Monday, May 24, 2010

Low Mo

I keep hoping I can stop writing reports of being surprised by my own depressive symptoms. Not yet! I think that I can stop writing about them when they stop surprising me. I continue to be an optimist so when things look up for a week or two I'm primed to think: CURED!

The psychiatrist I've been seeing thinks I'm doing very well and approved me to gradually decrease the dose of my anti-depressant. I have no philosophical objection to medication for mental health, but it would feel good to stop taking it. It's a sign of independence and improved health.


For the first part of May I felt quite well: motivated, more energetic, even-keeled. I've been making steady progress toward some good routines - sleeping on a regular schedule, for 8 hours instead of 10; personal devotion; some exercise. I haven't really tried, I've just felt like doing those things. All very good.

Then I got moody and bored with everything. Low on motivation. That stupid episode with Voldemort threw me off. Husband is still having a difficult time and I am sad for him and I miss the man I remember. I spent a week or so feeling like life could just waddle along without me and I'd watch.


Last night I finally figured out how to explain this stuff to Husband. I want to tell him about this kind of thing but I also want to protect him from more bad mojo. Protecting is something I do as a parent for my children and I'm not his parent. I'm his partner.

As soon as I described all this moody weirdness aloud to him I felt entirely relieved. Suddenly I wanted to make some plans for the next day.


Depression is mysterious to me. Painful & tenacious.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


My husband recently made some sort of morbid joke about sr. pastor and actually said his full name out loud. It was startling to hear his name again. Immediately I felt anxious, angry, prepared to defend. So weird.

I told someone about this and he joked that it's like speaking Voldemort's name aloud in Harry Potter.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Where To Look

On facebook I posted a link to this list of 10 ways Christians tend to fail at being Christian. Someone commented that maybe “we should all make a list and look very carefully for ourselves in it.” I don’t have time for that! I’ve got my hands full detailing other people’s self-righteousness!

For the last couple of weeks I’ve had a decent routine of personal devotion that is really good for me. It’s generous of God to give me a disposition toward this habit. I have found, though, that every chapter I read leaves me thinking about sr pastor and how destructive and misguided his efforts are. Stupid brain. I don’t want to be thinking about him, even to consider in detail his misunderstanding of the Christian life.

I am of two minds - maybe I’m being sinfully distracted from God’s message about himself and me, or maybe this is a necessary step in making sense of (and discarding the lies of) what’s been going on for the last couple of years. I’m not sure how to distinguish between the two.

I have exerted a lot of energy trying not to judge sr pastor & co., but realized that I have to judge their actions so that I don’t take responsibility for all this misery. “Love the sinner, hate the sinner” is much more complicated than it sounds.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Feelings vs Depression

In the last week or so I have felt: happy, sad, motivated, proud, angry, disappointed, uncertain, annoyed, content, silly, tired, appreciated, loved, challenged, smug, chastised, relieved.

I have not felt despairing, hopeless, or desperate.

Isn't that nice?

Sunday, May 9, 2010


After my last post, a reader wrote me with this thoughtful question:

How do you keep people from your previous congregation and even the sr pastor from reading your blog? Are you ever afraid they will identify you by what you write? I think you are so brave to voice your troubles. I don't know that I could do that.
I have thought about this a lot and people close to me have listened to me fret about it for, cumulatively, hours and hours. Below are some of the things I've decided upon that allow me to write this blog.

It is certainly possible that someone from my old congregation has or will come upon this blog. The majority of them would not ever recognize that I am writing about their church. The people who have hurt me, sr pastor included, seem so unaware of themselves that I would not expect them to see that I am describing their behavior. If they do, I'm not sure what they would do about it. Apart from my description of the conflict I don't think there is anything here that identifies them specifically, so they'd be accusing themselves.

This is why I guard my anonymity so carefully online. I have no interest - ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST - in identifying the people or the congregation I am describing. I cannot imagine any benefit that would come of that and I write primarily for my own benefit. Describing my experience helps me understand it, cope with it, trust God with it, compartmentalize it. I learn by writing. When I start a post I usually know what I want to write about and have an idea what I will say, but often discover something in the process of explaining myself.

I started this blog almost a year ago and a miraculous, unexpected second purpose has turned out to be creating a community of churchworkers and families who hurt. I thought there might be half a dozen people who would read this. I don't know how many readers I have, but it's more than that. The affirmation, encouragement, and spiritual care I receive from your comments and notes is one of God's great provisions for me.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cycle of Abuse

Several years ago I volunteered at a domestic violence center and learned about the cycle of abuse. It involved the abuser repeatedly working to separate the victim from support systems (usu. family, friends), to control choices and behavior, to undermine the victim’s sense of autonomy and capability so that the victim becomes more dependent on the abuser.

I found this outline of the cycle of abuse on a domestic violence web site. It’s alarming how similar this looks to what happened at our last congregation. I’ve crossed out the elements that do not apply to the conflict with sr. pastor. As it happens, that’s every item that has to do with repentance.


Any type of abuse occurs (physical/sexual/emotional)

Tension Building

Abuser starts to get angry

Abuse may begin

There is a breakdown of communication

Victim feels the need to keep the abuser calm

Tension becomes too much

Victim feels like they are 'walking on egg shells'


Abuser may apologize for abuse

Abuser may promise it will never happen again

Abuser may blame the victim for causing the abuse

Abuser may deny abuse took place or say it was not as bad as the victim claims


Abuser acts like the abuse never happened

Physical abuse may not be taking place

Promises made during 'making-up' may be met

Victim may hope that the abuse is over

Abuser may give gifts to victim

The “incident” was always some episode of sr. pastor aggressively asserting control. He was surprisingly creative about doing it, but in every case his objective seemed to be to force compliance at any cost. He did crazy things and then refused to talk about them, manipulated every confrontation so that he did not accept responsibility. He was unpredictable and blamed (privately and publicly) Husband for anything that went wrong.

Other people on staff at the church have indicated that they are discouraged, unhappy, frustrated by our departure, but that they feel they cannot say anything.

Writing this is hard for me because I am furious that Husband - we - have been treated this way. It has caused immense pain to our family. It has sown doubt about things we ought never have to doubt. Everything about this is antithetical to my understanding of what pastors are called to do. I’ve been trying to write this for weeks, but thinking about it still makes me so sad and angry.

Now that we have left that church, I feel confident we will heal. I am thankful that God provided us with a way out. I continue to feel distressed, however, by the effect of this pattern of control on the church. It turns the congregation’s energy and identity toward a few particular rules of Christian living and away from God’s love and mercy and justice and a relationship with him in Christ. I cannot imagine why God allows this to continue.