Part 2 – I can’t think of a snazzy title but this follows “when Hope fails”

Yesterday, in my PBP post, I talked about depression and hope. I glossed over the reasons for my childhood and it was in a comment that I was reminded that the depression that I face stems not from some genetic anomaly but from the choices and actions of those who were supposed to protect me as a child. I am all about talking about things that “polite society” abhors, so lets throw off the pretenses and really talk about this. I welcome all comments at the end, because I want to open this discussion, I think the things that drive us to paganism have some common factors. So here goes. (If my family is reading this, you might wanna stop. I have no qualms about discussing the past in this public, albeit anonymous, setting.)

I was an abused child.

No, in the modern lexicon, I am a survivor of child abuse.

That’s not quite right either.

I was forged and shaped in the landscape of an abusive home. The same actions that drove me to renounce Judaism at the age of 7 (“No God in his right mind would let my Mom be this mean to me.”) also fertilized the roots of anxiety, depression, and yes, an eating disorder that I just can’t seem to shake, even as a full-grown adult. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I love my family. I have found a way to feel compassion towards my mother, my father and my two sisters. And as an adult, I have a pretty great life. But the fact remains: the house was a horrible place to grow up.

Imagine a mother with undiagnosed OCD, and depression and anxiety that can be traced through her family. Her father was hospitalized 3 times, one of her younger sisters committed suicide when she was in her late 20’s. Imagine this mother with three young children, an education in psychology, a growing case of OCD in the form of hoarding and no job. Imagine this woman with such a need to control her environment that she measures out every morsel of food that is eaten in the house.

I was 6 when my mother went mad. I can remember what I was wearing, what she said, how it happened that I was forever labeled the “bad child”. I won’t tell you the details but it never got better. There was emotional, physical and mental abuse. There were locks on the doors, including my bedroom door, then on the windows, then on the refrigerator and the cupboards. I was an atheist at 7, suicidal at 9. I was a scrawny child with no friends, stealing food from other kid’s lunchboxes and digging in the trashcans for scraps. And this continued until I left and joined the Navy at 18.

So yeah, I was depressed. I was raging angry with no where to turn and no one to take it out on. At age 7, the child psychologist told me I was a compulsive liar, because my Mom had told her so. At age 15, the school therapist, after the fourth time I had run away and been brought back by the cops, sat down with me and asked “So how can we make your mother happy?” At age 16, my mom decided she would be my therapist and tried to get me to talk about my problems.

Okay, I’m not going to bore you with the rest of my life. Quick summary: at 18 and fresh out of boot camp, I was so severely depressed that my roommate called my mother who called a chaplain on base to try to talk to me. At 19 I was raped in the military and was blamed for the rape by the base commander. At 22 I had a nervous breakdown and ended up hospitalized for a week and misdiagnosed as bipolar.

I don’t know if you have noticed, but I’m not “over” my past. It still gets me riled up.

I read a quote once, I don’t know if its true or not, but the words have haunted me for a long time: Depression is anger turned inwards. And another concept from my days as a woman’s studies major: Anger is the only emotion that society keeps from women because anger is the only emotion that demands action. So on the one hand, we have people who are denied the propulsion of their anger. And on the other, we have anger focused at ourselves. That is a very destructive, very profitable for big business, concept. Instead of teaching people how to use their anger to fuel their intentions, we medicate them into semi-comas. Yeah…. what a glorious way to keep the sheep in their pens.

And that is why I refuse to forgive. Wikipedia Β (I know, I know, don’t shoot!) defines forgiveness as “the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.” My mother will never apologize, never change her behavior, never be anything more than what she is. I can recognize her as the flawed human she is, with all of the compassion and empathy that entails, and still not forgive her. Anger is my tool. Without the outward propulsion of my anger, I dissolve into depression and lose myself in the process. So no, I will not forgive. I can change the way I interact but the anger is my own.

I know not every pagan was abused. I know not every abused person is depressed. I know not every depressed person was abused. But there are those of us who straddle the three. There are many reasons why someone becomes a pagan. Abuse from many many different factors might just play a part.

And that is why depression is a tool for me. Its a signpost saying “Look and see where you are feeling ineffectual. Look and see what external or internal process deserves your action.”

 

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21 thoughts on “Part 2 – I can’t think of a snazzy title but this follows “when Hope fails”

  1. Steve Tanner says:

    Perhaps some of us become Pagan because we have no choice but to look at the dark side of humanity. It seems ironic that your mother had an “education in psychology,” but could not recognize her own demons. This is also the reason why she will never apologize. This is why she needed a scape goat; she could not look at her own darkness. Unfortunately, she could not avoid looking at that without forcing you to view it.

    You eventually had to look at your own darkness because of how it was spawned by things you were forced to watch. However, your last paragraph suggests that you have conquered (at least some of) your inner demons and are in control of them. You appear to have turned these negative forces around to become a valuable tool that you use to your advantage. You are not likely to hurt others by repeating mistakes of the past (as some do) because you have taken control. You should be commended for the path you have chosen.

    The more I hear stories like yours, the darker the underbelly of the beast we call “an advanced modern society” looks. Demographics here in the U.S. suggest that the Children of Abraham must bear the greater responsibility for manifesting this beast, but we already know that they lack the courage to look at their own sins (darkness). They are too busy judging and pointing fingers at minority religions, and making pronouncements like, “Cult!”

    • Raan says:

      Yes, I am more than happy to claim the forces for my own. I can work in a mental institution because I have compassion for the broken people. I can work with a goddess of death because death no longer scares me. I have no problem telling people to back off, or fighting back against stuff. Been there, done that.

      We need more fighters, more people willing to step up and say “stop”. We need to teach people to claim their histories. Drug use, alcoholism, abuse, homeless, whatever it is. These need to become tools, not that which mires us down.

      We need to start a revolution.

      • Steve Tanner says:

        I wholeheartedly agree. I find amazing similarities between your story and someone close to me. I fear that such stories may be too common (and I hope that I am wrong.) Blessed be.

  2. ladyimbrium says:

    And I’m glad you went with it and posted more, even though I’m sure it hurt to revisit some of that. I won’t offer any pity or empty platitudes, because I know how little effect they have. Instead I offer you my very real gratitude.
    Though my childhood was not terrible by some standards, I still get riled up when I remember the physical and verbal abuse I received from classmates (Catholic school children are just SO sweet and innocent…*sarcasm*) and even more when I remember just how much NOTHING my parents, teachers, pastor etc did about it- except medicate me into being either suicidal or a zombie, depending on the meds they tried. I remember being told that I had “asked for it” too. Because ratty old hand-me-down jeans and a T shirt are SO provocative on a 14 year old. *more sarcasm*
    I think you and Steve Tanner may have hit the proverbial nail on the head. Our painful pasts may or may not draw us to paganism, but paganism helps us face those pasts and use them to our own advantage in a way that the Abrahamic faiths just don’t do. The anger I remember helps me get up and fight for other people every time I put my uniform on.
    Thank you for reminding me that no, I don’t have to forgive them. I can work past the pain and use the pain, but I don’t ever have to let it go as long as it gives me strength.

    • Raan says:

      Exactly. Unfortunately it makes us who we are. But we are stronger for it if we accept it as a strength and not fall into the victim mentality. Yeah, it sucked. No it won’t ever happen again.

  3. elfkat says:

    I hear you and you aren’t alone on the path.

  4. Tana says:

    You have every effing right to be angry.
    And pardon me, those idiots you met that also should’ve helped you, should be hung upside down.
    Of course one is not supposed to be angry – this is usully told by the ones in power to the ones not in power. Anger washes fear away, anger propells us forward to change unbearable situations, anger makes us dare things.
    So be angry all you can. You have the right to your anger.

  5. […] couple of posts over on Icward’s blog stirred up my blood pressure a bit. I don’t like reliving things that hurt, but I’ve […]

  6. celticawitch says:

    As someone who suffers from clinical depression and who is bipolar and has a personality disorder I resonated with much of what you’ve written here, in this post and your last one about this subject. To be honest, although the trials and traumas I’ve been through (and still go through) are not pretty, they teach me a whole lot about myself. Yes, I do take medication because without it I would not cope, but it’s the therapy I’ve had and the learning about myself and how I interact with it that helps the most for me. I applaud your honest posts and it’s refreshing to read.
    Blessings
    Deep~Glade

    • Raan says:

      I would never tell someone not to take medication, its a blessing in our lives. I can tell, for you the medication is not a crutch. You dont see it as a miracle fix or a panache. My belief is that we use the minimum at our disposal to be healthy and yes, medication has a part in that. Thank you for your comment. Its comments like this that keep me writing, even when it feels too raw and personal.

      • celticawitch says:

        Well, from my experience (and I too had terrible traumas of abuse in childhood and young adulthood both sexual and emotional) there is no ‘fix’, no magic wand that shakes it all away. There is only coming to terms and moving away from victimhood into who we really are – soul people! People who despite everything are determined to move forward in life and make the most of it. This comes in miniscule increments at times but that’s ok. So don’t give up writing and don’t give up…face the rawness and learn from it. It’s the most painful lesson, especially dealing with the anger (rage actually) but you can do it!

  7. Cat says:

    Hell yeah, is anger ever a tool! I’m one of the few female beings on this planet who find it easy to acknowledge and express my anger and I’m extremely grateful for that. To me, the real trouble starts when I stop being angry and become apathetic/depressed(?) instead because that means I’ve stopped thinking I can change things in any meaningful way. Personally, I find the concept of J.K. Rowling’s joy-sucking Dementors a pretty good image for that state.

    I don’t usually chime in when it comes to clinical depression because I’ve never been diagnosed with anything (apparently, I’ve always been functional enough not to think I needed professional help) and I don’t want to water down the impact of certain terms. (I also lack a history of outright bullying/abuse early in life, so the same goes for that topic.) Still, a certain “darkness” is a regular guest in my life and I’m not sure it will ever stay away for good, so I’m not entirely a stranger to the topic.

    I also don’t believe we need to forgive to be able to move on. Some things are unforgiveable, at least to some of us.

    And finally: thank you for putting your stuff out there for us to read. I for one am very grateful that you’re around.

    • Raan says:

      πŸ˜€ Any time Cat. I don’t think depression belongs to any given group, you don’t need a specific trauma or event in order to get a “stamp of approval”. I know for a fact that depression in and of itself can be traumatic. And we are heroes for continuing to fight for ourselves and our health.

  8. Cat says:

    P.S. Can I just mention Kate Bornstein’s incredible book “Hello, Cruel World. 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws”? Her approach basically boils down to: Do whatever keeps you alive, except being mean. And she means whatever. I recommend it for everyone who isn’t deliriously happy all the time, especially people who feel they are different from the majority in some way. In other words, pretty much all of us.

  9. Bones says:

    I just want to say that these two posts – and the comments which follow – have resonated with me greatly, and I’m grateful to you for speaking about these topics. Somebody said in one of the comments, ‘these aren’t things we talk about in polite society, but perhaps they should be.’ I’d like to echo that sentiment. We need these conversations. Without them, we cannot learn from each other.

  10. etain1 says:

    I wrote a poem – about my childhood…
    The Key
    -Looking at other’s family pictures makes me want to cry,
    They look so happy, I was short changed and wonder why.
    -With what I can remember we always lived with strangers, one room to call home,
    -Mom, Oh yes, she was out to the bars where her eyes and spirit roamed.
    -As kids we floated from one place to the next,
    To others we were pathetic, a nuience, just a pest.
    -Where ever we went the kids were cruel treating us like an outcast,
    We never belonged – no wonder our self-esteem was held at half mast.
    My brother withdrew, became comliant and didn’t fight back,
    Me, I was rebellious, a fighter, get even , fight back.
    -However there was a bright spot – an angel the Goddess sent to me,
    It was my Grandmother, a protector, someone who cared about my happiess – she held the key!
    -When things got real bad and we had no where else to go,
    Grandma would always be there to help my Mom carry the load.
    -As I look back on my life I realize just how little things have changed,
    My brother is still easy going while I have learned my anger needed to be rearranged.
    -One thing I am sure of – it’s what I want to be,
    For my grandchildren a protector of happiness, I’ll be their keeper of the key – if need be.
    *Very touching blog and I do hope you continue on your path of healing. Me, I am a nurse and I am very secure in who I am. I am President and Head Minister of Sacred Birch Society. I am happy!

    • Raan says:

      This poem touched my heart.

      When I was about 19, a piece of my family puzzle clicked into place. Sometimes we come into a family to change someone’s wyrd or karma, to teach them a lesson, to absorb the shocks for someone else. I believer we a) chose this b4 we reincarnate and b) arent ever sure of why we were placed where we were. Was it because Mom needed a lesson? Maybe Grandma needed a chance to be an angel. Or maybe if you hadn’t been the fighter, your brother would have ended up on a different path and not touched the lives he has. Or maybe its even simpler, the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fires.

      Keep forging ahead. πŸ™‚

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