Posts filed under the rebel diaries

rebel diaries :: the day i died.

When I first launched The Rebel Diaries, Caleigh was one of the first people to contact me. As we emailed back and forth, her story came out and her courage and bravery increased drastically. We went from publishing her story anonymously to her asking me to leave her name because she'd done hiding. I couldn't be more proud.

Today, she shares with you her story. 

((TRIGGER WARNING :: references to physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual abuse))

{Image by Dani Kelley}

It was normal, or so I thought, for dads to get so angry that they constantly broke something around the house because of throwing it, slamming it down, or banging it against a wall.
It was normal, or so I thought, to hear one’s parents yelling and screaming at each other well into the night, during church at your house, dad punching holes in the walls so he didn’t punch your mom instead.
It was normal, or so I thought, for dads to throw their children around, grab them tightly by their necks, and yell into their faces about how stupid, disobedient, disrespectful, and idiotic they are. It was normal, or so I thought, for dads, when they got angry, to look absolutely possessed, and intensely scary.
It was normal, or so I thought, for dads to be yelling at their kids and demanding forgiveness on the way to church, and suddenly act like everything was okay as soon as we walked in the door.

I always knew something wasn’t right with my family, and would often spend hours curled up in the darkest, tightest corner of my room sobbing as I listened to my dad yell and scream at my mom. I often thought their fights were my fault. It’s hard to explain to a ten year old that mommy and daddy’s fights aren’t your fault, or anyone else’s but daddy’s fault. It’s hard to explain to other people about the many times my siblings and I went without dinner because someone, and sometimes it was dad, had misplaced a tool, or the tape, or a small screw that had been sitting on the counter. I usually escaped the “no-dinner-tonight” scenes, but not always. Being the oldest often exempted me from the corporal punishment my dad liked to inflict, but being the oldest also gave me the difficult responsibility of protecting my siblings from my dad’s vicious anger. I knew my dad had major anger problems, and I knew he often took it out on my two oldest brothers. I knew that one of my sisters often drew that anger upon herself, and she got thrown around, too. I knew my parents’ marriage was falling apart, and I knew my dad was very, very good at hiding his anger in public and pretending that everything was okay. Although I knew all of this, nothing prepared me for that dark day in October, some 7-8 years ago, when my mom called me into her room to explain something.

“Your dad’s been addicted to pornography for over 20 years.”

I grew up naive about the ills of the internet, sex abuse, or any sort of abuse. I never would have categorized my home life as an abusive environment, simply because I didn’t know that that was what it was. I grew up knowing nothing about pornography, I never associated it with myself, my family, or what was going on with my family. I had always seen that as something far away, something that wasn’t really touchable for me. I was naive, and maybe, I would venture to say, harmfully so.

Let me quickly state that when I say “addiction,” I mean that in the truest sense of the word. I don’t mean that my dad would every once in awhile look at porn, it was an all the time, consuming need for it, and when he didn’t look at it for awhile, that’s when the anger was the worst. I had no idea of the psychological or neurological effects of a porn addiction, nor did I know or understand how that addiction changes the way you view and relate to people; women, in particular. I didn’t know that my dad had been addicted long before my parents got married and my mom had a very harsh awakening on their honeymoon. I had no idea that several of my siblings would catch my dad looking at porn multiple times, or that he would blatantly delete the internet history because my mom checked it.

I was 15, and no 15 year old should find out that her dad was addicted to porn and had no intention of changing, repenting, or apologizing for the anger, abuse, and rejection he made his family suffer. It took awhile for the words to sink in. I couldn’t look my dad in the eyes for about six months, nor could I talk with him. It was like a dam broke in my mind. Suddenly, everything that I always wondered about made sense. It all suddenly made sense why my dad was so angry all the time, it made sense why I had caught him several times on the computer with this guilty look, it made sense why he had been touching himself when I walked in on him when I was ten. It made sense why I had caught my dad’s eyes wandering or why he was overly friendly with several women over the years. I just didn’t expect that my dad would be addicted to porn, or that my family would ever have to deal with that kind of crap.

We were the “good” family, you know?

Mom told me that his addiction was the cause of a lot of their fights, his anger, and why we had left so many different churches while we were growing up. Mom told me that my dad’s addiction was the reason we no longer spoke to friends we had known for many, many years. Mom told me that anytime someone tried to approach my dad about his treatment of his wife and children, or even his anger issues, my dad would immediately call it quits and we would never see that person again. Mom told me that she had almost left my dad many times because he had no problem with how he treated her or my siblings, and didn’t see what or why he had to change. I found out later just how intense the effects are of being completely sucked into pornography for that long, and for the type of porn he looked at. It wasn’t until just about three years ago that I understood how the mindset of the father having absolute authority in the home had ruined my family because my dad did not see any other man or woman having higher authority than him when it came to his wife and children.

I staggered around for the rest of that afternoon trying to process what mom had told me. I felt like my mind was in a fog. I had no problems lining up what I already knew and felt about my family with what she told me. It was simply the fact of allowing myself to accept that what she told me, and what I knew, was true. Later that same day, I came upon more than half of my siblings gathered around the computer laughing and giggling looking at porn themselves. I dissolved into tears of utter disbelief and just about broke the computer in an effort to hide what they were looking at. I couldn’t believe that my siblings, including my four year old brother, were looking at pornography and it was obvious that this wasn’t the first time either. I began wondering that day just how much I had missed of what was going on in my family despite what I could already define. I wondered how much I had closed my eyes too because my mind wouldn’t let my heart accept what I had seen.

Those were the days when my life truly began to shatter and I realized that my family was incredibly messed up. I felt completely broken, lifeless. I felt like my heart had been shattered and it no long beat within my body. I felt betrayed and my trust was smashed as I realized that my dad was not who I thought he was. I felt sick to my stomach trying to understand what I had just been told about my family. My heart died when I realized that my siblings were getting pulled into the addiction as well. I almost lost my will to live that day. I felt like the entire illusion of what I thought my family was had been washed away and I had no idea what it meant to be the oldest in my family. I had no idea what “my family” meant anymore. The facade my dad was so good at keeping up in front of himself and my family suddenly meant nothing. I accepted that my siblings and I were simply surviving, not living, not even really breathing, just surviving. I looked at my dad and wondered how much of what he had “taught” me and my family for years was really true. I wondered how much of what I knew about him was the truth and what was just the fake front he kept up. My life was completely unreal to me that day, and I had no idea what was up or what was down. Nothing made sense, and everything I had ever known was untrustworthy or was fake.

Finding out about my dad and catching my siblings in the same day was almost too much for my sensitive innocent heart. I think I did die that day; at least a big part of me did.

Finding out that my dad was a hypocritical, manipulative, angry man who really didn’t want anything more from his family than that they keep his good name and image intact was devastating.

That was the day that I began asking if I really mattered, did my dad really love me? Did he really care for and want to protect his family?

My dad’s anger, physical abuse of some of the kids, and his lack of emotional interaction all made sense now. What I then couldn’t understand was why my mom didn’t leave my dad. I couldn’t understand why she let him continue to abuse her and my family. I still don’t understand why she can’t see that my siblings are acting out BECAUSE of my dad, not because they are just rebellious. I don’t understand why my dad can’t see that my sister starting cutting herself because of the pain he has put her through. I understand that my mom has been under my dad’s poisonous influence for almost 30 years, and I can understand that it is terrifying to think of leaving the man who has all control over the family’s money, house, vehicles. I also understand that my dad sees my mom as a “slave,” someone who does he says without questioning, challenging, or talking back. My dad’s definition of submission is his wife agreeing with and doing everything he says or tells her to do.

It has been seven years since I found out that my dad was addicted, and in those seven years, things have only gotten worse.

I have never written about my dad’s porn issues, nor have I ever written about the day I caught my siblings. I have never had the words to describe the wretched heartache I faced that day. Finding out later that my brothers were just as ravenous for porn as my dad was/is, added more to the heartache. I have always felt responsible for my siblings, and I have always carried this very protective gene in me as I have watched them be abused, and thrown around the room simply because they didn’t respond quick enough to an angry man.

Anger, abuse, manipulation, pornography, controlling: all of these things are very sensitive issues for me. I have called out against my dad’s abuse and have been told in response that I’m being bitter and I haven’t forgiven him. I have kept the pain inside me as I have whispered that I’m not bitter, my heart is just gasping for air. I have shouted out in the anger that my pain has fed towards the man who has destroyed my family and more than half of my eight siblings.

I wonder if there is any physical or sexual abuse in my past that I can’t remember.
I wonder what the five-ten year memory gaps are hiding. I can’t remember if my dad has ever touched me.
I wonder why it is that older men severely scare me, or why it is that any man who looks like my dad at all freaks me out.
I wonder why it is that men’s hands that look and move like my dad’s freak me out so much I have a mini panic attack.

I have no respect for the man who is my dad. I lost all respect for him when he got kicked out of the military because he was still viewing porn on their computers at work. He had been warned at least three times in the 19 years and six months he spent in the military. He cried when they kicked him out, but those were not tears of repentance, they were tears of his humiliation. He tried a new tactic with my mom after he got kicked out and she started saying she was going to leave him again. He tried to being very kind and sweet to her; something he never really had done before. It worked until mom did something he didn’t approve of, and that would send him into spirals of anger, lashing out at the kids and mom, and pouting like a little boy who’s candy had been taken from him. He is on church discipline at my old church, but little good does that do. He still fights with mom, blames the church for his problems, blames me for other problems, and manipulates people into believing that he is the victim here. I don’t remember my dad always being like this, but I don’t know when things really started changing for the worse. I pity him, I have no tolerance for him, and I will never let my future children spend time with him.

I am grateful that my husband looks nothing like or is anything like my dad. He is safe for me, and he is a comfort.

God certainly knew what he was doing when he brought my husband into my life.

It was, in some ways, because of this dear one that I was able to start deconstructing and dealing with my past. It has been through watching and interacting with my loving husband’s amazing family that has taught me what a loving family really looks like. I don’t think I can feel anything yet when I look back and remember that day. I am still emotionally detached. It is a protecting mechanism. I don’t want to feel that devastating my-life-is-not-what-I-thought-it-was feeling all over again, I don’t know if I can handle it.  I am still working through memories and trying to uncover the memories that I cannot remember. I am finding strength in being bold and admitting my past, but it still hurts, it still is draining trying to face the pain.

I have always struggled with believing that God was a personal God who loved me and wanted me as a precious child. I have found myself working through my perception of God being that as a manipulative, hypocritical father who takes great delight in dangling things in front of me and then ripping them away. It is true that your view of God is affected by your own dad. I have a hard time remembering, vividly, the times my dad has physically abused my siblings, and wonder why God never did anything. It’s very difficult to look at the harsh reality of my broken family and wonder why no one saw the pain my dad has caused and is still causing.

Changing my view of God has taken a long time, and it has only been in the past year that I can finally see Jesus as someone who holds me close, will never leave my side, and who loves me no matter how messed up my past is. I am clinging to the fact that Jesus holds me close even if nothing else makes sense.

This post was part of The Rebel Diaries series. There's something sacred that happens when someone shares a personal story, so please keep this in mind when leaving a comment. 


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Posted on March 18, 2013 and filed under the rebel diaries.

Spiritual Abuse Awareness week + The Rebel Diaries

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light - Brene Brown

It was a friend who whispered in my ear the idea of The Rebel Diaries.

I was talking with her about the emails and response I received from sharing a piece of my story when I said, "hearing these stories makes me even more upset - it shouldn't be this way. And it's not an anger at the shared connection - it's that there are so many of us hurting.

A few days later, I was accused of linking complementarian ideology with rape. I engaged in discussion, quietly interrupting his assumption with as much dignity as I could muster (because really? that's a heavy weight to place on someone). 

"I don't want to hear why you're right." I said.  "I want to know your story. It's my belief that story will be the avenue in which the Church is healed - not infighting." 

There's something holy in opening up our mouths and inviting others to listen to pieces of who we are and where we've been, what we've experienced. It's a duality. 

I am worthy of sharing this with you. 

You are worthy of listening to what hurts me.

You are worthy of my time. 

I am worthy of sharing this moment with you. 

And suddenly, without anyone even trying, commonality appears. Ideology and beliefs aside, our humanity is restored. 

So when my friend approached me about opening up this space for stories during next week's Spiritual Abuse Awareness week, I jumped at the chance. This isn't about proving who's right. This isn't about grabbing people by the chin and forcing our hand. 

It's an invitation to the table.

Church - we're missing it. On so many levels, we're forgetting there are souls here, not just emotions and intellect. Hear me: churches should not be a place in which people are afraid of showing up and receiving hate. We're buying into the belief that we can determine where God is and where He isn't and thumbing our noses at those who seem amiss. It's wrong. And it's time to listen. All of us. 

If you want to submit a story, I would love to have you. 

What is your story? Share your experience — showing the details without going into specifics about places or people involved. What made the environment spiritually abusive? Was it language, unspoken social codes, beliefs, assumptions, expectations? How did these factors enable the abuse? How did you eventually leave, and why?

Send me an email and let me know whether or not you want your name attached. Next week, this space will be dedicated to you and it will be a safe space to spill your words. Join us?


want more? maybe even my words in your inbox? sign up for fresh content here. i would love to continue the conversation and i won't ever spam you. promise. you can also find me on Facebook or follow me on twitter. let's meet.

Posted on March 14, 2013 and filed under the rebel diaries.

heartbreak to healing

Usually, The Rebel Diaries will be anonymous. I've had so many of you share with me your story this past week, and it's been amazing and healing and helped me see so much potential within the Church. Pamela decided to step out and share a post originally from her blog, LaLa Browntown. Knowing this wouldn't be the last of the "messy stories" she would share, she mentioned I could attach her name to the post. 

I won’t spare details.  This story is not meant to be pretty.  The experience is not pretty.  Yet, 10-20% of the women you know, are intimately familiar with this story.

On the way to the hospital all I could think of was how pissed I was going to be if they made me take out all my piercings.  That, and if my sister was going to be able to remember how to get back to my house.
It’s all I could concentrate on.  It was the maximum amount of awareness I could have in that moment.  I was too full of numb to be anything else. The tiny bit of brain I could manage to access was separate from everything else it was supposed to be attached to.  There was no body, no heart, no limbs connected to the remains of my head.

I had been carrying a dead baby for three weeks.  I was going to have that “taken care of”.

I would wait for three hours with my sister in tow.  I would begrudgingly take out all of my piercings.  I laid down on the table, shivering and shaking beneath the harsh gown, as the nurse strapped my arms down in a T.  The Velcro was terrifying as it ripped from the connecting point, snaking along my wrist and reattaching to it’s home.  I was so thankful when they finally asked me to count backward with the mask covering my mouth and my vision began to blur.We had been to the first-time parent’s meeting.  We had gotten all our homework on what to eat and not eat.  We told family.  We told friends.  We bought pretty tops for real women to cover my first trimester.

This time was supposed to be different.

The summer before I had taken a pregnancy test.  It was positive. The next morning the cramping and bleeding started.  I went into the ER, uninsured, because we thought I was hemorrhaging.  I thought I was dying.  It was just our baby that had died.

This time, there was no blood.  Just a happy stick with pee and two weeks of nerves and tiptoes and cautious telling to a few.  When we survived those first few weeks, we thought we were in the clear, so friends were made privy to our excitement.  I touched my belly with less fear.  I waited anxiously for the smells, the gags, and all the other things pregnant women tell you they suffer through.  I couldn’t wait to throw up on the side of the road, to feel the painful pull of ligaments, the heavy ache of growing breasts.  Maybe I would have it easier than some?

We went to the doctor for our 12 week appointment.  This is when we would finally hear the heartbeat of our little one.  Today we would breathe.  Today we would be sure.

Today we could rest because he or she would have made it through the worst.  But it didn’t.

The doctor said that our baby had stopped growing at 9 weeks.
I didn’t understand.
And then I did.

“Now what?” I asked.

I could wait for it to happen naturally, a process I was hauntingly familiar with.  Or, I could have surgery.
“Get it out.”

My voice shook with anger and disgust.  I had been carrying a dead baby with me for three weeks.  It didn’t have the decency to leave.  My body was too stupid to know to get rid of it.  I was angry with my body for not knowing better.  I felt lied to.  “Get it out now.  I don’t want it in there anymore.  Get it out!”

For three days I sat in my state.  My heart was encompassed by my angry numbness like some monster devouring its prey.  It was quick but painful and I felt every tug of being shredded to pieces.  Each fiber of what was left of my already brittle heart was torn, pulled through my gut out too small of holes.

The days after surgery were no less painful than the first time.  No trip to the ER this time.  I knew what I was doing.  I was practiced in the blood and cramps and clots and filth and disgust.  I learned to have my husband run to the pharmacy in the middle of the night in hopes to shame him a little less than during daylight as he grabbed the largest, most absorbent, maxi pads that the store carried.  When the blood and clots had to leave my body, there was no polite or pretty or sanitary way to let that happen.  There were large passes of time where I would sit on my toilet just so I didn’t have to bother with pretending it was less messy than it really was.

Women are supposed to make babies.  That’s one our biggest jobs and privilege.  No matter where you are on the feminist spectrum, our bodies were made to make babies.  Even if I wasn’t ready at the time, I wanted to make babies.  I wanted to be good at making tiny people.

I couldn’t do the one thing I, as a woman, are supposed to be able to do.  I was a failure.

My body had very little worth to me going into this part of my life. And now it was actually broken.  I didn’t work right.   I pushed people away as hard as I could.  I made inappropriate remarks, refused to hang out with friends with kids, and made dead baby jokes about myself when meeting new people.

My kids would be in elementary school by now.  

I am thankful for the things in my life that could not have happened if I had kids when I was first pregnant.  I am glad God gave me a friend that survived the dead baby joke.  I even have a miracle baby.  He turned two this fall.   But all those things are different stories.

This story is one to start many.  

One where I give myself permission to be sad that I don’t pack school lunches.  One where I start shaking for fear of trying again and losing again.  One where I tell my husband he is allowed to be just as sad.  One to knock down every single understanding that this is something we “just don’t talk about”.

Miscarriage does not make someone a broken woman, but it breaks the hearts of many.  And we are all out there wandering alone!  That has to stop.  I will not be afraid to tell you my story.  I will not be afraid to show you my scars of heartache, tell you of the gut wrenching terror that I won’t be able to make another baby, or let you see my tears when I see anyone experience the loss of a child they never met.

I give you permission to feel broken but I will do my best to not leave you there.

Sister, I will walk with you out of this well-charted territory of awful secrecy.  We will break the bonds formed by aching bodies stretched thin to cover their shame and fear.  We will let each other be brutally angry or quietly undone no matter how many minutes or days or years have passed, our hearts in a constant state of repair.  We will stand alongside those with barely parted lips and salty cheeks while whispers turn to mutters and words begin to form.

And we will celebrate our healing with such fierce joy and promise and hope like no one else can.  

Because, my loves, there is healing to be found.

That’s what all women are made to do.

Do you have a story you want to share? Let me know. I'd love to host you. 

Posted on March 6, 2013 and filed under the rebel diaries.

an invitation to the table.


Unless we are brave enough to become vulnerable, we commit others to the same fate. The self-preservation that once helped us cope, now only breeds death. Once, your voice was stolen. But now you are silencing voices--sealing others in a similar tomb. We are broken people. We are hurtful and hurting. We are messy and beautiful. A paradox existing in one skin.

Sarah Drinka

Terry Tempest Williams tells me that for a woman to find her voice she must commit a betrayal. It makes sense, right? When I read the words, my chest tightened and my throat constricted. When I shared them with the women in my eCourse, there was a collective gasp.

It's an idea we recognize immediately to be true because for so long our stories have rendered us silent. 

And while there are plenty of people who I feel I must betray in order to share my story completely, the person standing in the way right now is me. This is why I curled up under my covers and was on the brink of tears for close to three days after publishing how I struggle with sex in marriage. For those of you who commented or sent me emails and texts about my bravery - know I was always this close to unpublishing that sucker whenever another person shared it. I didn't publish that post out of bravery, but necessity.

Hear me, ladies: we've been silent too long. 

I remember sitting in a coffee shop this past summer with my best friend. We were wrestling through the most recent controversy and googling words like complementarian and egalitarian. The whole time, I kept thinking that we were missing the boat. All of this fighting, all of this pointing fingers and blaming the church, it wasn't going to do anything.

The real issue - the one haunting me and keeping me awake at night - were the stories.

I couldn't get away from them and I couldn't understand why no one was talking about it. Stories of women asked to publicly forgive their rapists, stories of emotional abuse, stories of my sisters dealing with what it means to have someone else's hand covering your mouth. The more I looked around, the more I realized we were a movement of walking wounded, invisible to those around us because we spend our lives invisible to the darkest parts of our story. We walk around half alive, attempting to avoid attention because attention is what got us hurt in the first place.

And I'm done.

A few weeks ago, a friend tweeted about the French troops liberating Timbuktu. She said women were leaving their houses and ripping off their head coverings. I read articles where twelve year old girls started dancing in the streets and dug through their closets to find their earrings.

This is what I want for us, church. I want women to feel as if they can rip off that which binds them, even if it's a story sucking the air out of their lungs. 

So for you who know - I told you before that your story belongs at the table. This is your invitation. Sister, if you've been hurt - if you've been silenced - if you've been begging for a chance to share the story that runs electric through your veins - I want to hear it. Write it out and send it to me. Or we can skype and cry together. If you're local, let's meet for coffee.

Every week, I'll share a different story here, written out as best as it can be told. All will be anonymous to protect those who share. Some will be bare bones and others combined in a form of fiction if necessary. My prayer is that for every post published, someone else will find freedom.

Freedom to share. Freedom to believe. Freedom to heal.

It's time to rebel against the silence - will you join me?

*image source

Posted on February 24, 2013 and filed under the rebel diaries, this-here blog.

the girl I never was.

I received the following from a reader after my post a week and a half ago. I thought it a perfect set-up for the project I'm launching on Monday, and after speaking with her, my friend said she would love for you to read her words. I'm learning there's power in sharing our story, something I've always believed but never have had the ability to witness. What I'm seeing now - these women from all walks of life standing up and saying yes! me too! - is nothing short of beautiful. I hope you join us. .

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow - this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” - Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s a marvelous thing to be accepted.  To be seen.  I was the girl unseen growing up.  Or rather I believe I should say the girl seen as a virus, a plague, the anathema.

I struggle to share all this with you, even from behind a thick veil of anonymity, because of shame and the desperate need to be liked and accepted.  I have this fear that to say these things, things I’ve never told my best friend, let alone my husband, that the pain I experienced as a child will once again be a part of my daily life.  That as a nearly 40 year old the rejection from my youth will once again revisit me and become my identity once again.

I've built this wall of protection around my life and around my heart.  Very few get close.  I feel safe back here behind these 10 foot thick walls.  If I can keep those that might hurt me at a distance, well....then.......let it be so.

You see, I sucked my thumb until I was ten, and only then stopped because of a oral device that was installed to force me to stop because nothing else (band aids, hot sauce, etc.) worked.  I'm not speaking of the occasional, in the dark of night, under covers, falling asleep thumb sucking.  I mean every day, during the day.  It was a comfort and at the same time the noose that hung me and left me for dead.

And whether this had been my death sentence every day until I was ten or not, I imagine I would have still been the child left out.  The child picked on, bullied, trapped in the girl's bathroom.  When I watched this video my first reaction was this could fucking be my story, this could be telling my fucking life.  Because I FUCKING lived that life!!!!!  The pain, the tears, the ostracizing.

While I've aged, and risen above the rejection and the pain (to most extent)  the affect of this rejection never leaves.  Like I said, I've built walls and have a desperate need to be accepted.  30 years later it still dictates my every day.  Who I trust with the secrets deepest in my heart, who I believe loves me, and who I'm fearful is putting on a charade of being my friend.  I've moved on, but that sure as hell doesn't mean that scars don't remain.

I've become proud of who I am.  The girl no longer the victim.  The woman who has risen from ashes that burn skin.  The woman who if she were to face those whose words were more painful than a shot in the face with a 10-guage shot gun, would say, "Look at me now.  Look who I've become.  I've risen from the shit you laid on me."  And yes, while I still struggle with those feelings of inadequacy I'm free to say "I'm not that girl, and I never was. I am loved."

image source


Posted on February 22, 2013 and filed under the rebel diaries.