I know what it’s like… (A sex abuse survivor’s wife speaks)

The following post is the voice of a survivor’s wife. She is a brave, loving and compassionate soul. For all who have lived the trauma with a spouse, this post will resonate deeply. To all who have not, I urge you to lean in and really listen. Broken hearts lie scattered on church floors, overlooked, unheard, unknown, unhealed. Unhealed in a place where Jesus is said to dwell.

I urge you to notice one such heart and breath the life and hope of Jesus into just one. Speak life. When you speak. But mostly, listen. Listen, and really hear the heartbeat, no matter how weak, how erratic and how uncomfortable.

Always remember that Jesus chose the broken places. He dwells there. Not in high and together places, but in the lowliest of places, there He enters and makes His home and declares, “If was for the lost children, that I came”.

***

I know what it is like to live with abuse second hand. I know what sexual and religious abuse looks like up close and personal.  I haven’t experienced sexual abuse but I’ve lived with the affects for all my married years. We’re working our way out of extreme spiritual abuse.  I’ve lived the trauma for many years.  If I could sum it up in one word it would be TEARS. Endless rivers of tears.

I know what it’s like to raise a family, praying over them, pleading for God to cover them with His protection and for the trauma of the abuse to not be passed on to them, while their father goes through periods of being completely zoned out. I know what its like to have to know when to follow my husband’s lead and when to realize he’s flipped and irrational and then to step up and fill in the breach. I know what its like to sit in the grocery store parking lot counting the little cash I have to see what I can buy that week for my family because my husband is in a black hole. And I have to try and figure out how long we can survive till he comes out again. I know the heart break of walking alongside him when he realizes all the things that have slipped away while he was “not there,” picking up again, then going through all of it all over again. Because with the triggers and the ongoing mental trauma there’s no continuity.

I know what its like to be married to a man who is a survivor in so many ways, has qualities and gifts that contribute to mankind in many beautiful ways, but to sit with that same man as he curls up on the couch in such emotional pain that words are useless. To watch him reach out to others and have compassion for the hurting but feeling complete worthlessness in himself. To live alongside and watch while normal life is so exhausting that finally he wonders if its even worth it.  The intense struggle of wanting to believe in God but wanting to have nothing to do with the god he was shown, yet unable to grasp the difference. All this while appearing to be a normal family and functioning the best we can because it feels like no one understands.

canstockphoto23608061_ text

The damage abuse does is deep and devastating.  It ripples out and affects so many people.  Its crippling beyond belief. It’s mind altering. It completely strips away identity.  It puts them on a path to prove their worth for many years, and then when their efforts are finally exhausted they give up.  When it’s a man it affects the family financially because when he’s the main provider and fear and flashbacks are a constant reality, there’s not much energy left for making good decisions. So there is added financial trauma.  It affects the whole family.

In fact, years of trauma and dysfunction can happen before one even realizes the brokenness and what is actually happening.

Then there are others.  I know what it’s like to walk with abuse victims who dissociate. To hang on to a victim in a flashback until you can arrive at a safe place for them to throw themselves out of your vehicle once it’s stopped, to cry it out in a roadside ditch. To listen to the pain of their heart’s cry that doesn’t even make sense to themselves. But what do I do when they continue to believe the lies in their heads?  When they would rather believe the lies and that they’re worthless than to even accept the love that they’re given because love doesn’t feel “safe.”

Yes, God is the answer, He’s the healer.  But what if the mere mention of God fills the victim with such anxiety and anger that they shut down because the abuse was so wrapped up in their “godly religious” experience?

There is so much more that could be said.  I just want to bless you and encourage you to keep going.  I believe that once the victims find their voices and speak the reality of what they live with, the reality that so many wish to not hear, that is when people will wake up.  It’s critical that the victims be given their voice.

I’ve prayed many prayers, I will continue. I applaud as I read the (victim’s blog) posts.  I praise God and cry hallelujah when yet another victim has the courage to step up and speak, when yet another leader speaks out in truth, exposing yet more of the abuse.

And then I face the next battle on the home front and I hope and pray that fighting the battle well here will somehow contribute to the war against abuse at large.

~ Anonymous ~

***

The spouse who sits compassionately with the survivor of horror, as he or she grieves the trauma, or lives through the hell of its aftermath is a true hero. This wife is a true hero. I have such a hero in my life.  To this author… to my husband…. to every other spouse who sees and knows what it’s like… Thank you!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:

  1. Registration for THE GATHERING will close October 1, 2019 or when sold out.
    To register: THE GATHERING: Registration
    For information:  THE GATHERING Information.
    To register for concert only: JASON GRAY CONCERT NOVEMBER 2, 2019 LBC 7:00pm

NOTE: After August 1 concert is only included dependant on availability.

One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

 

A Survivor’s View on Trauma Triggers

This blog is the voice of a survivor sharing what triggers are like, based on her experience, and how the public can show sensitivity. It is my hope that this will help those who really care for victims but have no understanding on how to be sensitive to the things that trigger them when they are learning to speak out.

***

FROM THE AUTHOR:
My prayer is that (this blog post) will help bring light to the often volatile conversations, where people cannot seem to fathom why they get such strong responses to certain seemingly innocent questions.

I left the way I had been raised in the Old Order Amish church, at 21 years old. I am a survivor of physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse. God has faithfully taken me on a 13 year long journey of healing through counseling, inner healing ministry, & personal revelation. It will be a lifelong, ongoing process, but I rejoice in it and in the overwhelming goodness of God to me through it all.

I am at the point in my journey where I am becoming more and more aware of what my triggers are and how to process them in a powerful way. So from that personal experience I want to try to address and possibly bring clarity to the readers, whether they are survivors or not.

Trudy’s platform has thousands of abuse survivors from Anabaptist communities. From what I understand that is who her platform is for. Among the abuse survivors are others: some have not experienced abuse, but they are here with true empathy and support, some are here out of curiosity, (who is this “Jezebel!? Ha!) some are here to challenge what she’s doing, (honest hecklers!) some are here to troll, and some are here who haven’t yet come to grips that they were abused and possibly don’t want to come to grips with it. And some are abusers.

It’s the non-survivor group that I want to address first. If you are just learning what abuse is, there’s a good chance that you are not familiar with all the terms that you see being mentioned. Gas lighting, triangulation, triggers, just to name a few. I’m going to do my best to explain triggers to you.

I’m going to use a hypothetical situation to illustrate. Let’s say that you had the traumatic experience of being held hostage at gunpoint. Possibly you were even shot, but by a miracle of God you escaped with your life. Now your physical scars are mostly healed, but you are left having flashbacks, nightmares, ptsd… You are trying to pick up the pieces, heal and put your life back together.

One day you stop by to visit a friend who by mere coincidence is cleaning his gun while you’re there. You tense up, anxiety rises, but you battle it back. You remind yourself that the gun is not loaded and this is your friend who would never hurt you. You maintain composure but you are on edge. Suddenly he picks up the unloaded gun, points it straight at you and says he wants to test the sights.

Now even though you know in your head that the gun is not loaded and that your friend means no harm, you react as if you were fighting for your life. Raw terror. Because in that moment, the traumatic memory took over and you were right back in that moment when you were shot. You can’t help it, you are triggered. He is shocked by your reaction at his innocent (although very stupid in real life!) gesture. Why would you react this way when you know he would never shoot you?

This is what happens with abuse survivors. I see the scenario played out in the comments on Trudy’s posts. I will use a quick real life example from the other day on a post about the horrendous abuse that has been done in the name of spanking. A gentleman dropped the misinterpreted and abused Proverbs 23 verse in the comments and responses exploded. He could not understand why he got the angry responses he got.

For survivors who were abused by people who used this verse to justify it, (spiritual abuse) this verse is a gun being pointed at them and they will respond accordingly. Especially for those who have just become brave enough to use their voices for the first time. Immediately they go back to being a powerless, helpless, little child who had no voice. Now they have a voice, so don’t be surprised when it screams back at you in pain and furious rebuttal! You have unwittingly stepped into the role of their abuser.

If you are among the ones who can’t understand why you get the responses that you do at times, here’s a few suggestions: On social media, it’s crucial to remember what kind of platform you are on. (Yes, it’s a free world. It seems it’s a free for all melee, because everyone thinks it’s THEIR free world.) For instance, Trudy’s platform is for giving Anabaptist abuse survivors a voice. So her first priority is to keep that a safe place for those voices. So when you are on her platform, respond with that in mind. If you do respond, please be as articulate and concise as possible. Don’t be in hurry to respond to hot topics. A well thought out response goes so much further than a hurried, heated reply.

Remember that you are on a platform where people have suffered horrific abuse from perpetrators using scripture to justify the abuse. So using scripture to prove a point might not go over well. In my own personal journey, there was a time when I simply could not read certain scriptures without being triggered. I have loved Jesus and followed him all these years. It took years of healing before I was able to read certain scriptures for what they really are, rather than reading them in the way that was used to oppress me. When scripture has been used as a whip instead of as keys to freedom, you will flinch automatically when the “whip” is raised.

When you use scripture are you using it to bring about healing and encouragement or are you using it to manipulate and coerce? Those are questions everyone should ask themselves before commenting.

All survivors are on varying degrees of healing in their journeys. There are varying levels of abuse for each one. What will trigger one, won’t trigger another one. Some will trigger harder and more quickly than others. Some will trigger even when you have “done everything right” and you had zero intent to harm. Communication on social media is a challenge in the best of scenarios and when you have a lot of hurting people crying out in pain, it will be even more challenging if not impossible at times. Everyone’s pain is too loud to be able to hear what others are saying even when they are saying the exact same thing. Keep this in mind when you engage on social media and refuse to take offense when you are taken the wrong way.

I pray this helps to increase your understanding a little bit as to what triggers are and how they work. Thank you for reading to this point.

Now, to address my fellow survivors. First off, I commend you. I cannot put into words how much in awe I am of the strength and resilience I see in all of you. You have begun an incredible journey of healing. I know it took GUTS and GRIT to open your mouth and say: Me too, that happened to me too and it was not ok.

Your voice matters. Because every time someone gets brave enough to speak up, it encourages someone else to do the same. Keep speaking up. It’s been a most powerful thing to me to realize how much I am NOT ALONE! Yet heart breaking as well, because there are SO MANY of us. Lord, my heart breaks at the thousands upon thousands of stories coming out of our culture that are like mine and even many times more horrific.

But I want you to know something: when works of darkness are being exposed, it’s because God’s light is shining brighter. Make no mistake, He is uprooting the evil and making way for great healing, redemption, and restoration! It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the darkness, keep your eyes on the Light, dear brave ones, watch what He’s doing and join in with that. He is our pillar of fire by night and great cloud by day. We will follow Him to the Promised Land. What is The Promised Land for us? Freedom from slavery for us and for our future generations!

The desert to cross to get there will not be easy. It will be messy, challenging, overwhelming. But so worth it! You will see God part the seas, rain life giving manna from heaven, and shatter your Jerichos. Never give up on pursuing healing and freedom!

With so much love,

Ann Lehman

***

For my trauma course in fall 2016, I had to do a short PSA on some aspect of Trauma… something we want the world to understand. I discovered quickly that when it came to ‘explaining’ the impact of trauma – the nightmares, flashbacks and fears – there were no eloquent sentences available. I had only: Words, Thoughts, Feelings, Scenes, Sensations.

The following is the presentation I shared with my class.

Together, I pray, we can continue (or begin) to move toward a better understanding of what trauma survivors contend with. Sometimes daily. Sometimes rarely. We are all different. All on a journey. And all at different stages in the journey. Sometimes we loop back and have to regain ground.

For non-survivors to seek to understand is helpful. And the ‘more healed’ survivors to remember when they were in that place of trauma and triggers is crucial. Recently a survivor said to me, “The healed survivors can be the most cruel”. At first I agreed, and I still get the point that was being made. But in hindsight I had to ask, “‘then are they truly as healed as they say they are?” ….or are they possibly avoiding rather than healing.

In any case, we need a better understanding of trauma, collectively, if we are going to be effective at all in helping survivors and stopping the epidemic.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

NOTE OF THANKS FROM RAPE VICTIM:
After discovering that there are enough funds to cover approximately 17 sessions of counselling, the young woman who was assaulted at age 7 wrote amid tears of appreciation

When I gave you permission to share my journal entries, I never ever expected such kindness, understanding, and love from complete strangers. And certainly not monetary help for counseling. A simple “Thank you” doesn’t cut it. I believe it is, in part, an answer to my desperate prayer to be whole. I wish I could thank each person who contributed in person, but since I can’t, I will do what I can: I promise to pass it along to some other survivor some day.”

It has been encouraging to see ‘the church’ enter into her story and care for her well-being in word, prayer, and helping with costs. Thank you for contributing. Every bit helps, as this is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

Thank you! God bless you all!

***

ONLY 1 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERINGRegistration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Teachers, Preachers & Other Abusers: Grooming and Sexual Assault (Anabaptist Survivor Story)

TRIGGER WARNING: content may be triggering to survivors of abuse. The author speaks forthrightly about the assaults committed against her by a man who would later become her teacher and youth leader (overlapping with the assaults), and yet later became a preacher. Both individuals were conservative Anabaptists at the time the sexual assaults were committed against the author.

***

The following story is difficult to read, but another necessary ‘telling’ of the things that are done in the name of God. It was sent to me, in the author’s own words. I offer this disclaimer as there have been questions surrounding stories shared here recently, asking whether I wrote them. The answer is, No; I did not write any of the other recent stories. Frankly, as much as I love writing, do write another person’s story is difficult and time-consuming. I do not have such time on my hands right now.

The following is a story of raw suffering, and a story of healing and redemption. The author has chosen to tell it for the sake of other victims, to give them the courage to speak.

From my perspective, as someone who has worked with sexual violence for years, this story displays classic grooming. The tactics used on a child to first draw her (or him) in, followed by letting or making them feel somehow they are partially responsible. No child, ever, anywhere, is responsible for the behaviours of an abuser. There are laws of the land and region that govern these things.

****

It all started with, strange as it may sound, getting saved, accepting Jesus into my heart.

I was a 12-year-old and was invited to attend a revival service in Seymour, MO at a Mennonite church about a two and a half or three-hour drive from where we lived. That evening, Mr. D. Hostetler was taking a load of people from Linn, and I was invited to go along.

Abner Kauffman preached a powerful and convicting sermon that evening.

We returned home late that night, and one by one people were dropped off at their homes. Strangely, Mr. Hostetler took his own family home before he took me home. We were neighbors living only about a mile apart.

About halfway to my home he stopped the van and began to talk to me about my life. He was very convincing and soon I was praying and asking God to save me, confessing my sins and accepting Jesus as my personal Savior.

Mr. Hostetler hugged and congratulated me, and then took me on home. I got up the next morning, overjoyed with the new peace I had. I noticed the sunshine seemed more brilliant and all the colors in my world were much brighter, and everything just seemed so much more beautiful. I was a transformed person, born of God, the Holy Spirit. I loved all of it and felt passionate about living for God. I began to read the Bible with a new zeal and desire to serve God.

Slowly, as time went on, this fresh new feeling began to wear off as human voices were used to bring discouragement and sorrows to a young believer in Christ.

On one particular day I became very angry at Mr. Hostetler. He worked in a shop on our property. I was so embarrassed but I went to him with head hanging low to apologize to him. I had a dreadful anger problem. As soon as I apologized, he put his arms around me and hugged me close. It felt so good to be hugged. It wasn’t something practiced in our home during our childhood. I went back to the house rejoicing that day.

This was the beginning of a relationship that led to much sorrow for me. One day Mr. Hostetler  spoke to me about a verse in the Bible, where Paul speaks about how a man shouldn’t touch a woman. He explained that this wasn’t what he meant, that hugs and such really are good from brotherly love. There was more said that I cannot remember about that verse, but I believed him and regarded him as a very excellent and honorable man. I highly respected him.

As time passed, hugs and touches became more frequent. He began to take me on outings with him, holding my hand for hours, such as lovers do; stroking my hand. Then it went to taking drives in his car; he began to hold me on his lap, stroking and caressing my body.

Next, he began to invite me to meet him after dark, 11:00, 12:00 at night under a large tree where he would do more of the same.

Although I willingly received these attentions, I do not recall ever pursuing him or suggesting any of these meetings. I wasn’t smart enough, or brave enough to think that I could even do that. I respected him too much. You must understand he was the most respected man in my life at that time.

(NOTE: This was all prior to and up to age 14).

At the age of 14, he became my school teacher. One day while getting a drink at the water fountain he came up behind me and ran his hands over my body, telling me how beautiful my developing body was. This felt good to me, an insecure 14-year-old. I was flattered.

Things escalated through the years of 12-17. The older I got, the bolder he became. There were long sessions of kissing, French kissing, his tongue in my mouth, and his hands touching me, along with pressing my body tightly against the front of him. Lying on the couch, his body draped over mine, kissing me, doing all the normal foreplay things. He never actually penetrated me sexually, or touched my vaginal area, though his hands were all over my hips and legs. This took place in Mr. Hostetler’s own house and on his couch. I cannot recall why I was there, or where Mrs. Hostetler and the boys were, but they weren’t at home.

I had absolutely no clue as to what was going on.

All this while he spoke of his brotherly love for me. He would talk of my beauty. He’d also share with me how beautiful [another girl in our community] was. Later I found out that he was even more heavily involved with [this girl] and others at the same time he was doing these things to me.

Mr. Hostetler’s would also talk about God and all the things that were important to him, just as lovers would do.

At the age of 16, I began to be very restless; crying at night for hours, not understanding at all what was happening. I felt dirty and depressed. Church life became unbearable as I was targeted again and again for overstepping church rules. I was hurting; I wondered why no one cared about my heart. Why were silly rules of such importance? Why were too many ruffles, too small a covering so important when my heart was falling apart?

I came to the point where I disliked the kissing episodes and felt condemned by them.

One day I mustered up the courage to talk to him about how I was feeling. I found him out in his shop, working. I began to express my regret over these actions and ended up saying, “I’m sorry for my part in these actions. I feel dirty and sinful, and I don’t want to do this anymore.”

I expected to hear the same from him, but he didn’t say anything along those lines. Instead, he told me how he had never thought any impure thoughts about me. He told me he forgave me and was glad I made things right.

For four years I walked in shame, feeling like it was all my fault, and even though I couldn’t fully understand that, I accepted it.

When I was around the age of 15, Pastor Hershberger lived in Linn; I felt so attracted to the spirit he carried with him, his kindness, compassion, and his faith that seemed so real. I scheduled a meeting with him one evening and was going to tell him everything. I tried so hard, but I just couldn’t. I just sat and cried, and cried, and he ended up just praying for me that evening. I never did tell him what I was struggling with.

I got married to a wonderful man when I was 21 years old. In the first years of our marriage, I told him the whole story. He was shocked. For the first time, someone explained to me that it wasn’t entirely my fault. I began to see that it wasn’t, so I decided I would once again apologize to him and get things taken care of on both sides. He responded by sending back a letter, but it didn’t sound apologetic or repentant at all.

29 years later I received a very repentant text from Mr. Hostetler. This was a wonderful and meaningful surprise to me. Although I had already fully forgiven him and felt completely restored in my soul before he ever apologized, this message brought me great joy and delight. There is so much power and redemption when those who have caused harm humbly express deep remorse and sorrow for the pain and loss caused in someone’s life.

Signed,
~ The author

***

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Dear Reader,

It is my express wish to inform you of what grooming looks like and the responsibility you have as parents, leaders, teachers, friends, and co-laborers in the kingdom of God to watch out for your little brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Know where they are and be attentive to what they say. Many things could have been avoided had the adults been diligent to know what the children were doing and where they were and with whom.

It isn’t wise to let our children be alone with another adult, even if you trust them. And it is of utmost importance that you speak as parents to your children and inform them of these kinds of traps. Have a healthy, open communication about sexual things with your children even at a young age. Answer their questions before they have a chance to hear it from their friends. Let them know you are a safe place for them to speak about such things. And tell them it’s never okay to discuss these things with anyone else. Teach them to stay away from those who lead them into things that make them uncomfortable in any way. Teach, teach, teach! We must stop our silence towards such things in a world that shouts corrupt sexuality from the rooftops. It is up to us as parents to teach them that God’s way is best.

Signed,
~ The author of the above story ~

***

CLOSING THOUGHTS:
Having interacted with the author, my heart is encouraged. She is gracious and forgiving. There is no hatred, no animosity. No desire for revenge. In contrast, there is grace intertwined with a solemn resolve to do the right thing and not be silent. She remembers the other girls who were victimized.

In spite of the apology via text, which she accepted as sincere, she has concerns over Mr. Hostetler’s moral fidelity in his marriage. Mr. Hostetler’s name is not new to me. Others have reached out with concerns over his interactions with young women in the past few years in the form of emotional affairs, with the most recent (inappropriate texting) being *after* his apology to the author. Mr. Hostetler was in church leadership for a time, during which time he communicated in ways with women (not his wife) that are not becoming a believer or leader (in this context).

EDIT, August 7, 2019: The following communication was posted publicly this morning. Someone sent me a screenshot and I also read it personally. It is this kind of protection that enables ongoing abuse.

img_0609

EDIT: The following are screenshots of the texts sent by Mr. Hostetler, as the pastor of the young woman he is texting. The texts that the author of the above comments states he sees no lustful thoughts in. That may be up for debate. It should be noted that I do not say there are lustful thoughts. I refer to emotional affairs and communicating in a way that is not becoming a believer or a leader in such a relationship.

EDIT (Other comments):  I’ve heard that referencing Mr. Hostetler as a leader is all lies too, but he’s doing something ‘leadership-like’ as that is how people still see him. As evidence, his brother Daryl and his wife had a 25 year anniversary in June of this year (2019) and had their vow renewals with a Sunday afternoon service and Danny preached. That tends to lead people to believe he is a pastor or some spiritual leader. Besides that recent event, I am told he still preached back when he sent these texts. If you preach, you better consider yourself a leader. If you don’t, that’s already a problem. Preachers have incredible influence. .

In this survivor’s story, she was clearly a child when the sexual assaults started, and a youth when they ended. She was not the only victim. The more recent case of which I am aware (and was sent evidence of his communication), was not with a minor. From what we know, he seems to have learned to pick them past the statutory rape and childhood sexual assault stages.

Mr. Hostetler was a minister for a time, including over the time the texts were sent to someone not his wife, and currently leads a small church-type-group, as of the most recent information sent to me.

These patterns by men (or women) in religious (or other) power, who apologize and then continue to abuse their power, whether molesting minors as he did initially, or emotional and/or sexual affairs, dreadfully misrepresent God. It is time the church of Jesus Christ rises up and takes a firm and bold stand against such corruption. The Corinthian church bragged that they had so much grace that mothers could have sex with their own sons. Paul condemned this.

Well… I dare say we’re back to the same thing, where we have so much grace that it’s more less a ‘sex with kids and minors’ free for all. All that is required is an apology, and a pat on the shoulder as you walk out to start over, it seems. Especially leaders. We should not be proud of this ‘grace’. There’s a reason Paul took issue with that kind of grace. And I’m with him.

Yes, God forgives. That’s not a matter of question. But placing them back in that role of leadership over the vulnerable is foolishness.

And lest there is a rush to use King David as an example, I will offer this: King David announced to the whole country what he had done and had the truth of his story written in a book. He did not blame the woman he used. He did not tell everyone to shut up and forgive. He humbled himself, as king, and sat in sackcloth and ashes.

Start there.

And then, after appropriate time sitting in sackcloth and ashes with the world knowing what crimes were committed… then let’s talk about appropriate next steps and appropriate career and ministry paths.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

 

***  See below: early ‘concert only’ registration for abuse survivors Nov. 2, 2019. ***

The young woman who was assaulted at age 7… Five donations have come in so far with enough funds to cover . (We are still waiting to confirm the fee, so not sure just how many). Thank you for contributing. Every bit helps, as this is will require ongoing support. If you wish to contribute, you may do so through the following link: Support for Rape Survivor.

The victim expresses appreciation to all who have contributed. We have raised enough for approximately 17 sessions of counseling.

It has been encouraging to see ‘the church’ enter into her story and care for her well-being in word, prayer, and helping with her counseling costs. Thank you! God bless you all!

***

ONLY 1 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)
THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERINGRegistration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

EARLY CONCERT REGISTRATION FOR ALL SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE:
If you are a sex abuse survivor – Anabaptist or not – and are not a sex offender, who wishes to attend the ‘concert only’ portion of The Gathering, we will allow for early registration before tickets are released to the public, August 1, 2019. For link to register for the concert only, email AslanHasHeard@gmail.com. Subject line: “Concert link for survivors”.

***

If you are able to contribute to Generations Unleashed and our work with and for victims, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

© Trudy Metzger 2019

 

Update on 7-yr-old group rape survivor & exposing rapists

CONCERNS AND OUTPOURING OF LOVE & CARE:
Communications continue between myself and the woman who was group raped by 3 Anabaptist men. Since posting her story there has been a public outpouring of both care and concern.

A huge concern – justifiably so – is the risk of there being other victims

Criticism and the whole “she should get over it” mentality was part of the smorgasbord (or should I say ‘pot luck’) menu. Like all good smorgasbords, you go back for second helpings only to some dishes, and avoid others if you can. This “should get over it” mindset is profoundly linked to the belief that becoming a Christian and inviting Jesus into trauma will remove the aftermath of trauma.

The gap and inconsistency in such teaching and thought regarding sexual abuse is directly linked to ignorance surrounding the physical damage that trauma causes to the brain. So to demand a person who has suffered extreme trauma to function as though nothing happened is much akin to asking the person with an amputated leg to walk as though they have two legs. It just does more damage.

The reality is Jesus enters our story and experience; He doesn’t always miraculously remove it. He said “The truth will make you free”. To ‘make free’ is different than to ‘set free’. One is ‘removing from’, the other is not necessarily. Some offer the “Jesus heals” (which I believe) in a tender and caring way that allows Jesus to ‘enter in’ without demanding the person pretend there is no leftover trauma, scars, PTSD, nightmares etc.

This latter group, they’re the keepers.

IS THE STORY TRUE?:
A few wrote to question whether such a thing could possibly be true. First of all, that’s disturbing, to even suggest it is not true, yet I understand the shock. Those who ask out of shock (albeit with ignorance) are one thing. Those who question the thing to death because they don’t want truth… that’s another thing entirely.

For me, I’ve heard these kinds of stories for years, so no longer deal with that shock factor. All situations are not the same. The case of 3 adults raping a child is shocking, as it should be. There is no consent.

Other scenarios, that are not criminal, I seldom delve into, simply because my work is with victims. But, later today, I will tell snippets of such story, most briefly, because people seem to have trouble grasping how a group would collude together to commit such an act. And that question is an important one to ask. The answer I think lies in some of the non-criminal activities that are brought to my attention by those who participated in them, or family members and friends who know and cannot contain it.

Question if you must. Nothing wrong with that. But writing off a horror story just because you want to and can, within your own mind, makes you part of the bigger problem.

EXPOSING & DEALING WITH THE OFFENDERS;
One of the most common cries was regarding ‘outing’ these men so others can be protected. This is, of course, a big concern for me. As I said in yesterday’s blog, I don’t have enough information to do anything, nor is it likely I could given she is an adult.

After some conversation with her about what it would take to be ready to deal with this, and some conversations between her and her husband, we came up with the beginning of a plan. To be strong enough, she will begin meeting with a counselor to work through the trauma.

In the meantime and overlapping with this counseling, a few individuals will meet with her to come up with a workable plan. Part of that is a desire on this woman’s part to have the support of a few godly Anabaptist men/leaders and their wives, along with my support. She is conservative Anabaptist and within the setting it is critical to have that support. But on the other hand offering such support can be an invitation for serious persecution against those who offer it.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

  1. PRAY
    That may sound trite, but I believe prayer is the only way this is going to happen.
    Those of us who are Jesus followers draw much strength from prayer
    So please pray for
    • ongoing healing from the trauma and strength to face this
    • that we are able to find a Christian professional counselor who is a good fit
    • peace in the process and wisdom for the counselor
  2. CONTRIBUTE FINANCIALLY TO HER COSTS
    • initially there is only the cost of the counselor, childcare while she goes to the counselor and meets with law enforcement, and travel
    • with time, depending on what plan we all work out we will raise funds for other

If you wish to help with costs for counseling, childcare and travel, you may do so through aslanhasheard@gmail.com. Please mark it clearly for “Survivor of Group Rape”. From time to time people contribute to other causes, so this is important to avoid confusion.

If you wish to contribute to Generations Unleashed expenses, you may donate via PayPal or e-transfer to info@generationsunleashed.com. Or visit Generations Unleashed Donate.

As always…

With love,
~ T ~

***

We are looking for recommendation of solid Christian counselors (professionally trained) in California, Missouri, Montana, and Tennessee. If you have suggestions, please email them to: info@generationsunleashed.com with subject line “Missouri counsellor” (or other state, as the case may be). They must be professionally licensed.

An understanding of Anabaptist culture is ideal as it is cumbersome for victims to first need to explain their culture before the unique aspects of trauma makes sense. Counselors cannot be in any way affiliated with ASAA or Strait Paths.

***

ONLY 2 MORE WEEKS TO REGISTER WITH LUNCH AND CONCERT INCLUDED!
(ENDS AUGUST 1, 2019)

THE GATHERING, NOVEMBER 2, 2019, LANCASTER BIBLE COLLEGE:
One of the things we are working toward November 2, 2019, at  THE GATHERING, is creating a place where we collectively invite God into our grief.  It is exclusively for Anabaptist survivors of sexual abuse, and their trusted support persons to join together for a day of acknowledging the generations of suffering. We will cry out to God, together. The invitation is to ‘come as you are’ in your raw brokenness, if that’s where you’re at, or in your healed togetherness. The itinerary is simple. It isn’t about ‘who’ or ‘how’; it is about Jesus and a safe place to meet, to heal another layer, together.

NOTE: Anyone over 18 who sexually assaulted someone – whether child or other adult – is not welcome. This does not mean they are not forgiven if they have repented. It means victims should not fear being confronted with the source of their trauma on such a vulnerable day. Security guards will be present to remove any who show up and are identified as offenders by the victims.

Until August 1, 2019, registration for the day’s events includes lunch and attendance to the evening concert with Jason Gray, whose music had brought hope and healing to countless victims. Songs like “The Wound is Where the Light Gets In“, “A Way to See in the Dark“, Sparrows“, “Nothing is Wasted“, and many more speak a language we understand.

(More information for potential attendees is available under THE GATHERING Registration and for non-attendees at THE GATHERING Information.)

 

© Trudy Metzger 2019

Rabbit Trails & Heart Attacks (Part 5)

The large screen displayed my heart in full, magnified view. The dye flowed through the veins, spreading through my heart with each heartbeat. Suddenly it stopped on one side of my heart, clearly unable to pass through the one artery.

Dr. Renner expressed utter shock as she informed me that I have coronary artery disease. The disbelief in her voice, spoke for itself, but she also verbalized it.

“What does this mean?” I asked. Shock set in quickly, even as the questions formed. I needed answers. How could this happen to me? We didn’t have a strong family history of heart disease. Yes, my Grandpa had died in his eighties and Dad had died in his seventies after fighting diabetes and not watching his diet. I was young, healthy and high energy.

My mind raced again. Did I have weeks? Days? Months? Years, if I was lucky?

“This is odd.” Dr. Renner spoke again, obviously puzzled by what she saw. “All of your other arteries are perfect.” She paused, assessing the images on screen. “You have beautiful arteries! It’s just that one artery that is completely blocked.”

“See this here,” she pointed to the blocked artery, “no blood is getting through.” She went on to show me the normal arteries and blood vessels and how the blood flowed through, branching out from the main vessel, to provide oxygen to every part of the heart. She then explained that she was quite certain the blockage was not plaque but, that, in fact, she believed it had collapsed.

“What would cause something like that?” I asked

“Drugs. It’s something we see in young men who over exert themselves after doing dope.”

“Yeah…. that would not be me! I only tried it twice in my life and not even a whole joint! And that was twenty years ago! Is there anything else that could cause it?” I wanted answers. Fears threatened. Would I spend the rest of my life on the edge of death? (The mind is a funny thing… We all are nothing more than a breath, a heartbeat, away from death.)

“I’m going to try to balloon it and see if we can open it back up.” Ballooning went well and, to my relief, the blood flowed normally again. Dr. Renner observed it for five minutes to see if it would stay open or collapse again. Gradually the vessel constricted, leaving us with no choice but to proceed with an angioplasty—inserting a stent into my Left Anterior Descending Artery, to keep it open.

“Is the stent made with surgical stainless steel?” I asked.

“Are you allergic to metals?” she asked.

“I can handle surgical stainless steel, sterling silver and gold.”

It was determined that to proceed would put me at undue risk of my artery becoming blocked again due to scabbing, caused by allergic reaction to the metals. Dr. Renner and the medical team consulted with another cardiologist in the hospital to determine what would be the best course of action. In the end, they called a specialist at another hospital for advice. The final answer was to use a titanium stent, and soon the procedure was completed.

Walking out of OR ahead of me as the nurses pushed my bed through the doors, Dr. Renner greeted Tim in the waiting area. “We all have egg on our faces,” she said, before telling him that I had suffered a serious heart attack and explained what had turned a thirty minute procedure into several hours of waiting for him.

The care I received at St. Mary’s Hospital was second to none. Nurses, while busy, never neglected to check on me and respond to call bells. As traumatic as the experience was, they brought a sense of calm and safety to my badly shaken world.

Toward evening I noticed what felt like a wheezing or ‘sqeaking’ in my chest when I breathed. Memories are vague. I was exhausted and drifted in and out of sleep but at some point the nurse informed me that I had developed a touch of Pericarditis from the strain on my heart.

Oh the irony! The thing that the medical team originally thought had started the heart issues, and had delayed me getting the help I needed, had developed in the end, because of the delay! Whatever it meant in terms of my ongoing health, I believed I would be okay. Either way, the road ahead was not going to be easy, and the recovery would require time and patience.

When tragedy strikes, we instinctively go into survival mode, numb to reality. It is only in hindsight that we recognize this ‘autopilot’ and the shock and strain of what we lived through.  Even fear is put on hold, in extreme situations, until a time when we are able to process it. For me that ‘day of reckoning’ with this reality, came a few months after I was released from hospital. I had moments of curiosity about what had really happened, but I had not found the courage to explore it, until that day.

As I am wont to do, when looking for information, I wandered over to my computer and started to search reliable websites, like Mayo clinic and others like it, to find out exactly what an LAD collapse is, and what the associated risks are, both short term and long term. On one site, I read several stories of other young women who had suffered this particular heart attack, also with no explanation as to the cause. I learned that it is one of the most dangerous heart attacks—morbidly known as ‘the Widow Maker’—and that I was fortunate to be alive, even though the apex of my heart was quite damaged.

One article in particular terrified me. A woman in Dallas Texas, only thirty-seven years old, had survived the heart attack and three months later suffered Sudden Cardiac Death just as she arrived at the hospital emergency unit for help.

I stopped reading and stumbled to the phone. I called Tim. I was cold, shaking. Tim answered. All my fears spilled out. I was going to die. The apex of my heart had been quite damaged and one day, I was certain, I would drop over dead. I was worried about our little children. Who would care for them?

Tim listened patiently and tried to reassure me. It was the first time I faced my fears head on. I wanted so desperately to trust God with my life, and sometimes I did, but in those vulnerable moments, fear took over and I felt like I was suffocating again. Eventually I hung up and tried to go back to what I had been doing before I searched for answers and found that story.

The story kept tugging at my mind and, with it, the fear. In a moment of resilient determination, I returned to the computer. I would finish reading the story and if it revealed I was high risk, I would deal with it. This torment could not continue.

To my amazement, only about two sentences later in the story, I discovered that the hospital staff were able to restart the woman’s heart and she went on to live a full and active life. I needed that reassurance, to know that there was hope and a chance that I would survive and live a full life. I still had work to do and there was one specific passion I needed to pursue. The thought of dying without it, grieved me deeply.

I knew I couldn’t put my faith in that information—only God is deserving of my faith—but in my humanity that boost gave me courage to face the future and let God bring something good out of yet another tragedy. And with time He would. That tragedy stirred in me the passion to pursue a dream that I had carried in my heart for many years; a dream that required courage. And that courage that had been developed by facing one fear after another over the course of many years.  Now, facing the fear that my dream would go to the grave with me, I knew had to pursue.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because You, oh God, are with me. You comfort me and bring purpose out of the shadows.

In the hospital when I feared I would die, I begged God to let me live because I didn’t want Tim to be a widow, and for my family to have to do life without their mother. But there was one more prayer that I prayed. I wanted to survive so that I could tell my story and give other victims of abuse and violence the courage to face their pain, and overcome it by inviting Jesus into ‘the hell of life’.

The dream came complete with a plan, but I had never been able to see my way through that plan before because my fears were more powerful than my dream.

As I faced death, and the thought that my dream could go to the grave with me, my dream overpowered my fear. Somehow I knew I would survive and see that dream come to life.

Today I live that dream in the form of Generations Unleashed–a ministry we are launching with our first conference for men and women–and Faith Girls Unleashed the ministry we started for women in 2010.

I wouldn’t want to go through the heart attack again. I don’t believe it should have happened, and the medication we feel was to blame has been pulled from the market, for which we are thankful. But I am thankful that God used that near-death encounter to make me realize if I don’t risk the dream, it may well go to the grave with me.

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Rabbit Trails & Heart Attacks (Part 4)

…Continued…

Wednesday November 22, I spent the day in bed, disturbed only when nurses came for stats, and when the on call doctor popped by on rounds. “How did you sleep?” he asked.

“Like a baby!”

“Must have been that little white pill,” he grinned.

“Nah… I spit that in the waste basket the instant the nurse turned away,” I said. “I didn’t need it.”

“Really?”

“It’s still in the garbage.”

He chuckled, gave me that humoured ‘you are a defiant one’ look, went over a few other questions, and then moved on.

I was forbidden the luxury of getting out of bed alone and was told to buzz a nurse if I needed to get up for anything.

The rest of the day blurs into nothingness—probably because I did nothing but sleep, eat, and sleep some more.

That evening, the eve of my 37th birthday, Tim and our children brought a cake and birthday presents to the hospital.  We walked to the family room and had a little birthday party. Our time together lasted just over thirty minutes, followed by lots of hugs and kisses and a short walk back to my room.

Having spent my entire day in bed, it was good to be out, but I was ready to crawl back in, exhausted from the short escapade.

Minutes after Tim and our children left, I realized I was in trouble. I pulled the call bell. Each nurse was kind and sensitive, tending quickly to patients, and always reassuring me. The one that answered my call bell was no different.

I tried to explain what I was feeling—the pressure in my chest, difficulty breathing, maybe some pain—it was hard to describe the symptoms.

“I would like to call Tim. I don’t want to be alone,” I told her.

“Are you worried?” she asked.

“Worried? No.   ….Concerned? Yes.”

“Why are you concerned?”she asked.

“Because I have five children and they need a mom,” I answered.

“They have a mom—they have you,” she assured me.

“I’m not there for them right now, am I?” I challenged.

“Well, no.” She visibly relaxed.

“And depending what happens, they won’t have me again,” I said.

“Mrs. Metzger, there is still a lot that can be done for you, should things get worse.” The look of alarm that crossed her face, betrayed her confidence. It was at that moment I realized she was trying to read the real message I was sending. I had worked in a nursing home and understood the subtle signs that someone’s life is in danger and in that instant, I realized I was sending the message. My life really was in danger.

A doctor came to see me and ordered morphine to open the blood vessels. And so began a birthday night, high on morphine. Happy days!

Not how I would choose to celebrate, on the one hand, but thankful I had it when I needed it. They gave me the highest possible dose as often as they could, and still I asked for more, just to manage the pain.

Tim returned to the hospital and together we were transferred to a room where he could sleep in the bed next to me.

“Thank you for coming back,” I said. “I’ve watched people die alone at the nursing home, and I don’t want that to happen. If I am going to die, I want someone to be with me.”

Tim kissed my forehead—an act of tenderness that has always comforted me and communicated deep affection.

He didn’t want to lie down, preferring to stand beside my bed, or sit there and watch over me. I wanted him to be with me, but not to hover and lose sleep—that only caused me to worry about him. And, though I have learned to invite Tim’s love and guidance into my life, I am, and always will be, independent by nature. Being ‘watched over’ puts me ill at ease.

“Please go to bed. I promise I will call you if I need you. To have you watch over me just adds stress and will make things worse,” I explained.  I didn’t like having to ask for that space, but I felt like I was suffocating in my own body and to have anyone or anything close to me, made it worse. I felt as though I couldn’t breath, and anyone within three feet of me was a threat to my oxygen supply.

When Tim reluctantly agreed to lie on the other bed, I slipped in and out of a restless sleep. The night seemed to drag on forever.

At one point, through a haze of drugs and fatigue, I saw the room fill of doctors and nurses, discussing my situation. They were quite certain it was Pericarditis and it would take time to recover. What they needed to do in the present was get me through this crisis. Whatever the cause, my heart was failing me. Badly.

 

I wanted the pain to end. The only thing that prevented me from asking God to take me home, was my love for my husband and our five children. Every time I pictured my beautiful family, my heart cried out to God to get me through this and let me live—at least until they were grown up enough to care for themselves.

Morning broke, and with it the climax of pain and trauma, as my body revolted against the high doses of morphine with head-splitting pain and nausea. I vomited. And then I fell into a peaceful sleep. I had survived the darkest night.

Throughout the day, my 37th birthday, I progressively improved, so that, by evening, I felt quite good and was hopeful that I would return home the next day.

Tim had spent part of the day with me before heading home, and then returned again in the evening for a short visit, this time without the children, afraid that the strain would be too much. I missed them but knew I had nothing to offer, in the way of energy.

Tim was relieved to see how much I had improved and I was thankful to be past the nightmare of whatever had caused the previous night’s flare up.

I settled down quickly after he left, my body obviously exhausted. Around eleven o’clock I noticed that the heart rhythm printout on my heart monitor screen was abnormal. I called a nurse and pointed out the irregularity.

“That’s nothing to worry about,” she assured me. In hindsight I can only assume that her response was superficial, intended to keep me from worrying, or she was ill-informed. If the former, then it worked. I immediately settled down and went to sleep.

The following morning, Friday November 24, I asked the nurse if I could go home later that day. I was ready to have my life back. She said that I would possibility be transferred to St. Mary’s General hospital in Kitchener, to the cardiac care unit for some ‘routine’ testing, just to make sure there was nothing more going on.

And so it was, that, not long after our conversation, I was in an ambulance with Tim and two attendants, en route to St. Mary’s for more testing.

The technician went to work almost immediately. I watched the Echocardiogram closely. Before they gave me the news, I knew we were up against something bigger. The rhythm was off, and the black spot on the apex of my heart wasn’t supposed to be there—of that I was certain.

Within minutes I was informed that I would need to have another procedure—an angiogram—to further investigate my heart. Fortunately, thanks to studying Biology, I knew what an angiogram was and what I should expect next. I had written an exam, only two weeks earlier, on the function of the heart, angiograms and heart attacks. Nothing of what was happening, was over my head. I understood it well.

In OR I was introduced to a lovely young cardiologist not much older than I, who would do the procedure, along with about half a dozen nurses and several support staff who would assist in various ways.

Dr. Renner carefully explained each step as she worked. In between, we chatted about a variety of things, like why she became a cardiologist and how many children I had, and things like that. Had it not been for the hard metal table, and the back pain, it could have been a fairly pleasant experience.

…To Be Continued…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Rabbit Trails & Heart Attacks (Part 3)

(Continued…)

It was 7:15pm before Tim arrived home. In the meantime I had made arrangements for the children to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. To my relief, Grandpa had suggested they stay for the night, since our furnace was still not working.  Immediately after Tim arrived, we took the children to Grandma’s and from there we headed to the hospital.

Our family doctor was on call. She listened to my heart, then my lungs, took my blood pressure and did the usual ‘once over’ that one might get if you went in with flu symptoms. Everything checked out so she sent me home.

I should have felt relieved. Tim & I had the house to ourselves for the rest of the evening and night—a rare thing in our busy household—but the restlessness stayed. Something was wrong. I knew it. This was not going to be a romantic early celebration of my upcoming birthday, though I did joke about that and Tim.

Back home in our chilly house, I went online and did a Google search of the various symptoms I had. Nothing definitive jumped out at me. Heart attack or pneumonia were the only two that made any sense and I was not a candidate for either. It had to be some other bug.

A nice hot bath would help fight whatever I was coming down with or, at the very least, the hot water would help warm me up and make me comfortable. I filled the Jacuzzi as full as possible, the water as hot as I could stand it, and then asked Tim to get a book and read near me–I didn’t want to be alone. Never before, in thirteen years of marriage, had I been afraid to be alone when I was unwell. It was another sign that something more serious was going on. Another sign I overlooked.

The hot water felt good. Relaxing. For ten to fifteen minutes I ran the Jacuzzi, letting the bubbles soothe my body.

Then, suddenly, my chin ached badly. Pain. Pain everywhere. My left arm hurt unbearably and the back of my tongue ached. I was rolling from side to side in the tub trying to get away from the crushing pressure in my chest. My mind felt numb.

“Tim, we have to go back to the hospital. Something is terribly wrong. I don’t know what’s going on but I am not okay. Please go get my coat and warm up the van,” I could hear desperation in my own voice—as if I was my own audience, assessing my situation. Back in my clothes—this time track pants and a sweat shirt, I was ready to go. I clung to the rail as I walked carefully down the seven stairs to the main floor. I called emerge to tell them my symptoms and ask for advice. Should we drive? Should we call 911?

They told us to save time and drive directly to the hospital—they would be waiting and ready for me. Minutes before we arrived, the pain subsided. We debated going back home, but thought better of it. What if the episode happened again… and worse? Better to be in the hospital.

Our family doctor walked into my room, a puzzled expression on her face. “Didn’t… I… just… see  you?” she asked, enunciating her words as she spoke.

“Yes. I’m back. Something is wrong,” I said, then explained what had happened. I listed the symptoms, all except the one about pain down my left arm. I knew that it was not a typical symptom for women and the last thing I wanted was for a doctor to think I was imagining things. I remembered my other doctor yelling at me when I had skin cancer, and telling me I was depressed. I wasn’t going to go through that again!

My doctor ordered blood tests, ECG and chest x-rays and told me that I would be held until test results returned. The blood test took longest.

When the x-ray and ECG were done my doctor popped in my room to update us. “Well, I have good news. It’s not your heart and it’s not your lungs. Now we just need the blood results to see if anything shows up. “

Tim and I chatted and got caught up on life ‘stuff’ while we waited for the blood test results. It was shortly after two o’clock in the morning when my doctor returned. She sat down on the foot end of my bed.

“Trudy, tell me again, from the beginning, all of your symptoms and what happened today,” she said, with that look that says, ‘something is wrong.’

I recounted the day’s events again, and like the first time, I left out the detail about the pain in my left arm. “Why?” I asked.

“The blood-work showed that you have elevated heart enzymes,” she explained.

“What does that mean?” I asked, knowing the answer. I had studied the heart only weeks before in Biology and had scored 96% on the exam. I knew what it meant but I needed to hear her explain, so that I wouldn’t second guess myself.

“It means that you might have had a heart attack,” she said, “or you could have Pericarditis—inflammation of the lining of the heart. Have you had a flu or sore throat recently?”

“Nothing really… Maybe a mild sore throat for a day or so, but that was a while ago. Now what?”

“It means we’re keeping you here—you’re staying so that we can watch you.”

I don’t remember how long Tim stayed, but sometime toward morning he went home. I was tired. My mind was reeling and yet with a strange sense of peace—I had shifted to survival mode. How could this be happening to me? It was two days before my 37th birthday—I was too young and healthy.

My father had died of heart attack, at seventy-three, after about twenty years of dealing with Diabetes, and not making healthy food choice and life-style changes. I was always healthy and active. It made no sense.

Granted, I had AVNRT—Atrial Ventricular Nodal Re-entry Tachycardia—an Arrhythmia that caused the heart to suddenly speed up for no apparent reason. I had only had a few episodes in my life. And my heart had stayed around one hundred and twenty to thirty beats per minute even with the worst episodes—never completely out of control. The doctors had assured me it was nothing to worry about.

My heart rate had not gone up during this hospital stay—there was clearly no tachycardia happening.  This was, without question a new issue and only time would tell what it all meant. Still, my mind raced….

Would I live another day… another year? Would Tim be a widower at thirty-five? Would our children be motherless?

Tears spilled onto my pillow. I didn’t want to think about those possibilities.

Only a few weeks earlier I had been out with Alicia, getting items for her twelfth birthday spa party when she asked, seemingly out of the blue, “Mommy, if you died, would Daddy remarry?”

“I hope so! We’ve been so happy together, and I wouldn’t want him to be lonely! Since I would be in Heaven, it wouldn’t matter to me,” I answered. “Why do you ask?”

“I don’t want a step mother. Ever. If you and Daddy die, I hope it isn’t until I’m eighteen. Then I would take care of my brothers and sisters,” she said.

We had chatted for a bit about it and then I forgot the conversation.

Lying in the hospital bed, uncertain of my future, I wondered if it had been a fore-shadowing. Was my life about to end and my daughter’s nightmare about to start? Even as these thoughts invaded my mind, I made the decision to trust God with my life. I had bumped into death several times, or so it felt, and I had always come through okay. I had to believe that I was protected, as long as my purpose was not fulfilled. I had a sense that my purpose had only barely begun, but, if I was wrong, I was confident that the same God who had always been with me, would also be with my husband and children.

The doctor ordered Lorazepan—that magic little pill that brings calm into almost any world. Yet another secret I learned, working in a nursing home. However, I had no intentions of taking a ‘calming pill’. I felt calm and at peace mentally and emotionally, in spite of the foreboding circumstances, so I politely refused.

The nurse insisted it would help. I’m stubborn to a fault when I believe something strongly enough, but I didn’t have the energy to argue, so I accepted the tablet, paused, and carefully slipped it under my tongue so I could spit it out when she left.

I felt a bit like I did as a kid, when someone caught me with a candy I wasn’t supposed to have, and almost expected the nurse to say, “Open your mouth and show me that it’s gone… and now, under your tongue…” She didn’t.

The instant she turned around I popped that little pill out of my mouth, slipped it into a Kleenex and then into the garbage.

I fell asleep, at peace with God and life… or death, as the case may be.

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Rabbit Trails & Heart Attacks (Part 2)

(Continued….)

I rubbed the middle of my chest. Took a deep breath. I was definitely not getting the oxygen I needed. This had to be my imagination. That, or I was coming down with one heck of a cold. There was no way I was this out of shape…

I called Tim. Maybe talking about it would help. I explained what was happening, and immediately shifted to denial. “It’s probably nothing more than a cold. Just a chest thing going on. Anyway… I think I’m okay now.”

“Take it easy and don’t do too much,” Tim instructed. I laughed and told him again that I was fine and promised not to do too much.

For a few minutes I sat there, resting, while waiting for the repairman. But then I grew restless and returned to vacuuming. The breathlessness returned instantly, so I called Telehealth Ontario, to ask their nurses for an opinion.  The nurse calmly went through her endless list of questions, and then said, “You need to see a doctor sometime today as a precaution.”

I called my doctor’s office, recounted the details and symptoms yet again, and asked for the first available appointment. The nurse assured me there was no need to rush—the symptoms didn’t sound too concerning—she would fit me in the next afternoon. I agreed to wait.

Shortly before noon the repairman arrived, in perfect time, just moments before Tim came home for lunch. They sorted out the problem only to discover they needed to order a part before repairing the furnace, which meant a cold house for one more night.

After lunch I decided I was well enough to go to work, teaching grade ten math.

I absolutely loved teaching! I had a delightful class of adolescent and adult students, ranging in age from sixteen years old to twenty-four. Some students had tried the class before, but struggled to grasp the concepts. I invested everything in first understanding, and then teaching what I had learned.

I would learn a few days later, in the hospital, that in a matter of weeks their marks had gone from the ‘sixty percent and less’ that they had averaged with the other teacher, to eighty percent and up. It wasn’t that I was so miraculously gifted, but rather, I understood how difficult math could be to grasp, so I took time to explain what I struggled with.

My students and I enjoyed every minute together. We studied hard and laughed a lot. When I arrived in class—late—that cold November day, they were all studying intently but stopped to cheer in welcome at my entrance, and to ask how I was doing.

“I’m …pretty…  good, “ I said hesitantly.

“Are you upset about your furnace?… Is it going to cost a lot to replace it?”

“Oh no,” I laughed. “A furnace is a furnace. They can be replaced. It’s not about that,”  I paused. I wanted to inform them of my health issue, without overwhelming or worrying them.  “I just don’t feel too well.”… I paused…, “so… if I collapse, call 911, it could be my heart.”

I spoke playfully and everyone laughed—including me. I didn’t think that it really could be anything that serious, yet I instinctively mentioned it, in humour, so that they would respond quickly if I collapsed.

The classroom quieted as everyone returned to their lessons. I seized the opportunity to study the next day’s lesson. I wasn’t really a teacher, after all–at least not a licensed one–and this day I had to learn algebra for the following day so that I could teach effectively. I had only excelled in business math, problem solving and basic math. Algebra, geometry and other ‘strange’ math required a great deal of effort and study, on my part.

As I sat there, quietly studying, the feeling of un-wellness suddenly lifted and I felt instantly normal. It wasn’t until it was gone that I realized how unwell I had felt. To put my class at ease, I thought I should tell them.

“Well, whatever it was, it just passed—I’m feeling better!” I announced enthusiastically.

“Gas?” a student asked.

There’s one in every class! We all burst out laughing. The student, having had a moment to contemplate his impulsive response, apologetically acknowledged it was poor judgement, and said he was glad that I was feeling better.

The day at school ended without incident. At home, our children and the smell of a roast beef dinner greeted me.

I would quickly feed them and then head out to pick up Tim who was still at the office. We had shared a vehicle since early marriage, to cut costs, and for the most part it had worked out very well for us. It was nights like this that it became more challenging.

Exhausted, I crashed on the couch, intending to rest for only a few minutes but, instead, I fell sound asleep. The unusual fatigue should have alarmed me, but I overlooked the signs again.

Aside from fighting the fatigue, dinner with the children was uneventful. As soon as we were finished, I sent them to get washed up and ready for their children’s programs at church.

Moments later, I returned to the couch with a phone in hand, suddenly aware that I was really not well. I called Tim.

”I’m sorry, I can’t come pick you up…. I really am not well,” I said. “I don’t know what it is but I have this overwhelming sense of danger, like I shouldn’t be driving. Do you think one of the other guys would give you a ride home?”

I felt foolish, like I was wrestling a ghost, and the ghost was winning. My symptoms were undefined and I was staying home based on a vague ‘sense’ that something was very. I wasn’t in pain and even the earlier symptoms of breathlessness were gone.

Fortunately, one of the truck drivers at the feed mill, who lived not too far from our home, was still there and agreed to give Tim a ride home, but it would be another fifteen minutes before they could leave. I was relieved.

It was 5:30pm, and with a fifteen minute drive, the wait for Tim to return would not be long. What the driver didn’t mention, and what under normal circumstances would not have been an issue, was that he had to make a stop on the way home.

 

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series

Rabbit Trails & Heart Attacks (Part 1)

November 21, 2006, I had a heart attack….

This morning I’ve opted to go on a rabbit trail from my current topic of Sexual Abuse and Violence, and am telling the story of the heart attack I survived in 2006, two days before my 37th birthday. Nearly six years have passed….

Yesterday I had a stress test, to check the strength of my heart. It is always a bit disconcerting to go there, because of the damage that was done. Sometimes denial, and living day to day without details of what’s happening under the skin, is easier. But in the past half year or so I have had episodes of unbearable fatigue, so I asked for the test, just to make sure it’s not that.

I recognize that part of the fatigue is the medications I’m on because they suppress my ‘fight or flight’ instinct and give me low blood pressure and heart rate. (Lowest I’ve gone is 89 over 58, with a heart rate of low 40’s, for those of you who like medical details.) The body adjusts to these things, and with time it’s only the ‘new unusual’ that causes concern.

People ask me why I never tell that story, why I don’t do a public talk about it, when I do conferences or public speaking. Mostly, other than taking my pills to keep my heart going, I forget that I am a heart patient. Well, and paying the bill for the pills. That’s always a not-so-subtle reminder. And when I think about going on roller coasters, in hot tubs, horror houses and stuff like that, I know I will never be allowed to be part of that with my children, and haven’t been allowed since a month after my oldest daughter turned 12.

So how did it happen? How did it all begin?

***

It was an ordinary fall morning, or so I thought when I got out of bed, that memorable day, November 21, 2006, when my life would change forever. Normal, as I knew it, would never be the same again, and adjusting to my new normal would be a long journey with many crossroads. At every crossroad I would have to choose between life and death, hope and despair.

I awakened that morning to an unusually cold house. We had already adjusted the thermometer to prepare for winter-like weather so that the furnace would kick in and get rid of some of the early morning chill before our feet hit the floor. This morning it was bitterly cold, no heat to soften the bite.

Tim checked the furnace and discovered it wasn’t working so he made a few phone calls and arranged for a service man to come mid-morning. If I stayed home in the morning and did some cleaning and tidying before the service man arrived, I could still be at work in time to teach math class – that was very important to me.

I was working under a 7-week contract at the Open Door Program, an adult education facility, as a teacher’s assistant in the morning and teaching grade 10 math in the afternoon. Finishing my studies in Biology and Chemistry on November 4, had earned me my high school diploma at age 36. Immediately after the principal approached me to see if I would ‘teach’ grade 10 math.

When she called, my initial response was to laugh. “I’m sorry, I didn’t even do Grade 10 math,” I said, “so I don’t think I can teach it,”

Growing up in a culture where children were not encouraged to finish school because of the ‘worldly influences’, finishing high school was virtually unheard of, especially in women. I had gone farther than many by finishing grade nine but when I left home later that year I had to make a living. By finishing my high school in an Adult Education program I received math credits for mutual funds and life insurance licensing, as well as the years of bookkeeping experience. But I had no confidence in academic math.

“But you did amazingly well in Chemistry and Biology, I’m sure you’d be fine. You’re a natural – I’ve watched you.”

I laughed, but, with a bit of coaxing from the principal, I decided it was too great an opportunity to pass off. I opted for my philosophy regarding adventure and told the principal “I’ll try anything once (as long as it is safe and legal). But,” I added, “if I discover I’m in over my head, I’ll let you know.”

“That’s fair,” she agreed, and proceeded to instruct me to get a police check, an official resume` and a school board application as a teacher’s assistant. She explained that for me to ‘teach’ the students, they would be pulled from the regular Adult Education system into a self-study program with me as their ‘guide’ or ‘tutor’.

With a lot of prayer and hard work, I managed to learn the lessons one day and teach them the next, literally staying only one step ahead of the class. I bonded well with the students and together we got through the lessons. We worked hard, knowing that at approximately two and a half weeks into the program the students would be tested. I looked forward to getting that test done to make sure we were on the right track. Though I was quite certain I was teaching the math right, there was the lingering ‘what if’.

We were nearing test time and that was why I didn’t want to miss school the day our furnace died. Some of the students had a hard time with math and I wanted to prepare them to the best of my ability, and ensure a passing grade.

I picked up toys and began to vacuum as I waited for the service man. Our family room is a nice size but it was no gymnasium – nothing I should have had difficulty cleaning. However, I had not completed vacuuming half of the room when I stopped and subconsciously rubbed a spot in the centre of my chest. I took a deep breath and kept working. By the third ‘pause’ I realized what was happening and a sense of restlessness overcame me.

To be continued…

© Trudy Metzger

Return to first post in Sexual Abuse Series

First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series