Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

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My “Me, Too” Story

Harvey Weinstein was a lot worse than my abuser, but no abuse is acceptable. Facebook and Twitter, and the news media that reports on both, are filling up with #metoo stories that make me cringe and my skin crawl. But I am so proud of those who are able to name their metoostories, to tell their own tales with authenticity and courage.

My story happened in Virginia in another lifetime. I am an Episcopalian and was seeing our local priest for counseling that got out of hand. Where do you go when the person you are seeing for help is the one who is acting out?  I settled on food to change my body size, to make myself as unattractive as possible, and a geographic solution with a move to Maine in January. Not exactly the best time to move, but I needed to get out and found a way.

Feeling safer there, I told a Maine priest that something had happened that was wrong and I didn’t want anyone else to endure the same. I was basically patted on the head and told to let it go. It didn’t sit well but I did it. Believing I was called to ministry, I began the process to seek ordination – and was told by my bishop that I had a problem with intimacy and authority and needed to be more involved as a lay person. Hmmm. Okay. Vestry member, choir member, hospital visitor, altar guild member, stewardship chair obviously not enough activity.

Moved to Boston. In 1992, news broke about Father James Porter and child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. I began to cringe and had trouble concentrating. One day in my diocesan newspaper I saw a tiny ad for a booklet on clergy sexual abuse. It was only $5 and I figured that no one would know that I had it. I’d read the booklet and then move on. Except I couldn’t. From page one, that booklet described what happend to me. I was in tears after a few pages, holding my stomach and shaking. It had happened to me. And I needed help.

The booklet was dedicated to a Boston therapist the author had worked with, who happened to practice in my town of Brookline. I called her office on a Friday about an appointment before I lost my nerve; much to my shock, she had an opening on Monday morning. She asked me to read “Is Nothing Sacred” by Marie Fortune if I had a chance before then. Working on a university campus with a theology library next door made that easy.

Twenty minutes into my appointment, the therapist stopped me and told me that there was no question that what had happened to me was clergy abuse, that is was highly probable that the priest had a sex addiction, and was or had abused others. It was shocking how much that relieved me. I didn’t make it up, I hadn’t blown it out of proportion. It had happened, it was wrong, and there was damage.

My diocese had a process for dealing with such things. I went to my bishop with an advocate and a written statement that took me 45 minutes to write after 7 years of living with it. He read it, put down his glasses, looked me in the eye, and apologized to me for the hurt that this had caused me. He believed me. And he did something about it, writing immediately to the bishop in my former diocese where my abuser lived.  I got a call from that bishop within a week, telling me that the abuser had been called into the bishop’s office, confronted with my statement, and had confessed.

shieldIt was done but not done. I had expected it to take weeks, months, years, and even then, didn’t believe that the abuser would ever acknowledge that what he did was wrong. So I wasn’t ready for it to be over. Long, long story involving many letters and much therapy. My abuser was required by HIS bishop to pay for my therapy as well as his own. I asked that my former congregation be told what had happened, which didn’t materialize. However, they WERE required to have a workshop on clergy sexual abuse.  I kept going to church until I couldn’t anymore. Until my anger at the church spilled over and turned my joy into something broken.

Oh, and the bishops. The Bishop of Maine turned out to have been having affairs with married women. And the Bishop of Massachusetts not only turned out to have ALSO been having affairs with married women, but he committed suicide as news was about to break about it. He was the one who had heard my story, who had believed me, and who took action. But my trust was broken. More clergy in positions of power who were not behaving well. I even wrote to the Presiding Bishop about a letter that appeared over his name after the suicide, in which he described the pressures of being a bishop.  I told him he was NEVER to equate the pressure of being a bishop, a role that was deliberately taken, with the pressures of being a VICTIM and a SURVIVOR.

I kept those letters, that initial statement, the therapy word collages, my notes, for over 20 years. I would pull them out periodically to look at, reminding myself how far I’d come. My letters are articulate and thoughtful, and very powerful.  I finally was ready to let them go when I moved to Texas. I took the files in to work and shredded everything – not to preserve privacy, but because there was power in shredding. I felt lighter. I still have trouble with intimacy and authority, and I still have trouble with church. Not with God, but church.

I still have a huge weight problem and deep inside I know I don’t want to look like someone who is likely to attract sexual harassment. No one does that to fat people, they hurt us in other ways, but I’m used to those.  I want to be brave and strong and honest and whole. That last one takes more time than we think. Harvey Weinstein and his ilk opened the wounds again. But I will heal.



A Day of Eating Intuitively

Woman in BlueSeveral of you are practicing intuitive eating, something that always seemed to be an oxymoron because if eating was so intuitive, how come I was fat?  But I do understand the concept and it really does require thought and care to do after years of slicing and dicing every nutritional value and then overeating anyway.

Andrea K. has links to intuitive eating resources that have been helpful, as has her blog itself.  She has what I want for myself – a calmness and serenity about where she is in her life right now and the way she relates to food.  Since a nutritionist had previously suggested IE to me, and I’m rebelling against counting things anyway, I’m motivated to pay closer attention.  It’s different to know someone living this and not just reading a dry article.

Today I woke up and decided to listen to my body about food.  This is a change, since usually I react to seeing things or wanting a flavor or taste, or to a time of day or a location associated with eating.  But today I paid attention, just for today.

I had some wonderful Fage 2% yogurt with blueberries – and then stopped and decided I was full.  A few hours later I had a Fiber One peanut butter bar.  Lunch was a good salad with greens, edamame salad, freshly roasted vegetables, and chicken, with a nectarine.  I had hot, salty 94% popcorn for a snack, as well as more yogurt later.  And for dinner, crockpot roasted chicken and vegetables, with a WW ice cream sandwich about an hour later.

Reasonable food, isn’t it? Oh, I ate gingersnaps that I bought at the store – but I really didn’t want them in my stomach, just in my mouth – the bright spicy taste.  When I had some of that, I was able to throw away most of the package and not feel guilty.  I’ve been sitting here watching TV and before going automatically to the kitchen to get something to snack on, just asked myself if I wanted anything. The answer is no; my tummy is full but not stuffed and adding more just isn’t needed.

I feel good about my food today.  It didn’t control me, I felt satisfied with what I ate, and I had a nice variety of flavors and textures.  I managed to have all of the basic food groups, even salty stuff, although salt isn’t one of the basic foods.   I feel pretty comfortable in my body tonight.

Thanks, Andrea, for sharing those IE resources.  I want to keep reading to understand better how to apply IE regularly and not just sort of as an experiment.


Living forward

Going forwardYesterday I was reading a romance novel and was brought up short at one place when one of the characters quoted Soren Kirkegaard. Trust me, characters in romance novels don’t usually quote philosophers, Danish or otherwise. But these words just made so much sense:

“Life must be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.”

I spend a lot of time looking backwards at my life, at successes and failures (always more of those), things done and left undone, repenting choices I didn’t make and blaming myself and others for things that didn’t turn out the way I wished. I do that with food all the time, and failed attempts to lose and keep off weight, gym classes I skipped, clothes I “shudda” bought (or not).

It takes a lot of energy to do all that backwards-looking and what happens is that I end up at best staying in place and at worst, being lured backwards into past behaviors. That’s not to say I can’t learn from the past and need to spend time doing that — but what I really want and need to do is live forwards instead.

What would that look like? It’s like looking into a foreign country; I have a lot more experience with my head stuck in the past, at least where weight and body things are concerned. But putting on an imagining hat … it would be liberating to not move through life chained by things I did or were done to or around me. To not be playing “what if” and “if only” and instead, really being present in my body and my life right now.

It would be obviously a mental and emotional change but also a physical one as well. Instead of dwelling what I had “always done” badly, I could just try them now and see how it goes. I could go dancing. I would take vacations with friends. I would be eating healthy without fretting over every bite. There would be walks and swimming and regular exercise just because I want to and feel better when I move. I wouldn’t be obsessed with what I couldn’t do with physical limitations but finding ways to do more within those limits.

With the blessing of distance and time, I would find a way to keep the past in the past, without emotional baggage to drag me back. I don’t need to live there to learn from events and emotions that are behind me. They would just lose the power to harm and cause me to stumble.

“Life must be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” That’s where I want to be. How about you?


Quieted spirit

Stained glassI spend a lot of time fighting with my inner self about who I am, what I need vs. want, whether I’m a good person, how I relate to the world around me. And food, of course. You name it, I’ve had inner dialogues about it.

But one area that has gotten very short-shrift these last few years has been my spiritual life. I stopped going to church when I was ready to murder the choir director every time I saw him; it was somewhat in conflict with the concept of worship. I didn’t know how to worship if I wasn’t sitting in the choir loft after 40 years of singing in church choir. So I just gave myself a little sabbatical that has been extended for about 6 years.

I never stopped believing in God; I was just taking a break from church. It’s time to get off my butt and find a place where I can worship again. I am a choir person to my toes and need to sing – it’s how I worship and a way for me to empty myself of the busyness of the world and relax into knowing there is more than what I see around me. I miss the music but also the community that choir members form so easily. I’m rather isolated now and miss that sense of family that comes with belonging to a choir. Note that the “altopower” of my blog address does not come from playing an instrument; I am an alto and proud of it.

Today is Ash Wednesday. Until 6 years ago, this was a big deal day with heavy-duty music and big service. I wasn’t up for all of that this year, although there are certainly many places where I could slip into a pew and worship. Instead, I started off this morning at the university chapel, sitting with a small group beneath the warm sunlit colors of red and blue in the stained glass windows, saying Morning Prayer and receiving the imposition of ashes.

I didn’t know anyone but that didn’t matter. What mattered to me was the comfort of shared liturgy, the stillness of the place, the chance to hear words of prayer, of scripture, of meditation, and feeling a sense of being home in the quiet.

For me to be a whole person, I can’t just work on my body. My spiritual life needs to be fed and refreshed as well. I exist in one but when I remember that my real self isn’t in the limbs and pounds and physical limits of the body, I can soar and not be alone and find peace.

It’s time to find a choir and a church where I can be all of me again.