Mennonite Church Support and Therapy
Several months ago, The Misfit Amish invited people to tell us about a therapist that repeatedly affirmed how lovely it was that you as an Amish or Plain person had such a great support system for yourself within the Amish or Plain church members and families. Lily graciously shared some of her experiences with us in her own words. Mennonite Church Support and Therapy is one person's experience, however far too many people have reported similiar experiences.We are honored to be given this story to share with you in the hopes it will help medical professionals who serve Plain Mennonite patients. -Mary
****This is the second installment in a series of blog posts that tell some of the experiences of Lily Rebecca an active Plain Mennonite woman who sought both professional and church support for mental health resources.
“Before I begin my story, I would like you to know that I promote seeing a licensed therapist. A qualified counselor has made such a difference for some people in learning how to navigate relationships. Sometimes counselors, even those as trauma informed as Lily's is, can make mistakes. I'm about to tell you about a small error a therapist made in misunderstanding Anabaptist culture power and control dynamics, one day. The therapist is highly qualified and experienced and has done a world of good over the years working with Lily. The therapist is not bad, however, therapists who possibly read this need to be aware of this dynamic that has affected myself and several of my friends who have discussed it. It is not an uncommon experience.”
One day, during a counseling session Lily went mute and her mind kind of separated from her body. She felt as if she was floating up into the corner of the counseling room ceiling, looking down at the church committee lady and the therapist while they asked her to explain:
What is it that you are feeling so afraid about?
What is shutting you down?
Lily choked and could hardly get the words to form: "That . . They. . . . Won't. . . . . Help. . . . I'm . . . Afraid . . . . I'll . . . . Be too Much. .Bother."
The therapist and Ellen, the church support lady spoke at the same time, then stopped.
The therapist pointed out: “They WILL be with you, they ARE behind you. Ellen is right here in the room!".
(This was supposed to comfort the anxiety Lily fought inside herself.)
While Ellen stated: "That sounds like something a preschooler would say. Not bother people?? We are doing what's BEST FOR you. You know that we can't pay your bills! You are working full-time. You are making good wages. You can do it by yourself!"
Then, both the ladies stopped talking, and both seemed to realize that they were saying opposite things. Lily continued to "freeze" mute, and the therapist found a way to uncomfortably wrap up the session.
After that, the facility did not permit anyone else to be in the room during a client visit. The counselor stopped affirming how much church support, financial aid, and super teamwork was available to Lily. –Which felt more accurate to Lily, and she was then able to come to homeostasis and manage her own emotions and her money, once she wasn't being controlled by other adults who did not fully understand her insecurities, isolation, and terror.
Lily now practices learning to draw boundaries. Her therapist has Lily practice saying no which helps Lily in setting boundaries where Lily may disconnect from people which is very frightening for Lily, because she feels like she'll have no friends left, as she continues to set boundaries that allow her to feel safe. This may sometimes mean disconnecting from people who break boundaries Lily has set. (Tears). "But I want you to know that God has been so faithful, in bringing new contacts to me," Lily states. "He's been arranging other types of people to connect with me, who do feel emotionally safe to me!"
There hasn't been a panic attack for quite some time. And that feels really, really nice!
If you used to be a Plain Person, and you can identify with this incident, I want you to know that I care. I'm sorry you can put yourself in my shoes. This should not happen. It's a travesty and spiritual abuse that it does. Many of us who live as Plain People are unaware how much the high control groups, we are in may alter our behaviors and our ways of thinking. Simply growing up within the high control group called the Mennonite culture, has even been seen to cause trauma in a few instances, where there is no other abuse, illness, or accidents of any kind that can be traced.
Sometimes you might feel silly and as if you have small 't' trauma or capital 'T' Trauma, but trauma can even travel down family lines and be encoded in our genes. You don't have to be embarrassed or ashamed. Just seek qualified therapy and you will learn to use different tools to manage the changes trauma causes in the brain.
It can be hard to admit that you have trauma. So, give yourself space to disbelieve that and to work on the symptoms. If in doubt, treat yourself like it is trauma. If you respond to therapy, you may have trauma in your life. It's nothing to be ashamed of. After treatment sometimes the effects of trauma can be less, life can be meaningful, and you can bring much that is good and healthy into the relationships that you develop afterwards in the spaces that are new. Grieve what was lost. Acknowledge that you don't like disability, yet you are worthy, and you are a whole, valid human being, even with the marks and scars of the past. You belong.
You are believed.
Be kind and gentle with yourself.