Sunday, July 6, 2008

How I Discovered That I Was a Chosen Child





-->Provided they called them “Neonatal Intensive Care Units” back in the 1960s, when I was born, that's where I spent the better part of the first two weeks of my life. Due to aspiration of amniotic fluid, I displayed all the signs of such severe brain damage at birth, my parents were told I would not live. My grandfather went out and bought my burial plot that very day because my prognosis seemed inevitable. Thanks to what was explained to my mother as nothing short of a miracle (a mighty saga in and of itself), I was discharged to home as a normal infant at the ripe old age of 14 days. I had what was likely colic, and my mother experienced a great deal of anxiety and depression. Years later, during my clinical experience in Labor and Delivery when my nursing instructor discussed the Standard of Care for new mothers and babies, she listed the psychological symptoms that NICU babies demonstrate later in life. As a 17 year old nursing student, I felt like the finger of God reached down out of heaven and pointed at my notebook as I scribbled down the details. My own childhood manifested every symptom the instructor listed that day – what the profession attributes to the lack of bonding between infant and mother at birth. I had a long history of childhood depression, school phobia and coping difficulties.

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I passed the State Board Exam to become an RN at age 19, and after 5 months on the job, I was so depressed I could barely cope anymore. My preceptor, a nurse with 15 years of experience training new graduates on the oncology/urology unit where I worked said that she “didn't know what to do with me.” Very proficient at all the things that all those new graduates who preceded me struggled with – the book knowledge and clinical problem-solving skills – my preceptor stated her amazement at how slowly I performed what I call the “grunt work of nursing.” I hated and still hate a large portion of this type of work and the routine role of the nurse (outside of the high level ICU setting and basic physical care and nurture of patients), so I attributed my profound depression to this cause. I explained my plight to the Employee Assistance Program counselor, which to me involved little of my family of origin, so I was shocked and angered when I was diagnosed with “Adjustment Disorder” related to my age and life transition with conflict – not because of a poor career choice for my personality which wa a factor, but rather with my mother as the central feature of my difficulties. I remained in counseling for nearly three more years (and started working in a high-level critical care program), until just a year before I married and moved far away from home.

During this period while I lived at home and completed an additional year of college to obtain my BSN, I experienced a powerful clinical practicum while studying addictions and recovery. At an excellent detox program at a hospital in South Philadelphia, during a group therapy observation, I had a profound realization about myself. I listened to a group of people who were about my own age talk about why they became addicts. At the end of the session, the therapist leading the session permitted me to speak. Through my tears, I explained to the group that the only difference between them and me was the fact that they used addictive substances and I did not. Their stories (up until they started using) and their feelings were identical to mine. My wounds were the same and the pain they described was not a bit different from my own pain. Through my faith in Christ, I followed their equivalent of the “12 Step Program,” but I medicated through workaholism and people pleasing. That afternoon, I shared about twenty hugs and tears with strangers who were also very much my siblings in the commonality of what I would later call codependency, an ineffective set of coping mechanisms for my lifelong adjustment disorder.



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Now, jump forward a year or two in time with me. When getting fitted for a gown for a friend's wedding, I purchased a suitable and unique wedding dress that could easily be carried in an overnight bag for an elopement. At that time, my husband decided that he wanted a wedding because he believed it was the right thing to do. My parents actually offered to pay us to elope because my mother was terrified that I would “embarrass her family.” Just a few weeks before the wedding, the stress at my parent's home was so great that I lamented and wept over the phone to my spiritual/academic mentor's wife. She confronted me with my history and my behavior that day, encouraging me to read “Love is a Choice” (by Hemfelt, Minerth and Meier), asking me if I knew anything about codependency. I soaked in her compassionate empathy, but the thought of codependency angered me. I didn't read the book because “I was not anything like those lunatics on Oprah!” I didn't want to be anything like them at all, and a part of me was highly offended that she suggested such a thing. In my mind, I had transcended all of that history and made perfect peace with my parents.

Two years later, I'd take a job working on a newly reorganized cardiac unit after relocating to the Midwest from the Deep South. I'd lived 1,500 miles away from my parents, but NOT the old, familiar dynamics. The nurse manager of the huge progressive coronary care and intensive care unit who had recently hired me as her assistant manager confronted me with the same message that my mentor's wife had done – my behaviors were consistent with codependency. I could not take responsibility for a 48 telemetry patients and 8 CCU patients and an 8 bed cardiac cath recovery area and play the martyr, believing that every deficiency in that corner of the universe was my fault. In the middle of the crest of that last horrible nursing shortage (preceding the current one), I could not “fill in the gap” with my herculean efforts to save the world. It was then that I finally purchased a copy of “Love is a Choice,” just as I went off to a week long professional meeting in, away from the rest of the world for awhile. I roomed with two wonderful Christians who ministered to me like angels as I went through that book. And I realized the cruel reality that I had actually accumulated enough life-experience material from which Oprah could derive a week of material! I've even added another show to this since that time, if anyone would ever feature the topic of spiritual abuse in Evangelical and Biblical Christian churches!

I started back in therapy (after about about a two and a half year respite), and I read voraciously. I lived near Oklahoma City, and there was a great bookstore on the Northwest side of town. The right books just seemed to jump off the shelves into my hands, and what Christian titles didn't, CBD delivered to my apartment door. In addition to “Love is a Choice,” David Stoop's and Chris Thurman's titles were life changing for me. Of equal value to me were these titles on the topic of covert or emotional incest, and nearly every book I read during that time made it unavoidable, disturbing and validating. A few years later, I donated many of those books to the church library, and I'm so glad that I did! At the time, I didn't recognize how codependent the church's leadership style and Gothard/Shepherding/Discipleship doctrine really was. I still pray that those books will spread many seeds of truth there. I gave away my copy of Patricia Love's book because I'd given it to a woman there who was going through a miserable divorce. The church leadership there supported her “rage-aholic” husband through both court testimony and in church discipline against her. The husband started taking their 6 year old son to bed with him for his own comfort after he made it impossible for my friend to remain at home and impossible for her to take even their youngest child with her when she left. She held my copy of “The Emotional Abuse Syndrome” up to the judge in court when she discussed her husband's manipulative and abusive behavior in their marriage and family. (The account of those events is yet another saga of its own.)



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Then came my awakening to the realities of spiritual abuse, about four or five years since I'd first read “Love is a Choice” and the other literature concerning covert or emotional incest. What I hoped was a past-tense experience that was contained in the family of origin I'd left behind and the workplace effects of my relationship pathology that I thought I'd overcome again reared it's ugly head. My warped view of self as “one down” from everyone else pervaded my life in the Body of Christ and touched everything there. During the years that followed this awakening, I would reckon with the far-reaching effects of this abuse within my relationship with my husband, redirecting me back to my family of origin once again. I recall an old tape of Os Guinness wherein he called the '90s the “Decade of Reckoning” for the pillars of society of the United States. For me, it has been one decade of reckoning after another for me, now reckoning the truth within me personally. I'd run out of places to run.

When presented with the teachings of Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin this past year, as well as the patriocentric message of Vision Forum and other ministries that have arisen within the homeschooling population, I easily recognized the ever familiar dynamics of codependency, addictions and recovery. Having alluded to the concept so many times online, I began this presentation of the nuts and bolts of covert incest on my blog. As I pour back over these writings, some of which I had to re-purchase because I've given my copies away to others, I'm amazed at how fresh and timely the message continues to be for me personally. The stripping away of self through this process of sanctification seems much like peeling the layers of an onion away. Even now, realizing ever more how helpless I am outside of Christ, I'm almost angry that there is still more onion left to peel concerning these issues. I find myself saying yet again, “I already dealt with these things. I've already overcome these problems in my life. I don't want to go back to this again.” A part of me is offended at the persistence of my own sin and depravity – the remnants in that which Christ has not yet worked out of me on His threshing floor.




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Then came my awakening to the realities of spiritual abuse, about four or five years since I'd first read “Love is a Choice” and the other literature concerning covert or emotional incest. What I hoped was a past-tense experience that was contained in the family of origin I'd left behind and the workplace effects of my relationship pathology that I thought I'd overcome again reared it's ugly head. My warped view of self as “one down” from everyone else pervaded my life in the Body of Christ and touched everything there. During the years that followed this awakening, I would reckon with the far-reaching effects of this abuse within my relationship with my husband, redirecting me back to my family of origin once again. I recall an old tape of Os Guinness wherein he called the '90s the “Decade of Reckoning” for the pillars of society of the United States. For me, it has been one decade of reckoning after another for me, now reckoning the truth within me personally. I'd run out of places to run.

When presented with the teachings of Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin this past year, as well as the patriocentric message of Vision Forum and other ministries that have arisen within the homeschooling population, I easily recognized the ever familiar dynamics of codependency, addictions and recovery. Having alluded to the concept so many times online, I began this presentation of the nuts and bolts of covert incest on my blog. As I pour back over these writings, some of which I had to re-purchase because I've given my copies away to others, I'm amazed at how fresh and timely the message continues to be for me personally. The stripping away of self through this process of sanctification seems much like peeling the layers of an onion away. Even now, realizing ever more how helpless I am outside of Christ, I'm almost angry that there is still more onion left to peel concerning these issues. I find myself saying yet again, “I already dealt with these things. I've already overcome these problems in my life. I don't want to go back to this again.” A part of me is offended at the persistence of my own sin and depravity – the remnants in that which Christ has not yet worked out of me on His threshing floor.