My Tragic Love Story, Part 2

Men and women could not, under any circumstances, develop a romantic relationship in the ministry group that I was in. So even though Tool and I liked each other, we could not date.

I was on staff at a ministry training school in a small, bayou-surrounded Louisiana town.  At that time, I had been serving with the same pastors for around five years. Our entire staff and some students had moved from Austin, Texas in 2003 to begin a new school at the church in Louisiana.

In 2004, I met “Tool” (the guy who claimed he was in love with me). Our friendship was a love-hate relationship from the beginning. He had a real problem with women and I was his superior in the hierarchy that was our church. I later learned that the Tool had plenty of childhood and family issues that made him the jerk that he was. After our friendship developed for a year, I started developing feelings for the Tool and he fell for me.

Men and women could not, under any circumstances, develop a romantic relationship in the ministry group that I was in. So even though Tool and I liked each other, we could not date. I was 24 years old and he was around 23 years old at the time.

The steps we had to take to date were lengthy and involved male-initiated leadership. It was taught by our pastors that the man in the relationship had to initiate everything relating to a dating relationship or courtship. That man also had to ask our pastor permission to date the girl of his dreams.

And that pastor had to approve.

For Tool, these were not easy steps.

Rape Victim: Who Me?

I simply couldn’t believe the seven years of my life I’d devoted to God was actually devoted to a destructive group–a cult.

I sat on the couch across from my therapist during one session in 2005. She worked out of the California State University, Bakersfield campus Counseling Center and she was free, which was in my budget at the time.

I’d decided to see her after being referred to her by two professors: one professor witnessed me break down in front of a lecture class of over 100 students during my Freshman year when he asked me why I was attending college. He had no idea that for me, I was attending college fresh from a cult where I was brainwashed and taught that I was less of a human being because I was a woman. After my sob-fest in Freshman Shakespeare class, my professor kindly suggested I see a therapist. I took him up on his suggestion, and am happy I did.

I met with her once a week, on Thursdays. I went through about half her box of Kleenex and left with a runny nose and puffy, red eyes. One hour a week was enough to bring up enough pain to bring me into hysterical fits of crying. Sometimes I couldn’t even talk about my memories or pain.

Sitting across from her one day, she went to her desk and she pulled up the Counseling Center website. She gave me links to the resources to Cults that I have listed on this website. It was only the second time I’d ever heard anyone tell me that they thought my ministry experience sounded like a cult. I was shocked. I was horrified. I felt cheated. If this was true, then how could I have been so stupid? What about those people I loved? There was no way they’d run a cult!

I simply couldn’t believe the seven years of my life I’d devoted to God was actually devoted to a destructive group–a cult.

Years prior, a good friend of the family from our home church in Taft, CA had come to visit me on a motorcycle road trip through Texas. He stopped in our church in Austin and took me to lunch. He visited the offices of Master’s Commission there. When he went home, he told my parents, “I think the place Lisa is in is a cult.” This coming from a life-long church member and deacon shocked my parents and me.

The next thing my therapist told me was even more shocking, though. As if notifying me that she thought I’d been in a cult wasn’t shocking enough, she then told me, “I’ve counseled many, many rape victims and you sound exactly like a rape victim. You have many of the same symptoms. I don’t know if it’s possible to get spiritually or mentally raped, but that’s exactly what I think has happened.”

Suicidal Tendencies

It was the summer before my 24th birthday. The summer everything changed.

In nearby Lafayette parish, a Catholic priest had just been accused of molesting a young alter boy. The country wide scandal took several months to reach the Deep South, as most progressive things took longer to reach here, and the day it hit the news the pastor of our church preached an angry sermon on Catholics and how they were doing wrong not letting their priests marry. Our Pastor thought his church was the only one who did anything right, because he thought he was the only doing right in “the eyes of God” and that our church were the only Christians going to heaven. I think he was just trying to get members in his church, as Catholics were the largest religious majority in Louisiana, but that was neither here nor there. Pastor Daniel had a God-complex and a hideous ego. Although it was true that Catholic priests had been molesting young boys, and it was a scandal, no one found out about our church and our scandal that Pastor Daniel was leading. There were no physical marks of rape, no DNA evidence to make a case on, but there was plenty of psychological damage among those of us who left the cult before “they” said we could. We’d been mentally raped, brainwashed, made to “drink the Kool-aid” so to speak, and yet we didn’t have any physical markers to take to the courts, and technically we’d come there to the cult of our own free will.

None of us knew it was a cult when we went there, and few of us struck up the courage to leave. Those who did leave were made outsiders, and cut off from all their friends and all acquaintances. We were the “spawn of Satan” or “rebellious” if we left…if we disagreed with the Authority of God, our Pastors.

On the night I contemplated leaving, I replayed my dad’s words to leave. He called me a month after his trip to Louisiana to meet my boss, Pastor Daniel. My dad didn’t like Pastor Daniel. “Lisa, I don’t like the way he spoke to me about you—as if he’d assumed the role of father in your life. That’s just not right,” my dad’s anger could be heard through the phone line, “I mean, what right does that arrogant man have to tell me that he’s going to pick out my own daughter’s husband? He doesn’t have faith that you can meet someone decent on your own? I know I’ve never told you what to do in your life, but Lisa—you need to get out of there. Come home.”

My dad was right. Pastor Daniel just wasn’t right. But my life had become wrapped around these people, and saying good-bye prematurely meant ripping away seven years of my life’s history away and becoming invisible, or worse yet, rebellious and unfit.

I sat in the driver’s seat of my car, parked on the dirt road that was flanked with sugar cane and fireflies on either side of me. Tears poured down my cheeks as the thoughts ran through my mind. I knew I couldn’t get out of here, without my life falling apart, and I was afraid of the only other option—but it seemed like the only way out.

The frog-filled swamp stretched out long and ominous before me: calling my name, and beckoning me to enter. Just gun the car and drive into the swamp, the water spoke to me like an old friend who had my best intentions in mind. I reached for another Kleenex from the passenger seat, as my whole body shook violently with sobs and my head pounded with pain. I tried to search for any other options, but there just seemed to be no other way to escape.

I looked around for anyone in sight. To the south of the road where my car sat were the dorms where all the students slept. I was supposed to be asleep, as well, making sure there was someone responsible watching over them. My fellow staff members were there, tucked into their single beds and surrounded by the students in their bunks, peacefully resting, unaware of my desire to escape, and the misery staying here was causing me. I was the only one awake that piercing dark black night. I was the only one deliberating how I could rid myself from their negativity. I was the only one trying to get the hell out of there. I was also the only one sitting alone by the dense fields of sugar cane, under the dimly lit star-filled night sky, thinking about killing myself.

The term killing myself sounded so harsh, but I guess in reality it would be a harsh thing to do to my family and my friends, those I had left that is.  My family, however, lived in California and I lived in the blasted mosquito infested hellhole of the U.S. Swamps and gators; frog legs and crawfish. Yes, the Deep South. Louisiana. The only good about Louisiana was Tim, and he wasn’t allowed to speak to me anymore because Pastor Daniel felt he was unfit for me to date, unfit to be a pastor and Pastor Daniel said God spoke to him that I should be a pastor’s wife.

My story obviously didn’t end here…but the concept of it was true. While I was in the cult, I did want to kill myself. I had reached the end of my rope and I’d asked the directors of my ministry group for vacation time to gather myself together after serving selflessly for about seven years with hardly a break. I was burnt out and breaking down. I’d never felt so low, so depressed, and never before that point felt suicidal.

When I finally made it out of the cult and home, I told my dad that story and he hugged me so tightly and said he was so sorry he didn’t get me out of that cult before, and that he’s sorry he let me stay there so long.

It wasn’t my parents fault. I’d become so tightly connected to the director of my ministry training group that I felt they were my family, my life, my friends.

I was wrong…when I needed them most, they let me down. More than that, their brainwashing, mind-control, yelling, belittling and abuse left me with PTSD and after effects that I’m still working on recovering from to this day.

As a 17 year old girl who was a high school honor student, 10th in her graduating class, active in her church youth group, never smoked, drank, done drugs with a real future in front of her to a nearly thirty year old woman who has to see a therapist who specializes in cults for the anxiety, depression, and fear that rules her life due to the abuse done from the directors who mentored her for years…it was not the transition I thought would happen when I first left home to join the ministry.

 

 

My Tragic Love Story, The Final Chapter

The steps the pastor required for a man to date a woman in the discipleship training program was like a maze. These weren’t easy for the Tool, but I saw this jerk-for-a-boy turn into a vulnerable, trusting man as he tried to do what was required of him. It wasn’t his fault that these insurmountable rules had been set up before him, preventing him from dating. It also wasn’t his fault that I was extremely hot and intelligent—so much so that his own best friend wanted to date me, too.

The pastor that Tool had to approach was egotistical and had a huge God-complex. It was either his way or the highway. That was not something he learned from God—it was just something he flaunted due to his own insecurities. Tool didn’t know that the pastor didn’t respect him at all and constantly told me that he wasn’t good enough for me. He’d list the reasons one-by-one, and sadly, some of them were true: he wasn’t from a good home, he probably wouldn’t make a good pastor, he was rebellious, and he didn’t treat women well.

What pissed me off was not that Tool was right or wrong for me, but that someone ELSE was interfering in my love life at the age of 24 years old! Not only was this pastor making suggestions, he was out-right making my decisions for me. He was attempting to think for me, and teach me that his way of thinking was right and that there were no other options but how he thought.

When Perpetrators Deny Their Crimes

Desmond Tutu suggests that the denial of a crime that’s been committed to a person victimizes the victim again and also denies that person’s identity. For a perpetrator, or another person, to suggest that forgiveness is not important is to deprive a person of attempting to wrestle with the healing process their own soul must endure.

A couple years ago, I posted part of this on my Myspace blog. My old ministry group director’s wife called me to tell me that I was wrong: the VICTIM should go to the person who offended them and ask for forgiveness. She called me to tell me, also, that I should take it down off the internet, that my relationship with God was clearly not right, and that I was obviously offended. I don’t think abuse is right, and I think the road to forgiveness is a complicated one. In my situation, the person who committed the abuse never admitted to it or acknowledged the pain caused. This essay was written as I tried to understand the complicated situation that occurs when one is victimized.

***

Desmond Tutu writes of a play entitled Death and the Maiden, where he suggests that the denial of a crime that’s been committed victimizes the victim again and also denies that person’s identity. (Tutu, 29) For a perpetrator to suggest that forgiveness is not important is to deprive a person of attempting to wrestle with the healing process their own soul must endure. When a person is victimized, part of their soul is robbed; however, when a person is victimized without the crime being confronted, the victim’s soul may be haunted. Although painful and sometimes long, the journey to dignity begins with restoration of the victimized soul.

According to Pulma Gobodo-Madikizela, “When the perpetrator begins to show remorse, to seek some way to ask forgiveness, the victim becomes the gatekeeper to what the outcast desires—readmission into the human community.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117) The important factor for both the victim and the perpetrator in any situation is the readmission into the human community.

The perpetrator, in committing the crime, has shut the door to his conscious and pushed another member of the human community into darkness. The evil committed by the perpetrator is an example of the evil and darkness within his or her soul.

The victim, having received the evil, has unwillingly entered into a place of darkness, brought upon by pain, where he or she may dwell until they find a path to restoration. This path to restoration may come through forgiveness, depending on the victim’s belief system. Either way, a sometimes long and painful journey must begin in their heart. The victim must keep in mind, in order to keep sane, that forgiving another human does not mean to forgetting the evil.

The South African concept of Ubuntu explains why the readmission into the human community is important for both the victim and the perpetrator. Tutu explains that social harmony and the idea of Ubuntu give “people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.” (Tutu, 31)

In African culture, social harmony is the greatest good. Ironically enough, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was attempting to bring out social harmony by means of admission of evil done from a half-century of hatred and murder. The intention was well-meaning and appropriate for this idea of Ubuntu as it relates to personhood. The lack of denial in the TRC trials began to restore personhood back to the victims and the families of the victims. The African’s desire to be “human because of belonging, participating and sharing” is met with this idea of Ubuntu, which the TRC is trying to restore to South Africa. (Tutu, 31) In order to rebuild a new nation, a level of social harmony had to be worked toward. Ubuntu had to be presented to both the victims and the perpetrators, simply because both the offended and offender had to live in the same country and build together in the future. Although this caused great pain for the victims, this striving for Ubuntu may have help the victim re-enter the human community.

George Santayana says “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” (Tutu, 29) To forgive does not necessarily mean to condone the offense. (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117) To forgive but never forget may be one of the most humanizing responses in many situations.

Each criminal offense committed during the fifty year Apartheid was devastating to the country, and also to the victim and their families. The threat of repeating the Apartheid was looming if forgiveness had not taken place. Tutu explains South Africa’s motto became “Never Again,” when remembering the great atrocities committed against men, women and children across the nation.

Massacres occurred during the fifty years of Apartheid that dehumanized the entire population. Disturbing parallels occurred with the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa in 1960, where 69 people were shot in the back, with the Apartheid and police brutalities committed to African American’s in America during the same time. Although Santayana suggests that forgetting will lead us to be doomed to repeat the past, it seems that this must have held true across the world. How else would this sad portrayal of hatred and dehumanization be occurring across the world simultaneously?

Tutu points out that the “Allies could pack up and go home after Nuremburg; we in South Africa had to live with one another.” (Tutu, 21) This statement points to the issues the government faced when rebuilding the new South Africa. Instead of placing “Jim Crow” laws, or excuses to keep Apartheid in tact, South Africa attempted to amend the wrongs done on both sides. The issue of slavery and dehumanization in America was not dealt with as honestly as in South Africa.

America decided to sweep some issues under the rug. At the same time Civil Rights issues were pervading the country, America was also denying the entry of Jewish refugees and Holocaust victims a place to live in our country. Instead of liberty, they were given death.

Forgiveness helps reestablish a victim’s health and dignity as a human being, and also elevates the victim to a position of strength. How? The victim is not asked to forget what was done, but rises above it, saying: “I cannot and will not return the evil you inflicted on me.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 117)

The matter of devastation need not be as important as the fact that the victim feels violated and infringed upon. The fact that the victim is able to say he or she is able to forgive is a great leap back into the human community and a huge step back into re-humanization.

To forgive is to be able to live in greater harmony with oneself, but also in greater harmony with the rest of the world and ones community. To grieve, mourn, and be victimized can mean the person unwillingly delves into the darkness of human nature. When evil is inflicted upon a person, without cause, a suggestion of the capabilities of all human beings to be dark and diminishing is placed upon the victim.

I’d venture to say that the desire for retaliation changes when the perpetrator admits the crime and asks for forgiveness. This doesn’t make forgiveness easy. In fact, admission of the crime and a form of repentance or desire to be absolved may in fact wound the victim again.

The road to forgiveness is perhaps one of the most painful roads a victim must travel down.

Often just beginning to walk down this path to forgiveness is excruciatingly painful for the victim. Gobodo-Madikizela explains that “feelings of anger and revenge against those who commit gross abuses are understandably, easier to develop and to sustain than an attitude that seeks engagement and dialogue.” (Gobodo-Madikizela, 120)

Works Cited

Gobodo-Madikizela, Pulma. A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness. Houghton-Milton, 2003

Tutu, Desmond. No Future without Forgiveness. Doubleday, 1999.

If the cult was so bad, why didn’t you just leave?

Questions I’ve received over the years and now:

  • If it was so bad at the cult, why didn’t you just leave?

  • Why did you stay for so long under the conditions you’re describing?

  • You’re a really smart girl. How did you sucked into an abusive place so easily?

A reader answered some of these questions really well in a comment. I’m going to share her answer with you below:

As a social worker I hear [these] comments often. He asked you why you just did not leave? I want EVERYONE to know that it takes an abused person 7-8 attempts to leave before they actually leave their abuser. Some of the reasons that it is hard for people to leave is because they are threatened with death (in your case spiritually), when they leave, they leave behind friends and family, also in your case the power difference. When someone has power over another person it makes it harder to go against what they say. I know how hard it was for you to leave and I am glad that you are speaking out and trying to assist others. –Blog comment from “Leah” on 7/22/10

Not only is Leah a social worker, she’s a survivor who comes from this same ministry group and has dealt with many of the same issues I’ve dealt with. For her and I to speak up takes a lot of courage. To talk about issues we had with people of power and authority over so many people takes great courage. Thank you Leah.

The following song is a powerful statement about abuse, also. Eminem is known for alleged domestic violence and Rihanna was the recent recipient of some alleged abuse from Chris Brown.

Relationships don’t have to be romantic in order to be abusive, and abuse doesn’t have to be physical for it to hurt and cause pain and destruction.

Emotional abuse is just as destructive as physical abuse, yet it’s intangible and often hard for the victim (and law enforcement) to measure, so the victim often stays because it’s so hard to define. Add to the abuse, threats of death (physical or spiritual) and threats of taking away all of a persons reputation, friends, etc. Add to it a perpetrator who is a person of high and notable position of power, who’s reputation is well-known nationally and you have a recipe for a normally healthy person to get sucked in easily to a group like this and stay in a spiritually abusive relationship with that person for years–holding them in by the web of relationships, their current or future career goals, and spiritual death if they leave.

I mean, who’s going to believe someone like me when I’ve just scrubbed toilets for someone who was the Chaplain for the New Orleans Saints, who was invited to Governor Blanco’s (the former Louisiana Governor) mansion for private dinners and to the White House when George Bush was in office? I just folded the man’s laundry: he spoke with Billy Graham. He MUST be anointed and I must be offended and sinful and wrong.

Right?

Absolutely WRONG! More people are coming out to dialogue about the abuse they’ve received under the ministry of this man now than ever before. Abuse is abuse, plain and simple. Emotional abuse that causes mental trauma, hospitalization, medication, therapy care, etc. is also something that I don’t talk about lightly and those are not light implications to put on a person. They’re serious accusations that everyone should take seriously–if you are a good friend of this person, a ministry partner, etc. and you KNOW about this abuse happening, I’m holding you accountable for this information now. May you have a guilty conscience from here until eternity until you stop protecting the wrong people for the wrong reasons!

Listen to this song and think about the victims of abuse who’ve yet to leave and why:

Love the Way you Lie by Eminem ft. Rihanna


Bubble Boys and Girls: There’s LIFE Outside!

One day, many years ago (five or six, to be exact), I was driving from a small, bayou filled town named Broussard, Louisiana that just contained our church, an Albertson’s and a pizza place to Lafayatte, a slightly larger city. I remember turning the corner of one street, the clouds hazy over my car looking like it might rain, thinking, I really hate living here. I hate the weather. I hate this city. Nothing is appealing to me here…But I feel like I can’t leave.

There were many times I didn’t feel fulfilled at my cult life. I felt my dreams were stripped of me, while I was forced to do a job that would get someone higher up their dreams. It was a sad place to be for someone who dreamed a lot–like me.

There are some readers who are still in that ministry group, or in that church, who read this and want out. I know how you feel. I felt that once. At that point driving, I thought of leaving, but I wondered, What options do I have? What would I do with my life? What ARE my dreams?

I’d never given myself full liberty to think about MY own dreams and ambitions, while I was “serving my pastor.” I didn’t think about my options in life, either. I just assumed I’d wasted seven years of my life in ministry and if I left now, I’d leave everything I’d built my life around.

One afternoon, I told my sister I wanted to leave and how the pastor had told me he COULD send me to India to do missionary work (which was at the time, my dream) but he wouldn’t. He didn’t think I could handle it.

My sister said, “You know, Lisa, there are so many groups you could work overseas with. It doesn’t have to be them. The Catholics have missionaries, the Seventh-Day Adventist groups, etc.” She went on to list various groups who did missionary work similar to what I’d wanted to do.

It gave me hope. If someone was going to stop what I thought was God’s will and MY dream for my life, to abuse me for their own, then I could do something about it.

I also started thinking about college. I’d been thinking about college for years prior, and had asked to go, but the answer was always, NO!

In high school, I’d always gotten good grades and been very academic, so I knew I wanted to go to college. I finally started looking into it during my last few months in Louisiana. I even filled out an application to University of Louisiana, Lafayette. I was going to stay and work for the pastor, but he said he didn’t think I could work for him AND go to school at the same time. It’d be a lot for me to handle.

Instead, I ended up moving home to attend a California State University close to my parents. Within weeks, I was accepted to the school and to the Helen Hawke Honor’s Program based on my high school GPA and SAT scores.

Over the next few years, I finally decided that creative writing was something I’d always wanted to do–since I was a little girl. I said good-bye to the dream of becoming a “missionary” but didn’t say good-bye to my humanitarian nature. Instead, the more I learned in college, the more dedicated I became to humanitarian crises and awareness of how to help. Mine was not a religious calling, I found. It never was.

My writing developed over the years. For years, I knew I was a writer, but felt people would judge me and I just felt mute. I couldn’t show anyone anything and worse yet, I couldn’t even type things out for fear someone would read them and judge me. I cried in class when anyone would criticize my work.

Then, I moved cities and took some writing classes. I was published and had to read to around 300 people. I made friends with a great writing community of wonderfully creative, smart people whom I miss. I was surrounded by writing professors who believed in me.

I’ve also taken up painting, drawing and photography. My writing is often realistic and unapologetic but my paintings are lively and show life as eternal springtime.

The point of my post? There is LIFE and DREAMS and AMBITIONS in this great, big world out here. Come out and play! It might just be the best decision you’ve ever made.

It was MY CULT LIFE, too.

I received this email last week and since I had this person’s permission to post it, I thought it would be a good time to share it. I have changed a few minor details to protect the identity of this person, because no one deserves to be harassed the way I’ve been harassed for speaking up. Please read on:

Dear Lisa,

Just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know I’ve been following your blog. Thank you for speaking out, I feel the exact same way but I never understood the importance of confronting it until I recently read everything you’ve been posting. 

I spent years at MCID (now Master’s Commission 3D), and it took me a year or two to realize what had actually happened: that I had been in a cult.

God bless you, L! I’m sure you’ll be hearing more from me.

I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t believe it for a while. I’ve spent the last several years being content to say to myself, “Well I know that a lot of things that took place were wrong, but I’m just going to hold on to the good things that God did in me and forgive and forget the rest.” Boy, a lot of good that has done for the naive ones that have followed our footsteps, eh?

I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with another one of my former peers who has not regarded our time at MCID with contempt.

Thank you for sharing, I’m reading and pursuing my own path of healing and desire for justice. I don’t want this to continue to happen, and I pray that the Lord will move on their hearts as they read and hear about those who have been hurt and scarred under their leadership.

Signed,

“It was My Cult Life, Too”

Dear “It was My Cult Life, Too:” What a beautiful letter! Thank you (you and I know who you are). I hope you know that you are a valuable, wonderful human being and are not responsible for what happened at that place. You are a child of God. Keep your head up and keep smiling. I wish you the very best life has to offer.

Stop Telephoning Me: I’m Kinda Busy

To my haters/stalkers from the cult; In the words of Lady Gaga:

Stop telephoning me…

Sorry, I cannot hear you,
I’m kinda busy.

K-kinda busy
K-kinda busy
Sorry, I cannot hear you, I’m kinda busy.

Lady Gaga ft. Beyonce–Telephone

If you don’t like my blog, that’s cool. Three words: Don’t Read It! While you’re not reading it, please watch Lady Gaga’s video so you’ll be entertained and if you STILL insist on reading this blog, then just know that

I’M KINDA BUSY DOING THE FOLLOWING:

  1. Getting paid BANK at my job, rather than getting paid 40 CENTS an hour! I get paid really well at my job, and honestly, anything is better than 40 CENTS an hour, wouldn’t you agree?
  2. Spending the past several years vacationing in HAWAII, where my sister lived. Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world. We spent one week our vacation house which had it’s own private beach. Eat your heart out, pastors.
  3. Even though my pastors wouldn’t let me go visit my family, because I was “too busy” working for them, I now get to spend lots of time with them. Some examples of things we do: Go flying in my dad’s private airplane; Deep sea fish on my parent’s boat; Spend weekends in the winter in Mammoth, CA snow skiing; Spend weekends at the lake water skiing.
  4. Instead of eating food that was donated to our church/ministry by Albertson’s grocerty store (can we say OLD meat?????), I dine at places like Ruth’s Chris. Yes, you heard me…the food we used to eat in the cult was OLD meat and old food donated to us from local grocery stores. How disgusting was it? So gross. Just ask anyone who lived there.
  5. I’m kinda busy living in a brand new house, rather than living in a dorm with over 15 other girls or living in an old converted barn that has a mouse and bug problem. Yes, my living quarters, which the pastor so frequently said was part of my pay, was an old converted barn! He lived in a home that was selling for around $750,000 while I lived in that barn! What a way to treat your employees.
  6. Living guilt-free and dogma-free.
  7. Thinking for myself.
  8. Going to an actual doctor with actual medical insurance, instead of sitting at some county welfare office waiting for health services because the pastor can’t afford my health care.

My Second Therapist’s Diagnosis: PTSD

After my first therapist, I got health insurance that covered another therapist. My first meeting with her, she spent an hour going over my family history, my recent history, and any mental health conditions or symptoms I had. I’d recently developed anxiety and depression after leaving the cult in 2005. I spent all of 2005 and 2006 in bed crying–and intermittently going to class. When I was in class, I felt anxiety attacks coming on. My chest would start pounding and I’d feel out of breath for no reason. If I had to turn in a paper, or felt extra pressure of perfection from certain professors, I’d be unable to write my essays and classwork. I was terrified of what people thought of me and who was judging me everywhere I went.

This second therapist sat with me and ended the session asking me if I’d ever heard of post traumatic stress disorder.

“Sure,” I told her. “That’s what all the Vietnam War Veterans got when they came back, right? They get nightmares and stuff.”

She explained that war victims did, in fact get post traumatic stress disorder, but many other people also got PTSD. Rape victims and many other people could get it. She said she believed I had PTSD based on the symptoms I described to her. A lot of what she explained made sense. I would become afraid at loud noises; would wake up terrified from nightmares of getting yelled at by old pastors; and would shy away from relationships of all types.

For more information on PTSD, Depression or Anxiety, please look at the Resources I posted. I’ve included some great links. I’d also like to encourage you, if you or someone you know has suffered from spiritual or emotional abuse, please see a non-religious, professional therapist or psychiatrist for assessment. There are a lot of resources available. If you’d like to share your own story with me, please email me at mycultlife at gmail.com