me a plane ticket. That trip began an aimless nomadic journey of a year and a half and 7 jobs, through 3 different states, finally to end up back on the East Coast.
My mother had called me from there because she was having surgery and wanted me to come “braid her hair” and help her while she was recovering. It was the first time she had ever reached out to me and asked me to come because she wanted me to be with her. I desired to be wanted by her more than anything, so I went. East was not somewhere I wanted to live, however, and I had been planning to move back out West. But once I got to to my mom’s, I ran out of money paying off her bills and ended up stuck there. I got a job at a gas station next to her house and settled down to living with her.
Throughout all the times and places along my nomadic journey, I had had multiple encounters with members of a certain religious cult who gradually began to convert me to their way of thinking, with their promises of higher truth and a better world under the rule of their loving god. So at age 19, I joined a local study group of theirs, cut my hair, stopped smoking, bought a wardrobe and generally started trying to conform to their rules and their ascetic way of life. Among their many teachings was the belief that psychic abilities and anything mystical or occult were satanic and to be avoided absolutely, under threat of condemnation by their god. I remembered that I had used a Ouija board successfully and often when I was about 10. I had always been attracted to such things throughout my life, including astrology and oracle cards, and I enjoyed getting those little horoscope scrolls that were available at corner stores in those days. I noticed how often the horoscopes were accurate, and I could feel the messages resonate in my body even though I didn’t know at the time that this was a psychic (clairsentient) perception of truth. So I found the teaching frightening, but I accepted that what they were telling me was in my best interest.
At age 21, I became involved with a man who was 15 years my senior, not realizing at the time how emotionally abusive he was. As a result of my relationship with him, I was kicked out of the cult. This left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was torn inside, because I knew that God was still with me, I could feel it. But they told me that I was completely cut off from God and anything meaningful in life, and that I was now out in the desert so to speak, in a state of disapproval and abandonment. In any case my friends would no longer talk to me, and I felt strongly rejected.
I desperately wanted to feel stable, secure, needed and loved, so I was eager to start a family because I thought this would fill the hole in my heart. This man agreed, and we quickly got pregnant and married soon afterwards.
This however did not make me feel better in any of those ways, not even for a single minute, as my now-husband began to undermine and invalidate my mind. One month into the marriage I had an outburst of rage. He responded by taking me straight to a psychiatrist, making me believe I was crazy and that there was something wrong with my brain. He didn’t understand my sensitivity, nor did he want to, because his selfish and what I believe to be his covertly sociopathic worldview prevented him from participating in the kind of positive, loving relationships that sensitivity makes possible.
When I was 26 our second daughter was born, and it was not long afterwards that my unhappiness began to surface. I had stayed with him for many reasons other than love, but I felt guilty and afraid, and I was limited by my guilt and my fears. As time went on, it became harder to deny that I wanted to leave the marriage, and yet I forced myself to stay.
First of all, I felt sorry for him and wanted to believe the good-guy persona that he presented to the world. Secondly, I didn’t want my children to suffer having separated parents like I had. Thirdly, knowing how judgmental he could be and how he could cut people off if they offended him or didn’t support him, I was afraid he would do the same to me and refuse to support me or the children financially, and I didn’t believe in my own ability to support myself. On top of all that I had come to accept the idea that God hated a divorce. Staying in the situation over the long term put tremendous emotional strain on me. During the following years, I had many emotional breakdowns, and my husband’s response was always to put me in mental hospitals. Each time I forced myself harder to hold in my feelings, which just paved the way for more breakdowns and hospitalizations.
When I was 29, my mother died suddenly after we had not spoken in nearly a year. The lost hope of reconnecting with her sent me into a major depression. Over time I was placed on various medications for my moods, up to 12 at a time.
I gained nearly 80 pounds and stayed in bed for most of that year. I started smoking a lot. The drugs turned me into an emotional zombie, with no feelings. One of the drugs in particular hugely increased my appetite, and together with my tendency to eat my emotions, this was responsible for my rapid weight gain.
If memory serves, I was hospitalized 8 times by the age of 35. I was variously diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, and borderline personality disorder. Before I continue with the rest of my story, I would like to say that at my present age of 44, I do not currently fit any of those diagnoses, nor have I suffered from any of them for years now. I have healed, and it was not thanks to drugs—true healing was only possible for me after coming off the drugs. I healed thanks to discovering a broader perspective that enabled me to learn how to receive love from others, and more importantly, from myself.
In 2009, at the age of 36, I began to wake up to how negative my whole situation was and I began to change it, first by taking control of my weight, in order to get my body healthy and my mind straight. I started reading materials from the Weston Price Foundation about traditional diets. I started going to farmer’s markets to look for raw milk and to talk to people with alternative perspectives on food. I also started learning about conditions like Leaky Gut Syndrome and the relationship between gut health and brain health (see GAPS or Gut-And-Psychology-Syndrome). One of the most important things I learned is that your mood is directly affected by what you put into your body. Knowing this, I began to pay attention to my mood and how it responded to what I ate, in order to know which foods would be best for my mental health.
I quickly realized I had to avoid all processed food. The cleaner I ate, the better I felt and the clearer my mind became.
Next came physical fitness. Here I already had a foundation to work with, as I had been teaching Pilates for five years and Yoga for eight years, since my youngest daughter’s first birthday. More recently I had studied to become a personal trainer but hadn’t practiced at the time because I had been very overweight and felt like a hypocrite. Nevertheless, my studies taught me a great deal about the body, anatomy and movement. Among the things that Yoga teaches us is that the various flows in the physical body, including the breath and the blood, connect the body with the mind and spirit and with the world around us. Yoga shows us how to improve these flows by holding specific poses in order to put the body into better alignment. This has a direct positive effect on mental state and mood, because it brings us into an awareness of the present moment, enabling us to deal more effectively with life as it is happening in the Now. It also improves the feeling of bodily comfort and control, which makes a person feel light and capable, more able to dance through life’s daily physical challenges. On the flip side, when bodily flows are hindered, we are uncomfortable and avoid feeling the body. Then we lose touch with our physical experience and are more likely to spend a lot of mental energy being anxious and getting upset about things that happened in the past or things that haven’t happened yet in the future.
Now my interest in becoming a personal trainer was rekindled, but I had a new appreciation the role that the spirit or the soul plays in wellness. Through all that I had learned and experienced, I understood that there is no separation of the mind, body and spirit, and that in order to achieve optimal health, one must address all three aspects. We often look at ourselves in the mirror and evaluate what we see but fail to understand that our emotions are the root cause for what is reflected back to us.
This holistic evolutionary approach to my own health helped me to look at my life from a new, empowered perspective.
In 2007 we had moved to an overpriced cabin in the woods, far from town. My husband had made some poor financial decisions, and the more I learned about them, the more uncomfortable the situation became for me. I was back in the cult at the time, having been reaccepted after my mother’s death, and now I was fearfully teaching my children that the god we were serving wanted exclusive devotion. In the cult, we were always being encouraged to do more and I felt the pressure at every meeting and large assembly. Finally, in 2011 I decided that in our miserable financial state, serving this organization full time was my only option in order to show God my faith and receive his assistance.
I began to devote 70-100 hours a month to full-time service. After three months of tireless effort, I was three days away from being on the official list of full-time servants, which would qualify me to attend one of the cult’s prestigious training schools.
One afternoon, my children were very excited because a group of members of the cult had invited them to join in a recreational event at a trampoline facility. We didn’t get invitations very often because I was considered “unevenly yoked” with an unbelieving mate. I took them against my better judgment and herniated a disk jumping on a trampoline. I was devastated. At the time this happened, I had thought that I was in the best shape I had ever been in.
I had never felt so much pain in my life, but I still tried to keep doing all the things I had been doing. I have pictures of ceilings from many places around town because I had to lie down wherever we went due to back pain. I was unable to meet my monthly requirement of hours to stay in full-time service but I really wanted to attend the training school so I forced myself to continue. I refused to take any pain medication in the beginning but soon I couldn’t keep up with my house, my children, my job and my religion without it, so I resigned to taking opiates and soon I was on a pain patch. When I began numbing my pain, I resumed overdoing my life and incurred further injuries. I stopped counting herniated discs at 8. I was told I would at least need 3 surgeries and it looked like they would be very complicated. I was scared to death and I was also too busy to stop my life for surgery and recovery.
In 2014, my youngest daughter became involved with a group of young people in the congregation. On one occasion, she attended an assembly with them and they sexually assaulted her. Trusting the organization, I went to a cult elder for help. The elders formed a judicial committee and, to my disappointment, sent me out of the room before interrogating her about the details of the assault. This resulted in the whole group of young people, including my daughter, and many others in the region, being excommunicated from the organization. I was removed as a full-time servant as a result, and I was devastated. My daughter continued to try to attend meetings and I would support her by sitting next to her and holding her hand during prayer. One member, my best friend and former service partner, told me I shouldn’t hold her hand or support her emotionally because it would set a bad example for others in the congregation. I felt angry and betrayed. I knew that no loving God would ever require that of me; the God I believed in would never come between me and my own child. It was becoming clear to me that my time in the organization was approaching its end.
Around this time, I received a letter from the cult headquarters that my daughters and I had been invited to serve as delegates for an international convention in another country which we had applied for before my daughter was excommunicated. We made the arrangements to attend, yet meanwhile, in the year leading up to the convention, I attended fewer meetings and began to do research about the god I was serving. By the time the convention rolled around, I had been able to come off of all pharmaceutical drugs through the practice of meditation and the use of edible cannabis for pain, both of which were forbidden by the organization. While we were at the convention, I observed the organization in a different light. I saw that the worldwide brotherhood was an illusion: those who were serving it appeared to be doing so out of love, however, they were really motivated to slave away, to sacrifice themselves, out of a morbid fear of the cult’s doomsday predictions.
When I returned home, I became vocal on social media about my findings. I lost all of my friends, and my older daughter, still faithful to the cult, refused to speak to me unless I sought psychiatric attention for my “crazy ideas”.
Shortly after returning from overseas, I began to feel my self coming to life again. This was about six months after coming completely off of medications. I began having visions and hearing messages from my higher self. The first thing I heard was that the voices I had been silencing with pharmaceuticals had an important message for me. I began to make the connection between my physical pain and my emotional suffering. I decided to take responsibility for my life and my pain and began doing intense physical and emotional therapy on my own.
The realization that I did not want to be married anymore came in forcefully. My perspective was expanding and I knew it was only going to continue expanding. My husband couldn’t understand it or accept it, and he seemed to be afraid of me. I told him I wanted a divorce and I would do whatever it took to continue to support him and our children, but I simply did not want to be married to him. I wanted to separate. At first he wouldn’t accept this. He called me crazy, said I was sick and I didn’t know what I was talking about. I stood my ground, and when I eventually informed him of my intention to leave our home, my husband withdrew all his support and cooperation. This made things extremely difficult for me, because during our entire marriage he always had full control of our finances. If I left, it would mean I had no place to stay and only my disability payments to live from, which were not enough for both food and rent. Yet staying was not an option either, as my back continued to deteriorate from the emotional abuse and stress I was experiencing in my own home.
I couldn’t find support with any of my friends or family. I turned to social media looking for a listening ear, someone to see what I was going through and validate that I was, in fact, not crazy. I reached out for help and immediately found my twin flame, a kind, generous soul who lived all the way across the ocean. He saw clearly what was happening and helped me to get out, mainly just by listening and validating my feelings about what was happening to me. It took a year to get out of the emotional drama and to start healing. It has been a continual process since then realizing just how bad things really were and how gifted I really am.
Upon leaving the negative situation, I discovered the effects of my long-term suffering. I had severe symptoms of PTSD, agoraphobia and many other fears. I had difficulty functioning in many normal everyday circumstances including dealing with people. I cried for hours nearly every day. With my friend’s understanding and patience, I worked through the emotional trauma I had been subjected to for the past 43 years.
I have come to understand that my experience is not really unique, although it does seem pretty extreme. When I look around and empath the people around me, people who are sick and suffering in various ways, I know that the whole world is suffering from silent abuse and mistreatment. We are treating ourselves and others abusively and we don’t even realize it. If there is ever going to be change in this world, we must stop the cycle of abuse. We must listen to our own emotions and value them as a part of ourselves, as messengers sent to guide us to our greatest joy. We must stop treating our emotions as insignificant, inferior and inconvenient. We must listen to our children, validate what they say about their feelings, and teach them to trust their feelings because it is those feelings that will keep them safe. There is no greater gift one can give their child than the gift of supporting them in learning to trust their own emotions.
I now spend my time helping people like me and trying to rebuild my life. I still have a lot of trauma and legal issues to deal with, but I know I am doing the right thing by being as far away from my old life as possible. Eventually I will forgive everyone and everything completely. I tell this story because I know there are many other women and men out there like me, who have painful childhood trauma they need to work through. I stand before you as a living example that it can be done. Healing is possible with persistence and perseverance.