I wasn't going to write about this on my blog. But I can't get it out of my mind, and I feel like I need to process it to death. I'm still grieving and feeling traumatized by it.
I asked my bishop for financial help this week. Because I need a counselor. And we can't afford that right now.
I don't like asking people for help. Last year when I wanted to do this intense therapy program for my back, I had to ask my parents for help. And it wasn't easy to ask them. Not easy at all. We are still in debt to them, but we are paying it off.
I don't like being dependent on people. That's why I don't like asking for help. Heck, it's taken me a while to feel comfortable and confident in asking God for help with this addiction trauma stuff. Because I want to be independent and rely on me all the time. Yes, that's pride. I know it and am working through it.
So, knowing that little bit about me, you can see why it might be hard to ask the leader of my local congregation for some help. I was so scared. So afraid. I even told Ben that, and he said, "He is great. It will be fine." So I said a little prayer for comfort, picked up my phone, and called him.
I don't really know how I could have avoided that traumatic situation. I guess my husband could just not be a sex-addict so I wouldn't have to make phone calls like this.
The bishop was well-meaning, I'm sure. But when his initial response was, "Well, we definitely can't help you long-term with that. But we can talk about short term I guess", (I guess?) or when he led with questions like, "Why do you all the sudden need a counselor?" (ahem: a question you should never lead with when you know the woman you are talking to is the wife of a sex addict and just came back from being separated from her husband for two months. Why would I not need a counselor?) and cut me off while I talked about how Betrayal Trauma is like PTSD, I started feeling really small. Then when he asked if I had asked for help from my parents (I'll answer that question, but is it really your business?), we had to get into all my medical issues too (and is that really your business? You don't want to help out financially anyway). And then he wanted to talk about Ben and how he is doing (excuse me? I did not call you to talk about him. I called to talk about me.). So now he knows more about me. I just opened up about problems I discuss only with those closest to me to this man I barely know. Because I need financial help.
I even told him I was kind of suicidal a few months ago and that I had to reach out to a friend who is a counselor in Arkansas to help me find a counselor and get my feet under me. I told him I have a history of unhealthy thinking patterns. I told him I need help. In my soul, I was pleading. Begging. For some saving grace that would allow me to see a counselor consistently--because the things going on in my brain are not small issues. They need to be addressed.
With every single question or statement he made, I felt a little smaller and a little more hopeless.
By the end of the conversation, he agreed that the church could pay for half of one month, and I was instructed to sign up for the Obamacare stuff to pay for everything else I might need in the future (but I shouldn't need much help in the future because after one month of counseling, I should be solid). Oh, ps, that Obamacare stuff is almost as expensive as a month of counseling. And doesn't cover it. So...
I'm not writing this to call him out. I'm not writing this for pity points. Or financial help. I'm writing this because this is my life. This just happened. And it needs to be heard.
I feel that he did not react appropriately nor offer enough compassion or concern for my situation.
I feel that the leaders of the church, to whom we are instructed to turn in times like this, need way better training than what they are given. Not necessarily for this financial aspect I'm struggling with. But for dealing with a woman in trauma. For dealing with a sex-addict. This whole situation is delicate.
Don't just say, "Thanks for confessing" and send him on his merry way. (That happened.)
Don't tell the wife, "This is very personal and needs to stay between you two. If Ben doesn't feel comfortable with you discussing his issue with anyone, you need to respect that and keep it within the marriage." (Oh, that happened too.)
And when the wife is crying because of her pain and is asking for help so she can see a counselor, don't ask why she needs to see a counselor "all of the sudden." Don't suggest that marital counseling is more important than individual counseling. And certainly don't insinuate that her needs are not worthy of spending church money on, especially when she has been consistently faithful in paying tithing and generous fast offerings. Don't turn the conversation to talk about her husband instead of her. And don't tell her she needs to be on another insurance. Just don't. At the very least, if you have no clue what to say, you could say, "Wow, this sounds like a very painful situation. I will look into the matter and see what my options are for helping you."
I love this church. But the church leaders are human and make mistakes. The unfortunate part is, we are instructed to turn to them so often. They don't know how to handle this situation. They aren't equipped to handle it.
Granted, I've had amazing experiences with church leaders. But the horrible experiences can outweigh the positive at times. And this is one of those. All week, I've had to stop the train of negative thoughts, "Maybe I'm not worthy of help. Maybe I'm blowing the addiction too out of proportion. Maybe I shouldn't need a counselor. I must be crazy. Maybe I should be able to manage it after one month of counseling. Oh my gosh, I can't believe I would sink so low to ask for help. I'm so unfit of help. I'm supposed to be stronger." All of those thoughts are completely untrue. But, that's what was fed to me.
And I'm still feeling traumatized. Three days later.
The good news is that Ben was empathetic. I love it when he gets it. So thanks for that.