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Intrusive and Anxious Thoughts

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  • #431524
    anita
    Participant

    Re-submitted:

    Dear Kshiti:

    You are welcome!

    What scares me is how I visualise myself while imagining what if situations, how I imagine myself weeping in a closed room shutting myself from everything else, with no desire to do anything for self care or for taking myself out of that situation– what you are describing here is depression and helplessness- the feeling that you are unable to help yourself, giving up on trying.

    I mentioned helplessness to you back on page 1 of your thread, but I don’t think that I brought up the topic of learned helplessness.

    very well mind/ learned helplessness: “Learned helplessness occurs when a person who has experienced repeated challenges comes to believe they have no control over their situation. They then give up trying to make changes and accept their fate. In animals, learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action…

    ”When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change… People may be left feeling that no matter what they do or how hard they work, nothing will make a difference…

    ”Learned helplessness often originates in childhood, and unreliable or unresponsive caregivers can contribute to these feelings… When children need help but no one comes to their aid, they may be left feeling that nothing they do will change their situation. Repeated experiences that bolster these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can result in growing into adulthood ultimately feeling that there is nothing one can do to change his or her problems. Some common symptoms of learned helplessness in children include: Failure to ask for help, Frustration, Giving up, Lack of effort, Low self-esteem, Passivity, Poor motivation, Procrastination.

    ”Learned helplessness can also result in anxiety, depression, or both.11 When kids feel that they’ve had no control over the past events of their lives, they gain the expectation that future events will be just as uncontrollable. Because they believe that nothing they do will ever change the outcome of an event, kids are often left thinking that they should not even bother trying…”.</p>
    Learned helplessness is evident in wat you shared back in Feb: “I get flashbacks of what I felt during that time, some examples are – ‘nothing ever gets better’ ‘there is no point of looking for my wellbeing’…  I began feeling that just when things started to become better, they went for worse… I began to think that it’s pointless to keep hopes as all I got was traumatic setbacks again and again… I felt that no matter how much I tried, things would always get worse”.What do you think about this, Kshiti?

    anita

    #431533
    kshiti1502
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I find this very accurate to my thoughts about the situation. But I am not able to get why I am imagining myself in such depressing scenarios now? Whenever i begin to ruminate, I ultimately end up thinking how I would have got hopeless and stopped trying to make things better for myself.

    Secondly, I sometimes feel as if ruminating itself is a self destructive activity which I partake and maybe one of the reasons I imagine giving up on my own wellbeing is a lack of self compassion. Please guide.

     

    #431535
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kshiti:

    I am not able to get why I am imagining myself in such depressing scenarios now?… I sometimes feel as if ruminating itself is a self destructive activity which I partake and maybe one of the reasons I imagine giving up on my own wellbeing is a lack of self compassion. Please guide.“-

    – I just re-read our previous communication and we never talked about your living situation. I wonder if you are living with your parents, and I wonder as to the nature of your relationship with them past and present. I wonder, because learned helplessness often takes place in childhood because of parents/ caregivers not being there for the child, emotionally or physically.

    When parents do not regularly/ repeatedly express compassion for the child, the child does not practice self-compassion, doesn’t know how, doesn’t feel deserving of it.

    I also wonder about your spine disease while growing up, if debilitating, it in itself is enough to cause learned helplessness in a child, even with supportive parents.

    Please share about these topics only if you feel comfortable doing so, and to the extent that you do.

    anita

     

    #431536
    kshiti1502
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    This relation of learned helplessness and self compassion with childhood makes sense to me and I won’t deny the possibility that it is somewhere rooted in my childhood experiences (especially my problematic relationship with my dad). It is true that I wasnt shown enough compassion and appreciation, and there was a point in my teens when I began to feel as if I had nothing good in me apart from my academics.

     

    Regarding my living situation, I am currently in a different country (UK) where I  shifted in October 2023 for my masters. Previous to it, I was living away from home since 2022 for my undergraduate studies. But I used to regularly come back at home.

    My spine condition is much better as of now touch wood, my medication stopped in December 2022 and currently I’m doings well on that front. But yes its true that I didn’t get the compassion and even kind treatment I required during the peak of my disease.

     

    Kshitij

    #431542
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kshitij:

    It is true that I wasn’t shown enough compassion and appreciation… I didn’t get the compassion and even kind treatment I required during the peak of my disease“- you needed compassion, you still do. In the absence of compassion, we get anxious (Intrusive and Anxious Thoughts is the title of your thread).

    Is there anyone at all, where you now live, who is a friend, someone to give you a hug when needed, someone to smile warmly when talking to you…?

    there was a point in my teens when I began to feel as if I had nothing good in me apart from my academics“- do you mean that your parents, particularly your father perhaps, showed appreciation for your academic performance only, and for nothing else about you?

    anita

    #431567
    kshiti1502
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I have some close friends back in my home country who talk to me on a daily basis, and make me feel good. I am still developing new friendships in the UK and maybe it will take time to develop close bonds.

     

    Regarding the second part, yes I feel it was exactly like this. I have never heard an appreciation or compliment from my father about my nature, about who I am apart from studies. Instead from early childhood, I would get to listen to very harsh criticism and ‘sermons’ (if the word conveys what I try to say) on even the most trivial issues. he would use to presume that in any given situation, I would be automatically at fault. It was like he had a problem with everything I did and I don’t know why his attitude was like this considering his contrasting attitude towards my younger sibling.

    Kshitij

    #431568
    kshiti1502
    Participant

    Dear Roberta,

     

    Thank you very much for your suggestion. I will definitely go through this book, hope it helps me as well .

    Regards

     

    #431584
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kshitij:

    * The following is a long and comprehensive post and it may be difficult/ emotional for you to read, so, please take your time reading, take breaks when needed, and as always, of course, you can choose to stop and not resume reading.

    I have never heard an appreciation or compliment from my father about my nature, about who I am apart from studies. Instead from early childhood, I would get to listen to very harsh criticism and ‘sermons’.. on even the most trivial issues. He would use to presume that in any given situation, I would be automatically at fault. It was like he had a problem with everything I did and I don’t know why his attitude was like this considering his contrasting attitude towards my younger sibling.“-

    – I am now re-reading your original post and onward with the information above in mind, information I didn’t have before. I will be quoting you and commenting on the parts that I will boldface, with the info above in mind. (In parentheses are quotes from 12 hours ago, the above)

    “the officers related with the scheme for some whimsical reasons chose to not let my application progress“- for whimsical reasons, your father chose to give you those sermons (“He had a problem with everything I did”, “the most trivial issues“).

    “I felt completely shattered because as it felt that things were going good, something worse than my imagination hit me. It would have been so unfair”- I imagine that as a child, you tried your very best to be a good, obedient daughter, get your father approval and avoid his very harsh criticism aka (your word) sermons. Sometimes, when he was nice to you/ wasn’t critical for sometime, you had hope that there will be no more sermons, but just as you thought things were going good, there was another sermon.

    ” I am sort of tired of ruminating on intrusive thoughts and having breakdowns even though that situation didn’t happen in reality”– that situation (your application for scholarship being denied) didn’t happen, but your childhood need to be appreciated by your father/ to not be criticized, that need was denied again and again, repeatedly, and for years (I have never heard an appreciation or compliment….I would get to listen to very harsh criticism”).

    “My intrusive thoughts make me feel as if that situation has actually happened, and it is my reality. I get flashbacks of what I felt during that time, some examples are – ‘nothing ever gets better’… ‘this is so unfair’. I think my emotional state at that moment has left such imprints that they still affect me, making me ruminate over them even though my reality is different”-

    – the scholarship application situation triggered the trauma in your childhood sermons situation (lets call it CSS). The thoughts you had as a child, during those sermons were “nothing ever gets better” no matter how hard I try, and this (his very harsh criticism) is so unfair“!

    “When the scholarship issue came, it shattered me because of the sheer unfairness of the issues and I began feeling that just when things started to become better, they went for worse… I began to think that it’s pointless to keep hopes as all I got was traumatic setbacks again and again“- the CSS was truly unfair. You did not deserve it AT ALL. It created trauma in you (the term for it is complex childhood trauma, because it’s not a one-time, single event trauma; it’s a many events trauma over a long time, years).

    As a child, every time things were becoming better (he treated you okay), you were hopeful, but out of nowhere, things got worse again (another CSS), and you were disappointed, hope dashed. From one point on, you figured it’d be easier to not hope: no hope=> no hope dashed/ no disappointment.

    “I personally think that if it’s related to the symptoms of PTSD, it is connected more with the scholarship issue; honestly speaking I had never felt such low, and despair and I almost wanted to give up.“-

    – the scholarship issue was not a trauma leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The scholarship issue triggered your complex childhood trauma (part of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, c-PTSD).

    As a child, you did feel such low, and despair, and wanting to give up, but as children do, you pushed down those feelings so to lower your distress and be able to survive and function, sort of putting these feelings to sleep. So, now, looking back, you probably don’t remember how intensely you felt back then. What happened with the scholarship application situation is that it awakened those sleeping feelings, brought them up to the surface.

    “The scholarship issue… brought at the same time, an unbearable mix of emotions like despair, frustration, bitterness, hopelessness etc. I felt that no matter how much I tried, things would always get worse“- I boldfaced the intense feelings of childhood awakened by the scholarship issue. What I italicized is the theme of your complex childhood trauma.

    “it makes me anxious because I feel a lack of control that scares me about how things will go”- growing up, you weren’t able to control your father’s behavior, you had no control (no matter how hard you tried) over the CSS, which happened again and again, no matter what.

    “my intrusive thoughts have again begun to consume me, and I am having a breakdown everyday because of them. I’m trying the strategy but isn’t doing much help” (March 25)- your intrusive thought are a combination of your father’s accusations of you and your thoughts about his accusations.

    “I visualise myself… weeping in a close room shutting myself from everything else with no desire to do anything for self-care” (April 10)- this is probably what you did as a child, how you felt back then.

    “Sometimes I feel as if I am getting depressed even though everything is going well right now“- because your child self knows that everything that is going well right now, can turn upside down anytime with another sermon.

    “I am not able to get why I am imagining myself in such depressing scenarios now?” (April 10)- because for the child-self within us lives in the past. For the traumatized child-within the past is still happening.

    “From early childhood, I would get to listen to very harsh criticism and ‘sermons’ (if the word conveys what I try to say) on even the most trivial issues. he would use to presume that in any given situation, I would be automatically at fault. It was like he had a problem with everything I did and I don’t know why his attitude was like this considering his contrasting attitude towards my younger sibling” (April 10)- assuming you are the oldest, or oldest girl among your siblings, it is possible that when you were his one and only daughter, he projected someone he hated into you, a woman who abused him (maybe his mother, maybe an aunt who took care of him, maybe an older sister, maybe a combination of these), and proceeded to punish you for.. what someone else did to him when he was a child, or a teenager, way before you were born. This kind of projection and is what’s behind a lot of childhood abuse cases.

    By the time his other children were born, you already took the role of the hated-one, so your siblings were free of that one role, or maybe they were free from the extent of that role that you suffered from.

    It so happens, that I was the target of my mother’s hate sermons/ tirades, she projected people who abused her as a child (way before I was born) into me and proceeded to punish me for what they have done (the common theme behind child abuse). As a result I suffered from (and was diagnosed with) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In her angry tirades, she accused me of intentionally hurting her feelings and making her want to die. My intrusive thoughts were about causing her to die. I’d have a thought (thought A) and then an intrusive thought appeared:  this thought (thought A) could kill her. Next thing I did was a compulsion to neutralize the supposed death causing thought, ex. knocking on the table 3 times , turning around one way a few times, and then the other way the same number of times.

    anita

    #431854
    kshiti1502
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Thanks for your response. I took my time to read and re-read this post, and thankfully I was able to do so without feeling triggered. I agree with the idea of a ‘hated sibling’ because I used to observe it even as a child that my father would project his anger towards  and perceptions of my grandfather over me, just because we two have an undeniable facial similarity and to an extent, behavioral similarity too. At times it felt that he was not even considering me as an individual person and just as a copy of my grandfather, assuming that I would do a certain thing just because my grandfather would do it that way. I don’t know why but he did have a problem with me not being ‘like’ him, in my thoughts, actions, behavior and other things. One reason he acts differently towards my younger brother is because he probably sees himself in his personality, he finds a similarity.

    I also agree with your idea that when I would use to think as a child that everything is aright between me and him, there used to come another ‘sermon’ or an incident of his bad treatment. My last hopes of having good terms with him in future were quashed after his inexplicably unkind treatment during my disease, there was no going back from that point. Now, when I live abroad away from home, he tries to get close to me and acts very cordially; but the more he tries the more I get repelled because I have decided to maintain a distance with him going forward.

    One common thing between my intrusive thoughts and my issues with my father is rumination. Since childhood I would use to ruminate over incidents of his unkind treatment and that happens even now when I think about a past situation or hypothesize about a future confrontation. It leads me to rage fits at times although I am usually a calm person. If I remember correctly, back when I was a kid/teenager, there used to be times when I would be filled with rage, despair and frustration and I would cry myself to sleep.

    What I am not able to understand is that how the scholarship situation triggered the CSS inside me? even though during that time of emotional turmoil, I thought about my struggles with disease and anxiety but not about my childhood struggles? Do you think there were thought patterns responsible (like low self-esteem, externalization of self-worth etc.) that I developed as a result of childhood trauma and they gave me problems during the scholarship issue?

     

    Thanks,

    Kshitij

    #431861
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kshitij:

    You are welcome! I am thinking that your father projected his father (with whom he was very angry for many years) into you- not because you deserved his anger (not at all!), and not because your behaviors (and maybe even your looks) were more like his father than your siblings’, but because you were first-born. He has been holding his anger inside him probably since he was a child. When you were born- his first child– it was his first opportunity to express his long-held anger, to let it out, at a child that belonged to him (an easy target).

    This is what abuse is about. my mother did the same to me, as I was too first born.

    One reason he acts differently towards my younger brother is because he probably sees himself in his personality, he finds a similarity“- excellent insight. For one, he didn’t project his father into them (this was your  “job”, unfortunately for you). If he expressed affection for them over the years, it means that yes, he probably projected himself into them.

    Now, when I live abroad away from home, he tries to get close to me and acts very cordially; but the more he tries the more I get repelled“- I too felt repelled by my mother over the years, because she did to me, in principle, what your father did to you.

    Since childhood I would use to ruminate over incidents of his unkind treatment and that happens even now when I think about a past situation or hypothesize about a future confrontation. It leads me to rage fits at times… back when I was a kid/teenager, there used to be times when I would be filled with rage, despair and frustration and I would cry myself to sleep“-I ruminated too, I was anxious too about the next time she’d rage at me, so I would ruminate about what I might have said or done wrong to bring about her next rage.

    And I felt rage myself, rage at her, which I held inside.

    I’ll answer your questions in the last paragraph, best I can, tomorrow morning (in about  14 hours from now).

    anita

    #431874
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kshitij:

    What I am not able to understand is that how the scholarship situation triggered the CSS inside me?…  I thought… not about my childhood struggles? Do you think there were thought patterns responsible (like low self-esteem, externalization of self-worth etc.) that I developed as a result of childhood trauma and they gave me problems during the scholarship issue?“-

    * I don’t know what you mean by “externalization of self-worth“.

    – I have no doubt that there are thought patterns that you developed as a result of your father emotionally abusing you (inaccurately projecting his father, an adult who probably abused him, into a little, innocent girl).

    I wrote about your thought patterns in both situations in my April 11 post: “the scholarship application situation triggered the trauma in your childhood sermons situation (lets call it CSS). The thoughts you had as a child, during those sermons were “nothing ever gets better” no matter how hard I try, and this (his very harsh criticism) is so unfair“.

    It doesn’t mean that during the scholarship application situation you had thoughts about your childhood sermons situation. It’s that the scholarship application situation awakened thoughts and feelings (about how unfair life is for you, and now nothing ever gets better), thoughts and feelings that were born, so to speak, during the childhood sermon situations.

    anita

    #432053
    kshiti1502
    Participant

    <p>Dear Anita,</p><p>Thanks for your insights. I now understand the relation between my intrusive thoughts and my childhood trauma in a better way. How should I work towards changing/ breaking these thought patterns and resolving the childhood trauma that still causes me so much pain. At times these memories and thoughts lead me to rage fits, where my anger just seems to be like boiling. Even today before writing this post I had one such instance of rumination which led to me getting enraged over him again. I was at home for a few weeks in March-April and I had a few situations with him, so my thoughts have become more frequent since then.</p><p>About the intrusive thoughts, I think they have got better than before. I read an article at the forum itself which gave me the idea that I am safe even in the moments of intrusive thoughts and they are not going to harm me. But, I also think they are manifesting themselves in other ways, directly/indirectly making me more stressed and uptight about the things around me (especially career and studies related) when I already have visible patterns of overworking. There still are moments when I cant help but wallow down in the misery of my thoughts. As my bestfriend put it for me – “you think you need to suffer again and again that’s why you drag yourself back to those thoughts and situations.” My intrusive thoughts at times make me feel more insecure, stressed and even depressed. I honestly feel scared in my heart sometimes when I am obsessing over these thoughts, although their instances have reduced.</p><p>I would like to know your views about both these points, which certainly would be of a great help.</p><p>Thanks,</p><p>Kshitij</p><p> </p><p> </p>

    #432054
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kshitij:

    You are very welcome.

    How should I work towards changing/ breaking these thought patterns and resolving the childhood trauma that still causes me so much pain“-  these thought patterns are a habit of the mind, a habit of your brain, that is. It is difficult to change ingrained habits, including mental habits.

    One difficulty in changing these distressing mental habits that were formed as a result of you being mistreatment by your father is that every time you talk with him or visit with him, these habits are reinforced. You wrote today (I am adding the boldface feature to the following): “I was at home for a few weeks in March-April and I had a few situations with him, so my thoughts have become more frequent since then“- contact with him, particularly visits with him, breathe life into these thought, as in adding fuel to the thoughts, and the fire intensifies.

    Therefore, staying away from him/ having no contact with him is of great value in the process of changing these thought patterns and resolving your childhood trauma, as much as it is possible.

    I read an article at the forum itself which gave me the idea that I am safe even in the moments of intrusive thoughts and they are not going to harm me“- this is part of changing your thought patterns: to understand that thoughts, any kind of thoughts, intrusive or not, are not dangerous. They are harmless mental events that happen in-between our ears and not outside that short distance.

    A daily routine of aerobic exercise, mindfulness practices, including watching/ listening to Mindfulness Guided Meditations will help change/ break thought patterns.. over time. A patient, realistic, one-day-at-a-time attitude will help.

    As my best friend put it for me – ‘you think you need to suffer again and again that’s why you drag yourself back to those thoughts and situations'”– your friend has a good point. All abused children automatically believe that they deserve the abuse they received and should indeed suffer. This happens because for a dependent child, it’s safer to view oneself as the one at fault than it is to view the parent as the one at fault. Because if the child is at fault, then there’s something the child can do (to become.. a good girl or boy from now on..). If the parent is at fault, there’s nothing the child can do.

    Healing will have to include changing your view and seeing your child-self as the innocent party, and your father- in context of the relationship with you- as the guilty party. (This will not be easy to do).

    At times these memories and thoughts lead me to rage fits, where my anger just seems to be like boiling. Even today before writing this post I had one such instance of rumination which led to me getting enraged over him again“- an abused child is an angry child, understandably. You are an adult, but every adult still has the little abused boy or girl/ abused teenager hurting inside, raging inside.

    Expressing your anger in non-destructive way, such as journaling (here or privately) will help.

    anita

    #432603
    kshiti1502
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Thanks for your message and sorry for replying so late. I am trying to process the childhood trauma, meditation and journaling are helping me in at least keeping my mental peace and not letting my past memories and rage subsume me completely. I am sometimes surprised seeing that a memory which would cause rage to me five years ago has the same sting even today, and I feel as hurt as I would at some point in the past. Sometimes I just end up having violent rage-filled thoughts that ruin my mood and subsequently my day. No matter how many times I have gone over a past memory, it stirs the same emotions every single time.

    Regarding anxious and intrusive thoughts, I am observing a greater tendency of workaholism and stress. Almost every day I am stressed out about something or the other, hardly leaving anytime for myself. There is a general feeling of hopelessness I feel these days, in regards with my intrusive thoughts and other things. I am approaching the end of my first year, and yet I am stuck in the past, struggling with what-if scenarios and attached to my trauma. I tried making friends and social groups in the previous terms but now I seem to have given up on that. It fills me with despair to see that I am not utilizing the opportunity I so dearly wanted in a fulfilling way. And at these times, a voice in my head gets louder and louder, which thinks that I am not as good and smart as others. This was something my father used to say to me, I remember the day when I had gotten into my dream college for under-grad, he had literally said that I am not ‘smart’ like the other students and hence, will suffer from frustration. I feel despair and loneliness, and intrusive thoughts worsen these situations.

    Regards

    Kshitij

    #432627
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Kshitij:

    You are welcome.

    Back in April, you shared (I am adding the boldface feature selectively): “there was a point in my teens when I began to feel as if I had nothing good in me apart from my academics… I have never heard an appreciation or compliment from my father about my nature, about who I am apart from studies. Instead from early childhood, I would get to listen to very harsh criticism and ‘sermons’ (if the word conveys what I try to say) on even the most trivial issues. he would use to presume that in any given situation, I would be automatically at fault. It was like he had a problem with everything I did”.

    Yesterday, May 12, you shared: “I am sometimes surprised seeing that a memory which would cause rage to me five years ago has the same sting even today, and I feel as hurt…  Sometimes I just end up having violent rage-filled thoughts that ruin my mood and subsequently my day. No matter how many times I have gone over a past memory, it stirs the same emotions every single time… Almost every day I am stressed out about something or the other… I am stuck in the past… a voice in my head gets louder and louder, which thinks that I am not as good and smart as others… he (father) had literally said that I am not ‘smart’ like the other students” (May 12)-

    – Your father truly had a problem with everything about you, including your studies/ academics (not apart from your academics). His Harshly Disapproving, Critical Voice was broad-based, wide-ranging, large-scale, extensive and persistent: he disapproved of everything about you. Including at the time you suffered from your spine disease when harshness was most inappropriate.

    No wonder such an extensive, persistent, frequent Harsh Disapproval & Criticism from him led to extensive, persistent, frequent rage within you.

    Rage… hurt.. rage-filled thoughts…No matter how many times I have gone over a past memory, it stirs the same emotions every single time… Almost every day I am stressed out about something or the other… I am stuck in the past“- your father’s Voice is active within you and so is your Emotional Reaction to his voice: rage, hurt, rage filed thoughts and stress.

    Your emotional reactions to his voice are humanly natural and normal. it is normal to feel rage when abused, and persistent rage when persistently abused. You are currently residing in a different, far away country (U.K.) from your father, but his Voice is residing in your head. And every time you hear his voice on the phone or in-person during a visit, his voice in your head is energized, and so is your emotional reactions to his Voice, keeping you stuck in the past.

    Looking at the title of your thread: Intrusive and Anxious Thoughts, I would add to it: hurt and Rage-filled Thoughts: Intrusive, Anxious, Hurt and Rage-filled Thoughts.

    These thoughts are a normal reaction to his Voice (his voice in-person and his voice in your head).

    How can you possibly avoid a normal reaction? The only way is to remove the action, i.e., , the threat: his Voice. His Voice has (still) a problem with everything about you. You have to turn down the volume of that voice down and turn up the volume of a different voice, one that says:

    Kshitij, you are a good girl, you are a good person. I like you. Whatever you feel, Kshitij is okay with me. I accept you just you are. It is okay, Shitij, to feel angry and rageful, hurt and anxious, it’s all understandable, all normal reactions to abuse.

    I am here for you, Kshitij. I am your friend. I will help you turn the volume down on that other voice, so that you have the peace of mind that you so desperately need and deserve.

    Shh… hush his sermons, hush his criticism.. hush his abuse. You don’t deserve it, you never deserved it. You were never guilty of it. He was, he is.

    anita

     

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