Welcome back to Part 5 of this emotionally grueling series. If you're just joining us, we're reviewing Flourish, a recent publication by Christian Light Publications. While I am sorry to see this kind of harmful teaching being promoted via a respected publisher, it brings a certain amount of vindication to me and my mission as well.
I have been accused from time to time of dwelling on the past, of dredging up old articles that express ideas that "probably aren't even taught anymore," as if thirty-year-old articles and books somehow didn't have a profound effect on people who read them as children, and are now middle-aged adults.
But this book isn't some old dusty dredged up book. It's a fresh imprint, with a publication date of 2020, in its third printing. These are the things that are still being taught, and promogulated, and promoted. And sure, you can say that not everyone believes all of this, and some people might squirm a bit at some of the applications and conclusions, the fact that it's being published gives the imprimatur to its contents, especially from such a selective publishing house as CLP. The conclusion is inescapable. These ideas are in the mainstream Mennonite consciousness and are not being actively withstood on any major level.
So here we are. This series is one of the heaviest that I've fought my way through, and many times, after I hit the big green Publish button, I ask myself if I'm doing the right thing, if somehow I've missed the boat, if criticism and biting satire is the correct response, and if, somehow, she's right, and I'm just not submitting myself to the Divine Word of the Living God. I struggle with that, dear readers, because these teachings are so pernicious, and so filled with a mixture of truth and lies and cleverly twisted misconceptions, that even I, outside of the melee itself, find myself momentarily confused and dazzled by some emotional turn of phrase or rhetorical trick. And it strikes me how much more confusing and gut-wrenchingly byzantine the struggle must be for a women in an abusive relationship.
So that's why I'm doing this, and I'm pretty sure it's the right thing. I'm perhaps a bit like Moses, when God said to him, "What do you have in your hand?" And I looked down, and in my hand was jokes and parodies, and weird cultural references, and so I'm gonna use them to fight these Egyptian slaveholders as best I can.
So let's go!
When Baby Number 3 was about five months old, post-partum depression hit with a vengeance. Having been so sick for twenty-seven months in three and a half years, coupled with the stress of small babies and everything else, I felt totally trapped.
Honestly, just reading this makes me want to find a convenient window to escape through.
I wanted an out. An out from what? I loved my husband, our children, our house, and our friends. Still I felt lost in the darkest of tunnels, with not even the hope of a light in sight. As someone who has struggled sporadically with depression for most of my adult life, this description resonates with me.
My husband, who had never struggled with depression, had no clue what to do with his weeping, dreary wife. Part of his confusion, no doubt, came from the not knowing how to handle tears that weren't his fault for once.
He figured I was having a pity-me party (as most loving husbands are wont to do in these perplexing cases), and if he would push hard enough, I would snap out of it. But this only seemed to add to my problems. Goodness, Dorcas! That's an outcome I would never have expected. If only I could just snap out of it!
The HFKAP gives us only one actual surprise in his behavior as described here. He doesn't use it as an excuse to cheat. But that's possibly because he was already doing that.
Sometimes, as I peruse this book, I ask myself, "If this is supposed to make her husband look good, what on earth would the book say if she wanted him to look bad?"
She goes on how to describe how confused her husband was as she wanted him one moment, and shoved him away another. This is typical of emotional distress, and difficult in the most stable of relationships, for sure.
A friend of mine was on anti-depressants, and when I told her about my depression, she urged me to go on them too. My husband didn't want me to start taking pills, and I didn't want to either. Because a man has to draw a line in the sand someplace, and them devil juju pills seem as good a place as any.
But I needed help, and soon.
I would chew on a favorite knuckle or the inside of my cheek to try to keep from crying. Afterward I would hate that I did it, but at the time, physical pain helped dull the huge ache in my heart. At wit's end, my husband finally gave in to my pleading to go to the doctor. We didn't know what else to do.
This is heartbreaking. I can't think of anything to say to lighten it. It's completely heartbreaking, and the reality for a lot of people. I'm so sorry to anyone who identifies with this. I wish I could give you a hug or bring you some hot tea or something.
I told my doctor I wanted the minimum level of antidepressants, and he prescribed them. The fourth day I started taking them, the sunshine was suddenly very bright, I could emotionally handle the children and their demands, and I felt that my husband was almost the greatest thing ever -- even though circumstances hadn't changed.
Instead of feeling trapped inside a black tunnel and viewing everything through a gray tinge, I did little happy dances because I felt so happy. When I read my Bible, I experienced emotional highs, but then my emotions would crash again. However, I avoided emotional crashes when my husband was around, because I wanted to believe I was now more in control of my emotions.
I dunno, Dorcas, I think the fact that you could control when the emotional crashes hit seems to indicate that you're more in control of your emotions, but hey, I'm just an internet blogger, so carry on.
Can you feel it? That sense of impending doom? She's actually coping, right? She's holding it together, she's not crying all the time, spilling hot tears all over his freshly burnished armor, she's doing what she needs to around the house. You know this can't last, right? You know what's gonna happen?
Warning: To those of you who are sky-diving, please pull the ripcord before reading this next paragraph. (I like to imagine that 1) my readers have more exciting lives than I do, and 2) my readers love my articles so much that they can't stop reading them. I think probably one of those it true.)
Eight months later my husband told me I needed to get off those pills. "Please, no!" I begged. "I feel like me on them." He said I was too happy; no matter what he said or did, nothing fazed me. I would put on a sad face for a few seconds, and then I was perfectly fine. Although he didn't want a crying wife back, he thought a wife with fake emotions was worse. So I began to wean myself off the pills.
You wicked, vile, perverse son of Belial! You know why you're a son of Belial?
I'll tell you why, you son of Belial!
1) When she cries, you don't like it.
2) When you behave badly, you want her to ignore it.
3) When she's depressed and weepy, it baffles you.
4) When she doesn't keep up with the housework it angers you.
And, of course, this is all her fault.
So then, when she
1) starts smiling again, and stops crying
2) actually ignores your bad behavior, and isn't fazed by any of it
3) is able to keep up with life,
you don't like it, because it's fake.
You wicked son of perdition, that's all you've ever wanted is a fake wife, who pretends everything is OK, when it isn't, and doesn't show you her true self, and doesn't inconvenience you in any way, and if that's all you were, you wouldn't be a son of Belial, just an immature boorish human being, but there would be some kind of hope for you, because there's some shred of humanity there, but you?
You're different. You know how?
Because, when she finally is happy and actually stops doing all the things that supposedly drove you into the arms of another woman, instead of being happy about it and for her, you want her to go back into the darkness.
It's like you want a broken wife, and that's sick, and that's why you are a wicked, vile, perverse son of Belial.
Anyhow, after she gets off the pills, her kid falls, and CPS gets involved, and their kids get taken away until it gets sorted out. And then they get ordered into marriage counseling and...
A counselor was sent to our house once; he asked all kinds of questions and then wondered why he was there. Compared to the marriages he was used to working with, ours looked almost perfect to him. It was later discovered that the therapist had done marriage counseling for O. J. Simpson and Nicole Brown, as well as Tony and Carmela Soprano, so I understand his conclusions, I guess.
And this is why there are a lot of people out there who don't have a lot of faith in marriage counseling.
And then things get worse. So bad that I don't have the guts to do anymore today.
Sorry for the paucity of jokes. I hope the blog was what it needed to be for you.
3 thoughts on “Flourish (Part 5): Devil Drugs”
I love what you’re doing here and think your insights are valuable and very much needed. One small thing that keeps raising its head to me: (I MUST preface this by saying that I detest victim blaming…but I also think there’s something to say about her attitude.) I feel from reading the excerpts that she isn’t one hundred percent convinced that she’s the one in the wrong but wants to work to convince herself. I am not sure that I know how to say this right, but her framing of the story even seems to put herself as a powerless victim, maybe even a powerless victim of her own ideas and choices. I would like to posit that a woman who stands in her power could require better behavior from her husband; and, finding herself in an abusive relationship like this, would leave him. In my opinion there is a level of taking personal responsibility for one’s own life and happiness and fulfillment that needs to happen and to continue to put up with abusive behavior is something that one at some point becomes responsible for. I want to be very very careful how that comes across…but as someone who has had to chose the incredibly difficult path of respecting myself enough to leave abuse behind, I look back with frustration at my earlier idea that I must “bear my cross” and “be the bigger person” as an immature and overly martyred way of living.
I hope this makes an iota of sense and would LOVE to hear what you’ve got to say on that.
I think you’re absolutely right. And it’s really hard to say, but at some point, you have to take responsibility for where you are.
Unfortunately, her choice has been to suck it up and convince herself that it’s all cool.
On some level, when I’m writing, I feel like I’m writing to her, and saying, “Do you hear yourself? This is NOT OK.”
Thanks for the insight here. I think you’re right on.
You’re probably right, she’s not 100% convinced that she’s wrong but she’s trying to convince herself that she is. Because he keeps telling her she is. And it might be easier to deal with the situation if it is indeed her fault. Because how is she to deal with it if it isn’t? We can’t assume she understands abuse, or recognizes it as abuse. And if in fact she does accept it as abuse, she next has to recognize that the abuse is not her fault. And then she has to understand it’s not her responsibility to fix it. And that it’s actually not even possible for her to fix it. All of which is likely the opposite of what she has been taught all of her life about the role of a good wife. Now if by some chance she gets that all figured out, then she has to begin to see her options. Does she have a way to leave? Transportation? Money? A place to go? A way to feed and care for her children? And she has to figure all this out while still taking care of her husband, children, and home, while still dealing with the abuse and the cognitive dissonance that has her feeling crazy. Yes, she probably does feel completely powerless. But to blame her for not respecting herself enough to take a stand against the abuse ( which again I will point out she likely doesn’t even recognize it as abuse), is indeed victim blaming. I’m thankful you were able to get out, but you cannot compare her situation with yours, because you don’t know her childhood, her training, her church teaching, her personality…all things that can make a huge difference in how one responds to a similar situation. I was hoping someone else would speak up in her defense, but since no one has, I decided I must.