Spiritual Skepticism

“Can I please schedule a time to speak with the chaplain?”

Clutching a book tightly to my chest, I looked down and away. They seemed to respond better when I did that.

The nurse scheduled the appointment.

I can’t remember all the meetings I had with the chaplains while I was there, but I do remember how they made me feel. In a place where I felt dehumanized, the chaplains gave me a reprieve.

It was my feeling that they perceived me as fully human.

My recent zoloft-induced manic episode and hospitalization illuminated my eyes to a few things. I don’t even know what I set out to say by writing this post. But there were parts of my recent experience that felt, for lack of a better word, profoundly spiritual.

Maybe the way my brain tried to process the trauma of my experience was by fitting it all into a spiritual narrative of sorts that made sense to me so I could cope.

See I had spent the last year or so, and even before my first breakdown, feeling incredibly powerless.

I had been diagnosed with social anxiety at around 18 years old. But since I left the hospital nearly a month ago, I haven’t experienced any social anxiety whatsoever.

Yes, I have this new diagnosis, bipolar (which now is up in the air with my healthcare providers), but something is different in me. Something has changed deeply within my being, my psyche.

The anxiety is gone.

I don’t know what happened, but maybe after what I went through (for example going manic and singing in my apartment’s parking lot at 5 AM) nothing just seems to trigger my anxiety around people anymore.

It’s like a switch went off somewhere in my head. Yes, mania is not healthy, but its manifestation seems to have released a lot of pent up anger and resentment at being told what to do.

The shame at the root of it, the shame for merely existing, is gone too.

I’ve tested it. With no issues, I’ve been able to strike up conversations with strangers at the grocery store. Some react the way I would have a couple months ago, unsure, nervous and/or curious as to why I would want to talk to them, but most have reacted warmly. I spent nearly half an hour talking to a new friend in the grocery store the other day and we exchanged numbers.

While I was in the hospital I reconnected with some of my Mormon roots as well. Inspired by some of the words of Ghandi and the fact that Mormons fast on the first Sunday of the month, I decided to fast on the first Sunday of July. The staff questioned me on it, and some patients and a staff member or two scoffed at my fast, but it felt right at the time.

I did feel a little rebellious toward the hospital when I fasted, but I also wanted to show the staff I was capable of self control.

I even made my own prayer before the fast and crafted it to a divine mother. It was the prayer I had always wanted to say but had never been allowed to say, first by my belief in Mormonism and then coincidentally by my lack of belief in Mormonism.

I’m realizing now that spirituality is way more fluid than we are taught or trained to believe. Spirituality is intensely personal, as it should be. (Thankfully other skeptics use the word as well.)

I have started exploring myths that catch my interest, and reconciling my spiritual upbringing with where I am now in my life.

After my release from the hospital, two sister missionaries from the LDS church knocked on my door. This is the church I was raised in, the church I left.

They talked with me for the next couple hours. I told them all about my history. I told them I was bisexual (and this was before I had come out publicly about it), I told them about my rape and hospitalization. We seemed to really connect.

Does this mean I’m going to rejoin the church? Absolutely not. I don’t believe in practically every truth claim of the church and I have a major problem with it’s patriarchal makeup.

In fact I found it a damn near shame that these sister missionaries would never be allowed to be priesthood/spiritual leaders of the faith because of their sex. One especially contained more empathy and wisdom in her pinky finger than did my BYU bishop.

But my experiences have helped heal me of my trauma associated with spiritual things in general. The spiritual abuse I experienced from poor leaders and an imperfect church growing up left deep scars, but I recognize that people can and do find peace in the Mormon faith, and that’s OK.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think the LDS church shouldn’t be held responsible for the horrid way the organization has treated the LGBT community, or that I didn’t talk to the sister missionaries about that. Of course I did, and they listened. They shared a message of healing from their scriptures and I shared a favorite poem of mine with them. If I could share this poem a thousand times over, I would:

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

I was bitter for a long time when it came to religion and spirituality. Because I had been hurt, deeply. Spiritual abuse is real and devastating. And I still see people hurt by people in power in these organizations. But there is a lot of good too. And that I see in the love people have for each other.

Because there is a lot of love in the world, and love heals. And too many people on the religious side and on the skeptic side resort to harsh and angry words towards each other, and I can no longer stomach it. It has started to make me ill.

I’ve also come to integrate the worst of my experiences into my current makeup as a person. I seemed to have healed from the worst parts of my traumatic past, and I feel incredibly stronger. I also have more peace in my heart.

Myths, stories, and narratives have been immensely empowering for me.

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“In many of the ancient myths, a person who wanted to find happiness, love, or eternal life, had to first travel through the netherworld. Before being allowed to contemplate the splendors of heaven, Dante had to wander through the horrors of hell so he could understand what kept us from entering the pearly gates. The same is true of the more secular quest we are about to begin.”

– Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

And that’s where I feel I am, still dealing with some of the burns and scars of the trials of my journey through the underworld, but I’m dusting myself off, and I feel like I’m coming out the other side.

I guess what I’m getting at is that it is possible to become a spiritual skeptic. The things that I find value in, the love I have for stories and those closest to me, that love can be the basis of my spirituality.

Myths don’t have to be real for me to take meaning out of them, and since this life is about creating our own meaning anyways, they’re a great place to start.

Coming Out! Current Thoughts on Mental Health, Sexuality, and Kink

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I recently discovered that I’m bipolar. For so many years, I struggled with the depressive episodes of bipolar thinking I was just dealing with regular depression.

Every time I’d been put on antidepressants in the past, they never sat well with me. Recently, I had been taking Zoloft, which had been great for my depression, but seems to have contributed to my recent manic episode where I had to be hospitalized.

My recent hospitalization was horrific. And my experience let me see just how backwards the mental health care system is in our country. I was raped by another patient, dehumanized and victim blamed by staff, and more. I’m working this out in therapy now as well, on top of all my other trauma I’ve accumulated in the last year or so.

But at the very least, I have a new, more accurate diagnosis. For one, now I know that I need to be wary of antidepressants, they can be bad for people with bipolar. I’ve also learned about mood stabilizers and know what symptoms to look for if I’m entering a hypomanic/manic or depressive phase of my illness.

In a way, I know that I’ve been able to take advantage of the “positive” (hypomanic) aspects of my illness. I was able to earn a 4.0 in grad school, work full time at a library, get scholarships, and help rear a small family some years ago. In retrospect, when I think of these sorts of times in my life, I was hypomanic, full of drive and energy and the capacity to do almost anything I put my mind to.

But my inevitable “crashes” after these energetic episodes have taken a huge toll on me. I’ve had bad depression, viral infections, body pain, and more.

What’s frustrating is that before I was harmed, by a non-licensed hypnotist and his BDSM practices, I had always been at least functional with my illness. But after his intervention my illness became debilitating.

I decided that I wasn’t going to be quiet about my diagnosis (or my past abuse for that matter). I’m not ashamed to have bipolar and PTSD (the PTSD has gotten worse after my last hospitalization), and so I find power in not keeping it quiet.

There are a lot of creative and famous people who have been or are able to function in spite of their diagnosis of bipolar. Carrie Fisher was one of them.

Carrie Fisher on Bipolar
Source: https://twitter.com/bphopemag/status/771709916830629888

Anyways, I’m glad to know more about myself and my mental illness.

I also did finally come out publicly as bisexual in the last couple of weeks. After my experiences, I have had to face a lot of the skeletons in my closet, so I made the decision to be open about my sexuality as well.

I was raised Mormon and had a lot of self hate and guilt for the feelings of “same sex attraction” that I had over the years. I no longer have that guilt and realize there is nothing wrong with me when it comes to having the sexuality that I do.

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I decided to come out publicly on my twitter and other social medias. Bisexuality is still highly stigmatized and bisexual people have a lot of problems when it comes to mental illness. I hope people will be able to read this article about these very issues.

“Prejudice manifests itself multiple times over to dismiss bi people with mental health problems and reduce them to perverts and sex addicts rather than autonomous human beings with valid identities and feelings as profound as anyone else’s. Their lives and experiences are routinely put up for debate as though the rest of society should control their characters. Autonomy is something sought to be crushed, as is bisexual identity as a whole. The prevalence of such biphobia and mental health stigma regularly leaves those who are vulnerable questioning their entire sense of self, as though they could be flawed just for existing which can lead to extreme self loathing, depression and even suicidal ideation.” -Source

The shame I felt as a bi person was unwarranted. After talking with some friends, I discovered that I may even identify as a demisexual. I had someone try to convince me that I was a “slut” about a year ago. I don’t have a problem with sluts and am against slut shaming in general, but that is not who I am.

The Mormonism from my youth never sat well with me because I was always an opinionated woman who liked to call out the men who claimed to have authority over me. Last year I had someone try to tell me that my Mormon upbringing made me incapable of being anything other than a submissive.

Bullshit.

Frankly, the only reason why I had submissive tendencies was because a lot of it had been ingrained in me by society and by my religious upbringing, for sure. My social anxiety also gave me the crutch of trying to be a pleaser. But it is not who I am. I was never happy as a submissive Mormon woman, so I don’t know why I would ever be happy as a full-time BDSM submissive.

My original interest in submission came from a place of fun and play, and the way it was thrust upon me with manipulation and hypnosis was not at all playful or fun. I was told that submission was an essential part of who I was as a person, and that combined with the hypnosis involved exacerbated my mental health problems.

I recently met someone who is a spiritual guide, and also a dominatrix. She was supportive of me and helped me see that there are good uplifting people in the BDSM community. I also recently learned a new term: MTDs (Male Therefore Doms). Sadly, as the name implies, there are men (and some women) who assume that males have a better position to be dominant and females should be submissive.

Women are already so submissive in the patriarchy as a whole, and so I’m tired of that role. If I’m going to do something for fun, I’m not going to reflect the submission of my upbringing in a patriarchal religion and a patriarchal society.

Hell to the no.

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I’m not a little girl who enjoys being told what to do. I’m a free agent and I am powerful and self aware. If I ever considered kink again, I’d take on a dominant role.

I’m intelligent and a warrior. I’m someone to be respected and admired. I don’t get off at being shamed or humiliated. The fact that so many have done that to me throughout my life, and told me that I should appreciate it, is repugnant to me now.

People who’ve hurt me no longer have any power over me. I’ve come to accept the pain that comes with being alive. All I can do is try to be a decent human being and seek empowerment from my experiences.

Sometimes, you need to get broken down just so you can build yourself back up.

Also, I’ve had an amazing spiritual breakthrough of sorts. When I left the psych ward a couple weeks back, I had this song on repeat. The lyrics are amazing. It’s about finding the beauty in the pain that we encounter in life. (There is also an inner child of sorts creating by drawing throughout the video.) It meant a lot to me and I hope you’ll take a listen/watch.

And despite my issues with Mormonism in the past, I also formed a relationship with some local sister Mormon missionaries. And they gave me love and a listening ear shortly after I came home from the hospital. This made me realize something that I recently posted on my Facebook:

Good people use labels and identities to help themselves feel spiritually connected to the world and others. When we use our labels to feel superior to anyone else, be it Christian or atheist, or liberal or conservative, or single or married, or whatever, or use those labels to try to manipulate others into doing what we want, that’s when the disconnect happens.

The path to happiness and connection is, I think, pure love for one’s self and others. And self care before caring for others. This is huge.

Thanks for reading. I have a lot of creative projects I wish to pursue and am excited about the future! I wish all of you lovelies the best.

Rewriting Harmful Narratives: Love and Creativity Turn a Trigger into Source of Empowerment

(More pics below, please scroll down and look at the captions!)

A little over a year ago, someone intervened with my mental health by using hypnosis and BDSM to try to have me to adopt a “submissive/slave” lifestyle full-time to help address my “past trauma” after I had expressed an interest in BDSM.

The story in and of itself is a big one, and while I do not wish to delve into the details here, I will say that this is something that I have been working out extensively in weekly therapy. I’ve also had three psychiatric hospitalizations since this person harmed me with his methods. Something I never needed previously.

The point of this post is not to talk about everything this person did or about how dangerous it is to practice medicine without a license (newsflash: it is), the point of this is to talk about the love and healing that came with regards to a specific image this person had used against me.

When I was in a deep hypnotic trance, or highly suggestible state, he used frightening imagery on me. Specifically, he said I was a “gazelle” that he could “sink his teeth into.” This imagery of a lion and gazelle became a huge trauma trigger for me.

A short while after he did this and after he had put me under hypnosis without bringing me out of trance (which is not safe at all), I woke up feeling like a gazelle.

I was scared.

I wanted to run.

I was prey.

Gazelle with Fihankra Symbol by M. Scott Hammond
“Gazelle” with Fihankra Symbol by M. Scott Hammond

My husband was so confused as to what was happening to me. I kept talking about feeling like a gazelle and being scared. I talked about it so much that he even drew a picture of a gazelle with a rock with the West African symbol Fihankra (meaning “safe” or “secure”) to try to alleviate my fears.

As time passed, and after a couple hospitalizations and therapy over the course of several months, a dear friend of mine, Tammy, offered to help me address the issue I had with the gazelle/lion narrative that was still haunting me and my thoughts.

I don’t literally believe in magic per se, but my beautiful friend Tammy is a wizard with her photography. She empowered me by finding makeup artists and dressing my husband and I up as a lion and a gazelle.

But in our little story, it was the gazelle that needed to be feared.

Not the lion.

In high school I took a drama class. I have always loved theater, so this opportunity brought much joy to me. I’m going to share some of the photos from the shoot. Please consider visiting my friend Tammy’s photography facebook page and “liking” it. Her work is amazing and she recently started her business.

Now on to the photos! (Check it! I even made a story using captions on the pics!)

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I’m laughing a little now, because recently, someone tried to bring up the gazelle/lion narrative I had been dealing with as a mean-spirited way of casting ad hominem on me and trying to gaslight me.

What this person fails to understand is that that narrative no longer hurts me. It gives me POWER.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is a prophetic film, and the Magic Book that the characters use to rewrite their realities is, I believe, a real and an available tool within us all. We are all capable of rewriting the harmful narratives that others and (more importantly) we tell ourselves.

Magic Book from SpongeBob Out of Water
Source: http://spongebob.wikia.com/wiki/Magic_Book

Also, I love the shit out of my friends, and once a drama geek, ALWAYS a drama geek.

THESPIAN PRIDE FOREVA.

(I love you, Scott and Tammy!)

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: There Is No Exit

madnessSeclusion

Based on true events.

I stand and look down at my bare feet. I see the scar from my youth creeping up from my toe to ankle, like a meandering snake.

My ankles. They are swollen from the restraints. The restraints they put me in when I was in the hospital. The restraints they found necessary when in my mania I said I wasn’t bound by their rules.

“Let me out!” I scream into the yellowness. This yellow room, reminds me of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper quite literally. In the walls I imagine the women, creeping around in eternal madness like me.

“PLEASE!” I scream. Scratching at my arms, I beg for release. I can’t escape. The room is locked. Four padded walls and a thick metal door with a narrow window are all I have for company.

Walking up to the window, I plead with the Indian woman at the computer on the other side of the door to listen to me.

“Please look at me! Let me out!” I scream into the window. “Let me out!”

She doesn’t see me. I’m invisible.

I am desperate.

“Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!” I slap my face. Hit my head with my hands. I claw at my arms, seeking freedom from my own skin, trying to let my very essence break free from its corporeal restraints.

She looks at me. “You are a good girl.” She smiles at me.

Hope.

She makes me feel hope.

“Please,” I cry. “Just let me out.”

She speaks soothing things to me. Through the window. My hope grows like a welcome, warm fire.

She hears me. I’m a human to her.

We’re interrupted. Another woman enters the antechamber wearing disdain like a regal robe.

“Stop talking to her.” She says. “She’s just trying to get your attention, she’s probably borderline and just wants sympathy. You need to ignore her.”

“No!” I am crying. “Please!”

The Indian woman, the woman who called me a “good girl,” the woman saying comforting things through the window, turns away from me. She pulls her computer back away from the door.

So she doesn’t have to see me.

No!

She is gone. I am alone again with four yellow walls and two cameras. One in each corner of the room.

I scream. I don’t know for how long but I scream.

I sit on the only object in the room, a mat with a symbolic picture of a man on a bed. It looks like the Tarot card of The Hanged Man.

The Hanged Man.

Submit.

“No!” I scream. “LET ME OUT!”

I start banging on the door. I feel my hands and wrists buckle under the weight of my body as I throw myself against the door.

This is madness. They are making me mad. They want me to be a madwoman.

I don’t know for how long I do this.

Eventually I get tired.

I sit on the mat in cobbler’s pose. I look at my feet, folded open like a book. A book. They ripped a book out of my hands when they put me in here.

The Poisonwood Bible.

They would never return it.

Staring at my feet, my vision grows sharp. I’ve never seen so clearly in my life. Even though they tore the glasses from my face when the security guards were piled on me before entering this hell, I see.

Leaning forward, I rest my head on my feet.

I breathe.

I can do this.

I stand again, and do yoga poses.

I’m not sure what happens next. Flashes of mania and flashes of awareness overtake me.

At one point, I scream at the camera and make obscene gestures.

“Fuck you, Mark Zuckerberg!” I shout a manifesto against Facebook. It seems appropriate.

“My brother is watching all of you! You all are fucked!” And I believe my brother is. He works for the government after all. In my heart I believe he is there, with me, telling me everything is going to be OK. Watching me. But most of all, he’s watching them.

He’ll make them pay.

“There is nothing wrong with me!” I scream at the cameras. “There is nothing wrong with me! I’m a human! I’m who I am and that doesn’t make me any less than you! You have me locked in here but it is YOU who are not free. My mind is free. I AM FREE.”

For a while I sing. I sing songs from Les Misérables at the cameras. I sing I’m Proud to Be an American.

Do you hear the people sing?”

I make the performance of my life.

At some point in the turmoil of events, I remove my scrubs.

I’m naked now.

As I piss myself, the warmth of fresh urine covers my legs and feet.

I don’t remember leaving the room, but at some point I do.

They don’t get a doctor to evaluate me or the bruises inflicted on me by staff. But they put me back in my room with a camera, so they can keep watching me.

Eventually they tell me I was in there for four hours.

That’s not a long time to liberate my mind.

-LH

This story was written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge “There Is No Exit.”

 

Why I Ditched My Pen Names

“If you want people to love you for who you are, take the mask off.” – Quetzal

Writers have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to publishing their work. The name they choose to use can be a big one. I understand why pseudonyms exist, and I don’t have a problem with anyone using one. But I realized recently that my personal reasons for having a pen name were unhealthy and blocking my creativity.

I have had a couple of pseudonyms over the years. There was a time when I blogged under a pen name about leaving my former faith. It was immensely freeing to speak honestly about my struggles with Mormonism without fear of being disciplined by church leaders or hurting family who had not yet known about my faith crisis. It gave me an outlet to process what was going on in my mind and to connect with others who were going through something similar.

Later, I used a pen name to publish a personal story involving religious abuse. This time I was more worried about protecting someone who had emotionally abused me. And I think that’s where I started to realize that maybe this was unhealthy.

Protecting people who’ve hurt me is something that I’ve done throughout my life. I’ve always struggled with emotional boundaries, and I empathize to the point of being unable to be an advocate for myself for fear of upsetting the other person. Because throughout my life, my needs were labeled as ‘selfish’ or hurtful.

I also had this silly fear that if I wrote something and someone would read it, then *gasp* they would know it was me. It was like I wanted to share something with the world, but I didn’t want anyone to know I was sharing it. It made me feel like I wasn’t truly connecting with my readers.

There was also a concern that people I admired or respected might read and dislike my work. But I’ve since come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to like my writing. Not everyone is going to like me. And that’s ok. True friends will be there for me regardless of the quality of my writing.

It always felt like a weird tug of war between valuing authenticity while at the same time being afraid of it.

Eventually, because my reasons for using a pseudonym were based in shame and fear, I discovered that it was emotionally stifling to write under a different name.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

When it comes to publishing, attending writer groups, conventions, etc., it’s just a lot easier to have one name for people to associate with you. I tried going to a convention with two names on my badge once and it just didn’t feel right. And, in the end, the writing is the important thing, not the name.

Plus, I’m fond of my name. Larissa means ‘cheerful.’ My last name is my husband’s. And while I don’t believe that women are obligated to adopt their husband’s surname, in my case I’ve come to cherish his as my own. When I found him, I felt like I found home, so it just feels right to me.

So I’m lucky enough to like my name as it is. And if that’s the case, why on earth would I use a pseudonym?

 

We forget you Queen Mab!

I have a lot of great people in my life. Supportive friends and family who were there for me when I was at my worst.

I love my therapist. I will continue to see her every week and will continue to process my trauma with EMDR and CBT therapy for a long time. I don’t want to give the impression from my last post that I’m not currently receiving treatment. I still am.

I’m just getting better and more autonomous with the help I’m receiving, so much so that soon my healthcare providers will no longer have me see the psych nurse at the outpatient clinic. When we receive the right kind of treatment using scientifically backed methods, we get better. And that’s the hope that I’d like to share with others.

I have been officially diagnosed with PTSD, major depression, and generalized anxiety. I know that this will be something I will have to work with for the rest of my life. And that’s ok. Mental illness is something that should be treated and talked about. I don’t feel ashamed to have this illness in the same way someone with cancer or heart disease shouldn’t feel ashamed to have their illnesses. If anyone feels ashamed of their illness, or overly defensive about what people might think of them for having said illness, that is something they should probably talk about with their therapist.

There are healthy coping mechanisms and healthy methods of therapy and treatment from the medical establishment that are (sadly) ignored or shunned. I’m a huge advocate for scientifically proven methods of treatment.

The abusive treatment I received from an unlicensed mental health practitioner in the BDSM community was not at all helpful and not backed by science. My husband has known me for 11 years now. He saw first-hand what happened to me.

Before last year, I had never had a psychotic break in my life. It was triggered when someone accessed repressed memories of my past trauma in a careless and arrogant way. I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, but not psychosis. Cause and effect. Not a difficult concept to understand. This person used hypnosis/BDSM on me and age-regression like therapy to access repressed trauma from my childhood and boom. Psychosis and hospitalization in a mental health unit.

“Many things can cause temporary psychosis. Environmental triggers, such as losing a loved one, are known to contribute, as may excessive stress,[2] or the interaction of strong social demands with a pre-existing vulnerability of self.[3]

Other causes that have been identified include lack of sleep, fever, brain damage, and even hypnosis.[4]””(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychotic_break)

The person who hurt me literally boasted after his “therapy” that he had basically done what a regular therapist would have taken years to do in accessing repressed memories. He also bragged that he could “start a cult” if he wanted to. This was witnessed by myself and my husband.

My current therapist, who I have been seeing for about 8 months now, and who I will continue to see, told me why what he did was dangerous. She told me that hypnotherapists have a lot of professional training and need to be held accountable for their practice with licensing standards.

She told me that traumatic childhood memories are repressed FOR A REASON:

To protect the brain.

Repressed trauma and old memories that could be difficult to process should never be just pulled from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind without a stable treatment plan already in place, and without the individual having developed coping mechanisms to address the traumas.

What happened to me was dangerous. My whole family was put at risk. I could choose to be bitter and angry about what happened. I lost a year of my life thanks to an induced mental breakdown. But I made it through, I choose life and living now.

I’d also like to mention that my current therapist is BDSM/kink friendly and sex positive. She explained to me how what happened in my case was not at all kosher. Being manipulated or bullied into a lifestyle is not ok. I had an interest in BDSM before I was abused, for sure. That’s what got me into the situation. But now I just associate it with trauma because that was the pretense for my abuse.

Calling someone a “worthless piece of shit” and then telling the person that they liked to be called a worthless piece of shit because of the way they were raised is abusive. Telling me that my husband needed to “stop being a pussy” and “get with the program” by being a full-time dom is abusive. Trying to forcibly indoctrinate me and my spouse with fake religious beliefs involving “chakras” and “energy” is abusive. Acting as a self appointed mental health guru and accessing repressed trauma via hypnosis and BDSM without a license or accountability is abusive and a con game.

I strongly recommend this article to people in the kink community. It addresses my concerns with nuance and level-headedness and it’s written by someone with a lot of experience in the community:

“Out of context, kink can look like abuse or domestic violence to the outsider, which it decidedly is not. But members of the kink community also aren’t very good at policing our own, and what I see happening again and again is victims of predators being swept under the rug, forced to leave communities that have become intolerable while the predators remain to prey upon the next batch of innocent newbies.”

This whole episode has been very hard for my family. We lost friends. My kids had a broken mom for a while. I have had to give the vague reason of “we had a disagreement” to my child when she wondered why we no longer visit certain people. Of course I would never tell her why, at least not now, because it’s inappropriate to emotionally dump on a child or encourage them to perform an armchair diagnosis on a person. Maybe someday we will have a long conversation about this as grown ups.

I have made mistakes. There are things I did and said when I was unstable that I wish I hadn’t. But my mental breakdown was literally caused by someone who exacerbated my mental illness with his “therapy.” That wasn’t my fault. And I know that. When it comes to this specific issue, I’m self aware, which means I can’t be gaslit by these folks anymore.

I’d also like to talk about my references to cults. Of course, I know that BDSM itself is not a cult. But it is very possible for cult-like dynamics to establish in kink “families.” People in cults don’t know they are in a cult. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in it! When I was a Mormon, I was terrified of apostates (people who’ve renounced belief in the church and its leaders). I thought they were dangerous and scary people who might hurt me and my family. How could they accuse church leaders of being abusive? How could they say that the system isn’t perfect?! There must be something wrong with them.

I don’t blame Mormons for that. I don’t blame fundamentalists for that either. Rigid belief systems are hard to challenge. Cognitive dissonance is scary. It’s much easier to just label people who leave as unstable or crazy or dangerous than to critically address why a person had to leave the group.

As a penultimate point, I’d like to talk about the KonMari method.  It has changed my life in so many positive ways. I’d strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to make their home into a zen clutter-free sanctuary. It basically advocates only keeping things which “spark joy.” I have applied that to my home and I’ve noticed this philosophy has started to creep into other areas of my life.

From now on, I refuse to read or seek out anything that I know will make me feel bad or hurt me (that’s the opposite of KonMari!). I talked with a friend about it today, and she made me laugh. She told me it’s human nature to poke something that hurts and say “Ouch! That hurt!” But it’s just smart and common sense to stop poking at it altogether when you realize no good will come from it.

And so I won’t “poke it” anymore. 🙂

Lastly, I’d like to end with a scene from Merlin. It’s one of my favorite scenes of all time. The mythology of the story here is that old gods fade out of existence when people forget them. And so Merlin defeats the evil faerie Queen Mab by turning his back on her at the end of the film and saying “We forget you Queen Mab!” I love the meaning here. It’s worth a watch! (Start at the 2 min 30 second mark.)

Best wishes, and farewell.

I fell in love with libraries because they are subversive.

It was Banned Books Week that inspired me to be a librarian.

I was a student at North Idaho College, and I was meandering through the Molstead Library. I had become a regular, and had frequently checked out an old copy of Moby Dick, mostly because the checkout slip on the inside fascinated me with dates going back several decades. Continue reading “I fell in love with libraries because they are subversive.”