Featured

The Blog I Didn’t Want To Write

I enjoy writing, blogging and journaling.  I’m not great at it, but I find it to be a relaxing and therapeutic way to escape from the business of my life. That being said, I am not looking forward to writing this blog. So, who am I, and why am I writing this blog?

I am a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, a mother to six children, a wife, a former registered nurse, a sister, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, an aunt, a grandchild, an employee of our farm and my church, and an intimacy anorexic.  There, I said it. Yes, that last part about the intimacy anorexia is why I am (reluctantly) writing this blog. Into-Me-See really defines intimacy, so I chose that title for the name of my blog.

As I begin my journey to healing from this addiction (there, I said that word too), I will be using this blog as a way to chronicle my ups and downs, begin expressing emotions, and be real and vulnerable about my story and struggles.  Like any addict, I need support and accountability, and I believe that blogging is one way to keep myself from isolating and sinking into chronic relapses.

I welcome respectful comments, suggestions, and feedback, but all comments will be moderated.

Thank you for reading!

post

Step 8

pexels-photo-1061135.jpeg
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Made a list of all people we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

This list includes all the people in my past and present that I may have hurt either directly or indirectly through my intimacy anorexic behaviours.

And became willing means that I am entirely ready and willing to submit or comply with whatever needs to be done. In this case, I am willing to make amends with the people I have harmed. To make amends I am trying to compensate or make up for a wrongdoing.

I am willing to make amends to them all which includes even those for whom it will be very difficult for me to apologize to.

This step and the next may take some time as I search my heart, confess my sins to God, and then decide the best ways to make amends to those I have hurt. It is very humbling.

“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’”                            Luke 19:8

 

Step Seven

 

gray chain on orange surface
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com 

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

The Latin word for humble, humilis, means “on the ground,” or “from earth” (https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/humbly). It is difficult to define humility, but when I viewed the antonyms of the word humility I got a better sense of what humility looks like. The opposite of humility is being proud, arrogant or haughty. So humility would entail being submissive, respectful, reverent, meek, or modest. When I come to God to ask Him to remove my defects, I will be asking Him with a submissive, reverent, and repentant attitude. I will be asking for His help in a humble manner, not with an attitude of entitlement or pride.

 “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:2-3

I need to ask God with a humble attitude (asking in the right way), trusting that if I ask, I will receive His help for things that are in His will. Asking God to remove my shortcomings and defects is in God’s will, so I can rest in the knowledge that He will hear my humble prayers and answer. The answer may look different than I expected, but I can still trust that He knows what is best for me.

In this step, I ask God to remove the defects I have identified in my life from Step Six. I ask Him to cut out, and get rid of the “trash” in my life. I am ready to have things such as jealousy, withholding intimacy, criticizing, ruminating, holding grudges, and being judgmental removed from my life.

I find it helpful to remember that I am not the only, nor the first person to have gone through this sometimes painful process. The word, our, is a reminder that I am not alone in my struggles.

Shortcomings are the defects of character or sins I identified in the last step. These are what I am humbly asking God to remove from my life.

Today, September 21, 2018, I took this step seriously and spent some time with God in prayer, asking Him to remove my shortcomings.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”                                              James 5:16b

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”                                                                                                                            1 John 5:14

Rant On Christian Sexuality Teachings Part 2

pexels-photo-752805.jpeg
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

How much of the teachings on sexuality coming from the Church is healthy and biblically based, and how much of it is a fear based response to counter the sex-crazed society that we live in? Teachings that come out of fear tend to be controlling, guilt-based, and a mixture of truths and exaggerations or even half-truths.

So we’ve got a young couple on their wedding day. Maybe she’s managed to successfully and obsessively guard her virginity. She has a terrible body image because she believes her body is flawed since she’s had to go to such extreme lengths to make sure no one lusts after her. The Church tells her to cover up and feel shame over her femininity and culture tells her her body will never look good enough. The groom may be a virgin too, but he, of course, like 68% of Christian men has been addicted to porn for years now ( see http://www.cbcrh.com/home/180005292/180009741/docs/The-Porn-Phenomenon.pdf?sec_id=180009741).

On the honeymoon this woman is now expected to magically turn on the switch for sex. Maybe her body refuses to make this switch and now she can’t have sex at all (vaginismus, see https://thexycode.com/2016/05/20/satan-loves-the-purity-movement/). Maybe her husband has erectile dysfunction from porn addiction. Her husband may request degrading or violent acts he learned from porn. He may treat her like a sex object, using her to meet his physical desires. He likely will have no concept of slow, gentle and intimate. She will likely feel shame. Not exactly a scene out of Song of Solomon!

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband.  For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 1 Corinthians 7:1-5

The above passage, written by the apostle Paul, has often been used to guilt women into having more sex with their husbands. However, that is completely missing the point. Paul is answering questions from people who thought that the flesh was bad and as spiritual beings sex should be avoided (asceticism). He tells them that they should not abstain from sex in their marriages and goes on to stress mutuality between the genders. This is huge! In a culture where women were considered to be property of their husband with no rights Paul is saying that women have equal rights to pleasure in the bedroom (see https://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/first-corinthians-7).

I’m not going to discuss the leadership in marriage issue, but when it comes to the bedroom Paul is clear that mutuality between genders is what God desires. Church teaching often assumes that women don’t like sex and that’s where it becomes a bit complicated. In most marriages men do have higher sex drives than women (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/figure/10.1080/0092623X.2011.560531?scroll=top&needAccess=true&). The numbers I found were anywhere from about 70-75% of husbands had the higher drive, which means that in about 1 in 5 marriages women have the higher libido.

Just what does the word “deprive” mean? If I give my children three balanced, healthy meals a day plus snacks, are they deprived of food? No, however, they may complain to me that they are deprived because I refuse to give them candy, pop and treats! My spouse may feel that sex three times a day would meet his sexual desires, but is he really deprived if I can offer it three times a week instead? Sex isn’t mutual or intimate if it’s all about meeting his drive for sex. In fact, that may be impossible to do in men who are addicted to sex or porn.

Well known Christian sex therapists Clifford and Joyce Penner assert that sex has to be just as enjoyable for the woman as it is for the man if the relationship is to be successful. This message isn’t a very common one in Christian circles. In the popular book “Intimate Issues” (Dillow & Pintus, 1999) that is often recommended to struggling women, chapter 16 is devoted to orgasm. In this chapter, the authors stress over and over that a woman’s orgasm is not important, and in the story at the end, a woman who wasn’t able to orgasm is told to “become an expert at pleasuring your husband”(p. 195). Never anywhere is it hinted that a man’s orgasm is not important. I understand that some women may choose to forgo orgasm, but suggesting that men “need” to orgasm every time and that their pleasure is more important than the woman’s is a common theme.

In another highly recommend book, “Love and Respect,” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs (2004), a story is told about a married woman complaining to her mother about her husband who is acting grumpy. Her mother asks why, and the daughter tells her that it’s likely because they haven’t had sex for a week. The mother responds by saying, “you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Why would you deprive him of something that takes such a short amount of time and makes him soooo happy!?” (Eggerichs, p. 252).

When I related this story to my counselor, she said that if you’re just offering quickies to make your husband happy, real intimacy isn’t happening, duty sex is occurring, and resentment will build up. We’re telling women that a man’s sexual release is the most important aspect of sex and guilt-tripping them into having regular duty sex. Why can’t we take the pressure off and focus instead on mutual pleasure? Goal-oriented and performance based sex, coercion, guilt and shame have no place in a mutual marriage. I understand the issue of low libido women and women who refuse sex, but piling on guilt is not effective.

On the other end of the spectrum, orgasm is pushed. Many Christian sex blogs I have read push techniques and frequent orgasm to “spice” things up. Why are so many Christian couples asking questions about whether anal sex or bondage are OK for Christians? Because they are bored. Why are they bored? Because dopamine (which spikes at orgasm) wants novelty. Basically, couples have become addicted to the dopamine rush and are bored of each other. And now morally, they can’t go any further to spice up the sex (see http://www.reuniting.info, or http://www.yourbrainonporn).

Part of the push for women’s orgasm is the hope that women with low libido will enjoy the feeling so much that they will want to experience it again frequently. Unfortunately, that thinking is rooted in a man’s sexual response, not a woman’s. An orgasm, even a spectacular one, does not necessarily mean that she will be interested again tomorrow. There are many books that explain this, as well as responsive drive in women (i.e., books by Clifford and Joyce Penner, and “Come As You Are,” by Emily Nagoski).

Men, often warped by porn and “locker room” talks, may see their wife as someone who should meet all their fantasies, and give them sexual release whenever they want it. The Christian man who believes in women submitting may think that headship extends to the bedroom. Even sensitive men often have no idea of how real women respond sexually. Intimacy may be devalued in favor of physical release. Men are constantly bombarded with sexual images and it’s easy to miss God’s design for intimacy and replace it with objectification and physical gratification.

I do find that there tends to be a double standard when it comes to women married to lower libido men. Instead of pressuring men to pleasure their wives like they do when it’s the woman with low libido, the wife is often told to simply find ways to endure the sexless marriage in a “godly” way. This again points to the belief that a woman’s pleasure and sexual urges are less important.

There is a myriad of reasons couples may struggle with sex. History of sexual abuse, shame based teachings, promiscuity, porn use, chronic pain, painful sex (dyspareunia), erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, poor body image, obesity, chronic illness, hormonal imbalances, aversions, stress, fatigue, addictions, relationship problems, etc.. Most Christian teaching I’ve seen addressed to women stress the need to “fix” the problem as quickly as possible so that they can be sexually available to their husbands again. I have read many books and blogs that warn women that if they don’t meet their husband’s need for sex then he will stray and it will be her fault. Once again, I don’t see fear-mongering tactics and guilt trips as being very helpful in motivating low libido women to have more passionate sex. Part of the problem here is that sometimes underlying issues can’t be fixed, or can only be partly fixed. Are guilt trips about a spouse being tempted to stray helpful in a marriage where one person has a chronic condition that doesn’t allow for convention sex? What about essential medications that have a side effect of low libido? Guilt trips may not be helpful, but the higher libido spouse will continue to struggle with sexual urges.

Where, then, does the answer lie? Sexless marriages or mismatched libido marriages create pursuer/distancer dynamics where all affection, even non-sexual affection dies out, leaving the couple little more than roommates. As the pursuer exerts pressure the distancer will try to create more separation. Passivity, duty sex, guilt, withholding affection, coercion, pressure and spiritual abuse through using scripture to manipulate will never lead to mutuality and intimacy.

Obviously, there are no pat answers or quick fixes. Distorted teaching and effects from the Fall have made sex and marriage very difficult for some couples. I would like to explore further some thoughts on ways couples can pursue more healthy sexuality in their marriages.

 

Dillow, L., & Pintus, L. (1999). Intimate issues: 21 questions Christian women ask about sex. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook.

Eggerichs, E. (2004). Love and respect: The respect he desperately needs. Colorado Springs, CO: Integrity.

 

 

My Rant On Christian Sexuality Teachings

photo of couple near the field
Photo by Josh Willink on Pexels.com

I want to start this series by discussing the purity movement or culture. Parents wanted to protect their children from making the same mistakes they did, or they simply wanted God’s best for them in saving sex for marriage. The message was correct- God designed sex to be within the covenant of marriage between a man and woman, so premarital sex should be discouraged- but the delivery of that message got all screwed up. The purity movement was created in an attempt to encourage young people/teens to abstain from sex until marriage. Unfortunately, even the word purity sets up an impossible standard. Only Jesus is pure, virginity cannot make us pure. As   says, “we are pure because of the blood of Jesus, not because of what we do with our bodies.” The pressure this puts on girls especially is heartbreaking. If the girl “messes” up before she marries, now she is not “pure.” Shame sets in (I’m now soiled, defiled, unpure) instead of healthy guilt (I sinned, but I can repent and be fully cleansed from my sin and start over knowing I’m forgiven). Shame can led to promiscuity as the girl tells herself she has committed an unforgivable sin and has lost her virginity. She is no longer “pure” so what does it matter now how many men she gives her body to?

The other problem with this movement is that the responsibility for keeping “pure” is often put all on the shoulders of the girls. Girls are expected to dress modestly from puberty on so that men won’t lust after them (how sick are men if they can’t keep from lusting after a 12 year old?). Parents often give them lectures and guilt trips on how dressing immodestly could be causing men to sin. Girls are taught to suppress their God-given sexuality and learn how to resist all those “horny” men and boyfriends so they stay “pure.” Or they court one man with a chaperone present at all times; parents hovering every step of the way.

If man is going to lust, it is his sin, and he will be ultimately responsible to God for that. Our boys can be taught to control their sexuality and view women as image bearers of God instead of as sex objects for their viewing pleasure. Suppressing sexuality and thinking of sex as “bad” makes it very difficult to suddenly flip the switch to sex is “good” on the wedding night and beyond. Does losing our “purity” to our husband on our wedding night now imply that we are “impure?” What a ridiculous notion.

In the purity movement both girls and boys are promised that if they wait for marriage to have sex the sex will be fantastic and all fireworks. I think that it does damage to God’s intent for married intimacy when we dangle sex as a reward for “good” behaviour. I think that we could have a more realistic conversation with our young people about how there is often a learning curve involved and a good sex life takes time and effort. Many times the first sexual experience isn’t all that great, but waiting until marriage to have sex is still God’s best for us.

I want to teach my daughters to dress respectfully and appropriately for the occasion (i.e. going to the beach versus going to a funeral). I also want to make them aware that they are in no way responsible for men’s lust issues. I want to teach them that their bodies and their sexuality were created good and beautiful. I want them to understand that yes, God’s best for them is to wait until marriage for sex but that no matter how big they mess up (premarital sex, surprise pregnancy, even an abortion), grace and God’s forgiveness are always available and my love for them will never diminish. God’s love for them is unconditional.

I’ve had some discussions with my daughters about porn already, and I plan on having age-appropriate discussions with my sons of the dangers in a few years (they are both under the age of 5). I want my boys to understand how porn works in the brain causing a neurochemical addiction that constantly seeks out novelty and can lead to dark and vile places. I want them to understand that porn can destroy their marriage and cause them to view sex as merely physical and women as objects. I want them to understand that porn addiction can lead to anxiety, depression, erectile dysfunction (even in young men), distorted views on women’s sexuality, fetishes, desire for violent and degrading sex acts, and so on. I want to teach them to respect women as equally made in God’s image. I want to teach them that their desire to “look” is not wrong and that’s how God wired them, but God’s best is for them to save sex until marriage when their desire for visual stimulation can be met by their wife. I want to teach them about turning their eyes and mind away from sexual temptation. We will discuss masturbation and how it can be fine for occasionally relieving sexual tension before marriage IF they focus solely on sensations and avoid fantasizing (I’ve already told this to my older daughters). It really has to do with constantly guarding the thoughts and eyes (“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5). There will be no “boys will be boys” attitude in our house when it comes to sex. If they impregnate a girl they will need to take responsibility for the care of the mother and child. It always really comes down to loving God and loving others. If we love God we will want to obey and please Him, and when we love others we treat them as precious humans made in God’s image.

In my next blog I would like to discuss popular Christian teachings that I believe are harmful regarding sex within marriage. I know that my marriage has really struggled in this area and I’m guessing we’re not alone. Sex is private and not commonly discussed within Christian circles despite it being plastered everywhere in the culture and media. Christians want to create an image of everything being OK, because we are supposedly doing it God’s way (sex within marriage, condemning homosexuality and transgenderism, etc.). Christian couples who struggle are supposed to put on their happy face and get counselling, because, surely that will fix everything. Why is the Christian divorce rate as high as the rest of the divorce rates? Christians can be the biggest hypocrites as they paint false images of a happy marriage because as Christians they are “supposed” to have wonderful, happy marriages and having fantastic sex. Why can’t we be real and authentic? Wouldn’t that be more Christlike than pretending everything’s OK when we’re really dying inside? I’m really challenging myself here, because I do this too.

Happily Ever After?

adult alone asia beautiful
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I haven’t blogged in a while. I could use the excuse that I’ve had a very busy summer, because I have. However, I could have made the time to write if I had really wanted to. I think I kept procrastinating because I was waiting. Waiting to write about my happy ever after. Wanting to be done with all this recovery stuff and move on with life. I’m weary of counselling and 12 steps and phone groups and workbooks.

What more shall I write about? Shall I complain about my endometriosis which leaves me rocking in agony in the fetal position 2-3 days of my 23 day cycles? Or the medication that was supposed to fix my pain but instead made me bleed heavily for an entire month? Or the second medication that made me have suicidal thoughts and left me nearly psychotic for two days until I went off it? Or the IUD that I’m going to have inserted tomorrow in one more attempt to try to ease this pain? What about the analgesics I take, double the recommended amount, but that still barely does anything for my labour like pelvic pain? “You don’t actually need your uterus anymore since you’re done having kids,” my gynecologist told me as he tried to persuade me of all the benefits of getting a hysterectomy.

Shall I write of my two strong willed daughters, so much like me, arguing and being defiant? My husband struggles with those two and they yell at each other. They regularly tell their dad that they hate him.  “I’m going to lose those two when they’re teens,” he tells me in frustration. “Stop yelling at them,” I advise him. “But they’re disrespectful, disobedient, and defiant. And nothing works. Every single discipline method I have tried doesn’t work.” We have books on strong-willed children. But my husband doesn’t like to read and he is too busy and stressed to change his techniques he says.

Sex was supposed to be so great once I learned about how to have intimate sex. Eye contact, lights on, nurturing conversation. Three weeks after I started EMDR I was finally able to have intimate sex where I was fully present for the first time in all my married life (first marriage and second). Now life will be happy ever after, right? Why then, did I feel so empty the next few days and distant instead of bonded? I discussed all this with my counselor and we talked about how maybe my expectations had been too high. Am I looking to my husband and to sex to meet all my needs? Only God can do that. But yet I knew I wasn’t looking to my husband to meet my needs.

We were physically intimate again. This time, I became depressed for four days afterwards, doing three rounds of EMDR to get me out of it. The third time I snapped afterwards, crying and sinking into despair, depression and suicidal thoughts. Postcoital dysphoria, or post sex “blues.” “SSRI’s can fix that,” said my nurse practitioner, “but then with the dose you would need you would have low libido, difficulty getting aroused and coming to climax.” Hmm, what options I have here. End up in a psych ward if I have frequent sex, or go on SSRI’s and have no libido and back to duty (or do they call it “decision”) sex.

My husband and I had a huge fight about that. “I am NOT going back to duty sex,” I told him. “Once a week. Then I will have four days to recover from the crash and three days to start to like you again.” “No way,” he said angrily, “once a week is not even close to meeting my needs. I was hoping I could have a good sex life once you got healed.” That really got me going, “you really think I did all this work so that you could have a good sex life?”

I am currently reading through Glennon Doyle’s book, “Love Warrior: A Memoir.” In chapter six she describes what her sex life was like after she had her first baby. Her writing is much better than mine and I kept thinking, “yes, exactly, she describes it exactly how it has been for me.” The loneliness, the disassociating, the anger. The feeling that meeting her husband’s need for sex was something she just had to do as a good wife. How date night is like a transaction; he gives you conversation during dinner in exchange for sex afterwards. How sex never meets that need for connection and can make you feel even lonelier. In a recent Focus on the Family podcast I listened to with David E. Clarke, it was stated that a study found that 4 out of 5 married Christian women (80%) feel lonely in their marriages.

My marriage was supposed to be happily ever after. Another inspirational story to tell younger couples who are struggling. “It doesn’t matter how messed up your marriage is. You can be as happily in love as I am for the rest of your years.”  Life isn’t like that though, is it? It’s messy, and painful. And I think that my “happily ever after” won’t arrive until I reach heaven. Sorry to disappoint any younger couples out there. The infatuation leaves and habituation kicks in hard.

This post has been negative, and I was hoping for a happy ending to my blog. It appears that my blog writing isn’t finished yet. I will keep searching for answers.  John Gottman found in his research that 69% of arguments couples have are perpetual (they never do get resolved). So, no happy ever after in marriage. But, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

 

Doyle, G. (2016). Love warrior: A memoir. New York, NY: Flatiron Books.                                  https://www.gottman.com

 

Step Six

gray metal chain
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Entirely ready means to be completely, or wholly ready to do something. Readiness implies that something will have to change.

To have God. This change is something I can’t do in my own strength, but I need God now that I am ready.

Remove. A type of surgery, if you will. Not necessarily enjoyable; likely a painful procedure.

All. Everything. 100%.

Defects of character. My shortcomings or flaws and sins.

To help me with this step, I made a list of as many of my character defects as I could think of (31 to be exact).  I drew a line down the middle of the page and beside each defect I put in the opposite trait. For instance, beside “ungrateful,” I put “thankful;” next to “jealous” I put “content,” and beside “resentful,” I placed “forgiving.” These are the attributes I would like to develop in my life.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”                Galatians 5:22-23

 

Step Five

wood-wooden-number-home-decor-5733.jpg
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

WHO, ME?

I need to be forgiven, Lord                                                                                                             So many times a day.                                                                                                                      So often do I slip and fall,                                                                                                               Be merciful, I pray!                                                                                                                         And help me not be critical                                                                                                           When others’ faults I see;                                                                                                              For so many times, my Lord,                                                                                                         The same faults are in me.

AUTHOR UNKNOWN

I completed a detailed inventory of my sins from childhood up to the present day. It certainly was not pretty. It reminded me of how thankful I am for the grace God has shown me through His Son, Jesus Christ. If a scale were set up comparing my good to bad, the bad side would be completely lowered. My so called “good” deeds wouldn’t even make a dent.

I think I can summarize the sin tendencies I’ve struggled with over my lifetime into about six categories.

  • Easily bored, discontent, ungrateful – I quickly get bored which leads me to feeling discontent with my circumstances and ungrateful for the blessings and people in my life
  • Negative ruminating- going over and over in my mind things from my past or people who have hurt me
  • Fantasizing, negative thoughts- imagining life as a single mom or being “free” from my life, thinking negatively about myself and my body
  • Jealousy- very jealous at times of other women, wishing I had their life, looks, personality, gifts and abilities, etc., feeling “unworthy” compared to others
  • Resentful, unforgiving- holding grudges, resenting those who have hurt me
  • Critical, judgmental- critical of my husband, of other moms struggling more than me or who appear “sloppy,” having a secret and smug satisfaction when others are struggling or their kids are behaving worse than mine

In my marriage I have withheld spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy. I have been impatient with my children. I have been rude and aloof to my in-laws. I have been stubborn and inflexible, unforgiving, jealous, controlling and demanding. I have hurt those closest to me.

 

A Dim Light in the Fog Part 2

silhouette of light house under gray dark sky
Photo by Vladyslav Dukhin on Pexels.com

I wrote my last blog post three weeks ago.  I was in a place of despair, and that Monday afternoon I signed up for Virtual EMDR and followed the online instructions. I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, how can staring at a ball moving across a screen resolve trauma and intimacy issues?

I was supposed to think about my “targets” (trauma, negative beliefs, negative emotions, etc.) while watching the ball move for 10-15 minutes followed by thinking about how I wanted my life to be and positive emotions for 5 minutes. After I finished the negative portion I was quite angry, anxious and upset. I did the 5 minutes of positive and then I was done except to finish filling out my session worksheet. I felt a bit dizzy and disoriented afterwards, which they said was normal. I didn’t really feel any better though at that point.

Over the next few hours and into the evening I felt “hyper.” I was busy, I had lots of energy. But something had changed. My anxiety level had gone down. When K came in the house I was able to relax around him and give him eye contact. I didn’t feel any anxiety looking him in the eyes.

Over the next week I did four more EMDR sessions. Each time I worked though some difficult issues that I hadn’t been able to resolve fully in counselling or any other therapy. Sexual abuse, high levels of anxiety, aversion to sex and intimacy, anxiety around relatives and in-laws, childhood abuse, an abusive first marriage, self-esteem issues, depression, and more. A few hours after finishing the session I would feel lighter, content and more calm. After about two weeks not only did I feel anxiety-free with hugs and cuddles, but I started to actually find them comforting. My husband’s touch and presence wasn’t scary anymore.

At first we were scared to hope. This was probably just a temporary glitch, and I would be back to my old ways soon. But, with each session, it felt like the block in my brain was being resolved somehow; that my brain was healing itself. We went camping for a week, and although we had one argument, I didn’t feel trapped and highly anxious to be in tight quarters with my husband like I did last year. It’s like the intensity level from my trauma and anxiety has gone down from a 9 or 10 to a manageable 2 or 3.

My life and marriage aren’t perfect. I still struggle with liking K. In fact, I often find him highly annoying. I haven’t had a in-law encounter since doing EMDR, so I don’t know how my anxiety level will be around them. My children are home from school for the summer and they often try my patience. But, something has changed. Life is a struggle for everyone, but I was spending all my energy dealing with anxiety and being hyper-vigilant as well as whatever life had to throw at me. I wanted to be content and joyful like we are told to be, but my anxiety wouldn’t let me. We are told not to be anxious or worry, but it was impossible for me. I was miserable. I felt distant from God. My brain would not cooperate with my will, no matter how much therapy, Bible reading or praying I did.

When I cried out to God, He didn’t miraculously and instantly heal my brain even though I believe He could have. Instead, He directed me to a resource that was already available and helped to start real healing through that. With lowered anxiety levels, my brain can actually take in and absorb recovery material. Everyday life stresses are more manageable when I can think above the constant fearfulness that used to plague me.

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.” (Psalm 40:1-2)

A Dim Light in the Fog

night building forest trees
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Despairing. Hopeless. Angry. Depressed. Sad. Suicidal thoughts. These words all characterized how I was feeling last weekend and earlier this week. I would never act on suicidal thoughts because I couldn’t do that to my children, but I certainly thought them. Or rather, I was thinking that it would be better for everyone if I was dead then K could marry a nice girl who was sexy, intimate, patient with the kids, no baggage, loving, kind, fantastic in bed, etc. All opposites of who he actually got stuck with for a wife.

K was also feeling hopeless, despairing and sad. I had come to a certain point in my recovery but for the last few weeks I have been completely stuck, unable to move forward. It was as if I wanted to reach out to K, but my mind had this block. My mind was screaming, “danger, danger!” It’s like telling yourself to touch a hot stove. Your mind yells at you to stop because you know it will hurt you, and even though you might tell yourself to touch it, it’s really hard to do. When I did give K a hug or hold his hand, my anxiety levels were super high. I could actually feel a block, or stuck area in my brain that I just couldn’t overcome. Neither of us had any idea of where to go from there.

It wasn’t like I hadn’t been trying. Support lady, prayer, Bible reading, recovery workbooks, phone groups, trauma counselling, 3 Dailies, making myself text K every two hours, 12 Steps, Healing Ministry, intimacy exercises. I knew I had made some progress. But I was completely stuck and even beginning to regress. Discouraged and frustrated barely describe how I was feeling. I cried and cried out to God, begging Him to do something. I reminded Him that He created sex, marriage and the family, so I knew it couldn’t be His will that our marriage fall apart. I wasn’t asking for material things, His will for my future,  or even relief from my depression, merely emotional healing from this block in my mind so I could move forward in my recovery. No answer, no miracle.

Monday morning felt especially bleak. I was struggling to keep dark thoughts away as I looked around at the morning mess left behind after the older kids got on the bus. “What’s the point of cleaning up? My marriage is falling apart, my in-laws will blame me because they didn’t think he should marry me in the first place, I just want to run away from all this or die. Where are you God?” K’s wondering around, driving me crazy in “fix-it” mode, asking me if he should call the counselor, our pastor, or Dr. Weiss. I didn’t really care what he did at that point. He’s telling me he can’t go on this way, and he’s depressed, and what should he do. I’m thinking, “you’re asking me, the one with the IA addiction and trauma to tell you how to feel better? You’re supposedly the ‘healthy’ one in this relationship asking the ‘sick’ one for advice. I don’t think that’s going to work.” I went to my bedroom to stare at the wall while my youngest two boys had a ball in the kitchen making huge messes. I just didn’t care anymore.

K ended up calling Dr. Weiss’ office that morning when they opened. Of course they wanted us to do a five day, $4500 (American) intensive (plus flights, accommodations, and, oh yes, babysitting for six small children). For a mere $1500 more, we could have the famous Dr. Weiss himself do the intensive and a psychological assessment of myself. Even if money were NOT a factor, the babysitting part is next to impossible. My in-laws would be thrilled to watch our kids, but they are very nosy, and if even a hint of where we were going got out, the whole church and nearby community would quickly hear the juicy news as well. My parents and any siblings I could trust are just too far away or unable to care for six kids for what would likely be 7 days. I don’t trust enough people to split them up with either.

The next recommendation was to attend phone groups for both of us (although they don’t currently have a phone group for women who only have IA without the addicted spouse or a SA themselves). I could also pay for phone counselling with one of their IA specialists. When K told me all this, I felt weary and overwhelmed. I’m tired, I feel like I’m getting burnt out, I’ve done so much counseling already. The lady he talked to said I was doing all the right things (12-steps, SAA groups for IA, workbooks, trauma counselling, etc.) but I should connect with “their” counselor. Then I’ll be all healed, right?

Then K told me she also said that I am likely unable to get any further in my healing because my brain has a block, or stuck area that it can’t get out of due to the trauma from my past. She recommended I look up a local EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) or Splankna therapist. I have no idea what Splankna is (and I was too tired to care to research it) but there are no Splankna therapists in my area.

My nurse practitioner had mentioned to me that the counselor in my local clinic has now received training to do EMDR. I had heard of it before, and had even researched it, but since I had started the trauma counseling and was on anti-depressants, I was hoping I could work my way to healing that way. It was something I thought I might try later. I wasn’t too sure if it was similar to hypnosis, and I was a little unsure of it at the time.

The life coach I had been talking to in my first phone group had introduced me to the idea of my inner child, and how she needed re-parenting and healing so she wouldn’t intrude upon my adult life so much. At first this went really well, and I was able to calm down and feel less anxious when I would talk to “little me” and comfort her and tell her Jesus was with her and wanted to heal her. However, in the past few weeks, my inner child has been more and more angry. I just thought maybe I needed to work through more anger from my past. But on Sunday night, my inner child turned into an absolute monster, kind of like out of a horror movie. I couldn’t go near her, much less try to comfort her; she terrified me. I prayed to God, asking Him to protect me (from myself?) and I asked Him if this was somehow demonic. I never got an answer from God, but since then I have stayed away from this place in my mind. This was disappointing to me, because it had been helping me to process emotions that were rooted in my childhood.

So on Monday I felt hopeless. K reminded me that I was stubborn and don’t give up, and he told me not to give up now. But I told him that this was different than something like going to college against my parent’s wishes (“girls don’t go to college, they need to settle down and get married”). Being intimate goes against everything my mind is telling me to do.  He was right though, I am stubborn. I pushed away his other suggestions, telling him I was too overwhelmed to do anything else right now. However, I did call my local health centre and asked about signing up for EMDR. Apparently there is a long waiting list for it right now. I got on the list. Then I went online and signed up for Virtual EMDR ($69 for three months seems a little more reasonable than $6000). I was skeptical, but I thought, well they use it for soldiers with PTSD, so why not give it a try?

This blog post is getting really long, and I’m tired, so I’ll just leave it at: To Be Continued.

Step 4

pexels-photo-139259.jpeg
Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Pexels.com

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

I will be parking on this step for a while. Searching means to look for what is hidden, missing or lost. I will need to examine myself thoroughly in this step. I will need to be fearless in this step because I can’t let my fears stop me from completing my inventory. I will need to be honest.

Morals are principles of right and wrong in behavior.This inventory is moral since it concerns my failings and sins that kept me trapped in my addiction as well as my values and virtues.  An inventory is a complete list. It is a call to action. This list is written out which will give me a more honest and realistic state of myself. This step allows me to go over my life and identify areas of sin that have caused harm to myself and others. It also helps me to look at my strengths. May God grant me the strength and courage to complete this step in a searching, fearless, thorough and honest way!

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Let us test and examine our ways,
    and return to the Lord!” (Lamentations 3:40)