My abuse weaponized me against my body. Until my body won.

My abuse weaponized me against my body. Until my body won.

Bethany Brittain, a former board member of the CFFP, talks about how the physical and emotional abuse of her childhood affected her relationship with her body and, ultimately, her health.

When I was 13, I declared war on my body. It wasn’t hard to do. It was quite natural even. There were dysfunctional events and forces in my past that had groomed me for that moment. I had received physical discipline from the time I was 6 months old. My family had unhealthy standards for female “modesty.” Physical and emotional boundaries that were essential for mental health were nonexistent.

Meanwhile, outside of my household, I saw many visuals that defined for me what the “ideal” body looked like. Most transmitted a plastic look found in your average Barbie doll. My wobbles and bulges were proof that my body wasn’t anything near ideal.

It all got to be too much. And so I took the only option I thought I had: I decided my body was something to be despised and declared war.

Fast forward to 2014. At the age of 46, I came down with a chronic illness called Pemphigoid. It’s a disease in which the immune system rejects proteins in the skin. If left untreated, Pemphigoid is disfiguring.

I had painful blisters in my mouth that started small and became large and intrusive over time. A year later, I had blisters all over my body that itched insanely. I looked like I had rolled in poison oak. My life became centered around doctor appointments, oncology waiting rooms, and medications that come with a lengthy list of side effects.

The disease and the drugs were changing what my body could do. Activities like yoga and running were things I’d assumed I could always do. My yoga practice which I’d had for years was almost too painful to continue with. I was frustrated. I couldn’t do the poses very well. My arms and legs would contort with painful cramps and spasms. I kept trying hoping to get my body to do the yoga I loved.  I had to stop running and start walking. Some days I talked myself off the couch, and other days there was no point. I felt too lethargic and my body was in too much pain. I was no where near the perfection I’d wanted at 13 years old. I was losing big time!

But there’s nothing like a moment of clenched teeth and shaking knees to help you find clarity about yourself and your life. A daily diet of prednisone does wonders for mind-bending clarity. (Prednisone is a drug that suppresses the immune system and inflammation and whose side effects include nausea, thinning skin, acne, and weight gain.) I was taking cancer drugs that caused nausea amongst other side effects. About a year into the disease, I began to worry about the risks these medications were posing to my body.

That’s when I realized that my body, which I had resigned to hate, was trying to tell me something. It was asking me to stop the war.

I was coming upon one of those choices about my body that many other women probably have had to, also. Whatever body I have, whatever shape it’s in, and whatever dozens of wobbly parts stick out, maybe it’s worth saving.

Yes, I turned. I began to care about body. I started making changes. I’ve become more patient with my body.

After doing this work, and receiving two infusions of the antibody Rituximab, the disease began showing signs of letting up. My body, my perceived enemy, even in its beleaguered state, had been fighting for me in ways I didn’t think possible.

Now during yoga, my legs bend into an Eagle pose, and I can almost fully plant my hands to the floor in a forward bend with straight knees. I’m still gentle as I slowly progress. Feeling my feet grounded into my yoga mat feels absolutely amazing. Hugging friends and loved ones—really feeling their bodies and mine—there are no words to convey that feeling. In my job, using my hands to bring stories to life as I design classroom training and curate collections of photography is worth getting up out of bed. 

My body, having contracted a disease, made me stop and re-examine my body in ways I hadn’t wanted to. I feel disappointment at times, but more often, hope. I’m on a healthier path, a magical journey of knitting mind and body together as one. For that, I am grateful.

There are still those images of seemingly perfect women wearing things I’d like to wear and never will. I will never be mistaken for a swimsuit model. But I’m done with that battle. After 37 years of fighting, my focus is on progress, not defeat.

This is me.

There is always a clear bright day after every storm. A chance to look around without the mind-crushing side effects of Prednisone. The love and light that peak through the clouds beg the question, “How does it feel to be at peace?”

Bethany Brittain is a senior instructional designer in San Francisco, a survivor of religious child maltreatment, and an advisor to the Child-Friendly Faith Project. Her story can be found in the book, Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment.

Do you need support in making your way out of an oppressive faith environment? Please feel free to join our Child-Friendly Faith Facebook group.

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Will Texas parents lose their right to sue faith-based schools that abuse their child?

Will Texas parents lose their right to sue faith-based schools that abuse their child?

 

A decision by the Texas Supreme Court could give religiously affiliated private schools legal carte blanche to harm children.

 

As parents, when we enroll our children in a school, we entrust it to care for our kids and keep them safe. That’s certainly true for private K-12 schools which can cost upwards of $15,000 to $30,000 a year. Some parents believe that religiously affiliated schools are particularly trustworthy because of their spiritual teachings.

But, of course, all schools—be they religious or secular—can leave children vulnerable to psychological harm, as well as physical and sexual abuse. Now there is a case in the courts in which the Episcopal School of Dallas has been alleged to have caused a child emotional trauma, while the school claims that no court has the right to intervene because it is faith-based. Read More »

Looking Forward: A Message from CFFP President Jaime Romo

Looking Forward: A Message from CFFP President Jaime Romo

It’s about time we begin to turn the world around
It’s about time we start to make it the dream we’ve always known
It’s about time we start to live the family of man
It’s about time, it’s about changes and it’s about time
It’s about peace and it’s about plenty and it’s about time
It’s about you and me together and it’s about time

 

As we look forward to 2018 and our continued efforts to fulfill our mission, these lyrics from a 1983 John Denver song ring true today. It’s about time to not only name abuses that happen when people misuse religious authority, but to gather our voices, our vision, and our shared strengths to transform the practices of maltreatment of vulnerable individuals, particularly children.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project began with a clear vision to educate and raise awareness of religious child maltreatment or RCM. Over the years, we have organized conferences, developed educational resources, and have been called on to support survivors. As we have grown, we have lent support to change legislation in Idaho that protected child medical neglect under the guise of “religious freedom.” And we have had the privilege of supporting those who grew up in, and were abused at, Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Read More »

What is Religious Child Maltreatment?

What is Religious Child Maltreatment?

baby

 

When I began writing my book, Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, the term religious child maltreatment or RCM did not exist (and numerous searches proved that Google had never heard of it.)

This dearth of information indicated that there hadn’t been much study on the negative impacts of religious practices and beliefs. And when I began asking people about it, I learned that talking about the subject often made people uncomfortable and sometimes defensive. Read More »

Idaho committee chairman receives ‘F’ grade in child advocacy

Idaho committee chairman receives ‘F’ grade in child advocacy

One year ago, the Child-Friendly Faith Project and local advocates began meeting with Sen. Lee Heider about a critical issue—Idaho’s failure to protect children from egregious ‘faith healing’ medical neglect. In evaluating his ability to be an advocate for children, the board of the CFFP agrees that the Senator deserves an ‘F.’

Lee Heider

Lee Heider is Chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee which was asked to consider a bill that aimed to protect children in Idaho from “faith-healing” medical neglect. Here’s why we believe Sen. Heider deserves a failing grade for his work on this urgent, life-and-death issue. Read More »

Idaho Governor talks about ‘faith healing’ child deaths; town hall meeting is held

Idaho Governor talks about ‘faith healing’ child deaths; town hall meeting is held

Panelists at Boise town hall meeting (Nishant Mohan/ID Public Radio)

Last week, before I headed to Boise, Idaho, I was looking forward to being part of a panel discussion organized by local child advocates. The purpose was to offer a public forum for Idahoans who wanted to ask questions and share their views about the state’s religious “faith healing” exemptions.

But I had no idea just how significant the week would turn out to be.

On Wednesday, the day before the event took place, Rep. John Gannon submitted a bill to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. The bill aims to better protect children who are raised in religious groups that reject medical care. (Previously, committee chairman Sen. Lee Heider had promised a hearing if a bill on the issue was submitted to his committee although he remains steadfastly opposed to changing the law.) On Thursday, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter stated he wants the legislature to study the issue. Read More »

What does a victim of child sexual abuse look like? Don’t ask Christianity Today.

What does a victim of child sexual abuse look like? Don’t ask Christianity Today.

girl with red veil shutterstock_reducedAn embarrassing apology published by Christianity Today shows that leaders in the faith community still have a lot to learn about child sexual abuse.

The readers of Christianity Today have taught the magazine a lesson—they know more about child sexual abuse then its editors do.

Last Monday, CT published an article on its Leadership Journal website written by an unnamed pastor who is serving time in prison on sexual abuse charges. The article, entitled “From Youth Minister to Felon: My spiral of sin destroyed my life and ministry,” was intended to prevent abuse. Instead, however, it showed that CT editors can be just as insensitive to victims of abuse as many religious leaders have been. Read More »

Our First Grant!

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Foundation Beyond Belief selects the Child-Friendly Faith Project as a beneficiary organization! 

The CFFP is proud to announce that it has been chosen as one of five beneficiary organizations entitled to receive funding from members of the Foundation Beyond Belief. The FBB is a charitable foundation that focuses, encourages, and demonstrates humanist generosity and compassion.

The CFFP was chosen under the “Challenge the Gap” category which covers organizations that work with faith communities to carry out their good works. We hope that humanists who believe in the mission of the CFFP will become an FBB member and donate to the CFFP and other extraordinary organizations. Read a great description about the CFFP on the Foundation’s blog. Read More »