Dec 16, 2013

My Struggles With Priesthood Leaders and Mormon People Part II

So, some things. Those articles are people speculating on my life & what happened, and used a lot of statements from the police department, who had Paul's statement as their primary source. Also from others, probably, but I don't want to speculate on that. Two things that were very hard about it was 1) it was a lie that I didn't support Paul's lifestyle. I probably wouldn't have supported it if I'd actually known about it, but I didn't know about it. He didn't give me a chance to support or not support him. He just tried to kill me. His statement that he wanted to kill me because I wouldn't let him look at porn, or because he wanted a divorce and I wouldn't let him, were *lies.* But I didn't talk to anyone about that because it was none of their freaking business. But it felt awful to have so many people say things about how I must be frigid, or unnattractive, or a prude, when really the battle I was facing at the time was a husband who hid everything from me, and didn't tell me why he was acting crazy & like he hated me.

The second thing is that people believe what they read in newspapers.

The sad thing is, I would have been OK with depression, porn addiction (not OK, but supportive and wanting to make sure he knew I loved him and was glad he was *finally* sharing with me.) I wasn't what people were making me out to be, and Paul wasn't either. People sympathised with him.

Including my bishop.

Paul and I had started counseling with a bishop about a month before. Paul was upset, uncooperative, and just disgusted and angry. He was mad because when I finally went to the bishop, the bishop accidentally let slip that he'd been counseling extensively with Paul, and that Paul had been seeing a counselor at school as well, and was taking depression medication. Thigns I didn't know. I was upset and confused as to why he wouldn't tell me about those things, of course. When I asked him, after speaking with the bishop, his reaction was violent anger that the bishop would tell me, that it wasn't my business, and that he didn't trust the bishop now and refused to see him with me.

We got a new bishop shortly after. I'm not sure what the previous bishop had told him about what was going on between us, but the first time he saw us it was in our home, and Paul just sat there, angry, quiet, refusing to speak or answer any question. I got frustrated. I remember gesticulating (probably wildly) and exclaiming "See! I don't know what to do! This is the way it is right now!"

And immediately the bishop turned to me and said (in a very stern/angry tone) "you will not talk that way in these sessions."

So I shut up.

And Paul left a week later.

And a piece of me (the angry piece, who was feeling so betrayed by the fact that my husband had kept things from me, didn't trust me, and that the bishop he was counseling with for months hadn't seen fit to include me, and the new bishop obviously thought *I* was what was wrong with our marriage) felt a bit vindicated. In the middle of all the shock and not knowing what to do.

When Paul came back and confessed, the bishop spent a lot of time with him. He had people in the ward sit with him around the clock because he was worried about what Paul might do to himself. And to keep him from "temptation" looking at porn. I was staying in the bishop's basement at the time. It was a little wierd, yeah. But at that point I was kind of operating on a combination of shock and autopilot and I knew I *couldn't* stay with Paul at our apartment... I felt instinctively that it wasn't the right option, that I needed to stay away.

Problem was, it was an awkward situation. I was staying in the basement of my bishop's house, and his wife and kids were there all the time (age 11 on down, kind of like my family right now) and I was completely out of my mind. Not like, doing bad stuff. LIke, scary-blank. Frozen, and stressed out. Trying to manage even small things like getting my baby to eat, exhausted me. I couldn't handle anything. My post the other day about poor judgment? Yeah, I had poor judgment. And it probably wasn't fun to be around. I think I ate about 20 pumpkin cookies one day, that my wonderful bishop's wife had made. OK, she said it was OK to have some, but she didn't mean eat 20. It was like... I was a heat-seeking missile for comfort, or something. I remember trying to make a sandwich, struggling to cut a slice off a tomato with a butterknife, and the bishop watching me for a second, then getting a serated knife out of the drawer and handing it to me silently.

The thing is, the bishop talked to me on occasion. I probably also wasn't fun to talk to. Is someone in a half-catatonic state fun or productive to talk to? You can ask my current bishop, my Ida-Dad that question, and he'd have some pretty honest answers probably.

But I needed so much more. I was frightened, and numb, and I didn't know what to do. My milk dried up and Loli was refusing to eat solids. She went on formula and was struggling with constipation. She was losing weight. I was walking around work and school like a zombie. I was not acting normal. I was getting the grades, and doing the work, but I was probably really weird to people. And it didn't help that my face was in newspapers and I'd hear whispers behind me in class about "is she that girl?" Finally one person came and sat next to me and said, basically, "I'm sorry what you're going through. That sucks." She and I became kind of buds in that class. Because she talked to me, not about me. But most people talked about me.

Bishop didn't know what to do with me, I think. And he was soooo stressed out, trying to figure out how to help Paul. It didn't help that *he* was also being hounded by press, quoted in newspapers, and also being contacted by Church Headquarters about what he should or shouldn't be doing, should or should not be saying... it was a giant, complicated mess. I couldn't talk much out of respect for Paul and the disciplinary process he was going through in church. I don't know how many people are aware of this but those disciplinary things are kept extremely confidential. Nobody's supposed to talk about it, even if *they're* the one going though it. In Mormon culture it's considered sacred. I know leaders fast before. And I know that Jeff has been in them as ward clerk, but he has never told me even when one was happening... I just kinda knew because of when he was gone.

Anyway. I remember clinging to bishop like a lifeline a bit. I wasn't talking to my parents yet. I couldn't. I knew what their reaction would be and I needed some spiritual grounding first. But bishop didn't seem all that willing to talk to me. Probably it was combination of stress, me being in his home, and him struggling for whatever reason in dealing with Paul. I have a feeling Paul lied a lot to him, even in the aftermath of confession. He lied about some things right off the bat, with the police, he probably lied more. And he's a convincing lier, not in the least because he's actually, part of him, a really good person. I wouldn't call him evil, I'd call him mentally ill.

Bishop would avoid me, go places and read instead of talking to me for 15 or so minutes when he got home. And I would sit in the living room and rock my baby, trying to nurse under a blanket but getting nowhere except extremely stressed out.

The stake president eventually told him I should not be staying with them. That I needed to go back to the apartment with Paul. I said I didn't feel safe. The stake president's response was that I needed to go to a Women's shelter if I didn't feel safe.

That made me feel very, very, very alone. Is that where I was? I had no friends, nobody I could count on, and so in the midst of my crisis, the place I belonged, with my baby, was a women's shelter. A crisis center for women and children with no support.

It was just after that when Paul confessed to the worse stuff--trying to kill me--and the police came and picked him up, so the problem was solved anyway. I moved back into our apartment. I talked to the bishop weekly. He'd say, "how are things going." I'd say "fine." I can't even really remember how those conversations went, I just remember not feeling like I could really tell him how I was feeling, which was scared and completely stressed out. He praised me for being so strong.

Ward members who I didn't know too well before all this happened rallied around me and helped. They were nice, but I didn't know what they were thinking. One ward member I became closer to, and had some close talks with. And then, one day when I was talking to her about how worried I was about Loli--how she wasn't eating, and was making herself throw up what she did eat--she (this really nice, really Christlike person) gave me a look and said "I wonder where she learned that."

Yeah, I have never in my life had an eating disorder. But I was getting skinny. I was stressed. And I learned, in that moment (and in other moments, but I don't need to run off a list of grievances) that even the nicest people in the world, when bombarded with a message about a person, will start to believe that message. Sometimes people have to believe a certain message because believing the truth is too threatening. If I didn't do something to cause this, then couldn't it happen to anyone? Couldn't it happen to them?

Well, yeah. It could. It happened to me.

I think this has to be a 3-part post.

Parts 1-5 of this post:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5


the Paris Busy Bee said...

Sarah! Thank you for writing this three part series that I have just devoured today. I have clear memories of our times together in that BYU married student ward. One of cleaning the kitchen, one of you teaching RS, another of me seeing you in the hall at church and seeing that special maternal glow around you long before you had announced you were expecting a baby. You were a sweet girl albeit very quiet and I liked you. Later, when I was RS president Bishop Hall asked me to reach out to you and I tried. I truly did, but I'm not sure you I reached you. Not because of you but because of me. I just didn't know how to reach out to you. Not long after, the news broke. I was no longer in the ward, but it broke my heart. I wanted to try to reach out you again, but for fear of seeming nosy or voyeuristic, I didn't. I wish I had, even just a note to let you know I cared. (For the record, I never believed those other things the media said - probably because I didn't read a lot of it. I always believed the story just like you have presented it today.) I thought about you often as the years went by and hoped all would work out okay for you. I'm grateful we've reconnected through FB as I have been strengthened by your strength. You are doing good. You have gone against so much opposition and your strength simply amazes me. Thank you for sharing your story with us and I do hope to read the next part someday soon. Much love, Maria

Sherrill said...

Wow Sarah, this perspective is amazing. I really hope that the girl that said that about Lolli's eating was hard to read and didn't realize other ways her comment could be taken. I always remember being so amazed at your strength and perseverance. Once when Lolli was sick and you had the strength to completely shampoo your car and her seat. Another time when someone was outside my house taking pictures, and you boldly went up and inquired as to why. I'm so sorry that I couldn't think of ways to help otherwise, or to see that your strength on the outside didn't mean you didn't feel broken on the inside! You amazed me then, and still amaze me! Love always, Sherrill

(I've loved reading both of your books you've published by the way)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing some sensitive things in your life. As I (as a male LDS who has worked 2 years in an LDS-sponsored addiction group) read this, I wonder, "What can I do when I deal with people under stresses, to understand them, to support them, when their trauma is beyond anything I can imagine?" Reading the article helps me a bit to get there. Thanks.