Monday, June 30, 2008

Not Another Sarah

I got this e-mail from Sarah Southerland, author of "Not Another Sarah"

Dear Sandy,

A few weeks ago, my publisher notified me that they plan to clearance out the remaining 2,000 copies of my book, Not Another Sarah, in an attempt to free up warehouse space. The publisher has generously offered to sell the books to the NAS Foundation for $2.00 each, well below the cost of publication. The only requirement is that payment must be made by the middle of July.Since the book came out three years ago, I have noticed that the organizations that need the book the most are the least able to buy copies. With your help, the NAS Foundation can buy copies of the book and get them to these organizations (women's shelters, juvenile detention centers, prisons, victim's advocates, etc.) at no cost in an effort to help victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. The NAS Foundation is currently accepting donations that will be used to purchase copies of Not Another Sarah from the publisher for distribution. Will you help by sending a small donation of $5 to $10 (or more if you are able) to the NAS Foundation at the address listed below? All donations are tax deductible. If you would like copies of the book sent to a specific organization, please indicate this with your donation.Thank you so much! With your contribution, these books will go to the people who need them the most!

Sincerely,Sarah Southerland

NAS Foundation
PO BOX 557
Bountiful, UT 84011

Friday, June 27, 2008

Physical Abuse

When we think of abuse, physical abuse it what usually comes to mine. However, this type of abuse is actually the second most common type of abuse, emotional being the first most common. The amount and kind of physical abuse varies from perpetrator to perpetrator as well as incident to incident. It can be as simple as a slap or push or as complicated as using a weapon. The whole point of this type of abuse is to control the victim. When the abuser feels out of control, violence is used to scare the victim into submission. If the yelling and threatining will do the job, then fine, but if not, then violence can occur. And the harder it is to get the victim to fall into line, then the more the violence will escalate. The violence usually gets worse the longer the victim stays in the relationship.

I believed for a long time that I did not have this type of abuse in my life. I thought that I could just deal with the words and ignore him. However, he would use physical abuse on the children. Again, for a long time I felt that it was just because that was what was modeled in his home growing up and if I could just be patient and teach him other ways it would change. This kind of thinking is common in victims. I didn't see that this was another way of his controlling not only the children but me as well. I took over all parenting so as to keep him from hurting the children. I, essentially, became a single parent until something would make him angry- and we never knew what it would be.

One Sunday we were attending Stake Conference. I was at the end of the row and he was at the other end with the children between us. One of the boys, E, was fidgeting and sorta bugging the brother next to him. I kept trying to catch E's eye to get him to stop. It was not a big deal, but definately not the perfect, wonderful, no problem picture that we were supposed to present to the public. I saw my husband stiffen up and the look of pure rage on his face was something that I had never seen in public before. I remember thinking, "Too bad we are sitting clear back here in the overflow where it is dark and no one can see him." He grabbed E by the arm and whispered something to him. Later when we got home, I took out the camera and took pictures of the bruises he left on E's arm. I sent copies to my parents for safe keeping and gave a copy to my bishop (who just brushed it off).

Another thing that he has done is throwing of things. One evening he got angry, opened one of my drawers and threw things all over the room while he was screaming at me. That was the first time the police were called to my home for domestic violence. I am not proud to say that it occured after 22 years of enduring this type of abuse. Another time he threw my pillow out of the bed when I asked him to please scoot over so I could get in. It hit my jewlery holder on top of the dresser and my earring went flying all over the room. Many were broken beyond repair, many were twisted and bent. And there is one, my most favorite 14k gold studs that I have had since I was 13 that I still to this day cannot find one of. He has never apologized and in fact told me that I probably threw the earring away so I could blame him.

He has taken my purse, my wallet, my driver's license. He has jerked the phone out of my hand, disabled the line, hung up the phone while I am on it, so that I cannot call for help. The night the police came, they told him that that was a felony and he could go to jail if he ever did it again.

Here are some examples of physical abuse:
again taken from the book "Not Another Sarah"

  • Kicking, punching, hitting, and slapping
  • Shaking, shoving, and pulling
  • Cutting hair, skin, or other body parts
  • Throwing things at or on her
  • Preventing her frm leaving and/or getting help
  • Using weapons in an attempt to gain control
  • anyting that is intended to cause her pain or discomfort in an attempt to control her.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing these things, get help immediately. (I will address how to help someone you love in a future post)

Again, you may wonder why I am still here when I know what is going on. Again, there is a reason, I am just not sure what it is just yet.

I have had some response from these posts and some new resources that I will beging posting in the sidebar.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Emotional Abuse

I am taking parts of this post, and following posts on abuse, from "Not Another Sarah" by Sarah E. Southerland. This is one book that I feel is a must read for anyone that has someone in their life that is possibly being abused. There is a link in the sidebar where you can purchase your own copy or donate a copy to someone that is in need.

Abusers need to have control over everything in their environment. The intention of emotional abuse is "to destroy the self-esteem and self-confidence of his partner" He will use subtle manipulation to gain his goal. It will not take long for her to start doubting herself. Before long the woman is not the same person. She slowly changes into what she thinks will stop the abuse. And then she lets all her feelings die, because it is too hard to feel, to think, to care. She is empty and hollow and tries only to please him and keep the peace at all costs. She says nothing, because who would believe her? He is such a nice person, after all, mostly. Don't believe it? Just listen to everyone around you tell you how lucky you are to be married to such a man. Even your bishop.

"Depending on the severity of the abuse, an abuser:
  • Yells or screams
  • Calls her bad names or criticizes her
  • Humiliates or degrades her, at home or in public
  • Ignores her when angry, "the silent treatment"
  • Nelects her or withholds things/information from her
  • Forces her to do things she doesn't want to do
  • Is jealous and possessive, isolates her from all others
  • Lies to her and about her
  • Threatens to commit suicide and/or murder
  • Threatens to hurt others, ie, pets, children, family members, etc
  • Intimidates her
  • Won't listen to or let her express her felings and opinions
  • Always has t be right.

An abuser will use every means possible to maintain control by making the victim feel worthless and totally dependent on him."

I could give you many personal examples from the above list, but the abuse has dwindled since I started standing up to him. He does, however, still try. Saturday we were at my niece's lovely wedding reception. We were there from beginning to end as I very rarely get an opportunity to visit with my family. He was following me around like a puppy, stepping on my heels, breathing down my neck. (he is 12" taller than I am and weighs 120-130 lbs more than I do). I turned and asked him if he needed something. He said that we needed to go through the line. I told him that he was welcome to go, we didn't have to go at the same time, after all it is family. He punched his fist in the air and said, "Fine. I hope you have a way home. Actually, don't bother coming home because all your stuff will be in the street if you ever show up. I'm done with you." then he proceeded to stomp off to the car where he sat the rest of the time we were there.

I didn't follow him and apologize, beg him to come back to the reception, say I was sorry, carry on and make it my fault. There was a time I would have, especially since we were more than 100 miles from home. I turned my back and had a good time with my family while he pouted in the hot car. I refuse to give him what he wants.

When he came back later asking if we were ready yet to leave he made excuses for his abscence- the mosquitoes were biting (true, everyone is covered and I had to take my youngest to the dr. today, but everyone else wasn't complaining), it was hot, the sun was bothering him, it was too crowded, he didn't feel well, he was tired, you name it trying to get my family to feel sorry for him and ask me why we stayed so long when he was not well. He was not happy when they walked away. There was a time that they would have played into his hand. The next day, he acted as if we had all gone to a party and had a great time together and doesn't even remember this incident (one of about 4 that night).

That is one of the small examples of emotional abuse that I could tell you about. When you are living it, you don't see it at first. I didn't. I had no experience at all in being treated that way and it confused me. I couldn't see it for what it was. I was hundreds of miles away from family and everyone that met him thought he walked on water, so surely the fault was mine. Obviously I just needed to repent and change. So I tried to be who I thought I was supposed to be.

You may wonder why I stay, even though I am aware of what is going on. There are a lot of reasons, but the biggest one is this- the Lord has not told me that I can go, yet. Through the years of dealing with this (as well as the other abuse I will post about later), I have had to learn to rely on the Lord in a way that I did not know was possible. I have had to learn to listen for the still small voice amidst turmoil and chaos and fear. I have had to learn to trust when it felt that the darkness was about to swallow me whole. I have had experiences that have served me when councling with young adults. I have been given an empathy for things that books would never allow me to understand. I can look at some of these young girls and say, "I know. I understand. I know how you feel." and I do.

Perhaps I still have things to learn and do. Perhaps I need to learn how to not be so rude in response to his tirades. Perhaps.... I don't know all the perhapses involved. I do know that there will come a time that I no longer live this life, that I am happy and well loved and treated truly as a daughter of a God. But that time is not yet. And until it is, I will continue to try to learn and grow, despite or maybe in spite of, the circumstances I am in at the moment.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Depression- A Symptom of a Bigger Problem

By Christine Thackeray

Have you ever had an earth-shattering impression to do something that you just ignored? I've had many but this week one of those impressions reawakened and I'm not going to let it fall away this time. I'm going to wrap my arms around it and get it done.

About a year after the birth of my fifth child I went crazy. I had had a couple of early term miscarriages and my hormones were totally out of whack. I could feel it. I was laughing and crying at the same time every day all day for no apparent reason and I basically couldn't function. It was not pretty. One day I called my doctor's group frantic and asked for an immediate appointment. They sent me to their new nurse practitioner who in retrospect should have her license revoked. (I LOVE some nurse practitioners- it was just this woman.) When I told her my problem and that I felt like my hormones weren't readjusting, she told me the answer to everything was anti-depressants and that there were no side effects whatsoever. She said it was the best medicine ever created, and all I needed in order to take this secret to joy was a pregnancy test.

Well, I failed. I was barely pregnant (by two days) so I got an appointment with my normal doctor who told me that my hormones weren't adjusting properly and gave me some progesterone cream to help. Within a few weeks I was back to my semi-normal self and it felt great. That same year I had a visiting teaching companion who had a mean husband and a son on drugs. She separated with him and was trying her hardest to save this wayward son while singly raising four other demanding children but the oldest was becoming more and more violent. It was tearing her apart, as it would any mother. One day she came over to my house with a huge smile on her face. She had been to see a new doctor who told her that her only problem was that she was depressed and gave her medication. I remember her smiling and saying how wonderful her life was going to be now that she was not sad anymore. Her son was still in jail, her husband was still refusing to divorce her because while they were only separated he didn't have to pay child support, she still had no job and four other difficult children. It is right that she should still capture joy in her relationship with the Lord, in her personal accomplishments and in her role as a mother but it is OK for her to be justifiably upset, sad and fearful about her situation- it is called being normal.

I met another woman that I adored. As a young mother she struggled with feelings of inadequacy and perfectionism. On the advice of her physician she began taking a low dose of antidepressants and they helped take the edge off. She goes off them in the spring summer and goes back in the cold months and has been very grateful for a medicine that has allowed her to keep her emotions and mental stability in check. Another friend after suffering childhood abuse has found great relief with medication, while making use of a light box for seasonal issues and a careful diet to offset blood sugar-induced mood swings. She has built a stable foundation and has been able to function despite the neurological scarring of a difficult childhood.

Through these experiences and others I felt so strongly that depression be not better understood but better EXPLAINED. Normal, healthy people should and do feel depressed when they encounter huge obstacles. Depression like elation, anxiety, excitement, concern, fear and contentment are normal emotional states all humans will encounter in their lifetime. If you are in a tough marriage, if you have a child who is rebellious, if you have lost a friend or relative to death, if you are under constant pressure, a normal reaction is for your body to shut down so that you can recover. This shutting down can be different for different people but the lack of will or joy, the inability to make decisions and the desire to isolate or withdraw are typical. Sometimes the sadness can be so extreme that a person wants to cease to exist or to hurt themselves just to feel something. If these thoughts persist, it is imperative they seek professional help. But for the others who find themselves in this abyss, medication is only one option and won't fix the other stressors or triggers causing the depression. Like putting a band-aid over a splinter, the offending matter will only fester until it must be dealt with eventually.

On the other hand, genetically some people are neurologically fragile, some are scarred by abuse and others have experienced depression so many times from external sources that even after those stressors are relieved, their minds repeat this state of emotion on its own. There are also over seventeen true medical conditions that imitate depression.

Each person may find a different answer for coping with their individual struggle. Though their answers may be very different, one thing I truly believe is the path to finding those answers is the same. If they seek with the Spirit, they will find the doctor or the article or the principle that will help them. But really that is the easy part. The true struggle begins after you've figured out the cure, because for most mental health issues, the remedy is a process, not an event. Whether it is changing bad habits, shifting negative scripting either in a relationship or in their own head, creating barriers that keep you safe on the path to healing, breaking the chains of addictions, diet, exercise, medication or herbal supplements, all of them take time to implement and relief only comes with consistency, which stands at the complete opposite corner of reality than the depressed psyche. It's hard stuff but it is so worth it because when you are on task, you can tell you are your best self.

After all this, I guess the bottom line is I really want to organize and prepare a clear premise for dealing with depression through gospel principles. So when we face depression, we are empowered. We need to seek to figure out the source of our feelings and then assess if it is something we can cope with by means of diet, exercise or increased positive experiences in our life or do we need more help through counselling or medication.

I look forward to Sandra's relationship insights, working with feelings and thoughts from the inside out but I also think we need to keep our eyes open from the outside in and figure out what these experiences can teach us We also need to discover how we can increase our ability to be healed by using the gifts of the gospel of Christ because I believe that is what it is for.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

And They Lived Happily Ever After

"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." (The Family; A Proclaimation to the World)

You know when you are little how you dream of your wedding day? The dress, the flowers, the bridesmaids and you plan and refine and everything is perfect? Then you play dress-up and house and again everything is perfect? Too bad all that playing and practicing doesn't carry over into reality.

You see, for me marriage and family life has been nothing short of hell on earth. Without going into details, he is a bully, an addictive personality and a wounded soul not willing to look at himself and change. The sad part? I no longer care. I used to care. I used to want to help, to try, to do whatever it took to make things work, or better, or whatever. Now? I just don't care. And that makes me really sad because I really am a kind, caring, loving person.

Now, I don't want to lay all blame at his feet because in response to his faults, all of mine are magnified, and they are not pretty. The worst part of all of this is that it is the children that suffer the most. I want them to experience a loving, safe family life where home is a refuge, a safe haven, a place to get away from the stresses of earth life.

I divorced him once. But after being apart for about a year, he made some promises and looked like he had made changes and I was suckered back into his web of lies and deceptions and re-married him. It was mere weeks before I realized that nothing had changed. My mom told me that she realized that I must have still had some feelings of love for him when I married him again.

About 5 months after the wedding, he had an aneurysm. I rearranged my life- work, school, children- to take care of him. I spent 4 months and all of our savings nursing him back to health. And I realized that I just did not care anymore. I no longer cared if he was in pain, or hungry, or hot, or cold or tired or....... I just did not care. Everyone told me that by taking care of him that way my love for him would only grow and be stronger. But it did not. All it did was drain our finances, grow our debt and make me realize how much I did not care.

So why am I telling you all this? Because I really do still believe in happily ever after. The other day I had the bishop give me a blessing. I was having some health concerns and just needed some help coping with that. That was all I asked for, a healing blessing for a specific concern that I was having. However, during the blessing, the bishop blessed me with some other things that I had been concerned with- one of which regarded this situation. Without going into the details, because they are special and sacred to me, I know that everything will work out ok. Actually more than ok. In fact, I am going to get to live happily ever after after all. I don't know all the details and timelines and all of that. What I do know, though is this: Heavenly Father loves me and wants me to be happy. He knows how unhappy I am. And scared. And tired. And He cares. And it will be ok.

I wrote this post and could not figure out why on earth I would put this out there for any and all to see. So I saved it in the draft section and decided that when I figured it out, I would post it. I have decided that the reason I wrote it was not to get any pity or "I feel sorry for you" comments, because I don't want them. But I have decided that the reason I wrote it is so that I can now do a series of posting on things I have learned in the last 20+ years. Things I would not know otherwise but things I need to know in order to do what I need to do here on earth. Things need to help others navigate life. I also want to write some on relationship abuse- verbal, mental, emotional, physical. These are also things I did not know and now have an intimate knowledge of. Moreso than any text book could help me understand. And this knowledge has serve me well in my chosen profession of helping others. Girls always say to me, "How did you know I was feeling _________?" Because I know. So, here we go. Some of these posts will be easy and clinical, some will be hard for me to write and some hard to read, but I am feeling that they need to be.